Myanmar drug users decline to present ID cards so as to stay in China’s rehab centers for better treatment

By Fan Lingzhi Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/2 18:53:39

According to local drug control rules, foreigners without ID can stay in Chinese rehab centers while being investigated

Such rules create a legal loophole for some Myanmar drug addicts who either refuse to present an ID or do not possess papers due to regional conflicts

New technology including the virtual reality drug addiction assessment system helps users to abandon the drugs

A detoxification policewoman from the No. 5 rehab center in Kunming, Yunnan Province communicates with drug addicts on June 11. Photo: Fan Lingzhi/GT

"Show me your ID card."

This common request is not a hard question for most people.

But the way Arden (pseudonym), a Myanmese drug addict at Yunnan Province's No.6 rehab center, answers this question determines his fate.

Under Chinese law, he will be immediately sent to Myanmar if he produces a foreign ID card.

So the answer he must always give is: "I left it at home in Rangoon."

Arden is one of many foreign drug addicts at the No.6 rehab center who use this loophole to remain in China's internationally lauded rehabilitation centers, where they enjoy better care than they can get back home.

The No.6 rehab center is located in Mangshi, part of Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture, in Southwest China's Yunnan Province. It is surrounded by Myanmar to the north, west and south. Due in part to the porous border, rampant drug production and poverty in the area, it is rife with drug addiction.

Because of continuous efforts of local police officers, control of illegal drugs in Dehong has improved in recent years. The achievements of the No.6 rehab center are one of the high points of a successful campaign against drug abuse in Yunnan Province and the whole country in recent years.


Identity unknown

The Dehong region is linked to Myanmar by mountains and rivers, with a border stretching 504 kilometers. Cross-border farming and marriages are very common in local villages along the frontier.

Yinjing village in Dehong is divided by the China-Myanmar border. The side on Myanmar territory is called Mangxiu.

The borderline is composed of bamboo fences, village roads, ditches and dirt ridges. The village people speak the same language, drink water from the same well and even attend the same school. However, the complex geographical and social environment inevitably creates conditions that breed drug trafficking and abuse.

Before entering the treatment area of the No.6 rehab center, all visitors are required to pass a strict security check. Mobile phones must be stored at the entrance. "This is to prevent people from carrying in dangerous goods or even drugs when visiting drug abusers undergoing detoxification," said a judicial official.

At the labor area of the detoxification zone, dozens of uniformed drug addicts are quietly immersing themselves into hard work such as threading a small electronic component with a fine copper wire.

An officer told the Global Times that the addicts in the work area had gone through about two months of withdrawal and therapy. The workers get a financial allowance for their work, and the skilled labor benefits their physical and metal recovery and equips them with practical skills.

In a room next to the work area, the Global Times reporter met with Naedong (pseudonym), whose father is Chinese and mother is from Myanmar. His home is in the Mongko region of Myanmar, across the river from the Chinese town of Manghai. In 2002, he began taking heroin and methamphetamine. Naedong also does not have an ID card.

He told the Global Times that he had no identification because he had not yet been issued one due to regional conflicts.

The rehabilitation center believes Naedong's claim is relatively credible - the unrest on the other side of the border has made it impossible for many local people to obtain a government-approved identity certificate.

The reason why there are so many unidentified people in rehab, such as Naedong, is because of article 39 of the drug control ordinance in Dehong region. It says if foreigners smoke or inject narcotic drugs in the administrative areas of autonomous prefectures, they shall be repatriated out of the country; those without physical identity certificates would be investigated by Chinese public security and foreign affairs departments. During the period of investigation, the person is allowed to stay in a Chinese rehabilitation center and then to be dealt with in accordance with relevant laws and regulations once their nationality is identified.

A police officer told the Global Times that Dehong is close to the Golden Triangle region and the northern Myanmar war zone, where drugs have been rampant for many years.

"We cannot deport them easily," the officer said.  "Although a lot of drug addicts don't verbally deny that they are from Myanmar, they are considered 'unidentified' as long as they cannot provide any identity certificate."

