Myanmar says seized drugs worth half a billion dollars were set on fire

Smoke rises from a pile of illegal drugs seized during a destruction ceremony to mark the United Nations

RANGON: Myanmar authorities said they torched more than half a billion dollars worth of narcotics on Sunday as part of World Drug Day eradication efforts, as the UN warns that methamphetamine production in the region reached record levels.

Nearly two tons of heroin and more than 630 million methamphetamine “yaba” pills went up in smoke during ceremonies in the commercial center of Yangon, the central city of Mandalay and Shan State in the north, announced authorities.

But some analysts have warned that the $642 million bonfires are part of a long game of smoke and mirrors played by a junta government that is unwilling to tackle the problem.

The televised fires represent a “decade of illusions” about Myanmar’s multi-billion dollar drug industry, independent analyst David Mathieson told AFP.

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“The military claims to take drug eradication seriously and the West claims to believe them,” he said.

There was “active military complicity in protecting large-scale drug production to provide stability in conflict zones,” Mathieson added.

This includes Shan State, Southeast Asia’s main source of methamphetamine according to the United Nations.

The state is home to militias and has seen relatively little violence against the military since Myanmar generals seized power in a coup last year.

At the ceremony in Yangon, packets of meth wrapped in innocuous-looking Chinese tea wrappers sat next to bricks of cannabis as well as bags of ketamine and MDMA.

A series of small explosions sent the contraband into flames before thick plumes of black smoke rose into the sky.

Firefighters responded for safety and officers took selfies against the backdrop of the blaze as Burmese pop music blared through the speakers.

Last month, the UN said law enforcement in Southeast and East Asia recovered nearly 172 tons of methamphetamine in 2021, about seven times more than a decade ago. .

The increase in supply has caused selling prices in Thailand and Malaysia to fall to historic lows.

From Shan State, drugs are increasingly shipped to Laos and then Thailand before reaching Malaysia, where they are on their way to countries in Asia-Pacific, according to the UN report. .

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