Myanmar's Wa State rules synthetic drug market

United Wa State Army soldiers march during a media display in Pansang, Wa territory in northeast Myanmar Oct 4, 2016. - Reuters

BANGKOK: Move over 'Golden Triangle'! the Wa State in Myanmar is now the undisputed 'king' in producing synthetic drugs.

For decades, the 'Golden Triangle' has been notorious worldwide as the foremost drug-producing region.

That mantle has now been taken over by the unrecognised autonomous Wa State which is now dubbed, the 'darling of international drug syndicates'.

According to Thailand's Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB), Wa State is eager to satisfy the burgeoning worldwide demand for synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine.

"In terms of being a drug-producing region, the Golden Triangle is now history.

"Most of the 'Yaba' and 'Ice' (methamphetamine derivatives) now come from the Wa State, as most of the factories producing the drugs are located there," NSB chief Lt Gen Sommai Kongvisaisuk told Bernama here in a recent interview.

He said the high demand for synthetic drugs had made the battle to combat drug smuggling from Wa State an even tougher proposition.

Wa State's climb to the peak as the top drug-producing location for synthetic drugs coincided with the declining production of heroin in the Golden Triangle and the increasing demand for methaphetamine-type drugs, noted Sommai.

The unrecognised state within Myanmar, with an estimated population of about 600,000 people is divided into the northern region bordering China and the southern region sharing a common border with northern Thailand.

The state maintains a 30,000 strong army, called the United Wa State Army to guard its borders.

According to Sommai, close cooperation among Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and China has managed to cut down heroin supply from the Golden Triangle to a "trickle", forcing the syndicates to switch to producing synthetic drugs.

"Due to the close cooperation enjoyed by those countries, the amount of heroin smuggled from the Golden Triangle is currently small," he said, hailing the successfull efforts by the countries involved in combatting the heroin trade.

The current trend in drug smuggling, said the NSB head, had been towards methamphetamine and its various types.

Sommai said that most of the synthetic drug factories in Wa State were controlled by two powerful and influential groups, 'Yee Sae' and 'Kokung' who were responsible for producing and supplying the drugs to the outside world.

He said the drugs were known to have been supplied to top 'middle-men' like a suspected Laotian drug trafficker dubbed the 'Asean Drug Lord', who was detained by the Thai authorities on Jan 19, for distribution to other syndicates in the Asean region.

"As a top dealer, the 'Asean Drug Lord' obtained his drug supply from the Wa State as he did not have the capability to produce the drug himself," added Sommai.

The arrest of the Laotian has opened a Pandora's Box of vital information on the 41-year-old's drug smuggling network throughout the region, including in Malaysia and Singapore.

Sommai said most of the drugs supplied to Malaysian syndicates came from the Laotian national, before it was exported to other markets the world over, to maximise profits.

The Thai authorities have also identified Hatyai and Danok as among the preferred 'transit points' for drug syndicates before smuggling the drugs across the border into Malaysia. - Bernama

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