Myanmar authorities have pulled off a large haul of narcotic drugs worth over 1.8 billion kyats (over 1.3 million U.S. dollars) in two townships of Shan state, according to a release from the Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control (CCDAC).
The anti-narcotic police made a seizure at Nawnghkio in Kyaukme district. A total of 14.3 kg of heroin and 16,000 stimulants were confiscated from a car along with two suspects.
This is one of the biggest drug seizures in Myanmar this year. And the enforcement authorities reported a rise in drug consumption amid Covid pandemic and so are peddling.
The biggest drug seizures in Myanmar this year were reported between February and April this year.
During the period, more than 193 million methamphetamine tablets, 500 kg of crystal methamphetamine and 290 kg of heroin were found in raids in north-east Shan state.
Thirty-three people were arrested in the operations, which were carried out between February and April.
Myanmar is thought to be the largest global source of methamphetamines.
The suspects told police most of the drugs were destined for sale within Myanmar and in neighbouring countries, Colonel Zaw Lin of Myanmar’s counter-narcotics agency said.
More than 3,700 litres of methylfentanyl, an analogue of the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, was also discovered.
Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and more than 100 times more potent than morphine, and has fuelled an opioid crisis in the US.
On average, 130 Americans die from an opioid overdose every day, according to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Synthetic drugs are changing the nature of the global illicit drug trade.
Laboratory-made drugs are cheap to produce and – unlike heroin and other traditional drugs – the production doesn’t rely on seasonal harvests.
Many of the precursor chemicals needed to synthesise drugs like methamphetamine and fentanyl are made in labs in China and India.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has linked the rise of synthetic drug production across Asia to sophisticated crime syndicates that source precursor chemicals from labs in China and India.
The syndicates then work with militia in conflict areas in Myanmar to produce large quantities of illicit drugs in so-called “super labs”.
UNODC South East Asia and Pacific representative Jeremy Douglas said the discovery was a sign of a new trend of synthetic opioid production emerging on a scale nobody anticipated.
Myanmar is the world’s second largest producer of opium, after Afghanistan. Its illicit drug trade has flourished because of its mountainous land and porous borders.
It is located in the ‘Golden Triangle’, an area shared with China, Laos and Thailand, known for supplying drugs, a multi-billion dollar trade.
Between 2018 and 2019, a total of 14 clandestine drug laboratories were seized in Myanmar.
In 2017, a Buddhist monk was arrested in Myanmar and linked to more than four million methamphetamine pills hidden in a monastery.