AYUTTHAYA, Thailand/YANGON (Reuters) - Thailand and Myanmar destroyed 25 tonnes of illicit drugs collectively worth more than $2 billion on Friday, but said the tide of drugs was growing as organised crime gangs boost supply and find new channels to do business.
Southeast Asia’s Golden Triangle - where northern Myanmar, Laos and Thailand meet - has long been a hub of illicit drug trafficking. Production is now on an industrial scale.
In Ayutthaya, north of Bangkok, Thai authorities marked International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking with a mass incineration of drugs.
Black-clad police commandoes guarded stacks of boxes of drugs unloaded from trucks, and heroin bricks and bags stuffed with pink methamphetamine pills where thrown into dumpsters for incineration.
Thai counter-narcotics chiefs said coronavirus travel restrictions and checkpoints had helped reduce smuggling activities although the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says the trade has thrived reut.rs/2NzewOl.
Wisanu Prasarthong-osoth, a deputy national police chief, said drugs criminals were becoming creative.
“Our children are making the wrong decision to order narcotic drugs online. And the dealers send to them,” he said.
Though opium cultivation and heroin refining has declined, methamphetamine production in Myanmar’s lawless northern regions has increased, with armed ethnic groups in business with organised crime elements.
Thailand is used mainly as a conduit and distribution point.
UNODC regional representative Jeremy Douglas said online drug sales was a worrying trend and a methamphetamine oversupply was pushing prices down.
“We are looking now at an increase in drug availability. Very dangerous,” Douglas said.
Black plumes of smoke filled the sky in Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon, as sacks full of drugs were set ablaze. Firefighters quickly extinguished the flames.
“Frankly speaking, Myanmar has become the transit place of narcotic drug distribution to Europe and Asia,” said Hla Wai, a Myanmar police colonel.
Additional reporting by Panu Wongcha-um and Jiraporn Kuhakan in Bangkok; Writing by Martin Petty, Editing by Timothy Heritage