Myanmar seizes 20 mllion pills in Golden Triangle drug bust

YANGON (AFP) - Myanmar authorities have seized 20 million meth tablets, 600,000 ecstasy pills and blocks of heroin in the heart of the drug-producing 'Golden Triangle', in what is believed to be the biggest haul of the year.

Authorities raided four homes on Tuesday (Aug 8) in Tachileik, a border town in Myanmar's Shan State next to Thailand and a regular sluice for drugs southwards to the big Southeast Asian market.

Each methamphetamine pill goes for between US$2-5 in Myanmar.

But its value surges as it is transported from the warlord-run drug labs pumping out Southeast Asia's favourite high across the border into Thailand and beyond.

"Myanmar's police force is investigating the case and will take action against the four people arrested," Tachileik authorities said in the statement released Wednesday.

The seizure included 20 million meth tablets, some 200 kilograms of "ice" (crystal meth), 9.1 kilograms of heroin, 610,000 ecstasy pills and five bags of caffeine - which is laced into the meth pills known as "yaba", meaning crazy medicine.

Police and soldiers also seized moulds used to brand the stimulants, including some with the '999' and 'WY' logos of drug labs belonging to the heavily-armed Wa ethnic group.

The North and South Wa share a self-governing state.

Analysts say they fund their large standing armies with drug money.

The Wa dominate opium and meth production in the Golden Triangle, a rugged region where Myanmar, Laos and Thailand meet.

Authorities in the three countries are struggling to dismantle the sprawling drug networks that funnel narcotics through the region, making hundreds of millions of dollars a year but devastating communities.

The drugs were likely bound for Thailand, which lies just across the border and is a major market.

Low-level mules are often arrested, or gunned down in clashes with Thai officers along the jungle-covered border.

Thai and Laos authorities have arrested several alleged 'kingpins' in recent months linked to the trade, rare moves against those higher up the food chain in the drug trade.

But analysts say the overall drug battle is hampered by endemic official corruption as well as the ability of syndicates to bounce back from raids by ramping-up production.