Bangladesh sees ‘mad drug’ Ya ba boom amid Rohingya crisis

Coast guards patrolling the Bay of Bengal arrested six Myanmar citizens and seized some 300,000 pills from one fishing boat this month, a senior officer said

Dhaka: Bangladesh security forces have seized nearly nine million methamphetamine pills in less than three months as a massive influx of Rohingya refugees brings increased smuggling from Myanmar, officials said today. A tablet made of methamphetamine and caffeine had earned the dubious epithet of ‘mad drug’ during the Second World War. It used to be administered to Adolf Hitler’s German soldiers during the war.

The illegal drug has found its way to India, too, Sirf News had reported on 19 March. It is also referred to as meth and Ya ba.

Increased raids on fishing boats on the Naf river, which divides the neighbours, have reaped the massive haul of ‘Ya ba’ pills which are snapped up by Bangladesh youth.

Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) troops in the border town of Teknaf have seized some 5.16 million of the caffeine-laced meth pills and coast guards have confiscated 3.47 million pills since 1 January, officials said.

“In one raid on 15 March, we seized 1.8 million Ya ba pills abandoned in four sacks in the Naf river,” border guard commander Lieutenant Colonel Asadud Zaman Chowdhury told AFP.

“It is the biggest ever Ya ba seizure by the BGB,” he said. The guards arrested 11 smugglers in March, including seven Rohingya.

Coastguards patrolling the Bay of Bengal arrested six Myanmar citizens and seized some 300,000 pills from one fishing boat this month, a senior officer said.

Yaba is a Thai word meaning “crazy medicine”. The pills have become an easy source of income for the Rohingya who have poured across the border since the Myanmar military launched a crackdown in their home Rakhine state in August last year.

The refugees act as Ya ba carriers, handing over the pills to dealers on the Bangladesh side of the border who then take them to the country’s main cities, according to police.

Border guards and counter-narcotics officials told AFP that the trafficking flourishes because of the difficulty patrolling the 54 kilometres (33 miles) of the Naf which acts as the border between the two countries.

The pills are produced in bathroom-sized labs on the Myanmar side of the border, according to a Bangladeshi counter-narcotic official.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have entered Bangladesh since 25 August, joining another 300,000 already living in camps along the border for many years.

“The number of people who were used as carriers has increased due to the influx. The internal carriers have increased. Some of them are desperate just for survival,” Chowdhury said.

“It is a way to make easy money,” said Chowdhury, who explained that a Ya ba pill bought on the Myanmar border for 20 US cents can be sold at three-four dollars in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called for “zero tolerance” on Ya ba smuggling from Myanmar and ordered an increased anti-narcotics drive along the border, the coast guard officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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