Drug ‘godfathers’ to surrender in Bangladesh

Bangladesh started a drug "war" in 2018. Bangladesh Border Guard, above, seized yaba from a bus on Teknaf-Cox Bazar highway. (AFP)
Updated 12 February 2019
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Drug ‘godfathers’ to surrender in Bangladesh

  • The traffickers are surrendering in the town of Teknaf, considered to be one of the main smuggling hubs in the country
  • Cheap methamphetamine pills, called yaba, have spread in Bangladesh in 2018

DHAKA: Over 100 suspected meth traffickers are expected to surrender to Bangladeshi authorities this week thanks to a deadly, Philippines-style police crackdown that has sown fear, officials said Tuesday.
Bangladesh in 2018 launched a "war" on drugs following a proliferation of illegal substances in the South Asian nation of 165 million people, mostly of cheap methamphetamine pills called yaba.
Police said those surrendering on February 16 in the southeastern town of Teknaf would include drugs traders, traffickers and several "godfathers".
Teknaf is known as the country's main drug smuggling hub and is located in Cox's Bazar district -- home to around a million Rohingya refugees -- bordering Myanmar.
"It would be a historic event and a great success in our ongoing fight against drugs," said Masud Hossain, Cox's Bazar police chief, told AFP, likening it to the surrender of Colombian Medellin cartel in 1992.
Cox's Bazar is flooded with yaba with many of the Rohingya refugees used as "mules" for carrying the pills.
The pills have become an easy source of income for the Rohingya, some 740,000 of whom poured across the border since Myanmar launched what the UN says has described as ethnic cleansing in August 2017.
Police said those who will surrender will "not receive any general amnesty".
"They will be treated according to the conventional law," Hossain said.
Another police official said the mass surrender was prompted by the crackdown against drug traffickers, which has left nearly 300 people, including 40 from Teknaf, dead and some 25,000 people arrested since May.
"They want to live a normal life. Their profession has become risky due to the ongoing combined operation launched by security forces," Cox's Bazar deputy police chief Iqbal Hossain told AFP.
Hossain said some of the drug traders already named by home ministry in its "list" of drug kingpins are also among those surrendering to the authorities.
According to the Department of Narcotics Control, some five million people in Bangladesh are drug users with yaba the most popular substance. The country last year alone seized a record 53 million yaba pills.
In October, authorities made yaba a class-A banned substance and parliament passed a law allowing the death penalty for dealing the drug.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's highly contentious anti-drug crackdown has killed thousands of alleged users and pushers since 2016.


US women detained for speaking Spanish sue border agency

In this Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, photo provided by the ACLU of Montana, Martha Hernandez, left, and Ana Suda pose in front of a convenience store in Havre, Mont., where they say they were detained by a U.S Border Patrol agent for speaking Spanish last year. (AP)
Updated 20 min 49 sec ago
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US women detained for speaking Spanish sue border agency

  • The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday filed suit against US Customs and Border Protection on behalf of the women, who live in Havre

LOS ANGELES: Two US women detained by a border patrol agent in the state of Montana after he heard them speaking Spanish in a grocery store have sued the country’s border protection agency.
Video of the incident — which took place last May in the small town of Havre — showed Agent Paul O’Neal tell Ana Suda and Martha Hernandez that he had asked to see their identification as it was unusual to hear Spanish speakers in the state, which borders Canada.
“It has to do with you guys speaking Spanish in the store in a state where it’s predominately English speaking,” he said.
“It’s not illegal, it’s just very unheard of up here,” he told the women.
The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday filed suit against US Customs and Border Protection on behalf of the women, who live in Havre.
Suda and Hernandez say in the lawsuit that O’Neal detained them for 40 minutes.
California native Hernandez and Suda, who was born in Texas, said they were standing in line to buy milk and eggs when the agent — who was standing behind them — commented on Hernandez’s accent, and asked the women where they were born.
“I asked, ‘Are you serious’?” Suda said, according to the lawsuit. “Agent O’Neal responded that he was ‘dead serious’.”
The two women say they were then asked to show identification and questioned outside the store, before eventually being released.
“The incident itself is part of a broader pattern that we’ve seen of abusive tactics by border patrol which has gotten worse since the Trump administration, which has left border patrol officers feeling emboldened to take actions like this,” Cody Wofsy, an attorney with the ACLU, told AFP.
“This has been devastating for (Suda and Hernandez),” he added.
“Havre is a small town, they felt ostracized and humiliated and made to feel unwelcome in their own town and in their own country.”
He noted the United States has no official language, with Spanish by far the most common language spoken after English.
A Customs and Border Protection spokesman declined to comment on the case.
“As a matter of policy, US Customs and Border Protection does not comment on pending litigation,” he told AFP in a statement. “However, lack of comment should not be construed as agreement or stipulation with any of the allegations.”