Burma Army Officer, Businessmen Arrested for Drug Possession in Arakan State

By Moe Myint 2 May 2017

RANGOON – A Burma Army officer, a soldier, and two businessmen were arrested in possession of stimulants with a street value of 880 million kyats in northern Arakan State on Monday morning, border police Major Zaw Zaw Nay Hein told The Irrawaddy.

Maungdaw businessmen Thein Tun Naing and Zaw Oo drove a luxury Pajero vehicle 24 kilometers from Buthidaung—where Maj Ye Zeyar and Private Thein Naing, also in the car, were based—to Maungdaw Township on Monday morning. A combined task force stopped the vehicle at the three-mile gate in Maungdaw and found 400,000 methamphetamine pills, said the police major. Each “yaba” pill is worth 2,000 kyats in the local market, he added.

“We just checked the vehicle and discovered drugs,” Maj Zaw Zaw Nay Hein said, adding that they had no tip-off prior to the routine search.

The joint operation team transferred the four suspects to Pyin Phyu police station in northern Maungdaw.

The officer responsible for continuing the investigation in Pyin Phyu could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

The State Counselor’s Office Information Committee, tasked with providing updates on issues in Arakan State, released a statement on Tuesday evening saying that ”the army would carry out a further investigation [in order] to take action” against the officer and soldier implicated in the arrest.

The Irrawaddy phoned President’s Office spokesperson U Zaw Htay several times on Tuesday to inquire about the incident, but at the time of reporting, there had been no answer.

Three months ago, an anti-narcotics task force uncovered 4.6 million methamphetamine tablets and a handgun and ammunition from Buddhist monk Arsara of Shwe Baho village monastery in southern Maungdaw Township.

In June 2016, the police seized nearly 800,000 stimulant pills, worth about 2.3 billion kyats, from a suspected drug trafficker in Arakan State’s capital Sittwe. The police report stated that the suspect was only a transporter and had planned to deliver the drug shipment to a monk who lived near the Bangladeshi border.

According to reports, in late September 2016, Maungdaw police confiscated two massive hauls of drugs, totaling over 15 million amphetamine tablets, in the compound of a construction company, hidden under brick piles and in a truck that was covered with sand.

The police have not yet apprehended the suspects yet.

Col Shwe Nyar Maung of the anti-narcotics police force in Naypyidaw told The Irrawaddy that drugs flow to Burma from neighboring countries’ borders such as China, Thailand and India and some are smuggle via waterways.

He said, “Drug dealers target Yangon as a transit [destination] and experienced smugglers distribute the stimulants abroad.”