Myanmar authorities said they set fire to more than US$500 million dollars worth of narcotics on Sunday for World Drug Day.
The torching of the narcotics comes as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) warns that the production of methamphetamine in the Golden Triangle is hitting record levels.
Almost two tonnes of heroin and more than 630 million methamphetamine tablets were set afire at ceremonies in Myanmar’s Yangon, the cities of Mandalay and Shan state, authorities said.
However, some observers have cautioned that the US$642 million drug burnings are just a charade being played by Myanmar’s junta. Some critics believe that the Junta is not serious about tackling the problem and may be benefiting from organized crime syndicates.
Independent analyst David Scott Mathieson says the televised burnings are the result of a “decade-long illusion” about Myanmar’s multibillion-dollar drug industry.
“The military Junta pretends to be committed to drug eradication and the West pretends to believe them,” he said.
Drug Production in Myanmar Protected
Mathieson said that large-scale drug production was protected by the military as a means to ensure stability in conflict zones.
According to the UNDOC, Southeast Asia’s primary source of meth is in the Golden Triangle, which borders Chiang Rai, Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar’s Shan State.
The Shan State is home to militias and has seen relatively little violence in opposition to the Junta military since Myanmar’s generals seized power in a coup last year.
At the ceremony in Yangon, the Junta military set fire to bundles of methamphetamine tablets wrapped in Chinese tea packaging along with bricks of marijuana as well as bags of ketamine and MDMA.
A series of small explosions sent the alleged contraband up in flames with plumes of black smoke billowing into the sky.
Drug burning a smoke screen
However, some critics believe the burning was just a smoke screen and that there weren’t any drugs in the fire at all.
As Burmese pop music played through speakers, firefighters moved in to ensure safety while police officers took selfies in front of the blaze.
Last month the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Jeremy Douglas said law enforcement across Southeast and East Asia seized nearly 172 tonnes of methamphetamine in 2021. The amount was seven times more than a decade ago.
As a result of the surge in supply of Meth tablets ‘Yaba”, street prices in Thailand and Malaysia have fallen to all-time lows.
From the Golden Triangle’s Shan State the drugs are increasingly shipped to Laos, then Thailand before reaching Malaysia. They are then trafficked onwards to countries throughout the Asia-Pacific, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Jeremy Douglas said.