Laos makes Asia’s biggest drug bust of 55 million methamphetamine tablets and 1.5 tonnes of crystal meth

·2-min read
File photo showing two bags of crystal meth (AP)
File photo showing two bags of crystal meth (AP)

Police in Laos have carried out Asia's biggest-ever drug bust during which they seized over 55.6 million methamphetamine tablets and 1.5 tonnes of crystal meth in a single raid.

On Wednesday, the police intercepted a truck carrying beer crates in the country's northern province of Bokeo, which borders Thailand and Myanmar. The tablets were hidden in sacks inside the beer crates.

Information from the truck driver led the authorities to a house where additional 65 bags of crystal methamphetamine, weighing a total of 1,537 kg, were discovered.

The tablets were found packed into Lao Brewery beer crates. The company in a statement said it has "no involvement in this case whatsoever."

"We are deeply disappointed that our crates have been abused as a cover for illegal activities and will not hesitate to take immediate legal action towards anyone misusing our company assets," the statement read.

Two men were arrested in this case.

The police had recently seized a combined 16 million amphetamine tablets, locally known as ‘yaba’ in two separate operations in the same area.

The southeast Asian country is known for being a notorious gateway for drug traffickers moving contrabands into Thailand through Myanmar's Shan state. The area infamously called the "golden triangle" doubles as a major drug-producing hotspot as well.

Myanmar's Shan state is one of the primary sources for the production of methamphetamine, which is smuggled to Australia and Japan in its crystallised form.

Jeremy Douglas, Southeast Asia regional representative for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said that the discovery was "by far the largest seizure in the history of East and Southeast Asia."

He claimed that following the February coup that pushed Myanmar into an economic collapse, there has been a spike in the smuggling of drugs.

"This is related to the security and governance breakdown in the Triangle and Shan Myanmar – spillover is hitting the region," Mr Douglas told Reuters.

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, authorities in Thailand have beefed up patrols along the border shared with Myanmar and Laos to stop illegal crossings.

In a report released in June 2021, the UNODC said the production and trafficking of synthetic drugs in East and Southeast Asia has surged despite the pandemic.

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