Myanmar police seize massive haul of meth pills


YANGON — Myanmar authorities seized more than 10 million methamphetamine pills worth US$13.3 million over the weekend, police said Monday, another massive haul in a country widely believed to be the world’s largest meth producer.

High-grade crystal meth, or “ice” is smuggled out of Myanmar via sophisticated networks to lucrative developed markets as far away as Japan, South Korea and Australia.

Lower-quality pills, cut with caffeine and known in the region as “yaba” or “crazy medicine”, are pumped out to feed the voracious domestic market as well as large drug-addicted communities in nearby Thailand and Bangladesh.

Two different busts took place in the west of the country at the weekend, state-run media said Monday, one in Magway Region and one in Maungdaw in Rakhine State.

Support more independent journalism like this. Sign up to be a Frontier member.

“It’s the biggest drugs seizure this year in the country and the biggest ever in Maungdaw in Rakhine State,” Police Colonel Win Ko Ko told AFP.

The pills were likely destined for Bangladesh, where they have become an easy source of income for the Rohingya Muslim refugees who have fled across the border since a 2017 military crackdown.

Most of the drug production, however, takes place on the other side of Myanmar, in conflict-ridden eastern Shan State.

Much of the state lies outside of central control with a complex web of rebel ethnic armed groups and militias wielding power and linking up with trafficking networks.

Opium farming is also rife, and Myanmar remains the world’s second largest producer of the drug after Afghanistan.

The poppy-covered hills also provide an ideal location for illicit meth labs, with a largely unchecked supply of precursor chemicals flooding in from China.

Accurate production figures are impossible to obtain, but experts say that large seizures have had no effect on drug prices, suggesting they are only a small proportion of the total.

More stories

Latest Issue

Stories in this issue
Myanmar enters 2021 with more friends than foes
The early delivery of vaccines is one of the many boons of the country’s geopolitics, but to really take advantage, Myanmar must bury the legacy of its isolationist past.
Will the Kayin BGF go quietly?
The Kayin State Border Guard Force has come under intense pressure from the Tatmadaw over its extensive, controversial business interests and there’s concern the ultimatum could trigger fresh hostilities in one of the country’s most war-torn areas.

Support our independent journalism and get exclusive behind-the-scenes content and analysis

Stay on top of Myanmar current affairs with our Daily Briefing and Media Monitor newsletters.

Sign up for our Frontier Fridays newsletter. It’s a free weekly round-up featuring the most important events shaping Myanmar