MYANMAR police made record meth pill seizures last year, according to the latest data, underscoring the country’s ongoing role as a major narcotics producer.
Police confiscated a record 98 million tablets, nearly double the 50 million seized in 2015.
Most production takes place in remote border territories controlled by ethnic minority militias or rival armed groups allied to the powerful military. While low-level smugglers are often arrested, few cartel leaders have been brought to justice over the past three decades.
Myanmar’s cheap and abundant meth pills — which contain methamphetamine in low dosages — are hugely popular across Asia, from wealthy clubbers to exhausted blue-collar employees.
In addition to the tablets, police documents show some 759 kilograms of heroin, 945kg of opium and 2,464kg of pure methamphetamine — the stronger variant “ice” — were seized last year.
Drug prosecutions jumped from around 8,800 in 2015 to 13,500.
Narcotics officers say the latest figures show policing is making inroads into the problem. But one senior officer told reporters that trafficking was still on the increase.
“It certainly tallies with our data,” said Jeremy Douglas, regional representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, adding that Myanmar saw a noticeable increase in meth pill production over the past year and a leap in the stronger crystalline variant.
Trafficking routes were also shifting, he said, with smugglers targeting growing domestic demand as well as looking for new markets to the west of Myanmar.
Neighboring Thailand yesterday announced two major drug seizures last week. Police found 87kg of methamphetamine and 25kg of cannabis in the southern province of Hat Yai. They also confiscated 720,000 amphetamine tablets and arrested three suspects in the northeast province of Udon Thani.
Officers said the three were part of a network run by Xaysana Keopimpha, a Laos national detained in Bangkok last month.
Thailand, Myanmar and Laos share a porous, remote and largely mountainous zone dubbed “The Golden Triangle,” long a major drugs-producing region.