Myanmar police have made Asia's biggest drug bust in decades, seizing "unprecedented" amounts of methylfentanyl, a chemical used to make a dangerously potent synthetic opioid.
It was a three-month operation that centered around Lwe Kham village in Kutkhai Township in Myanmar's northeast Shan state and thirty-three suspects were arrested. Police seized nearly 200 million methamphetamine tablets, more than 500 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, and 35.5 metric tons and 163,000 thousand liters of precursor chemicals used to manufacture illicit drugs. They also seized nearly 3,750 liters (990 gallons) of liquid methylfentanyl, which is used to make a powerful synthetic opioid like fentanyl. Fentanyl itself is 25 to 50 times stronger than heroin.
The amount of methylfentanyl precursor seized could have been used to produce a batch of synthetic opioids large enough to replace the region's heroin production for a year. The methamphetamine market in East and Southeast Asia alone is worth as much as $61.4 billion a year. A statement on Monday also said that authorities uncovered evidence that some militias operating in the lawless areas of northern Myanmar were involved in the trade. The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said the scale of the bust was unprecedented and Myanmar’s anti-drug authorities had “dismantled a significant network.” The UNODC is concerned that fentanyl will still spread around the world.