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Updated on October 8, 2018 From Myanmar Times

Gambling shops become hub of drug users in Shan

Residents of Panghsang town in Shan State have expressed concern about gambling places that have sprouted up in the area, becoming a source of illegal drugs.
        Since 2013, small gaming shops have opened in Panghsang town and become a thriving business, said U Ba Yan Nan.
        He said that some drug users are taking drugs on the roadside or in the gambling houses.
        “They are taking drug openly while gambling. The authorities take no action,” U Ba Yan Nan said.
        Panghsang is a border town with China, where heavy fighting broke out between the Myanmar military and Kachin Independence Army in 2015-16. Since then, people who came to town to do business and local businessmen have moved to other cities. As a result, people from villages can’t find jobs, apart from traditional crop cultivation.
        Because of the lack of job opportunities, people are selling illegal drugs in the gambling dens.
        One young woman who used to work at the dens said, “There are many kinds of gambling dens. Some sell drugs and some allow those who have used drugs to gamble. Most are from central and southern Myanmar. It is very dangerous to inform about them because they have a lot of men and weapons.”
        Another local resident alleged that there is even a gambling den next to the police station, but nothing has been done about it.
        But Police Captain Myo Nyunt, head of the Muse township police, said the government is cracking down on illegal gambling in the area. “In Muse, efforts are being made against illegal drug use and gambling in cooperation with the village and ward administrators and local elders,” he said.
        The Shan parliament approved a proposal urging the state government to prohibit and take action against casinos in September.
        The proposal, submitted by MP Daw Nan Khin Htar Yi of Theinni township, was supported by state Security Minister Colonel Hla Oo.
        “In Lashio, gambling is essential when a traditional event is celebrated, and it is usually accompanied by drugs. Lives have been lost in Muse because of gambling, so it needs to be stopped,” she said.
        MP Sai Kyaw Thein accused local militias of providing protection to gambling houses.
        In May 2018, a casino run by Muse militia members was attacked by the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, resulting in several casualties, including a police officer, militia members and civilians.
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