Police and customs officers in Rangoon have confirmed that a special anti-narcotics task force has seized substantial quantities of heroin in a series of raids carried out in the former Burmese capital since late last week.
Police said at least 28 kilograms of heroin were found last Sunday in a container on the Singaporean-flagged ship Kota Tegap, which was docked at the Asia World Port Terminal, located in Rangoon’s Ahlone Township.
The port is owned by Tun Myint Naing, the son of former drug kingpin and militia leader Lo Hsing Han and one of those listed for sanctions by the US Treasury Department.
According to a report by Washington-based Radio Free Asia, the container, which was bound for Singapore, is owned by the Myanmar Timber Enterprise, a government-owned business that is also under US sanctions.
Police told The Irrawaddy on Friday that in a subsequent sting operation, the Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control (CCDAC) discovered another large cache of heroin in FMI City, an upscale residential area in Hlaing Tharyar Township. Further details were not available.
The CCDAC is a high-level task force chaired by Minister for Home Affairs Maj-Gen Maung Oo. Brig-Gen Khin Yi, the director general of the national police force, serves as secretary of the committee, which is based in the junta’s capital of Naypyidaw.
According to sources at the customs department, the police special intelligence department, known as the Special Branch, is now questioning port employees, high-ranking government officials and prominent businessmen in connection with the heroin seizure at the Asia World Port Terminal last weekend.
Observers say that drug traffickers are increasingly using maritime routes to smuggle drugs out of Burma due to a tough suppression campaign by neighboring countries such as Thailand and China.
On Tuesday, the Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma reported that Kyaw Kyaw Min, a crab exporter in Bogalay Township, Irrawaddy Division, was arrested for attempting to smuggle 32 kilograms of heroin out of the country aboard a container ship.
Meanwhile, Singapore’s Central Narcotics Bureau seized 44.2 kilograms of heroin last year, up from 17.2 kilograms seized in 2007, the Straits Times reported Friday.
A shipment of 11 kilograms of high-grade heroin, bound for the European market, was seized in June, said the report, adding that it was the biggest seizure of its kind in the last 10 years. The report added that most of the heroin came from Thailand and Burma.
According to the 2008 World Drug Report, opium poppy cultivation in Southeast Asia increased by 22 percent last year, mainly driven by a 29 percent increase in opium cultivation in Burma.
The Burmese regime seized 103.8 kilograms of heroin and 1,690 kilograms of opium from January 2007 to June 2008, according to official figures.