Drugs, Guns Seized in Shan State Raid

By Lawi Weng 22 November 2013

Burmese anti-narcotics police and government army troops stationed near Kutkai in northern Shan State seized a large cache of weapons and drugs valued at nearly US $250,000 on Wednesday, according to Burma’s state media.

Acting on a tip-off from local sources, the joint force raided a drug factory near the village of Monesi in Kutkai Township following a clash with around 10 armed men, The New Light of Myanmar reported on Friday. Eleven people were arrested during a sweep of the area, the newspaper added.

Inside the factor, the government forces found 6.3 kg of heroin, 12.7 kg of morphine, 0.8 kg of raw opium, 3.1 kg of opium paste, 4.5 kg of an unidentified brown powder and 7,200 amphetamine tablets, valued at a total of about 237 million kyat ($244,000).

Also seized in the raid were 22 small arms, 897 rounds of ammunition, 13 grenades, two bombs, 19 magazines, one pair of night-vision goggles, one silencer and one sniper glass, the report said.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy by phone on Friday, Aye Myint Soe, a police officer stationed near Monesi who declined to give his rank, said that a local informant had alerted the authorities to the drug-making operation.

“We got the information from a local person on Nov. 19 and raided the factory the next day,” he said, without adding any further details.

Although it is unknown who was running the factory, observers noted that two local Shan militias are active in the area, as are members of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

In response to a question on his Facebook page, government spokesperson Ye Htut suggested that KIA Brigade 4 might be involved in the heroin trade, but provided no evidence to support this claim.

Meanwhile, another raid in Muse Township, north of Kutkai, on Nov. 19 resulted in the seizure of 1.5 million methamphetamine tablets and the arrest of six suspected drug traffickers.

In this case, the Burmese authorities were tipped off by Chinese police, who believed the six suspects were smuggling the drugs across the border into China’s Yunnan Province.

Opium and methamphetamine production continues to rise in Burma, and increasing amounts of the illicit drugs are being smuggled to East and Southeast Asia, according to a recent report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The UNDOC said seizures of opium, heroin and methamphetamine pills, as well as crystalline methamphetamine and precursor chemicals, “increased significantly in 2012” in Burma.

The restive and rugged region of Shan State, perched between the borders with Thailand, Laos and China, continues to be a main source of illicit drug production, the agency said.