Published in the International Journal of Drug Policy

By Seng Lawn Dan, Ja Htoi Pan Maran, Mandy Sadan, Patrick Meehan, Jonathan Goodhand.

This commentary provides an introduction to the origins and emergence of Pat Jasan, a social movement that emerged amongst the Kachin population of northern Myanmar in response to a perceived crisis of illicit drug production and consumption.

Although frequently presented as a case of drug vigilantism, we seek move beyond this stereotype by providing a granular account of the historical, political, and cultural conditions that lay the ground for the movement’s emergence. Pat Jasan arose in the context of intersecting crises linked to protracted armed violence, extractive development and the ‘slow violence’ associated with widespread drug use. It was a response to a perceived vacuum of policing and the limitations of internationally supported harmed reduction measures to recognize or address the magnitude of the problem.

Taking seriously the socially embedded foundations of the Pat Jasan movement provides an entry point for exploring how notions of harm reduction are constructed and understood locally and how movements like Pat Jasan emerge in response to societal concerns surrounding drugs.