Police in Myanmar’s commercial capital Yangon have arrested one suspect and are searching for another they say were involved in what may be the country’s largest seizure of amphetamines to date, an official said Wednesday.
Authorities discovered more than 26 million tablets of the illegal stimulant—valued at more than U.S. $100 million—packed in 89 bags inside an abandoned truck on the shoulder of a six-lane highway in the northern suburbs of Yangon on July 26.
Mingaladon township police commander Win Shwe told RFA’s Myanmar Service that authorities have arrested one suspect from Maungdaw in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state and are currently searching for the owner of the abandoned truck—Hla Maung, of Rakhine’s Pauktaw township.
“Hla Maung, the truck owner, and the man we arrested have had a past relationship, though the suspect in custody denies knowing him,” he said.
“We are investigating related people to get the main suspect, but Hla Maung appears to be the culprit, as the drugs were found in his vehicle.”
The tablets found in July were identified as amphetamine hydrochloride, a synthetic stimulant related to methamphetamines, and were worth about 5,000 kyats (U.S. $4) apiece, counternarcotics officer Myint Aung told the Associated Press.
The July seizure of the stimulants may be Myanmar’s largest to date, Win Shwe told RFA at the time of the discovery.
Use of methamphetamine and other amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) is a “major problem” in Asia, with Myanmar now Southeast Asia’s biggest synthetic drug maker, says the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC).
Myanmar is the world's second largest producer of heroin after Afghanistan and has been infamous for decades for drug production in the Golden Triangle area, where its eastern border meets with northern Thailand and western Laos.
Drug production in the country’s war-ravaged borderlands has surged in recent years, particularly the manufacture of methamphetamine tablets in jungle laboratories.
Myanmar has 300,000 drug users, according to the UNDOC.
Reported by Kyaw Thu for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.