Chinese authorities are concerned more methamphetamines are entering the country over the border with Myanmar.
In March, Chinese state media reported the execution of Burmese drug lord Naw Kham as proof rampant crime in the border region was being taken seriously.
The border itself is more than 2000 kilometres long, most of it mountainous and remote, making border security a difficult job.
The city of Ruili, which lies on the the border, is notorious as a haven for sex and drugs.
“Whenever I ask friends to visit me here, they say they only dare to go to the provincial capital Kunming,” one local said.
“They think drugs are sold in broad daylight.
“I tell them it’s not that serious, it seems more serious inland.”
“There are bad people -that’s why it’s complicated. There are fights, robberies, murders.
I’m an old farmer I tell it like it is.
“There are bad people -that’s why it’s complicated,” another said.
“There are fights, robberies, murders.
“I’m an old farmer I tell it like it is.”
Ruili is having difficulty shaking off its image as the wild west of China, in part because of its proximity with the Golden Triangle, the drug producing region that covers Myanmar, Thailand and Laos.
Drugs from that area are now being transported through the new highways and roads being built between Burma and China to facilitate the transportation of cement and steel needed for the construction of oil and gas pipelines.
Aung Myint*, who fled the failed student uprising in Myanmar 25 years ago, says Riuli is complicated.
“There are more criminal activities here than other places,” he said.
“Some are done by Chinese, some by Burmese, some by people of other nationalities.”
Heroin is still the primary drug of concern in China, but methamphetamines, which includes drugs such as speed and ice, are a close second on the list.
The United Nations says China alone accounts for half of the region’s seizures.
Methamphetamine users in China are usually below the age of 35.
Mr Yin* lives in a tent by a construction site on the edge of Ruili.
The 40-year-old has been a drug addict for two decades.
“I take drugs occasionally, not everyday,” he said
“I collect rubbish and don’t have a lot of money to support my habit.
“Sometimes I take drugs I find on the street, because I use drugs and know what they look like – sometimes I buy drugs, but it’s troublesome for me if I have to go to Myanmar to get some.”
Sometimes I take drugs I find on the street, because I use drugs and know what they look like – sometimes I buy drugs, but it’s troublesome for me if I have to go to Myanmar to get some.
People on the frontline of fighting drug use in Ruili say young Chinese have a misconception they can’t become addicted to methamphetamines.
Social worker Zhang Wenjun has been sent to drug rehabilitation centres and labour camps in China six times over a 15 year period.
He was last there in 2007 and says treatment methods have had little change.
“In the past, recovering drug users would have to do hard labour inside the labour camps,” he said.
“That’s changed a little, but otherwise it’s basically the same – they still do repetitive, meaningless activities.”
Inadequate treatment methods mean many struggle to get over addiction, remaining on the fringes of society, unable to fin employment.
Zhang Wenjun also says he gets hassled by local authorities when his Guiding Star charity meets recovering drug users to counsel them.
“Over the past two years it’s become increasingly difficult to get funding from overseas,” he said.
“The large foundations are withdrawing from China and that has affected the development of our program.
“People have quit because they have families to support – they can’t possibly do this work for free.”
Aung Myint says the economic realities of ther region mean the border will continue to turn towns like Ruili into frontiers of China’s war on drugs.
“Myanmar is very poor, especially in the border areas, where the drugs are produced,” he said.
“The problem will persist and drugs will continue to flow into China.”
*Names have been changed at the request of those interviewed.