Combined security forces from Burma’s military and police seized 16 billion kyat (US$10.7 million) worth of drugs late in northern Shan State last month in what is being called the biggest drug bust under the current National League for Democracy (NLD) government.
The seizure was reported by the Tatmadaw’s True News Information Team, with the haul reportedly coming from six factories from July 25-28. Among the materials seized were vats of acid, thousands of methamphetamine pills, and more than 700 kilograms of the drug known as ice.
According to the military’s statement, security forces followed up on a tip. Around three kilometers southeast of Xiao Haw village in Kutkai Township, troops found more than 90 huts allegedly used for drug production.
“We closed six Q and seized 16 billion kyat worth of drugs and drug-related materials. We could not arrest any suspects,” Shan State’s police commander, Pol Brig-Gen Zaw Khin Aung told SHAN.
Despite the drug seizure being carried out by state security forces, locals in northern Shan State say that drugs in the area are typically produced by government-backed militias, known as People’s Militia Forces, or PMFs, and they are being set up closer to heavily populated areas.
“Drug factories used to be along the border area but now they are moving closer to town. The current seizure area is under the control of a PMF,” Mai Mai, a human rights activist in Kutkai, told SHAN.
Because there are so many PMFs active in Kutkai Township, it is difficult to suppress the drug trade in the area, others said.
“Small amounts of drugs were seized in the past. A huge amount of drugs was seized this time. My guess is there will be other drug factories remaining in the area. Nobody can go there. Only the Tatmadaw’s military column can patrol the area,” local youth Sai La said.
The current speaker of the Lower House in the Union Parliament, T. Khun Myat, is an MP for Kutkai Township. Activist Mai Mai said that lawmakers from the area are not paying close enough attention to the problems in the area, and risk their own safety in traveling there.
“Parliamentary representatives from Kutkai are lacking in observation of their constituency. Because of regional instability, they can be ambushed when they travel to see what is happening. We don’t know where we should report it when something happens in Kutkai,” she explained. The area struggles with high rates of drug addiction and crime.
Police officials burned US$134 million worth of seized narcotics in Taunggyi on the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on June 26. According to the Shan State police force, it was the largest amount of drugs destroyed in five years.