Myanmar police make US$30m drugs seizure

YANGON (AFP) - Police in Myanmar seized more than US$30 million (S$41 million) worth of heroin and methamphetamine, a senior investigator told AFP on Sunday (March 6), a bust that highlights the country's continued role as a major global drugs manufacturer.

Myanmar sits at the heart of the infamous "Golden Triangle", which also covers parts of Thailand and Laos, and has been a hotbed of narcotics production for decades despite repeated government vows to tackle the scourge.

"It's worth about 37 billion kyats (S$41 million)," a senior police official of the anti-drugs squad in Naypyidaw told AFP on condition of anonymity. "This is the biggest seizure of 2016."

Police found a smorgasbord of narcotics in a container vehicle on an industrial zone in Mandalay including 82kg of methamphetamine, 24kg of heroin, 6.8 million stimulant tablets and 15kg of opium.

The official said the main suspect was still not apprehended.

Myanmar has struggled to stem the tide of narcotics from its remote and violence-scarred border regions despite political reforms that saw Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party win historic elections in November.

The impoverished nation remains the world's second largest opium producer after Afghanistan while cartels increasingly churn out methamphetamine tablets.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has said methamphetamine dominates the global market for synthetic drugs and is expanding significantly in Southeast and East Asia.

"It's scary as drugs trafficking has been increasing and spreading around the country," the senior drugs investigator in Naypyidaw told AFP.

Last July Myanmar has seized more than US$100 million worth stimulant tablets from a private container vehicle in northern Yangon.

Last month clashes broke out in remote northern Kachin state between local farmers and Christian anti-drug vigilantes who were trying to destroy poppy fields.

Both ethnic militias and the Myanmar military or its allies have tapped the lucrative multi-billion dollar trade to finance their long-running wars.