RANGOON — Almost two months since authorities in Rangoon seized a mammoth haul of narcotics worth over US$100 million on the outskirts of the commercial capital, police claim to have detained a key suspect on the Thai-Burma border.
Min Oo Khaing, reported to be a director with Kaladan Delta Development, surrendered to a Burmese anti-narcotics unit on Sept. 15, according to police.
“He was found in Mae Sot and taken straight to Rangoon,” said a police officer based in Karen State’s Myawaddy on Thursday who declined to be identified. A police source in Rangoon said Thai authorities were involved in the suspect’s arrest.
On July 26, police found nearly 27 million methamphetamine tablets worth an estimated 133 billion kyats (US$110 million) left abandoned in the back of a truck in Rangoon’s Mingaladon Township.
In a raid tied to their investigation of the case, in August, police seized an additional 1.5 million stimulant tablets from a house in North Dagon Township.
Reports in state-run media, citing the Ministry of Home Affairs, named Min Oo Khaing among several others as key suspects in the case.
Min Oo Khaing’s reported arrest comes as US President Barack Obama named Burma as one of 22 countries determined to be a major illicit drugs producer or transit country that “significantly affect the United States.”
However, the announcement, dated Sept. 14, also stipulated that Burma, along with Venezuela, would be granted National Interest Waivers, abrogating the possible implementation of sanctions.
A May 2015 report on synthetic drugs in Southeast Asia by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found Burma was “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.”
The country’s major illicit drug syndicates are believed to involve an amalgam of ethnic armed groups and state-backed Border Guard Force personnel, with an unknown degree of government officials’ complicity.