Meticulous treatment

Dan Soo (pseudonym), 25-year-old from Myanmar, comes from Kutkai. He still remembers the first time he was exposed to drugs, 10 years ago. "My classmates took me to smoke it, then I vomited." After only one or two times, Dan was hooked.

Over the past 10 years, he has been in rehab three times in Myanmar. He said the rehab center was built with foreign aid. "The conditions are very poor, without hot water. We eat dry rotten fish, mixed beans and rice, and potato. You will be scolded and beaten if you don't obey."

According to Dan, the conditions in China's rehab centers are much better. "The place we live in is clean and the food we eat every day is diverse."

Dan was particularly impressed by the officers' meticulous care of another drug addict who was ill. He said China's judicial detoxification police took the sick addict to the People's Hospital of Dehong, where the addict received good care for more than a dozen days. "They treat us as students, patients and children," Dan said.

The process of detoxification and rehabilitation of drug-addicts is the hardest task of the judicial administrative police. "We keep our eyes open until the lights go out, and have to remain highly alert after we close our eyes," an officer said, summing up their unthinkably heavy workload.

The deputy director of the No.6 rehab center, Hong Xinrong, illustrated some of their difficulties to the Global Times.

"Communication is a problem because Myanmar is a country with more than 100 ethnic groups. It is impossible to have a translator for every language.

"Their religious beliefs require special arrangements for the diets of Buddhists and Muslims," he continued. "In terms of disease control, the climate here is hot and drug users are highly susceptible to disease, therefore regular screening is very necessary in addition to pre-admission medical examinations."

Hong told the Global Times that the management of the No.6 rehab center is under great pressure, and the center requires further investment, in terms of money, manpower, and the improvement of regulations.

At present, the most pressing difficulty of the rehab center is the lack of qualified people. The number of policemen is around 200. That's one police officer for every 25 addicts. "This is the lowest ratio across the country," said Hong.

A policeman at a mandatory quarantine center in Beijing uses virtual reality to treat an addict on July 26. Photo: IC

Global reputation

"Can you imagine what it was like here in the 1990s? On the streets of Mangshi, you could see drug users in groups of two or three, who have nothing to do all day but to feed their addictions," Hong told the Global Times. He said that the number of drug users in border areas has dropped significantly after years of a drug crackdown campaign.

Song Yunkui, deputy director of the Yunnan Provincial Narcotics Control Bureau, told the Global Times that there are 15 compulsory quarantine centers for drug addiction treatment under Yunnan's judicial administrative system, with more than 35,000 people admitted in total.

Yunnan Province has made progress in drug control in recent years, which has been hailed as an "epitome" of the achievements of the national drug control campaign.

Since the implementation of China's Anti-drug Law issued in 2008, more than 1.3 million people have been forcibly quarantined and rehabilitated, with around 240,000 people currently remaining in rehab.

The application of virtual reality and some other techniques in therapy have also achieved good results. These efforts have drawn global applause for China's efforts and achievements in drug addiction treatment.

According to an official at the drug detoxification bureau of the Ministry of Justice, when foreign embassy officials visited Beijing's mandatory quarantine centers in 2017, they said it was rare to see such a high ratio of professionals to addicts. They suggested that it is evidence of the importance China attaches to drug rehabilitation.

Foreign envoys to China described the development and application of various abstinence technologies in Beijing as "amazing," the official said.

At the same time, the Ministry of Justice does not shy away from addressing the unbalanced and inadequate development of China's drug rehabilitation work in different regions. In response to this imbalance, the Ministry of Justice recently issued a document calling for the establishment of a nationwide unified basic model for the administration of justice in drug rehabilitation.

Specifically, the government hopes to unify drug rehabilitation management, training programs and medical treatment - as well as the overall mechanisms and the evaluation criteria of the effect of drug rehabilitation - in order to better achieve comprehensive and coordinated development of drug rehabilitation.

Newspaper headline: Addicts without borders

Posted in: IN-DEPTH

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