Record drug bust in Laos follows pandemic’s methamphetamine boom

View of the Golden Triangle from Chiang Rai | Stock photo via Wikimedia Commons

The large haul of methamphetamine was seized by Laos police in what the United Nations considers Asia’s largest single drug bust on record follows the methamphetamine boom in Southeast Asia – particularly in Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia.

Despite border closures and other restrictions during the pandemic, those in the illicit methamphetamine trade have not only survived, but have managed to capitalise during the pandemic. The Myanmar region of the Golden Triangle has long been a major production base for methamphetamine.

With Thailand tightening patrol along the Myanmar border due to the rise in Covid-19 cases in the neighbouring country, organized crime changed their operations to use Laos as a main transit route for smuggling methamphetamine into Thailand. Large-scale methamphetamine production has also emerged in Cambodia, but the size is nowhere near the bases in Myanmar’s Shan State.

Two Thai security forces confirmed the record-breaking drug bust today, according to Reuters. Laos officers in the Golden Triangle region seized more than 55 million methamphetamine tablets and over 1.5 tonnes of crystal methamphetamine.

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According to the report, the sources said police made the bust after stopping a truck carrying beer crates in northern Bokeo, which borders both Thailand and Myanmar. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Southeast Asia regional representative, Jeremy Douglas, said it was “by far the largest seizure in the history of East and Southeast Asia”.

Reuters reports that there has been an upsurge in the volume of drugs seized in Laos this year, with Wednesday’s bust following two separate drug hauls in the same area over a one week period. Across the two previous hauls, police had seized a combined 16 million amphetamine tablets.

Douglas said the spike was due to smuggling routes being shifted inside Myanmar following unrest in border areas since February’s coup. He told Reuters it “is related to the security and governance breakdown in the Triangle and Shan Myanmar”, noting that “spillover is hitting the region”.

SOURCE: Reuters

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