Police in Laos have made their second-biggest single seizure of illegal drugs, totalling 36 million methamphetamine pills, a United Nations official said on Saturday.
The raid in the northern province of Bokeo came three months after officers netted Asia’s biggest ever haul in the same area with 55 million speed pills found in a beer truck.
Laos is part of the Golden Triangle covering the border areas with Myanmar and Thailand that has for decades been a hub for the lucrative drug trade. In recent years, the volume of shipments through the landlocked country have been increasing.
Since Thailand ramped up border patrols to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Laos has become a gateway for traffickers moving methamphetamine out of Shan state in Myanmar, across the Mekong River into Thailand.
In the latest bust, four people were arrested on Wednesday in the town of Huay Xai, where authorities also found 590 kilogrammes of crystal meth, said Jeremy Douglas, regional representative of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
“Those four who were arrested were pretty low level. … There were no kingpins,” he told AFP.
Photos seen by AFP show the suspects and police in front of a wall of drugs in sacks piled up like sandbags.
“It’s the second-biggest seizure Laos has ever made. Thailand has never made a seizure that size,” Douglas said.
Thai media reported that heroin and a shotgun were also found during the night raid.
The meth tablets were believed to be destined for Thailand but the “ice” was intended for higher-value markets including Australia, Douglas added.
The glut of meth pills in the region has sent street prices plummeting in Bangkok and other Southeast Asian cities.
Experts say methamphetamine production is at unprecedented levels and has been exacerbated by the coup in Myanmar a year ago that paralysed the economy and livelihoods.
Myanmar’s lawlessness is providing ideal conditions for illicit drug labs to flourish, with a largely unchecked supply of precursor chemicals flooding in from China.