Home Affairs Ministry Admits to Challenges Blocking Drug Precursor Imports

By Moe Moe 9 November 2018

NAYPYITAW — Deputy Home Affairs Minister Major General Aung Thu on Wednesday conceded that Myanmar has had limited success blocking the illicit import of chemicals from China and India used to make illegal drugs.

“As Myanmar is sandwiched between two big countries that are the biggest producers of precursors, controlling the border gates has been a challenge in the fight against drugs,” he told reporters in Naypyitaw after the opening of a regional conference on controlling the supply of precursors.

Conference attendees included more than 80 high-ranking officials from Asean members, China, India, Australia, New Zealand and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

In 2017, police handled more than 10,000 drug cases across the country, according to Colonel Shwe Nyar Maung, spokesman for the Myanmar Police Force’s anti-narcotics unit.

“It was an increase from around 2,600 cases nationwide in 2011,” he said.

Precursors smuggled across the border have been seized in Shan and Mon states, from where they reach other parts of the country, Col. Shwe Nyar Maung added.

The UNODC is working with countries across the region to draft a strategy to control the production of precursors in order to combat the manufacture of narcotics.

Precursors including caffeine, pseudoephedrine, ephedrine, sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, and ethylamine have been seized both inside Myanmar and along its borders with China, Laos and Thailand.

In May, the President’s Office created an anti-drug department and promised rewards for tips that lead to drug seizures and arrests.

“The police force is understaffed to effectively fight drugs. What the president has been doing is very good, but I wish he took a tougher line,” said lawmaker U Hla Than, a member of the Lower House’s Judicial and Legal Affairs Committee.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.