Burma

Tatmadaw Seizes $8.5M in Guns and Drugs

By Htet Naing Zaw 17 June 2019

NAYPYITAW—The Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw, seized over 13 billion kyats (US$8.5 million) worth of methamphetamine production equipment, materials, finished pills and a stash of weapons last week in the Shan State town of Tachileik, on the Myanmar-Thailand border, according to the military’s official news outlet.

Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun of the Tatmadaw True News Information Team confirmed the massive haul, which included more than 6 billion kyats worth of pills, known as yaba, emblazoned with the logo ‘WY’ and 15 firearms on Friday, followed by the seizure on Saturday of nearly 7 billion kyats worth of pills and two firearms, he told The Irrawaddy.

The seizures were made in four villages in the area, which is under the control of various armed groups.

“The Tatmadaw had to be involved because the haul included many guns. There was a need for the Tatmadaw to provide security. So far, no suspect has been arrested,” he said. “We found the drugs abandoned either on streets or in houses.”

According to Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun, the haul was the largest ever made from a civilian area; previously, such amounts had only been seized from the outposts of armed groups.

Chief of the Shan State Police Force Brig-Gen Zaw Khin Aung told The Irrawaddy his force has limited access to the area because of the control of armed organizations.

“There are many [armed] groups there in Tachileik, including people’s militias,” he said. “So the Tatmadaw came and cleared the area. Not even the local police were involved in the raid.

Everyone knows drugs are produced in the area, but we are not able to handle it. Frankly speaking, police are not able to enter those areas.”

“There are people’s militias—the Wa (the United Wa State Army), the Shan State Army, and various rebel groups,” a local, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The Irrawaddy.

Aside from drug production and use—which has even reached local primary school populations—gambling is also rampant in the town, he said, worsened by a lack of the rule of law.

“Members of the public have no security here. They are helpless. The only way to stay safe is to stay away from them,” he said.

Locals tell The Irrawaddy there are even village-level militias, a Lahu people’s militia and a Lahu Border Guard Force, in addition to the larger ethnic armed groups that have signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in the area.

Tachileik is in the infamous Golden Triangle, a borderland area where Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar converge, notorious for drug production and drug and illegal wildlife trade.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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