Laotian police have netted Asia’s biggest-ever single seizure of illegal drugs, according to a United Nations official.
The 55.6 million methamphetamine tablets, commonly referred to as meth, and 1.5 tonnes of crystal meth found in the back of a beer truck on Wednesday evening is a record for a single seizure in the region, Jeremy Douglas, regional representative of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, said on Thursday.
“It is three times the meth tablets that Laos seized all last year, and close to a third of the crystal meth,” Douglas told the AFP news agency.
Laos has in recent years been a gateway for drug traffickers, moving meth shipments out of Myanmar’s troubled Shan state.
The trend has noticeably accelerated in recent months, exacerbated by February’s coup and economic collapse in Myanmar.
“This is related to the security and governance breakdown in the [Golden] Triangle and Shan Myanmar – spillover is hitting the region,” Douglas said.
Authorities arrested the driver of the Lao Beer truck in Bokeo province, northern Laos, which is part of the so-called Golden Triangle – a notorious drug smuggling zone at the borders of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand.
The triangle has served as a massive production centre for amphetamine-type stimulants, especially methamphetamine, used by crime syndicates with distribution networks reaching as far as Japan and New Zealand.
Lao Brewery issued a statement denying any involvement.
“We are deeply disappointed that our crates have been abused as a cover for illegal activities,” the brewery said, adding that the truck in question was not registered with the company.