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Myanmar soldier arrested in Rakhine with $3.6 mn meth cache

A Myanmar soldier and two others in northern Rakhine state have been arrested over a cache of methamphetamine pills worth $3.6 million, authorities said, as a lucrative drug trade courses through a region reeling from the army's brutal expulsion of Rohingya Muslims.

Army Private Aung Kyaw Naing and villager Aung Than Htay were arrested at a checkpoint in Rakhine's Rathedaung township on May 7 with nearly 200,000 meth tablets, according to a Facebook post from the government's Information Committee.

Police then searched the home of the villager's mother and found eight massive bags of stimulants on the top floor, amounting to a total of 1.7 pills worth $3.6 million, the statement said.

The three have been detained at a police station where they will face legal action.

"We were able to make the seizure in the village based on follow-up information from the first arrest," an anti-drug officer told AFP, confirming the case but requesting anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

The pills were branded with the letters "WY" -- the stamp of the ethnic Wa drug gangs that churn meth and heroin out of Myanmar's lawless northeast.

The drugs are smuggled from that "Golden Triangle" zone south to Thailand and beyond, but a westward route to Bangladesh -- the gateway to other South Asian markets -- has also flourished.

The trade has continued to flow through Rakhine despite the heavy security presence in place since the military unleashed its ruthless crackdown on the Rohingya community last August.

More than 700,000 of the Muslim minority have fled the violence for neighbouring Bangladesh.

The UN says the campaign amounts to ethnic cleansing, but Myanmar says it was targeting Rohingya militants.

Published : May 09, 2018

By : Agence France-Presse Yangon