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The kyat continues to depreciate; Shan State remains main source of synthetic drugs in Asia-Pacific

The kyat continues to depreciate as gold prices soar 

DVB currency data states that the foreign exchange rate has surged to 4,500 kyat per $1 USD on Wednesday. The exchange rate earlier this month was 3,970 kyat per dollar. The price of gold has risen to at least 5.3 million kyat ($2,521 USD) per tical on May 29. 

“[Over] the last year, the estimated inflation rate has been around 35 percent. The mismanagement of the economy after the coup has led to the high inflation in the country,” said Min Min Thaw, a lecturer at California State University, Sacramento who specializes in Burma’s economy. 

Inflation has increased as the regime’s Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) issued a warning on May 24 that those engaged in “illegal foreign currency trading and speculation” would be prosecuted. The exchange rate was 1,329 kyat per $1 USD on Jan. 31, 2021, the day prior to the military coup. 

Shan State remains main source of synthetic drugs in Asia-Pacific

The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) stated in its report “Synthetic Drugs in East and Southeast Asia: latest developments and challenges 2024” that Shan State remains the predominant source of synthetic drugs in the region. A record 190 tons of methamphetamine was seized in East and Southeast Asia in 2023.

“The drug trafficking and production situation has become increasingly complex. With scaled-up production, shipments involving over one ton of drugs have become more frequent, which in turn leads to further price drops as availability and affordability increase,” said Masood Karimipour, the UNODC regional representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

The amount of crystal meth seized in Burma declined in 2023 compared to 2022, but the amount of methamphetamine tablets and powder seized both increased. Areas of illicit opium poppy production in the country increased from 40,100 to 47,100 hectares from 2022-23. The UNODC stated last year that Burma is now the world’s largest producer of opium.

Thai-Burma border consortium continues to advocate for refugees

Forty years ago, The Border Consortium (TBC) was born out of necessity to provide food, shelter, and capacity-building support to refugees from Burma living at nine camps in Thailand, as well as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) spread along the border inside the country.

“We’d been asked by the government and the military in Thailand: Can you do something for these refugees? There were almost 10,000 who crossed the border. And of course, one organization or one church cannot do [everything]. So they started to consult each other and finally they decided [to] do something together,” said Leon de Riedmatten, the executive director at TBC.

Since 1984, TBC has worked closely with the Thai authorities. But it wants to see the nine refugee camps along the border integrated into Thailand and have its temporary status dropped by Bangkok. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees stated that as of January, 82,400 registered refugees lived in the nine camps.

A gay couple from Burma held a marriage ceremony at the Chiang Mai Pride event in Thailand on May 26. (Credit: DVB)

News by Region

BAGO—Two civilians were killed during a shootout in Gyobingauk Township on May 21. Korea JoongAng Daily reported that they were employees of DGB Microfinance Myanmar, a subsidiary of South Korea’s Daegu Bank. “The company has immediately provided funeral expenses to the victims’ family members, and is also considering offering additional support for the bereaved families,” said a DGB Financial Group spokesperson. 

Three police officers were killed and six others injured when a police patrol car was attacked by the People’s Defense Force (PDF) on the Yangon-Mandalay highway in Oktwin Township on Tuesday. The police car was reportedly damaged. A spokesperson for the PDF said that it has warned the public not to use the road.

KACHIN—The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) claimed that it captured a military outpost in Waingmaw Township on May 26. “Pro-military militia troops and Burma Army soldiers were stationed at the camp. The camp was easily occupied by the KIA,” an anonymous source from the KIA told DVB. Two other outposts in the township were seized by the KIA from May 20-21. 

NAYPYIDAW—The military regime is offering a plot of land and 100,000 kyat to the families of Burma Army soldiers who died in battle. “The news about this offer is spreading, but it’s not easy to distribute these benefits. At least 1,000 soldiers have recently died, which would amount to a total cost of about 100 billion kyat,” a source from the military told DVB on the condition of anonymity.

The benefits are only provided if the military can obtain the body of the deceased or if someone who was with the soldier can confirm their death. “Many soldiers who have not returned are either missing or unaccounted for, making it unclear whether they are alive or dead. How are we to address this issue?” another military source told DVB. 

Read: Scam operations in Myawaddy relocate to Laos and Cambodia. DVB English News is on X, FB, IG, Threads & TikTok. Subscribe to us on YouTube. Follow us on YouTube Music.

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