Published in the International Journal of Drug Policy

By Mandy Sadan, Ja Htoi Pan Maran, Seng Lawn Dan

Pat Jasan emerged as a largescale popular social movement in the Kachin region of northern Myanmar in 2014, with the objective of eradicating illicit drug production and consumption from the region. It has since been heavily criticized for its methods and opposition to harm reduction initiatives.

The purpose of this paper is to understand better the cultural and psychological response to worsening drug issues that underpin the rise of Pat Jasan as a mass social movement.

The paper contextualises two ways in which Pat Jasan frames the local drugs crisis: first, the sense of existential threat posed by drug related social harms; and second, the belief that ‘all’ Kachin households are negatively impacted by these harms. We outline the underpinning ideological beliefs upon which these frames rest. We discuss how even though non-Christian beliefs and practices have largely disappeared, they remain layered within the deep culture of attitudes towards drug use and how best to deal with the community-level harms that are believed to be created by such behaviours. Critically, the paper also draws attention to the largely unrecognized involvement of women as mobilizing forces of the Pat Jasan movement and how the movement leveraged popular feeling at a critical moment in the region’s political history.