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

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.”

China’s Xi Jinping to visit North Korea this week ahead of G20

Updated 17 June 2019

China’s Xi Jinping to visit North Korea this week ahead of G20

  • Xi JingPing will be in Pyongyang at the invitation of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
  • Kim Jong Un has gone to China multiple times over the past year

BEIJING: Xi Jinping will make the first trip to North Korea by a Chinese president in 14 years this week, state media said Monday, as Beijing tightens relations with Pyongyang amid tensions with the United States.
Xi will visit Pyongyang on Thursday and Friday at the invitation of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, said Chinese broadcaster CCTV.
The timing is likely to raise eyebrows at the White House as it comes one week before the G20 summit in Japan, where US President Donald Trump expects to meet with Xi to discuss their protracted trade war.
Analysts say Xi could now use North Korea as leverage in talks with Trump.
China and North Korea have worked to improve relations in the past year after they deteriorated as Beijing backed a series of UN sanctions against its Cold War-era ally over its nuclear activities.
The North’s leader Kim Jong Un has traveled to China — his country’s sole major ally — four times in the past year to meet Xi.
But Xi had yet to reciprocate until now. It will be the first trip there by a Chinese president since Hu Jintao went in 2005.
“China-DPRK relations have opened a new chapter,” CCTV said, adding that Xi and Kim have reached a “series of important consensus” in past meetings.
Xi and Kim will “push for new progress” in a political resolution of the Korean peninsula issue, according to CCTV, which cited an unnamed official.
With Beijing and Washington at loggerheads over trade, China is keen to remind Trump of its influence in Pyongyang, with whom his nuclear negotiations — a point of pride for the US president, who faces an election next year — are also at a deadlock.
“The signal would be that China remains a critical stakeholder,” said Jingdong Yuan, a professor specializing in Asia-Pacific security and Chinese foreign policy at the University of Sydney.
“You cannot ignore China and China can play a very important role,” he told AFP. Xi could thus use the trip as a “bargaining chip” in the US-China trade war, he added.
According to an informed source in Pyongyang, Beijing was keen to arrange a visit to North Korea ahead of any encounter between Xi and Trump at the G20 summit — with logistics finalized only last month.
In recent days, hundreds of soldiers and workers have been sprucing up the Friendship Tower in Pyongyang, pruning bushes and replanting flowerbeds on the approaches to the monument, which commemorates the millions of Chinese troops Mao Zedong sent to save the forces of Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, from defeat during the Korean War.
A detachment of soldiers in white jackets was also seen outside the Liberation War Museum — which includes a section on the Chinese contribution — potentially indicating that it may be on Xi’s itinerary.
The office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in said it had learned about Xi’s travel plans last week.
“We hope that this visit will contribute to the early resumption of negotiations for the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula which will lead to the settlement of lasting peace on the Korean peninsula,” the Blue House said.
It will be Xi’s first trip to North Korea since taking power in 2012, though he visited the country as vice president in 2008.
In contrast, Kim Jong Un has gone to China multiple times over the past year — an unbalanced exchange that has not gone unnoticed in Pyongyang.
According to diplomatic sources in the North Korean capital, after Kim’s many trips to meet Xi, there were increasingly strong feelings in Pyongyang that the Chinese leader should reciprocate for reasons of saving face.
“From a North Korean perspective, it’s time for Chairman Xi to visit,” said John Delury, an expert on US-China relations and Korean Peninsula affairs at Yonsei University in Seoul.
“They do keep score and it’s like four to zero,” he recently told AFP. “So far, Xi has approached China-North Korea relations very much as a function of US-China relations and kind of calculated in terms of that.”
The visit also comes as negotiations between Trump and Kim have soured after a second summit in February broke up without a deal, failing to agree on what Pyongyang would be willing to give up in exchange for sanctions relief.
Since then, Kim has accused Washington of acting in “bad faith” and given it until the end of the year to change its approach.
Still, the nuclear situation is “under control for now,” said Delury.
“That creates a space, a window where Xi could make a visit without expecting like a missile test the day he leaves or something like that,” he said.