YANGON - Myanmar and Thailand destroyed nearly US$1 billion (S$1.34 billion) of seized narcotics to mark World Drugs Day yesterday, as the UN said East and South-east Asia remained the world's biggest markets for synthetic drugs and heroin.
The authorities in Myanmar said drugs worth around US$245 million were crushed under a steamroller or torched in three locations. This is the 28th time this event has been held in Myanmar since the United Nations General Assembly endorsed June 26 as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in 1987.
The country, which is emerging from years of military rule, has long struggled to control illegal drug production, especially in its border areas, where ethnic rebel groups are still active.
The "Golden Triangle" region - covering parts of Laos, Thailand and Myanmar - was one of the world's top producers of opium and heroin until the emergence of Afghanistan as a drug production hub.
Myanmar's eastern Shan state accounts for nearly all of the illegal poppy cultivation in the country, which remains the world's second-largest opium producer. Much of the raw material is believed to be smuggled across the border for processing into heroin in China, which is home to the world's largest number of addicts.
In Thailand, the authorities torched nearly 9.5 tonnes of drugs.
"Around 66 million pills of methamphetamine... 798kg of crystal methamphetamine... heroin weighing over 418kg" were among the drugs burnt, according to a Public Health Ministry statement.
It added that nearly 150,000 people have gone for drug treatment in the last eight months.
The value of the drugs burnt is twice the amount at last year's ceremony, in a sign of the Thai junta's tough stance on drugs.
In its annual report marking World Drugs Day, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said the authorities in East and South-east Asia seized 12 tonnes of heroin, the third increase in as many years. The region also "reported the highest number of synthetic drug seizures in the world", it said in a statement.
Asia remains the largest market for opium and heroin, accounting for an estimated two-thirds of all users globally.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA