CHIANG RAI – Myanmar authorities claim to have discovered over US$1.3 million worth of methamphetamine tablets buried by the late drug kingpin Naw Kham near the Thai-Burma border.
State media reported on Sunday that heavy rain in Tachilek, eastern Myanmar, had unearthed a blue container with 650,000 stimulant tablets inside.
A police review later concluded that it had been buried a year and a half ago by the trafficking gang led by the drug warlord Naw Kham, who was executed by Chinese authorities in March after a high-profile and controversial trial.
Naw Kham, known as the “Godfather of the Golden Triangle”, led a notorious drug trafficking ring which smuggled vast quantities of methamphetamine and heroin from Myanmar’s eastern Shan state to Thailand, Laos and China since the mid-1990s.
The gang was broken up in early 2012 as part of a joint police operation conducted by China, Laos, Burma and Thailand. It followed the murders of 13 Chinese sailors on the Mekong River, which was pinned on Naw Kham and his crew, although some reports have also implicated Thai security forces.
The Golden Triangle, where Myanmar, Laos and Thailand meet, has long been a transit route for illicit smuggling, including opium and heroin, and increasingly methamphetamine or “ya-ba” tablets.
According to UN estimates, over 1.4 billion ya-ba tablets – worth over US$8.5 billion – are produced every year in the region for consumption across Asia.
Despite repeated promises by the Myanmar government to crack down on drug trafficking, Burma remains the largest exporter of opium – the main ingredient in heroin – in the world after Afghanistan. It is also the largest methamphetamine producer in the region.