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Thailand’s methamphetamine trafficking increases after Myanmar coup



Thailand’s methamphetamine supply is facing a sharp rise out of Myanmar following the recent coup, opening the floodgates to an abundance of “yaba” pills. The Thai narcotics bureau seized over 80 million pills in the past 6 months alone, including a 20 million baht seizure recently, in part due to over-supply from the Covid-19 pandemic. But much more yaba is expected to be flooding across the border as the crisis in Myanmar continues, with strikes and unrest against the military rule raging on.

Organised crime and militias have been emboldened in the face of the national chaos, leading to drug production increasing. Many Burmese groups along the Laos and Thai border, the central hub of drug trade for decades (golden triangle), are already primarily funded by synthetic drug sales. Jeremy Douglas of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime says this is the case historically. 

“If past actions are any indicator of what’s coming, then we’re likely to see another increase in synthetic drug production.”

The influx of meth into Thailand has created a surplus of pills in Bangkok, bottoming out the market price. With exports to more profitable countries like Australia and Japan complicated by Covid-19 border tightenings, Yaba is now selling for 50 baht a pop.

Thai authorities estimate three-quarters of illegal drugs are now shipped from Myanmar to Thailand via Laos. More manpower and equipment, such as night-vision, motion sensors and motorbikes, are desperately needed, they say. Recently volunteer groups living in villages along the river have done 24 hour border patrols, which has been helpful in spotting drug runners disguised as fishermen. The traffickers will also avoid areas with a lot of real fishing boats out. 

These local volunteer groups fill gaps in police shift changes, and their local knowledge often comes in handy. They don’t make arrests or carry weapons, but they inform police of the movements of traffickers and hiding places amongst the grass and trees along the riverbank. They know of storage spaces holding a tonne of meth pills. 

SOURCE: Thai PBS World


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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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