Billions in illicit drugs burned in Thailand and Myanmar

PHOTO: AP

In a joint operation, authorities in Thailand and Myanmar destroyed 25 tonnes of illicit drugs valued at more than 62 billion baht (US$2 billion) in Ayutthaya and Yangon. The move comes as drug cartels in the Golden Triangle boost supplies and seek new channels of distribution. The Golden Triangle, where Laos, northern Myanmar and Thailand meet, has been a hub of illicit drug traffic for decades. Authorities say production there is now taking place on an industrial scale.

In Ayutthaya, about 80 kilometres north of Bangkok, Thai authorities marked International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking with a mass burning of drugs. Police guarded boxes of drugs unloaded from trucks while bricks of heroin and bags stuffed with methamphetamine pills, known as “yaba,” were thrown into dumpsters for incineration. In Yangon, meanwhile, plumes of black smoke filled the sky as sacks full of drugs were set ablaze. Firefighters quickly extinguished the flames.

Thai authorities say Covid-19 travel restrictions and checkpoints helped reduce smuggling, but the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said last month that the trade continues to thrive. Thailand’s deputy national police chief says drug criminals are getting more creative, and the internet is becoming a growing outlet for the illicit drug trade.

“Our children are making the wrong decision to order narcotic drugs online. And the dealers send the drugs to them.”

Rising heroin use among young people is among several worrying trends. Though opium cultivation and heroin refining have dropped, methamphetamine production in Myanmar’s northern regions has increased dramatically, with armed ethnic groups collaborating with organised crime elements. Thailand is used mainly as a conduit and distribution point, with some drugs sold domestically, but most smuggled onward.

Jeremy Douglas, the UNODC regional representative, says online drug sales represent a worrying trend, with an oversupply of meth pushing prices down and adding to more drug abuse.

“Above all we are looking now at an increase in drug availability. Very dangerous. Frankly speaking, Myanmar has become the transit place of narcotic drug distribution to Europe and Asia.”

SOURCE: Reuters

World News

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