Connect with us

Crime

“Off the charts” – biggest drug seizure in decades

Published

 on 

“Truly off-the-charts.” That was the assessment of Jeremy Douglas from the UN Office of Drugs and Crime talking about a major drug seizure in Myanmar’s northern Shan state. How off the charts?

Authorities seized 200 million methamphetamine tablets (yaba), more than 500 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine (ice), and 35.5 tonnes and 163,000 thousand litres of precursor chemicals used to manufacture illicit drugs. They also seized nearly 3,750 litres of liquid methylfentanyl, used to manufacture the powerful synthetic opioid-like drug fentanyl. They also seized 300 kilograms of heroin.

South east Asia, generally, has been spared an opioid crisis, similar to the one that has been sweeping the US, but experts warn that drug producers in Asia may continue the switch to synthetic opioids, made to mimic the chemical structure and effects of poppy-based drugs. The Golden Triangle, straddling northern Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, remains the world’s centre of poppy cultivation. But in recent decades the production of synthetic drugs has pushed the illicit factories deeper into the forests of Myanmar, often semi-portable, making their detection much more difficult than the open poppy fields.

Poppy fields require space, are highly seasonal, low-yield and labour-intensive. Modern opioids and methamphetamines just require a secret location, simple equipment and minimal labour.

The Golden Triangle is still notorious for its lawlessness, especially on the Burmese side of the borders, mostly governed by local militias and warlords and out of reach of the largely ineffective and remote Myanmar government.

The result is an unprecedented explosion in the synthetic drug trade. The methamphetamine market in East and South east Asia is now valued around $61.4 billion a year, according to the UNODC report.

The potency of synthetic opioids like fentanyl means it is easier to overdose. Laced with other illicit drugs, consumers often have no real idea what they are taking. A trio of overdoses in Bangkok last September was one of the first indications that fentanyl had appeared in the city’s heroin chain.

Jeremy Douglas, regional coordinator for the UN Office of Drugs and Crime says that the amount of methylfentanyl precursor chemicals seized could manufacture a batch of synthetic opioids “large enough to replace the region’s heroin production for a year”.

“This may be the moment we have feared, synthetic opioids are in the region in a big way. It’s clear that a network of production facilities like those found would not be possible without the involvement and financial backing of serious transnational organised criminal groups.”

The report also claims that authorities uncovered evidence “that some militias operating in the lawless areas of northern Myanmar were involved in the trade”, though the report neglected to lay out evidence about this claim. Drug law enforcement agencies in the region have long accused the armed groups in northern Myanmar of being complicit in the region’s drug trade.

33 people were arrested in the operations, which were carried out between February and April.

SOURCES: BBC | CNN | Reuters

 

Get more from The Thaiger

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

If you have story ideas, a restaurant to review, an event to cover or an issue to discuss, contact The Thaiger editorial staff.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Travel1 hour ago

Where to find underrated international cuisines in Bangkok

Bangkok3 hours ago

Chinatown manhole covers to use art, tech to become cultural map

Transport3 hours ago

Man fights Indian Railways for 22 years for justice (and 9 baht)

Events5 hours ago

Tourism Minister visits Full Moon Party, supports later curfew

Crime5 hours ago

Thais cautioned against fake government websites

Thailand6 hours ago

Another Thai boxer dies from brain injury after fight in Malaysia

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Thailand7 hours ago

Expats in Thailand, Cartoon characters & Letting Loose | Thaiger Bites

Pattaya7 hours ago

VIDEO: Young Thais have a blast at Pattaya Music Festival weekend 2

Pollution8 hours ago

Anti-Corruption Network complains of smelly wastewater in coastal Thai province

Weather8 hours ago

Flooding from overflowing rivers soaks Chiang Rai and the border

Phuket9 hours ago

Phuket police nab 3,373 meth pills from 5 suspects

Pattaya11 hours ago

Pattaya night club owner gives free meals on Thai Mother’s Day

Thailand12 hours ago

Current Thailand Visa Options for Digital Nomads

Central Thailand12 hours ago

Police find fake Covid-19 tests worth millions in central Thailand

World13 hours ago

UPDATE: Rushdie is talking again, attacker pleads not guilty

Thailand11 months ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism1 year ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Trending