Drugs worth $7.5 million seized on Thai-Burma border

July 13, 2009 (DVB), Illicit drugs thought to be worth around $US7.5 million were seized by narcotics officials at a Burmese border town last Friday, the biggest haul so far this year at the busy border crossing point.

An anti-narcotics squad in Tachilek town, across the border from Thailand's Mae Sai, discovered around 340,000 amphetamine tablets and 2,177 blocks of heroin hidden among garlic sacks in a truck attempting to cross the border into Thailand.

The two drivers admitted to loading the tablets at Namhsan town in Burma's eastern Shan state, said a source close to Tachilek's anti-narcotics squad. They were paid 1,800,000 kyat ($US1,800) to transport the drugs across the border.

Shan state is the Burma's principal source of opium and plays a key role in the country maintaining its position as the world's second biggest producer of opium, and accounts for more than 25,500 of the 28,000 acres in Burma used for opium poppy cultivation.

Local media in Burma have quoted the Burmese authorities as saying that the acreage of poppy plantations was increasing in the country. Production of opium in Burma last year measured at around 4000 metric tons.

The haul seized on Friday is estimated to be worth around 7.5 billion kyat ($US7.5 million), and is the biggest seizure of illegal drugs in Tachilek this year.

A report released by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in June found that drug abuse was alarmingly on the rise in Southeast Asia, concomitant with an increase in the production and use of synthetic drugs in the developing world.

While global markets for most illicit drugs are either steady or in decline, amphetamines remain one of the few drugs that are being produced in increasing quantities.

Historically, the majority of illegal drugs produced in Burma flooded across the border into Thailand, but following increased border security by Thai officials, much now circulates inside Burma.

The exile-based Kachin News Group reported that an alarming number of students at the once prestigious Myitkyina University in Kachin state had fallen victim to drug addiction, notably heroin, with dealers initially luring students in with free samples.

Reporting by Shwe Aung

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