As dusk fell, a group of five youngsters in their 20s were drinking and chatting at a beer pub.
As the group of friends finished drinking up four mugs of beer, the young waitresses at the bar proposed, “would you like to take up to the next level by trying a special beverage?” The group went for the offer as the word “special” has triggered their curiosity.
A 25-year-old Sai Kwan recounted his experience that he had that night.
“I remember very well, that night we were at a beer pub with a group of friends. As soon as we finished our fourth jugs of beer, the young waitress at the station asked if we would like to try a “special drink”. Out of curiosity, we tried this special beverage. They must have added some kind of stimulant substance, because as soon as we took the beverage we were filled with joy and it felt like a paradise”, Sai Kawn shared his experience.
Such paradise is found at the Thai-Myanmar border town called Tachileik, Shan State.
Psychoactive substances such as Happy Water and K-drugs are widely available at the beer bars and clubs in Tachileik, said Sai Kawn.
“Not only could these substances be freely and easily purchased at the beer bars and clubs, they were also being served at the social and fun events like birthday parties” Sai Kawn described the widespread drug availability in Tachileik .
The synthetic drug that gained its popularity recently in Tachileik is called “happy water”, a psychoactive beverage that makes users feel happy, active and energetic. The “happy water” substance looks like coffee powder in appearance, and it comes in the flavors of coffee and fruit. Users dissolve the “happy water” powder with other drinks such as Energy Drink (Red bull) to make a beverage.
“Just like coffee, the users have to dissolve the “happy water” powder with different kinds of soft drinks. Once you consume the beverage, you feel like you are entering into a different world with only the sensation of pleasure, forgetting all the pain and trouble” said a 28 years old Sai Kyaw Sein, a young man working in Tachileik, Thai-Myanmar border town of Shan State.
“There are only KTV, bars and nightclubs to hangout in Tachileik. One night, I made an appointment with my friends to go out for drinks. After we had our drink, we decided to give a visit to 1G1 hotel”, explained Sai Kyaw Sein.
Sai Kya Sein added that he had experienced for the very first time the kind of feeling he has never had in his life at the 1G1 hotel.
“When we got there, we were offered two different types of cocktails to choose from, Happy Water and K-drug. Then they served us (happy water) in a small glass enough for a single pour (a shot). Not even five minutes after the shot I felt completely like a new person. I felt refreshed and energetic. Even if you were extremely drunk and unable to move, as soon as you take the happy water cocktail, you become completely refreshed and energetic” said Sai Kyaw Sein, who had tried the Happy Water cocktail mixture.
The waitresses at the KTV bars are said to get a bonus, if they manage to get the customers to buy or consume more drugs than the set amount.
On the 17th of last October 2022, at around 7:00 a.m., one monk and four laymen from the Natmuk Shwe Thahtaykone Monastery in Tachileik town, were taken to the hospital after drinking (COFFEE SHQ) branded Happy Water mixture, which took the ordinary coffee-mixed appearance.
“The coffee-like package was given to the four men by the monk before they went to work. As soon as they consumed the mixture, believing it was just coffee, all of them, including the monk, passed out. Luckily, they were taken to the hospital in time”, said a member of U Hla Moe Charitable association from Tachileik.
Likewise, in the first week of December 2022, a 17-year-old woman working in Tachileik, lost consciousness after taking the Happy Water stimulant while visiting a bar, said a source who has close contacts to the patient.
“Seems she went to a bar with her friends. With the intention to tease her, the friends gave her a mixture of Happy Water stimulants. About 20 minutes or half an hour later, her body started to stiffen. When she became out of breath, her friends sent her to the hospital” added the source.
The 17 year old girl regained her consciousness two hours later in the Tachileik hospital.
It is assumed that the girl lost consciousness and had a seizure, because she was supposed to dance and move her body after taking the drug which must have clogged her blood vessels.
