Officials in Thailand and Myanmar destroyed 25 tonnes of illicit drugs worth over $2 billion on Friday but conceded that the tide of drugs was growing as organised crime gangs boost supply and find new channels to do business.
The Golden Triangle is where northern Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet and has long been a hub of illicit drug trafficking. Production is now taking place on an industrial scale.
In Ayutthaya, Thai authorities marked International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking with a mass incineration of drugs.
Black-clad police commandos guarded boxes of drugs unloaded from trucks, while bricks of heroin and bags stuffed with pink methamphetamine pills were thrown into dumpsters for incineration.
Thai anti-narcotics authorities say coronavirus travel restrictions and checkpoints had helped reduce smuggling activities, although the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said last month that the trade has continued to thrive.
Pol Lt Gen Wisanu Prasartthong-osoth, a deputy national police chief, said drug criminals were becoming creative, with the internet a growing outlet for the illicit trade.
“Our children are making the wrong decision to order narcotic drugs online. And the dealers send to them,” he said. Rising heroin use among young people is among the worrying trends.
Though opium cultivation and heroin refining have 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.
Jeremy Douglas, the UNODC regional representative, said online drug sales represented a worrying trend, while a methamphetamine oversupply was pushing prices down.
Mr Douglas said “We are looking now at an increase in drug availability. Very dangerous”.
In Yangon, black plumes of smoke filled the sky 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.