By LAWI WENG / THE IRRAWADDY
NAMKHAM, Shan State —The back road through Namkham Township, a mountainous cluster of village tracts abutting the border with China and Kachin State, is these days more peaceful than its recent history would suggest. The route has occasionally hosted flashpoints of conflict between the Burma Army and local ethnic armed groups operating in the area, including the Kachin Independence Army and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA). At the moment, however, there are no military checkpoints, and cars taking the six-hour route from Lashio enjoy an uninterrupted passage through a serene landscape of mountain ranges and pastures.
About an hour after the turnoff into Namkham from the highway connecting Lashio to the Chinese border town of Muse, travelers begin to pass through expansive fields of opium poppies, demarcating the 20,000 acres of territory controlled by the Pansay militia. Funding their operations through t...
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