Thailand and Myanmar burn billions in seized drugs to mark international day against illicit trafficking
More than $US839 million ($1.2 billion) worth of seized illegal drugs have been destroyed in Myanmar to mark the annual International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
- Thai authorities mark the day with a mass incineration of drugs
- South-East Asia’s Golden Triangle has long been a hub of illicit drug trafficking
- Myanmar has a history of drug production, fuelled by decades of civil war
Myanmar, along with Laos and Thailand is part of South-East Asia’s Golden Triangle and has long been a hub of illicit drug trafficking, and production is now on an industrial scale.
The country’s vast, mountainous and forested borders mean producers can move large quantities of cheaply produced drugs into neighbouring countries with little fear of capture.
Black plumes of smoke filled the sky in Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon, as a massive pile of drugs worth an estimated $144 million went up in a spectacular blaze.
It included opium, heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana, ketamine and the stimulant known as ice, or crystal meth.
The blaze burned so fiercely it threatened to set fire to an awning set up for the occasion that firefighters hurriedly doused with water hoses.
Who are the Rohingya?
The plight of Myanmar’s Rohingya refugees, a Muslim ethnic minority group rendered stateless in their homeland and detained in transit nations, is desperately bleak.
Authorities also destroyed drugs in Mandalay, Lashio and in Taunggyi, the capital of eastern Myanmar’s Shan state, all areas closer to where the drugs are produced.
“Frankly speaking, Myanmar has become the transit place of narcotic drug distribution to Europe and Asia,” Police colonel, Hla Wai said.
The Government said some ethnic armies use narcotics to fund their insurgencies, but critics have accused elements of Myanmar’s Government and army of profiting from the trade themselves.
In recent decades, production had largely switched to synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine, and now increasingly to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.
In Thailand drugs were also burned.
In Ayutthaya, north of Bangkok, Thai authorities marked International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking with a mass incineration of drugs.
Black-clad police commandoes guarded stacks of boxes of drugs unloaded from trucks, and heroin bricks and bags stuffed with pink methamphetamine pills were thrown into dumpsters for incineration.
Thai counter-narcotics chiefs said coronavirus travel restrictions and checkpoints had helped reduce smuggling activities although the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said the trade had thrived.
Deputy national police chief, Wisanu Prasarthong-osoth, said drug criminals had become more creative.
“Our children are making the wrong decision to order narcotic drugs online. And the dealers send to them,” he said.
Thailand is used mainly as a conduit and distribution point in the trade.