Myanmar ‘crazy drug’ tops agenda at border talks with Bangladesh

Bangladeshi children while the time away at a garbage dump along the river Buriganga in Hazaribagh area in Dhaka, at risk from colossal impacts of environmental disasters and drug trafficking. Bangladesh and Myanmar are holding a border conference to curb the smuggling of a highly addictive drug known as “crazy medicine”. ( AP file photo)
Updated 06 April 2019
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Myanmar ‘crazy drug’ tops agenda at border talks with Bangladesh

  • Yaba, also known as “crazy medicine, usually comes in the form of colorful, candy-like tablets
  • The highly addictive stimulant is produced in border areas of Myanmar and smuggled into Bangladesh

DHAKA, Bangladesh: Moves to curb the smuggling of a highly addictive drug known as “crazy medicine” will top the agenda at a five-day border conference between Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The stimulant yaba — a mix of methamphetamine and caffeine that usually comes in the form of colorful, candy-like tablets — is produced in border areas of Myanmar and smuggled into Bangladesh.

The Dhaka government has “declared war” on the drug and stepped up measures to counter smuggling operations. In 2016, up to $29 million of yaba was seized by Bangladeshi authorities.

High-ranking border talks between the two countries began on Saturday in the Myanmar capital Nay Pyi Taw.

The 11-member Bangladesh delegation is led by Maj. Gen. Md Shafeenul Islam, the Border Guard director general, while the 17-strong Myanmar group is headed by Brig. Gen. Myo Than, the country’s police chief.

Bangladesh’s focus at the talks will be on the production of yaba in Myanmar and the smuggling of the banned drug across the 270 km border between the countries.

“It’s a very difficult situation,” a Bangladeshi security analyst, Maj. Gen. (rtd) Mohammed Ali Sikder, told Arab News. “The Myanmar army has a vested interest in this drug trading and that’s why they are not much interested in stopping its spread.

“Bangladesh needs to make Myanmar understand that the spread of yaba is a threat not only for Bangladesh but also for the security and stability of the region.”

Use of the drug is spreading rapidly across Asia and even as far as Australia and the west coast of the US.

The border talks will also examine joint security issues, attempts to stop Myanmar nationals trespassing on Bangladesh territory, and repatriation of jailed citizens of both countries.

Security experts hope the discussions will help “restore mutual trust” between the countries amid efforts to counter the activities of separatist groups from Myanmar, which are active in the border region and favor hideouts in neighboring Bangladesh.

“We need to develop some understanding with Myanmar to halt these separatist groups’ activities. We can introduce joint patrolling or joint surveillance on the border, which will help in the trust-building process,” Sikder said.

He said the strengthening of “mutual trust” between the countries will also help with the repatriation of millions of Rohingyas to their homeland Rakhine.

Bangladesh has tightened surveillance on the Myanmar border after declaring it will not accept any more Myanmar nationals.

More than 800,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh from strife-torn Rakhine since August 2017, flowing a brutal military crackdown that the UN claims has “genocidal intent.”


US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

Updated 19 April 2019
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US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

  • A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend
  • The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group

KABUL: The US envoy for peace in Afghanistan expressed disappointment on Friday after the collapse of a planned meeting between the Taliban and a group of Afghan politicians in Qatar that exposed some of the deep divisions hampering efforts to end the war.
A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend. The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group, which included some government officials attending in a personal capacity.
“I’m disappointed Qatar’s intra-Afghan initiative has been delayed,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghan reconciliation, said on Twitter. “I urge all sides to seize the moment and put things back on track by agreeing to a participant list that speaks for all Afghans.”
The collapse of the meeting before it had even started, described as a “fiasco” by one senior Western official, laid bare the tensions that have hampered moves toward opening formal peace negotiations.
Khalilzad, a veteran Afghan-born diplomat, has held a series of meetings with Taliban representatives but the insurgents have so far refused to talk to the Western-backed government in Kabul, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.
The Doha meeting was intended to prepare the ground for possible future talks by building familiarity among Taliban officials and representatives of the Afghan state created after the US-led campaign that toppled the Taliban government in 2001. A similar encounter was held in Moscow in February.
President Ashraf Ghani’s office blamed Qatari authorities for the cancelation, saying they had authorized a list of participants that differed from the one proposed by Kabul, “which meant disrespect for the national will of the Afghans.”
“This act is not acceptable for the people of Afghanistan,” it said in a statement on Friday.
Sultan Barakat, director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies in Qatar, which had been facilitating the meeting, said there was no disagreement about the agenda.
“Rather, there is insufficient agreement around participation and representation to enable the conference to be a success,” he tweeted.
Preparations had already been undermined by disagreements on the government side about who should attend, as well as by suspicions among rival politicians ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September.
The Taliban derided the agreed list of 250 participants as a “wedding party.” Some senior opposition figures who had been included refused to attend.
The Taliban also objected to Ghani’s comments to a meeting of delegates that they would be representing the Afghan nation and the Afghan government, a statement that went against the insurgents’ refusal to deal with the Kabul administration.