Bangladeshi police display confiscated narcotics in Dhaka. Photo: NurPhoto via AFP/Mehedi Hasan

Ya ba, or methamphetamine, is becoming a serious problem in Bangladesh, according to the country’s narcotics control officers. They are quoted in reports in the Dhaka Tribune and other newspapers as saying that there are 37 factories in Myanmar’s Shan State where the drug is produced.

Some of those factories are located in areas controlled the United Wa State Army while others are run by local militia forces, which are recognized as such by the Myanmar government, notably the Pangsay militia in northern Shan State. The drugs are then brought down to Yangon and on to Sittwe and Maungdaw in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State, bordering Bangladesh. Ya ba pills can now be bought in Teknaf across the border, in Cox’s Bazar, Chittagong and the capital Dhaka.

Last year, the daily Independent reported that about 80% of the drug addicts are adolescents and young men aged 15 to 30. As many as 2.5 million people could be addicted to ya ba and other drugs such as heroin and psychotropic substances, according to the authorities.

Drug abuse is now prevalent everywhere: in homes, in the streets, in workplaces, parks, slums, markets and even in educational institutions, spanning rural as well as urban areas. Virtually all segments of society are severely affected by this problem, the paper reported.

According to more recent press reports, Myanmar parliamentarians and other influential people, including corrupt local law enforcement officers, may be involved in drug trade. The mules bringing the drugs across the border are said to be local thugs and some Rohingya refugees in the camps in southeastern Bangladesh are named as local peddlers.

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