Thailand seizes huge $45-million haul of methamphetamines

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai police have seized more than 14 million methamphetamine pills worth 1.48 billion baht ($45 million) that were bound for neighboring Malaysia and beyond, authorities said on Tuesday, in one of its biggest ever drug busts.

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Police said that the orange pills of methamphetamine, known as “yaba” or “crazy drug”, were seized in Ayutthaya province, north of Bangkok, on Aug. 18.

Three Thais were arrested in connection with the seizure, police said. The drugs came from Shan State in northeast Myanmar, in an area under the control of an ethnic Wa militia force, police said.

The Narcotics Suppression Bureau displayed the haul, neatly packed into large container bags, at their headquarters.

Bureau commander Police Lieutenant General Sommai Kongvisaisuk said the drugs were destined for Malaysia and then on to markets around the world.

“It gets distributed to Europe, America, Australia, Japan, Singapore and Korea and will make a lot of money,” he said.

The seizure is the latest big methamphetamine bust in the region. Record seizures of the stimulant have recently been made in Malaysia and Indonesia.

The production and trafficking of methamphetamine in Southeast Asia has reached “alarming levels”, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) warned in a May report.

Much of the methamphetamine produced in the region comes from lawless parts of Myanmar, in particular Shan State, which has long been known for the production of opium and its refined form, heroin.

In recent years, the drug syndicates have branched out into the production of methamphetamine.

Reporting by Tobias Wertime; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Robert Birsel