Burmese police seized around US $140,000 worth of pseudo-ephedrine-based cold and flu tablets and a large cache of weapons in Tamu, Sagaing Division, on Sunday, according to local sources and state-media reports.
“A couple has been detained for questioning and anti-narcotics forces are preparing to charge them with illegal possession of weapons and drug trafficking,” an officer from the Tamu Police Station told The Irrawaddy on Monday.
Initial reports suggested that only four weapons had been seized in the raid, but state-run media reported on Monday that the number of weapons was considerably larger than first thought.
In addition to 100.6 kg of pseudo-ephedrine, the police found “96 assorted small arms, 60 assorted shells, 23 landmines, 7,907 assorted rounds of ammunition, 195 assorted magazines and 250 bullets and 4 coils of wires used for explosions,” The New Light of Myanmar reported.
The newspaper further reports that the drugs and weapons were found in the possession of a man named Soe Myint Win, who is described as being “associated with [the] Assam national front force.”
However, Burmese-language reports say the man is connected to Col Thun Ba of the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), an insurgent group based in India’s Manipur State, which borders Sagaing. Local sources say that the UNLF connection is more likely, as the group is known to operate in Tamu and Kalay, which is also in Sagaing Division near the Indian border.
Local police say that the area is becoming increasingly popular as a transit route among drug manufacturers, who use pseudo-ephedrine-based tablets to make methaphetamines.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, an official from the Burmese government’s anti-narcotics task force said that the tablets were formerly sourced from Thailand, which is also the largest market for methamphetamines manufactured in Burma. However, Thai efforts to stem the flow of the drug have made it more difficult to buy drug precursors such as ephedrine and pseudo-ephedrine from Thailand.
“In India, those tablets can be bought cheaply and easily, because they are not restricted there,”said the official, adding that there is also a lack of cooperation with the Indian authorities in efforts to clamp down on the illicit business.
Last June, Indian police arrested two people, one Indian and the other Burmese, for transporting pseudo-ephedrine-based tablets in Assam State.
A few months later, in October, Burma’s anti-narcotics task force seized $1.57 million worth of drugs, including ephedrine- and pseudo-ephedrine-based cold and flu tablets, from a motorized boat near Kani Township in Sagaing.