Myanmar facing 'worsening' drug problem

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at

Myanmar authorities warned Wednesday that it was facing a deepening drug crisis after seizing narcotics including more than 1.4 million amphetamine pills and 116 kilos of heroin in July.

"The drug problem is very dangerous now in Myanmar," a police official in the drugs control department who did not want to be named told AFP.

"It's getting worse," he added. "Although the country has vowed to be drug free by 2014, it can only be opium free because of the problem of stimulant tablets," he added.

Official media on Wednesday reported 342 drug-related cases across the country in July, resulting in the arrests of 473 suspects.

Most of the stimulant tablets were seized in the borderlands of eastern Myanmar, but their use is also spreading in Yangon, the police official said.

"Tablets are easily available to buy. It's a very big concern for drug control authorities," he added, warning that a lack of resources was hindering the nation's war on drugs.

Synthetic drug production and poppy cultivation for opium is prevalent in Myanmar's remote border areas, where armed ethnic minority rebels have used the profits from narcotics to fund their operations.

President Thein Sein's reformist government has signed peace accords with a number of armed groups as part of sweeping reforms since taking power last year.

The country, which is slowly emerging from decades of military rule, is the world's second-largest opium poppy grower after Afghanistan.

Shan state is a major source of methamphetamine tablets, according to the UN, which estimates that global seizures of amphetamine-type stimulants nearly tripled between 1998 and 2010, reflecting fast-growing demand.

In May the government and Shan rebels together agreed to wipe out drug production in the vast northeastern state.