YANGON: Myanmar troops seized US$7 million worth of narcotics, precursors and equipment in a raid on drug labs in the restive north, the army said Monday (Feb 19), as it continues a war against ethnic rebels accused of profiting from the drug trade.
Soldiers and local officials found 259kg of crystal methamphetamine and 120kg of opium in a sweep of the illicit drugs factory spread across 34 buildings near Lwalkhan, a village in war-hit Shan state near the Chinese border.
The army statement, posted on the commander-in-chief's Facebook page, also listed in rare detail the seized drug-producing equipment and precursors, including hundreds of barrels of acid and diesel, 750 bags of caustic soda, 22 freezers, 12 generators and huge caches of caffeine and other chemicals.
"The Tatmadaw (military) seized the drugs in the raid and cooperated with the drug enforcement police team. The legal process is still ongoing," a senior police officer from the anti-drug department told AFP on the condition of anonymity.
The bust took place in Kutkai township, where a record seizure last month brought in 30 million meth pills, two tonnes of "ice" - crystal meth - and heroin, with an estimated combined value of US$54 million.
The raids come as the military continues its seasonal offensive against ethnic minority armed groups in the lawless border areas.
Last week alone, clashes between the army and rebels in Kutkai and neighbouring Hseni township displaced some 870 civilians, according to the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Myanmar's conflict-riddled northeast is a hub for Asia's meth producers, who pump out narcotics that are showered across Southeast Asia and beyond.
Drugs trafficking fuels much of the fighting between the army and the ethnic rebels - both of whom are accused of profiting from the illicit trade.
Myanmar is the second-largest opium producer in the world after Afghanistan, although a surge in demand for meth has caused a slump in poppy cultivation in recent years.
Rights groups accuse the military and armed groups of extrajudicial killings, torture and the recruitment of child soldiers.