“After consuming the Happy Water cocktail, the user is supposed to be making energetic moves along the beats of the music. Otherwise, staying still after consuming the mixture, the users would experience stiffness in their joints and body as the blood would stop circulating. They would also experience an inability to open their eyes, respiratory arrest that can even lead to death” commented a man who is close to the patient.
Instead of seeing it as a narcotic drug, Happy Water is being considered as regular alcoholic drinks like beers and whiskey, which are consumed both by men and women amongst young people.
Happy Water is said to be imported from China, and they come in the forms of liquid and powder. So far, the use of liquid type “Happy Water” has not yet been found, but powdered is widely consumed amongst young people in Tachileik.
The market price of Happy Water powder (21 grams for each packet) is worth between 3,000 and 4,000 Thai baht. Each packet of Happy Water powder can be consumed by five people, said Sai Kyaw Sein.
“Since it is expensive, only rich people can afford to use Happy Water. But each packet should be shared amongst four or five people due to its strong effect”, added Sai Kyaw Sein, who had the experience of consuming the substance.
In addition to Happy Water, there are other types of stimulant substances such as K-powder (aka) drugs and E (aka) drugs are also widely consumed amongst young people at the KTV bars and nightclubs, added Nang Htwe Lay who had the experience of consuming those drugs.
K-powder drugs come in the form of white and milky chalk powder with a slightly pungent smell and can be snorted through the nose, said a 29-year old Nang Htwe Lay.
“K-drug comes in powder. The K-powder is to be placed on a flat surface such as a plate or a table. The powder is divided into portions each user is able to snort through the nose ” explained Nang Htwe.
A couple of minutes after snorting the K-powder, the user would feel mindblowing effects, that one would start making energetic jumps and dances with the upbeating music.
K-powdered is reported to contain a blend of heroin, etamine, methamphetamine and some sleeping pills. Last January 2021, six people who consumed K-powdered Milk, a new illegal drug cocktail, reported to have died on the same day in Thailand.
Therefore, along with K-Powdered Milk drug cocktail, Happy Water stimulant has been declared as an illegal substance in Thailand.
It is reported that K-powder drugs can be purchased starting from 1,000 Thai baht per kg in Tachileik.
In addition to their availability at the major KTV bars and nightclubs, these stimulant substances could also be purchased in the shadow markets such as at the local shops, selling beer and other alcoholic drinks. Additionally, the practice of serving Happy Water instead of beer at some of the social events such as weddings is starting to become popular, according to Sai Tip, a 25 years old man from Mong Ton.
“We were served “Happy Water” when I was at a friend’s wedding in Mong Hsat. They are wealthy enough to serve the substance to their friends and guests as requested. Nowadays, this drug cocktail is very popular amongst most young people” remarked Sai Tip.
After the military Coup, in 2022 more than 40 drug addicts in their middle-age, died, mostly from homelessness and nutritional issues in Lashio and Tachileik towns in Shan State, according to the records kept by local charity groups.
Every month, about four people, who are homeless and drug addicts, are found dead in the narrow streets outside Kyauk Taung cemetery, said U Hla Moe who is a member of a local rescue/charity group in Tachilek.
Drug users are mostly found around Kyauk Taung cemetery. Homeless drug addicts are also seen wandering around the streets. Most drug addicts are in their middle age. The number of drug addicts has increased each year, and on average about three to four people die from addictions each month”, said one of the members of a community charitable group.
After the military coup in 2021, armed conflict has intensified while the country is further hampered by economic crisis. At the same time the military is targeting young people, arresting, imprisoning, and killing. As a result, many young people left for the Thai-Myanmar border area, such as Tachileik, to seek better job opportunities, such as working at online-gamblings according to some analysts.
“We have access to everything in Tachileik, including narcotic drugs, which could be easily purchased just like other alcoholic drinks like beer and whiskey. It seems as long as people are not engaging in politics, they are free to do everything”, remarked Sai Kawn.
Therefore, a Thai-Myanmar border town like Tachileik might seems to be a paradise but public security and safety has become a concerning issue, because crimes and illicit activities such as the availability and the use of drugs are unregulated and widespread.