The stash was huge. Inside were more than 5 million methamphetamine pills – known locally as yaba or "madness" – and 145 kilograms of crystalline methamphetamine wrapped in large plastic bags.
Even in conservative estimates, transport was worth tens of millions of dollars, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). It was the biggest police Lt. Col Dilok Arinpeng, who orders the unit, said he had ever seen – and unbelievably he found it unprotected.
A UNODC report published Thursday found that the methamphetamine trade is now worth between $ 30 billion and $ 61 billion a year in East and South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Bangladesh.
Meth is sold on the basis of prices, seizures appear to be small to suppress drug trafficking, and the crystal from the region feeds the inquiry as far away as New Zealand.
Jeremy Douglas, the regional representative of UNODC's operations in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, urged governments globally to "get their heads around the scale and importance" of the problem.
If they did not, he warned, the situation will only get worse.
"The region is used and abused by organized crime to do business," Douglas said. "It's no stretch to say that parts of it have become their playground."
A Perfect Storm
Salmon control in Shan State, along with its porous limits, has enabled meters to easily import the chemicals required to deal with. Poorly controlled money laundering controls allow kingpins to easily clean their millions.
"The drug of drugs slowly damages our society, destroys the lives of young people and destroys our country's dignity and future," he said.
In recent years, another factor has driven business.
Significant investments have been made on new highways and bridges in Southeast Asia, built to move products such as food and clothing. But these new avenues are also used by smugglers to import chemicals and export their finished products, said John Coyne, a former head of strategic intelligence with the Australian Federal Police.
All this combines creates what UNODC calls "the world's largest and most dynamic" methamphetamine market, which has led to drug problems reaching levels "unthinkable a decade ago."
In 2018, the authorities seized a record breaking 120 tons of crystal and pill methamphetamine in the Asia-Pacific region. More than half of these busts took place in Thailand, where the authorities confiscated more than 515 million pellets according to UNODC.
But the problem is not limited to Thailand.
UNODC The report noted that organized crime not only concerns "staggering" amounts of meth to meet demand – they are also trying to increase demand by flooding the region with incredibly cheap product.
It led to synthetic drug prices, especially yaba, to hit historical downturns in Southeast Asia, according to UNODC.
It is clear that the record breaking attacks have not lowered prices.
"The price is a good indicator of the supply and it only indicates that the supply is extremely high," says Douglas. "The surplus of metering continues and the factories leaving Myanmar work at full tilt."