$110m in Methamphetamines Seized in Rangoon, Tachileik

By Lawi Weng 28 July 2015

RANGOON — Burmese authorities reportedly seized more than $110 million worth of methamphetamine tablets over the weekend in two separate drug busts near the Thai-Burma border and in the commercial capital Rangoon.

The larger of the two hauls came on Sunday in Rangoon’s Mingaladon Township, where authorities became suspicious of a small abandoned shipping truck and searched the vehicle, finding it packed with nearly 27 million methamphetamine tablets worth an estimated 133 billion kyats (US$110 million), according to state-run daily The Mirror.

Deputy police chief Khin Maung Thein from the Myanmar Police Force’s anti-narcotics unit confirmed the massive seizure, but declined to say whether any suspects had been detained in connection with the drug bust.

“It is too early to say who has been detained,” he told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday. “If we make information about this available to the public, all those traffickers [still at large] will escape to the border. We will make information about this [available to the] public later.”

In a separate case in Tachileik, Shan State, Khin Maung Thein also confirmed state media reports that three men had been detained and authorities were continuing to hunt for additional accomplices after police there on Saturday seized a stash of 181,000 methamphetamine tablets and equipment used to produce the drug. The Mirror said the pills had an estimated value of 50 million kyats.

The production and use of methamphetamines has risen sharply in eastern Burma over recent years as anti-narcotics efforts targeting the region’s expansive opiate trade have taken hold.

According to a May 2015 report on synthetic drugs in Southeast Asia by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Burma “is perceived to be the main country of origin for methamphetamine tablets seized throughout the Mekong sub-region and to some other parts of East and Southeast Asia.”

Burma’s illicit drug syndicates are believed to involve an amalgam of ethnic armed groups, state-backed Border Guard Force personnel and an unknown degree of government officials’ complicity.