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Reviewing drug-related legislation in Myanmar

Nay Pyi Taw (Myanmar), 9 April 2010
- The Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control - CCDAC and UNODC have held a legal review workshop to discuss alternative sentencing in the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Law of 1993.

The workshop, which was held on 24 March 2010, was attended by representatives from Government counterparts, such as the Attorney General's Office, the Supreme Court, the Police, the Department of Health and the Department of Social Welfare, as well as international and national non-governmental organizations. The objectives of the workshop were to update the current drug-related interventions, especially with regard to harm reduction services, and to further provide recommendations on existing laws.

The meeting was chaired by Pol. Col. Than Soe, CCDAC Director of International Relations. Pol. Colonel Sit Aye, Director of Transnational Organized Crime, Myanmar Police Force, attended the workshop as a special guest.

"It is important to review existing laws and amend regulations that are no longer relevant nowadays" said Mr. Hkam Awng, UNODC Policy and Advocacy Coordinator of the HIV/AIDS Asia Regional Program at the opening of the event.

"The existing Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Law itself was enacted in January 1993 to be in line with the 1988 United Nations Convention [the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of of 1988] and to replace the outdated 1974 drug law. The existing drug law has been in force for 17 years already and needs to be updated with current trends" continued Mr. Hkan Awng. "Drug abuse trends have changed over the years, particularly in the last decade with the rise of injecting drug use and the spread of HIV in the region. In this regard, Myanmar has been in the forefront to adopt harm reduction programmes in the region. CCDAC and UNODC have held workshops similar to this one since the early 1990s to review public policies on drug control and HIV with all stakeholders, subsequently helping to shape the national strategic plan."

In his remarks, Pol. Col Sit Aye said that while some flexibility is increasingly evident among law enforcement authorities, the coverage of harm reduction services is still limited when compared to the extent of the problem in the country. As such, law enforcement agencies should be encouraged to re-evaluate such laws and practices based upon consideration of public health priorities.