Record year for Myanmar drug seizures

YANGON • Myanmar police made record seizures of synthetic drugs last year, underscoring the country's role as a major global narcotics producer.

Police confiscated a record 98 million tablets, nearly double the 50 million seized in 2015, according to police data obtained by AFP yesterday.

Myanmar is one of the world's top drug-producing nations, churning out huge quantities of methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs, as well as heroin, opium and cannabis - much of them bound for consumers in Asia and beyond.

Most production takes place in remote border territories controlled by ethnic minority militias or rival armed groups allied to the military.

While low-level smugglers are often arrested, few cartel leaders have been brought to justice over the last three decades.

Given the powerful vested interests involved, tackling the trade remains a major hurdle for the Aung San Suu Kyi administration.

In addition to the tablets, documents show some 759kg of heroin, 945kg of opium and 2,464kg of pure methamphetamine - or Ice - were seized last year.

Drug prosecutions jumped from some 8,800 in 2015 to 13,500.

Narcotics officers say the latest figures show policing is making inroads into the problem.

"But still, trafficking is increasing," one senior officer told AFP, asking not to be named.

The officer said key hurdles include the lack of manpower and high-quality detection technology, plus the difficulties of working in areas controlled by armed ethnic minority groups.

Neighbouring Thailand yesterday announced two major drug seizures last week: 87kg of methamphetamine and 25kg of cannabis in the southern province of Hat Yai, and 720,000 amphetamine tablets in the north-eastern province of Udon Thani.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2017, with the headline 'Record year for Myanmar drug seizures'. Print Edition | Subscribe