To commemorate the annual worldwide anti-drug trafficking day on Monday, Myanmar’s government reportedly burned illegal substances valued at more than $446 million that had been confiscated from various locations around the nation.
The drug fire broke out as the U.N. Experts have expressed concern about rising opium, heroin, and methamphetamine production in Myanmar and the potential that exports may open up new markets in South and Southeast Asia.
Drug manufacturing in Myanmar has a long history of being connected to the political and economic instability brought on by decades of military conflict.
Despite several attempts to encourage subsistence farmers to grow alternative legal crops, the nation is a significant producer and exporter of methamphetamine and the second-largest producer of opium and heroin in the world after Afghanistan.
A mass of confiscated narcotics and precursor chemicals worth $207 million was burned in Yangon, the largest city in the nation.
Opium, heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana, kratom, ketamine, and crystal meth, often known as ice, were among the narcotics that were destroyed.
The UN’s International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking fell on the same day as the burn.
Additionally, authorities destroyed narcotics in Taunggyi, the capital of the eastern Shan state, and Mandalay, which are both near the primary drug production and distribution hubs.
Authorities destroyed medicines worth more than $642 million in total last year.
Experts have cautioned that Myanmar’s two-year-old violent political upheaval, which has since devolved into what amounts to a civil war between the military government and its pro-democracy opponents, has increased drug manufacturing.
According to a study by the U.N., opium production in Myanmar has increased significantly since the military took over, with the cultivation of poppy up by a third in the previous year as eradication operations have slowed down and the struggling economy has driven more people toward the drug trade.
Earlier this year, the Office on Drugs and Crime’s Opium output was projected to be 400 metric tons (440 tons) in 2020, increase marginally in 2021, and then spike to an estimated 790 metric tons in 2022.
The manufacture of methamphetamine has greatly increased recently, pushing down costs and gaining access to markets via new smuggling channels, as the UN agency has also warned.
According to the military administration, several ethnic armed groups that rule over substantial portions of inaccessible terrain cultivate illicit narcotics to finance their insurgencies and refuse to participate in the nation’s peace process because they do not want to give up the advantages they derive from the drug trade.
In the past, certain rebel ethnic groups have financed their fight for more independence from the central government using the proceeds from the sale of drugs.
Along with methamphetamine, Myanmar exports the majority of opium, heroin, and other drugs to China and other Southeast Asian nations.