Despite road block, anti-poppy campaigners vow to march on

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Anti-poppy campaigners encamped at an army checkpoint near the junction of Sadung and Chipwi roads in Kachin State’s Waingmaw Township have vowed to continue their mission this week to eradicate poppy fields in the area, The Irrawaddy reported.

A group of about 2,000 members, led by local civil society organizations as well as local Christian mission organizations, were blocked by authorities on Feb 16 on their way to reach poppy fields in Sadung and Kambaiti sub-townships. The vigilante anti-drug campaigners have said they have since been beleaguered by water shortages and sanitation problems.

According to the campaigners, local authorities have said that the reason for blocking them is to avoid potential flair-ups between poppy farmers and members of the group.

In support of the campaigners, locals gathered at the blocked military checkpoint on Sunday and held a prayer meeting. They also urged authorities to open the roads.

Anti-poppy and drug elimination campaigns in Kachin State, driven mostly by local civil society organizations, began about two years ago. The campaigns were temporarily suspended after one campaigner was shot dead and three others injured in January.

Campaigners said that about 1,500 acres of poppy fields in Tanai Township and another 2,000 acres in Waingmaw Township were destroyed in January.