Bangladesh police seize meth tablets worth $15 million in record drug bust

DHAKA (AFP) - Bangladesh has seized 2.8 million methamphetamine tablets worth an estimated US$10.5 million (S$15 million), in the country's biggest-ever seizure of the drug, as it struggles to stem its surging popularity, officers said on Monday (Jan 18).

Police confiscated the drugs in night-long raids on Sunday at a railway station in Dhaka and at an anchorage in the port city of Chittagong, elite Rapid Action Battalion spokesman Major Rumman Mahmud said.

"This is the biggest seizure of yaba tablets in Bangladesh. We've arrested three traffickers including a ring leader in connection with the seizure," Maj Mahmud told AFP of their investigation, adding that the drugs were made in neighbouring Myanmar.

Yaba, a Thai word for "crazy medicine", is made of methamphetamine and caffeine and has become a popular drug among young people in the nation of 160 million.

Police in the southern town of Teknaf, which borders Myanmar, and the Bangladesh Navy have in recent months seized hundreds of thousands of the stimulant from traffickers attempting the journey by land and sea.

"The Myanmar-Teknaf border was the main trafficking route when the drug cartel introduced yaba in Bangladesh. But now they are mostly using sea routes after many of their consignments were seized on land," Teknaf police chief Ataur Rahman Khan said.

"It seems Bangladesh has become a big target of the international drug cartels," Mr Khan told AFP.

The seizure comes just months after Chittagong customs officials seized a shipment of cocaine mixed in sunflower oil weighing more than 60kg and worth US$14 million.

A Department of Narcotics Control (DNC) official said Bangladesh was struggling to shut down trafficking from Myanmar, in part because of a river running along their long border which is difficult to patrol.

"Yaba pills can be produced in small bathroom-sized labs. We shared our intelligence with Myanmar about the location of some labs. But they didn't take necessary steps," he also told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.