2018

Day of Action 2018

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.


Media

ကူညီပါ၊ အျပစ္မေပးပါနဲ႔

2017

Day of Action 2017

Medecines du Monde (MdM) coordinated the Support Don’t Punish action in Myitkyina. Most of the participants were PWUD and their family members. The objectives of the campaign were to sensitise family members and MdM staff to human rights violations committed against PWUD. A medical team provided health education about overdose and drug dependence. In addition, a drug policy advocacy group met in a local drug dependence facility, organised by the national drug users network. The key message was to help and support PWUD without discrimination.

2016

Day of Action 2016

On 24th June, The Drug Policy Advocacy Group – Myanmar (DPAG) joined forces with an art gallery in the city centre of Myitkyina to launch a photo exhibition and raise awareness on the need to rethink prohibitionist drug policies.

Guests included people who use drugs and people involved in the cultivation of opium for subsistence purposes, as well as a former member of parliament and former senior official of Myanmar’s drug control agency.

The event was significant for stimulating awareness and debate in Myanmar as the newly elected government is yet to decide on whether to approve progressive amendments to the country’s drug law.

2016

Yangon (Myanmar) joins the 2016 Support. Don’t Punish global day of action

By Gloria Lai, International Drug Policy Consortium

On 24 June 2016, the Drug Policy Advocacy Group – Myanmar (DPAG) joined forces with an art gallery in the city centre to launch a photo exhibition with a special event to raise awareness on the need to rethink traditional punitive and zero tolerance drug policies. Guests travelled from other parts of the country to speak about their experience as people who use drugs and people who cultivate opium for subsistence purposes.

A gentleman spoke about being subject to forced treatment for 9 months, returning to drug use, and then arrested after he failed to register as a user and being in possession of a needle and syringe. He spent over 8 years in prison, during which he found out that he was HIV positive. He has lived 16 years with HIV and without any treatment, and asked not to be punished any longer but for support instead.

Two splendidly-dressed ladies spoke about why they cultivated opium: for food security, and to afford to look after their children. No other crop could as easily be sold on the market for enough income to support their families. In addition, opium is a handy medicine for ailments such as fever and diarrhea. They asked not to be treated as criminals nor to be subject to forceful crop eradication, and instead for access to alternative livelihood programmes, while also suggesting that if opium was eradicated, people will move to using more harmful substances such as amphetamine-type stimulants.

A former member of parliament and former senior official of Myanmar’s drug control agency also spoke, drawing attention to the harms of disproportionately severe penalties for even low-level offences and the need for drug law reform. After a time of involved discussion with members of the audience, DPAG’s coordinator Nang Pann Ei Kham closed the event by calling for an end to the war on drugs and approaches that Support. Don’t Punish.

This event was particularly significant for stimulating awareness and debate in Myanmar as the newly-elected government has yet to decide on whether to approve amendments to the country’s drug law, which includes reduced penalties for all drug-related activities.