City: Myitkyina, Kachin State, Yangon, Lashio, Kalay, Mawlamyaing.
Organisations: Medecins du Monde, Asia Harm Reduction Network, National Drug Users Network Myanmar-Kachin, Metta Development Foundation, Substance Abuse Research Association and Drug Policy Advocacy Group .
The first part of the day was in the meeting hall of the Drug Dependency Treatment Hospital (DDTH) and most of the participants were health authorities from the National AIDS Program, National Methadone Program, State Health Department, other partner organisations, religious leaders, local CSOs and community members (drug users), community groups and the media. One representative from DDTH discussed drug law reform for section 15 in Myanmar along with how punishments are not effective and supporting drug users is important. A community representative from National Drug Users Network Myanmar-Kachin presented about the issues and concerns facing drug users in Kachin, Myanmar.
The second activity was in the public park with dancing groups as entertainment. MdM distributed the stickers and pamphlets with SDP logo and key messages to the people who came to the park and explained the objectives of the SDP campaign and asked them to share the message and sticker with other people. There was also a final session of personal testimony from family members and drug users who came to the park.
The Drug Policy Advocacy Group (DPAG) together with our members, especially the drug users network, organised a public campaign on the 2018 Global Day of Action. In Yangon, the business capital of Myanmar, we reached out to the general community at public places such as markets, shopping malls, parks, bus stops on Sunday so that the public had more awareness to the campaign. The campaigners divided into a trio of seven groups, wore t-shirts with the “Support.Don’t Punish (SDP)” logo in Myanmar language. The groups distributed small notebooks with the logo on the front cover and campaign slogan on the back cover in Myanmar language. The slogan depicted in a rhythmic poem describing how drug users should be decriminalised,and to be prevented from infectious diseases, and to be reintegrated into the community, and the public should help them. The DPAG campaigners distributed these notebooks and pamphlets explaining the background and purpose of the campaign. This is the first time the general public received such information where drug users are portrayed as people who need social care instead of being criminalised and put into jail. The information and messages were mainly explained by the members of the drug users network. The public campaign took place in the first half of a day. In other towns such as Mawlamyaing, Myitkyina, Tamu, and Taungyi, civil society groups such as drug users group and youth groups conducted a similar approach to convey the same message to the general public, religious leaders and local authorities. After the public campaign, we organised a press conference with the local media groups in downtown Yangon. There was a panel talk with four local speakers on the background and objectives of the campaign, how we did it, the need for harm reduction services, and challenges of drug users to have access to health and social programs. The campaign photos were published on the Facebook page of “7Day News Journal”, which is a leading, progressive media. Other media footage such as local news journal, online media, and TV covered the campaign in Yangon. International media such as the Voice of America (VOA) Burmese program also interviewed DPAG about the campaign. Since Myanmar community is quite new to the campaign, we also posted the background and objectives of the campaign on DPAG facebook page in the local language and there had been many viewers to these messages.