RANGOON — Burmese police on Monday seized more than US$2.3 million worth of opium and several automatic weapons in Tachileik, on the Thai-Burmese border in eastern Shan State.
The head of a special anti-drug police squad operating in Tachileik Township said officers discovered the cache when they stopped and searched a white pickup truck near Pankaw village.
The seizure is part of campaign this month to search more vehicles crossing into Thailand from Shan State, where the production of both opium and methamphetamines is thought to be widespread.
“The seizure is the largest this year. We’re still investigating the case,” the police officer, Aung Kyaw Soe, told The Irrawaddy.
He said officers seized 404 blocks of opium weighing a total of more than 140 kilograms, estimating the value of the drugs at 2.26 billion kyat, or more than $2.3 million.
The pickup’s driver Ah Bi and accomplice Ah Pha were arrested in the bust. They were carrying two M22 handguns, two M16 assault rifles, two .9 mm pistols, a stash of ammunition for each of the weapons, three grenades, three walkie-talkies and 31,000 Thai baht, worth about $1,000, Aung Kyaw Soe said.
Beginning July 12, the anti-drug squad has embarked upon a campaign to search vehicles crossing the border, uncovering eight cases of attempted drug trafficking so far.
In another large bust on July 19, the squad seized a haul of opium worth more than $200,000, which was discovered along with weapons in a Toyota Hilux Vigo pickup heading to the border at Tachileik.
Shan State is the center of drug production in Burma, with a number of armed militias thought to be involved in the production and trafficking of narcotics. A United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report on drug production South East Asia in December 2013 estimated that Burma produced 870 tons of opium last year and remains the largest poppy grower in the world after Afghanistan.