Members of the Pat Jasan group, a Christian anti-drug organization composed of vigilantes, marched toward the opium fields of Waingmaw in Myanmar on Sunday. However, before they were able to reach the fields, they were blocked by local law enforcers.
According to a member of the group, the police officers placed the blockade for security reasons, BBC reported. Given the hostile relationship between Pat Jasan and the opium farmers, it seems the law enforcers were looking out for the safety of the public.
The organization was formed in 2014 in response to the growing number of drug use cases in the country. Through its production of opium, also known as poppy, Myanmar became part of the South East Asia's Golden Triangle along with Thailand and Laos.
Originally, Myanmar was the top supplier of opium in the world and mainly caters to the demand in China, Japan and Australia before it was surpassed by Afghanistan. Traditionally, opium is used to cure various ailments including dysentery and diarrhea but was then used to make heroin.
Due to the high level of drug abuse in Myanmar, the Pat Jasan was established. It is composed of about 100,000 activists. During their operations, members of the group usually wear military fatigues while carrying batons. They are known for destroying poppy fields during raids and even publicly flogging drug dealers. They sometimes also detain the offenders in their own faith-based rehabilitation centers or turn them over to authorities.
On Sunday, 3000 of them headed to Waingmaw to eradicate the poppy fields. However, the farmers reportedly said that if the Pat Jasan enters the town, they will have no choice but to fight back.
"[The farmers] asked Pat Jasan to forgive them for this year because they have invested much money in their planting poppies," a local resident told the AFP via BT.com. "They have nothing else to do but to fight back because it's their living."
Fearing that a full-scale clash might erupt, the authorities had no choice but to prevent the group from entering.
Although last Sunday's raid was unsuccessful, the chairman of the Pat Jasan group said that the law enforcers have promised to remove the poppy fields themselves in the future.