DVB Multimedia Group

Police slap Kachin drug vigilantes with vandalism charges

Pat Jason members were injured in a skirmish with local poppy farmers on 25 February. (PHOTO: LA N LUNG JUNG)

Members of a controversial drug vigilante group are being investigated by police, following an attack on the home of a Kachin militia leader.

Zakhon Tein Ring’s family have accused Pat Jasan members of gathering outside their home on 25 February, pelting the residence with rocks and shattering windows.

Pat Jasan, a citizens group backed by the Kachin Baptist Church, began the protest after some of their members were confronted by local poppy farmers in Waingmaw earlier the same day, injuring 30 people.

Around 4,000 members were confronted by armed opium farmers as they moved into Waingmaw Township, in their latest drive to slash poppy farms in Kachin State.

Pat Jasan accused Zakhon Tein Ring, the leader of New Democratic Army– Kachin (NDA-K) and an independent MP, of masterminding the attack. The lawmaker is widely suspected of having links in the Kachin opium trade.

Aung Kyaw Min, a Myitkyina police deputy-superintendent, said the politician’s family filed the complaint against the Pat Jasan members, prompting police to launch an investigation.

“[Zakhon Tein Ring]’s family came to file the complaints on Monday, claiming the protestors smashed six windows and shouted accusations to damage his credibility – so we are investigating the accused on six charges including obscenity, destruction of property, intimidation and defamation,” the officer said.

He added that Pat Jasan was yet to be informed about the investigation, but confirmed the inquiry would only focus on the individuals suspected of the attack.

The powerful upper house lawmaker made headlines during the election period, when he barred candidates from campaigning in his constituency. He later relented after a regional election body summoned him to a meeting, where he vowed to ‘abide by electoral laws’.

Zakhon Tein Ring and the NDA-K have enjoyed autonomous control of the region northeast of the state’s capital Myitkyina since a truce with the government was brokered in 1989. However Kachin State remains mired by conflict over the valuable poppy trade – with many communities’ livelihoods dependent on the production of the illicit substance.