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No more betel shops near schools

By Nay Nwe Moe Aung
July 12 - 18, 2010
Students look at toys
Students look at toys for sale at a stall near a school in downtown Yangon this month. Pic: Kaung Htet

BETEL nut shops within spitting distance of schools will be moved in a bid to keep children off narcotic substances, police and health officials say.

A mild narcotic, betel nut products are widely used as an inexpensive form of home medicine for coughs and minor aches and pains. Many betel nut stalls also sell legal manufactured medicines, like cough mixtures and painkillers, and police fear their use could lead children to more sinister substances.

Police Lieutenant Myint Thein of the Anti-Narcotics Task Force of eastern Yangon told The Myanmar Times at the end of June that betel shops would not be allowed to operate within about 50 metres of schools.

“This move started last year as a collaboration between the Department of Basic Education and the Anti-Narcotics Task Force. The police made a list of betel shops near schools, and now we’re moving them away,” he confirmed.

Schoolchildren can graduate to narcotics after dosing themselves on cough medicine or other mild stimulants, Pol Lt Myint Thein said. “They have inquiring minds and like to experiment.”

The penalty for narcotics abuse can be up to five years’ imprisonment for an adult, but offending schoolchildren are sent to Youth Training School. The most common substance abuse behaviour among children seems to be glue-sniffing, which is not illegal, he said.

“Some children who were disrespectful to their teachers or who fell over in class were suspected of drug use, so the school asked the Anti-Narcotics Task Force to investigate,” said Pol Lt Myint Thein.

“We found that they were sniffing the glue used to repair bicycle tubes, as well as using patent medicines that can be found in betel shops. We are now controlling this in collaboration with the health department,” he said.

– Translated by Thiri Min Htun