I had been meaning to visit this museum for a long time and realised actually it was only 20 minutes walk from our flat, so we took advantage of recent dry weather and walked there.
Hidden behind some metal gates and trees is the not well publicised “Drug Elimination Museum”. It is located on Hanthawaddy Rd / Kyun Taw Rd, just a stone’s throw from Junction Square mall. You really would not know it was there unless you were specifically looking for it. Also, the entrance gate is closed and it was only due to locals pointing out that you can walk through a tiny abandoned gatekeeper’s office that we got in.
The Museum started being built in 1998 and opened to the public in 2001. This surprised me as it seemed older and more in the 70s style. It’s huge and 3 storeys high, very spacious and filled with many exhibits. At the back is a large pavilion, I’m not sure that’s used for anything. In the centre of the building is a large re-creation of an opium field, complete with life sized models of a man with his bullock. Other mannequins depicting various scenes (e.g. drugs being seized, crops being grown, “drug addicts”) are all over the museum, and huge paintings – which must have been time consuming not to mention expensive to make.
We had the museum entirely to ourselves, employees were dotted around, mainly asleep in the corner. Pigeons have also taken up resident upstairs.
These are the facts I took away from my visit.
1. The Portuguese brought opium poppies to Myanmar.
2. The Chinese perpetuated the opium smoking habit, which they take everywhere they go (see below).
4. Instead of opium, Myanmar people should be trying to cultivate other crops.
5. The drug problem is what is impeding development in Myanmar.
6. The government is working very hard to eliminate drugs including building a 3 storey museum, with large exhibits and impressive paintings.
On the ground floor was a section through a door called ‘dangers of drug abuse’ or something. It was dark and scary… Led to some mannequins having fun in a club, the slippery slope to heroin and other debauchery. Then a rather grim model of ‘drug addicts’ in their cells, dying and being eaten by dogs (probably).
The area of HIV involved some nice drawings of the virus, but more grim, some aged specimens in formaldehyde, including ‘cirrhosis of the liver’, but even more grim, some malformed foetuses. We also noted one of the ‘cirrhosis of the liver’ specimens appeared to actually be a brain.
I would recommend it as a truly unique experience…