A glance into the meth trade in Southeast Asia’s ‘Golden Triangle’
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A glance into the meth trade in Southeast Asia’s ‘Golden Triangle’

FROM Bangkok to Brisbane, authorities are raking in huge hauls of methamphetamine stimulant pills — better known as “yaba” — and the purer, more potent crystallised version known as “ice”.

The drug hails from the “Golden Triangle”, a lawless wedge of land that intersects China, Laos, Thailand and Burma (Myanmar) and is the world’s second-largest drug-producing region.

On Monday, the UN called on the “Golden Triangle” countries to address corruption and collaborate more closely to tackle record meth production and the gangs who traffic the drug across Southeast Asia and beyond.

Its drug labs — mainly in Burma’s conflict-ridden Shan State — are working overtime, aiding organised crime gangs in their quest for new markets as far away as Australia and Japan.

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Worth an estimated US$40 billion a year, huge volumes of meth pass through the Golden Triangle, waved through by corrupt law enforcement and border controls.

“Ensuring governance and the rule of law will be crucial to any long-term reduction in drug production and trafficking,” said Jeremy Douglas, regional representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.


Graphic on the “golden triangle” drug network. Source: AFP

“To be candid, it also means addressing the corruption, conditions and vulnerabilities that allow organised crime to keep expanding operations.”

He was speaking in the Burma capital Naypyidaw at a rare regional meeting of police and officials who are aiming to forge a new strategy to fight the drug scourge.

In recent months several Burmese soldiers have been arrested with massive caches of yaba, destined for Bangladesh.

Myanmar authorities say they are ready to cooperate with their neighbours to stem the flow of drugs and precursor chemicals used by the cook houses in Shan State.

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“A top priority for us, is a regional precursor strategy that will slow the supply of chemicals… into the drug-producing areas of the Golden Triangle,” Burma’s Deputy Home Minister Major General Aung Soe said in a statement.


People celebrate Shan State Army Day on May 21, 2017 At Loi Kaw Wan, Muang Sad in Shan State Burma. Source: Shutterstock

A surge in supply has seen prices for a single yaba pill plummet to around US$2 at its cheapest in Thailand and around US$7 in Singapore, according to UNODC figures, raising fears over addiction rates.

The UN agency also urged regional governments to address money laundering, share more intelligence on the drug gangs and offer community-based rehabilitation for addicts and petty dealers rather than jail.

Additional reporting by the AFP