KAWNGHKA • Sacks of heroin and methamphetamine are laid out in endless rows in a remote Myanmar border zone during a rare raid in the heart of South-east Asia’s infamous “Golden Triangle”.
The seizure in one of the world’s biggest narcotics-producing regions put three major laboratories out of business last week, and hauled in 43 million meth tablets.
Record amounts of drugs continue to be churned out of the lawless forest areas by rebel groups and shadowy organised crime networks making billions of dollars each year from the trade.
Army operations around the Kutkai area of Myanmar’s Shan state found the factories producing millions of “yaba” pills – cheap, caffeine-cut meth tablets – as well as heroin and the more addictive crystal meth, known as Ice.
“Our soldiers are on the ground in areas of the forest the police cannot reach,” Major-General Tun Tun Nyi, a spokesman for the commander-in-chief’s office, told reporters on Friday in a rare press tour to a murky zone of drug production and rebel wars.
Myanmar is under pressure to stem the deluge of drugs from its freewheeling border regions.
Shan state is part of the Golden Triangle, a rugged wedge of land cutting into Myanmar, Laos, China and Thailand that is virtually untroubled by the authorities despite its prolific production.
“This is the biggest seizure of the year… The whole world is fighting drugs,” Maj-Gen Tun Tun Nyi added.
The haul was worth nearly US$100 million (S$138 million) in Myanmar, the army said. But the price of yaba triples as it crosses borders into Thailand and Malaysia.
Made-in-Myanmar Ice goes for around US$150,000 a kilogram by the time it hits Australia’s streets.
Drugs are trafficked south through Thailand, north into China and west towards Bangladesh – a cascade of stimulants that has overwhelmed regional policing efforts and seeded a crisis of addiction, corruption and money laundering.