Authorities Arrest Myanmar Nationals in Three Separate Drug Busts

2016-07-27
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A police officer stands guard in front of seized drugs to be set on fire during a ceremony marking the U.N.'s International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Yangon, June 26, 2016.
A police officer stands guard in front of seized drugs to be set on fire during a ceremony marking the U.N.'s International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Yangon, June 26, 2016.
AFP

UPDATED at 9:20 AM EST on 2016-07-28

Authorities in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state have arrested seven border police officers after finding nearly 300,000 methamphetamine tablets hidden in their station in Maungdaw township, RFA has learned.

Authorities received a tip about the illegal drugs and later found them on Wednesday at the Kyaukpantu border guard station, sources said.

A group led by Lieutenant Colonel Tint Zaw Oo found the narcotics worth more than 580 million kyats (U.S. $480,000) in the ground underneath the station’s kitchen, they said.

Among the seven charged was border police superintendent Sergeant Maung Maung Lay, sources said.

When RFA’s Myanmar Service contacted the border guard police office in Maungdaw, an unidentified person said no one there knew anything about the incident and suggested a call to the Kyaukpantu police station.

Thailand arrests

In a related development, Thai anti-drug authorities on Tuesday arrested two Myanmar nationals from Shan state after they found the pair had more than 200,000 methamphetamine tablets in the northern Thailand town of Mae Sai on the border with Myanmar, a police officer said.

Nang Saung Nyan, 36, and Sai Sai Soe, 31, traveled with drugs from the border town of Tachileik and had legal documents to enter Thailand, the police officer, who did not give his name, told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

“They are Shan ethnics and Myanmar citizens,” he said. “We found more than 200,000 tablets, worth 5.5 million Thai baht (U.S. $157,000). They were arrested in Mae Sai as they brought drugs from Myanmar into Thailand.”

Thailand’s anti-drug police force is continuing to investigate the case and will take action again the two, he said.

Drug bust in Hpakant

In another drug bust, police seized narcotics worth more than 1 billion kyats (U.S. $826,900) in Hpakant in northern Myanmar’s Kachin state, which had been illegally smuggled from Shan state, according to a report by Eleven Myanmar media group.

After receiving a tip about illegal drug deals near restaurants in Ngapyawtaw ward in Hpakant, police searched a van in the area and found drugs in an air compressor in the back of a van, the report said.

Township police have filed charges against three men involved in the incident, it said.

The arrests come as Myanmar is stepping up a crackdown on gangs and individuals who deal in and use illegal drugs.

On Monday, the upper house of parliament unanimously approved a motion submitted by an ethnic Shan lawmaker to combat rampant illegal drug sales and use in impoverished Shan state.

Myanmar is the world’s second-biggest producer of opium after Afghanistan, with most of its poppies, which are used for opium and heroin, grown in Kachin and Shan states.

Parts of the country are plagued by rampant drug activity with the narcotics of choice being heroin and methamphetamine, an extremely addictive stimulant in the form of a white, bitter-tasting crystalline powder, commonly sold as “yaba” tablets.

Reported by Min Thein Aung and Aung Moe Myint for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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