Authorities in Laos have made their third largest seizure ever of methamphetamine, confiscating a haul of 33 million tablets along with 500kg of crystal methamphetamine, an official with the UN anti-crime agency said.
The huge bust came after 200,000 tablets were found on Friday night in a truck that was stopped at a checkpoint in the northwestern province of Bokeo, said Jeremy Douglas, the regional representative for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
That action exposed a trafficking group and its plans, leading to the far bigger seizure following the driver’s interrogation.
Douglas pointed out that the truck was stopped near the Kings Roman Casino, which is located in a special economic zone of Laos that operates virtually autonomously of national law.
Such zones are found in the neighbouring countries of Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia, all of which have loose law enforcement and have struggled with organised crime.
Laos’ top drug seizure – also one of Asia’s biggest – was in October last year when police in the same province of Bokeo seized more than 55.6 million meth pills in a single raid, along with about 1,500kg of crystal meth, according to reports in Lao media.
The country’s second largest seizure, of 36.5 million meth pills, took place in January, also in Bokeo.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime warned in a report in May that the production and trafficking of synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine is burgeoning in the region. It said the number of meth tablets seized in East and South-East Asia exceeded a billion for the first time last year.
The 1.008 billion tablets was seven times higher than the amount seized 10 years earlier, the agency said, warning that increased production makes the drug cheaper and more accessible, creating greater risk to people and their communities.