Myanmar’s police say they have seized 20 million methamphetamine pills along with other drugs and arrested four suspects in the border town of Tachileik in Shan State, opposite the Thai province of Chiang Rai.
The three men and a teenage girl were arrested when officers found 85 sacks containing around 30 million pills, according to a Thai Narcotics Suppression Bureau source.
There was around 20 million meth tablets,
200kg of “ice” or crystal meth, 9.1kg of heroin, 610,000 ecstasy pills and five bags of caffeine, which is mixed into the meth to create “yaba” or crazy in Thai, according to the Burmese authorities.
They also seized three shotguns, a pill-producing machine, 22 motors, 24 gallons of a liquid used in the process and packaging materials. A seal featuring an apple, “WY” and the number 999 were also found in the building.
Many meth pills in Thailand are stamped “999” and WY pills are common in Myanmar.
The authorities said it was the biggest “Golden Triangle” bust of 2017. The rising number of drugs busts, however, probably reflects growing production rather than any increasing effectiveness by police in Myanmar and Thailand.
Tachileik is renowned as a centre for the drugs trade, fuelling Thai and wider Asean demand.
A methamphetamine pill sells for between US$2-$5 in Myanmar with prices rising the further it gets from Tachileik.
“Myanmar’s police are investigating the case and will take action against the four people arrested,” the Tachileik authorities said.
It was announced that the lab belonged to the heavily armed Wa ethnic group, which has a self-governing entity spread around various enclaves near the Chinese and Thai borders.
Analysts say the United Wa State Army is largely funded by the trade in drugs, gambling and endangered animal “medicine” and is dependent on the Chinese market to continue operations.
The Wa dominate opium and meth production in the mountainous Golden Triangle between Myanmar, China, Laos and Thailand.
Drug mules are often arrested or shot in clashes with Thai personnel along the forest-covered border.
Efforts to tackle the lucrative trade are hampered by deep-rooted corruption and the ability of gangs to recover from raids by boosting production.
Opium cultivation in Myanmar. Picture credit: Vimeo