TNLA Claim Seizure of Massive Meth, Heroin Haul

By Kyaw Kha 19 March 2015

The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) has announced that it seized a large haul of heroin and methamphetamine said to be worth more than US$3.5 million, after the ethnic Palaung rebels stopped and searched a truck passing through northern Shan State’s Mantong Township.

Mai Ai Kyaw, a TNLA information officer, said TNLA soldiers were carrying out an anti-drug patrol on the Namkham-Mantong road when they inspected a truck that was carrying a hidden haul of 2.3 million methamphetamine pills, estimated to be worth about $3.5 million, and 16.5 kilogram of heroin with an estimated local value of about $90,000.

“The gravel truck was driving down from Namhkam. When we stopped the vehicle for inspection, a man ran away from the vehicle. We seized heroin and yaba [meth] as we inspected the vehicle and we have arrested the driver,” he told The Irrawaddy.

In a statement announcing the seizure of the illicit drugs haul, the TNLA said the truck was transporting gravel and had a license of the Ministry of Mines for quarrying-related business.

The truck traveled south from Namkham, located close to the Burma-China border, to Mantong, a town in the Palaung Self-Administered Zone. It reportedly passed through two checkpoints manned by government forces and pro-government militias before it was stopped and inspected by the TNLA, the group said.

The Irrawaddy contacted Namkham Township Police Station to ask about the massive drug seizure, but an officer answering the phone said he was not aware of the TNLA’s operation.

Northern Shan State has long been plagued by ethnic conflict and large-scale illicit drugs trade and production. All actors in the conflict are said to profit from the trade, which is destined largely for China and Thailand.

The Wa rebels as well as pro-government militias are allegedly involved in production and trade, while other ethnic armed groups, local authorities and the Burma Army reportedly collect money from the trade.

The TNLA, which has been fighting the Burma Army in recent years, said they are carrying out drug eradication operations to stem rampant drug abuse in Palaung minority communities. The rebels and Palaung NGOs have alleged that pro-government militias in the Namkham region are producing drugs and peddling it in minority communities.