Laos makes a record drug seizure near the Golden Triangle
The drug bust includes some 55 million amphetamine tablets and more than 1.5 tonnes of crystal methamphetamine. Smugglers have turned to Myanmar to take advantage of post-coup unrest. For the UN, “Methamphetamine is a highly addictive and destructive drug, and once enmeshed in society it will not go away.”
Vientiane (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Laotian police recently seized huge quantities of drugs in the Golden Triangle, region that covers parts of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos, i.e., some 55 million amphetamine tablets (called Ya Ba, crazy drug in Laotian and Thai) and more than 1.5 tonnes of crystal methamphetamine.
The lorry that carried the illegal cargo hidden in beer crates was stopped in the northern Laotian province of Bokeo, which borders the other two countries.
This was “by far the largest seizure in the history of East and Southeast Asia,” said Jeremy Douglas, Southeast Asia regional representative for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
So far, 2021 has seen a record number of drug seizure in Southeast Asia, at least a million methamphetamine tablets and more than 100 kg of crystal meth, ketamine and heroin.
This week Laotian police also carried two other raids netting about 16 million ya ba tablets.
Although the Golden Triangle has been a major drug producing region for a long time, with distribution networks reaching as far as Japan and New Zealand, smugglers have recently turned to Myanmar taking advantage of unrest in that country, following the military coup on 1 February.
“This is related to the security and governance breakdown in the Triangle and Shan Myanmar – spillover is hitting the region,” Douglas said.
The United Nations had already sounded the alarm back in March about the possible fallout from the coup in the former Burma.
“The seizures really took off in May and June, which is coincidentally when we also started receiving reports of huge seizures in Myanmar,” Douglas told the Financial Times.
“The harm being done to the people in the region is incalculable,” he adds. “Methamphetamine is a highly addictive and destructive drug, and once enmeshed in society it will not go away.”
The post-coup environment is ideal for trafficking. Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, drug traffickers can carry on their businesses through various online messaging apps, while law enforcement in Myanmar have almost completely stopped anti-drug activities due to violence in the country.
In Shan, ethnic militias de facto rule part of the eastern state, and rely on trafficking to finance themselves, by taxing, for example, vehicles passing through their territory.
Methamphetamine prices have remained stable or even dropped. Analysts think this is an attempt by traffickers to enter new markets.
By selling drugs at lower prices at the beginning, it is easier for those who become addicted to be willing to pay more later.
Ya Ba pills are becoming increasingly popular as a street drug, not only in Myanmar, but also in Thailand and Bangladesh.
According to experts, the production of synthetic drugs in the Golden Triangle could also soon surpass Mexico’s.