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.”