The Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA) has been focusing on crime prevention activities, as well as efforts to reform and mitigate punishment for drug addicts over the past year, said the ministry’s permanent secretary U Tin Myint on April 10.
Apart from running educational programs on TV and radio on crime prevention, local police stations have been holding public talks in collaboration with civil societies to reduce crime rate, prevent drug abuses, ensure road safety and to stop human trafficking.
Throughout the year, over 1.1 million people were present at 15,935 public talks for crime prevention and 1.4 million people attended at 12,515 public talks for road safety. More than 680,000 people turned up for 6635 talks on human trafficking and 750,000 for 1170 talks by crime education vehicles, according to ministry statistics.
“The main task of Myanmar police forces is to prevent crimes and to investigate and prosecute criminals.
“Short term and long term plans are under way for crime prevention,” said U Tin Myint.
He said that police have launched operation since June 4, 2014, to arrest fugitives, resulting in the capture of 4342 out of 13,592 fugitives who had been at large till 2013.
A review is also being conducted for 10 lowest and 10 highest crime townships.
In dealing with drug issues, educational programs have been conducted to reduce drug abuses, small-scale drug transporting, dealing and producing, organised crimes, money laundering and corruption at the community level.
“We have gained huge public support,” said U Tin Myint.
“It is also under consideration to stipulate due and appropriate punishment as per the degree of crime for small-scale drug sales and to address social economic issues,” he said.
In dealing with large-scale organised crime, special operations were launched by police forces.
“International cooperation is important for crime prevention and counter-measures. Some arrests are the successful results of international cooperation,” said U Tin Myint.
He said that in dealing with drug abuses and drug trafficking, regional stability was crucial.
“The peace process is important. Without peace, there will be no development and no rule of law. We must understand that we will be able to control drug abuses only if we have peace.” he said.
The MOHA is also trying to amend the 1993 Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Law on some stipulations regarding drug addicts to not be treated as criminals but as the victims with health issues, granting them rehabilitation access, and reducing drug-abuse related HIV/AIDS and blood-transmitted diseases.
The task of amending the 24-year-old law has begun since 2010 during ex-President U Thein Sein’s term. Four workshops have been conducted with experts, technicians, international organisations, legal experts from UN, NGOs and drug addicts.
Forums were also held together with related central organisations, eight related ministries and narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances prevention teams in regions and states, U Tin Myint continued.
After those discussions, seven new sections were inserted, nineteen sub-sections revised, 20 sub-sections inserted, one section and four sub-sections were repealed.
The major change was the reduction of sentences for drug addicts.
“Previously, it was stipulated in the law to punish drug addicts with 3-year to 5-year imprisonment. Now, that penalty has been replaced with a minimum of 180 hours to 240 hours at 2 hours per day for social punishment,” he said.
Other added sections are to allow drug addicts to have drugs in possession for exceptional cases and to establish a fund for central drug organisation. The revised law has been approved by the government and is going to be discussed at the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw.
MOHA will also conduct national drug abuse surveys this year, and they began in 2015. The monitoring and supervising committee was formed in February 2016 while the technical committee was formed in April last year.
There will be three zones under that survey, namely, urban zone, rural areas where poppy is not grown and rural area where poppy is grown.
Survey data will be collected from 53,300 people after selecting 2000 households based on the population in all regions and states. A total of 47 people were trained as trainers or supervisors during the course from March 28 to April 1.
Those trainers will teach 151 volunteers in May and data collection will begin in June. The final report of the survey is planned to be published in December 2017 after getting approval.
According to the official statement, MOHA made a seizure of K7.8 billion from 3970 drug abuse cases during the period from January 2011 to February 2017.
– Translation by Zaw Nyunt