Young People and Drugs

May 8, 2013



Civil society groups discussed the issue of drug use in a development seminar for Mon people, in order to write a paper about drugs based on as much information from the community as possible. These civil society groups think that young people, as our future leaders, need to take responsibility for their country’s political situation. However, there is a currently a serious drug problem in Mon areas, which gives us cause for concern about young Mon people today and their ability to take on this role. The authors of this paper have researched this topic and written this paper as part of their aim to eradicate drug use in Mon State.

The history of drugs in Mon State

50 years ago people living in Mon State could not buy bottled alcohol. Instead Mon people cooked sugar cane together with another ingredient to turn this into alcohol, making what is called “Ha Jo”. Ha Jo was often given out to guests at parties and social gatherings. In this period alcohol was also made from palm sap and rice.

The beginnings of modern drugs

After the army took over the country, there was a decrease in production of alcohol in the home; the army and other individual traders made deals with drug producers in other countries, with the result that drugs and alcohol started to become available to buy. After the military takeover people in Mon State could buy alcohol, heroin and marijuana, and use of these drugs began.

By 2000, Mon migrant workers in Thailand were also using drugs, including “opium leaf” (referred to here under its Mon name, this drug is called “Ban Ka Tan” by Thais) and Ya Ba. Ya Ba is also very popular in Mon state.

The situation of young people today and the drugs problem in Mon State

In Mon State only 10% of young people start university, of which 7% are female and 3% male. Numerous young people do not complete their education due to financial difficulties, with many migrating to other countries aged 15-16 to seek employment. There is a lack of opportunities for young people to learn about different careers and to develop skills. Many young people fall into bad habits and engage in antisocial behavior, for example stealing and behaving violently.

Today, a high number of young people from across Mon state use alcohol and drugs. Of these drugs Ya Ba is the most dangerous for their futures, due to its behavioral and psychological effects.

Ya Ba emerged in Burma after the 2000 ceasefire between the Burmese government and ethnic armed forces. Using rights gained in the cease fire (particularly those securing freer travel and business) increasing numbers of ethnic armed force members started producing and selling drugs for profit.

Before the ceasefire armed force groups produced drugs in the jungle, but production has since moved to villages, including those in Karen and Mon areas. After the drugs are produced, they are given to young people to sell. Drug use has spread quickly and easily among young people, due to a lack of knowledge about drugs and the unstable political situation diverting attention from the need to tackle increasing drug use.

Mon areas with greatest increases in drug use

The areas in Mon state with the greatest increases in drug use are: Poung Township, Mawlamyine, Kaw Karoak Township, Karinnseik kyi Township, Mudon Townshi, Tanphyusayat Township, Lamine Township, Ye Township, Tenisaryee Devision.

According to leaders from these communities, the percentages of people in each area using drugs are as follows: 10% in poung Township, 30% in Mawlamyine, 45% in Kaw Ka rate Township, 40% in Bar Ann Township, 30% in Choung Sone Township, 35% in Kyike Ma Yaw Township, 40% in Karinnseik Kyi Township, 55% in Mudon Township, 50% in Thanphyuzayat Township, 45% in Lamine Township, 40% in Ye Township (these percentages are approximate, and may be subject to some error).

The effect of drugs

Drug use has spread to most areas in Mon state and it is estimated that almost 50% of young people use drugs.

Drug use has the following effects:

  • Hostility between individuals from different townships and villages
  • Young people falling into bad habits e.g. stealing, violence, antisocial behavior
  • The arrest of drug users, which causes problems for their parents. Parents often end up having to pay fines, and frequently feel ashamed of their children.

How to eliminate drug use

  • Solve the underlying political issues
  • Educate the community about drugs
  • Identify and punish people who use drugs
Solution Responsibility 1 Responsibility 2 Responsibility 3
Solving political issues Government Political parties Civil society
Educating the community Government Political parties Civil society groups
Arrest and punishment Government Ethnic armed forces  


For the good of our Federation, we need to fight for both human and ethnic rights. In general, political democracy parties fight mainly for human rights, whilst ethnic political parties and armed forces struggle for ethnic rights. However, pursuing both kinds of rights simultaneously is of benefit to both individual citizens and the development of our federation. Otherwise, the struggle for ethnic rights will continue, as will abuses against ethnic groups. Furthermore, without both types of rights there is no easy solution to the spread of drug use amongst young people.



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