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Burmese authorities on Monday hailed progress in their war on drugs after an unprecedented multi-million dollar seizure at a narcotics factory in eastern Shan state.
Police detained nine suspects with 73 kilograms (161 pounds) of “ice” crystal methamphetamine and 274 kilos of liquid meth along with drug-making equipment and a pistol during a raid on a house in Laukkai on 9 July , state media reported.
Officials said the haul was worth an estimated $3.7 million.
“It’s our biggest ice seizure in history. It’s a part of our crackdown on the chemical ingredients and factories,” a senior official at the home affairs ministry, who did not want to be named, told AFP.
Synthetic drug production and poppy cultivation for opium is prevalent in Burma’s remote border areas, where armed ethnic minority rebels have used the profits from narcotics to fund their operations.
President Thein Sein’s reformist government has signed peace accords with a number of armed groups as part of sweeping reforms since taking power last year.
Burma has said it aims to eradicate illegal drugs by 2014.
The country, which is slowly emerging from decades of military rule, is the world’s second-largest opium poppy grower after Afghanistan.
Shan state is a major source of methamphetamine tablets, according to the UN, which estimates that global seizures of amphetamine-type stimulants nearly tripled between 1998 and 2010, reflecting fast-growing demand.
In May, the government and Shan State Army (South) together agreed to wipe out drug production in the vast northeastern state.
A drug control official said the recent raid had posed “many difficulties and risks”.
He added: “We have no experience like this in the past raiding a factory which produces ice and other stimulants.”
Drug suspects killed in Thailand
Eight suspected drug dealers were killed on Monday in a clash with Thai security forces who seized weapons and a large amount of illegal amphetamines, Thailand’s military said.
A team of police and soldiers encountered about eight to 10 suspects while on patrol near Mae Sai, northern Chiang Rai province, on the Burmese border early on Monday, resulting in a shoot-out that lasted about 10 minutes, according to a statement.
About 700,000 amphetamine pills were seized along with 55 kilos (121 pounds) of crystal methamphetamine, one AK-47 rifle, two pistols and 10 bullets, it said.
There were no reports of any casualties among security forces.
Thailand has seen a marked increase in seizures of methamphetamine – which is relatively cheap and easy to make – often smuggled from neighbouring Burma where armed rebels use profits from narcotics to fund their operations.