The stock was huge. It contained more than 5 million methamphetamine pills – known in the region as Yaba or "madness drug" – and 145 kilograms (about 320 pounds) of methamphetamine crystal wrapped in large plastic bags.
Worth Caring Even According to Cautious Estimates According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), it is several tens of millions of dollars. It was the biggest hiding place. Lieutenant Colonel Dilok Arinpeng, who commanded the unit, said he'd ever seen it – and found it incredibly unguarded.
A UNODC report released Thursday found that methamphetamine trafficking in East and Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Bangladesh is now between $ 30 and $ 61
Meth is being sold at rock-bottom prices, seizures seem to have little impact on drug trafficking, and Crystal Meth from the region is feeding demand all the way to New Zealand.
Jeremy Douglas, the UNODC Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific urged governments around the world to familiarize themselves with the scale and significance of the problem.
Otherwise the situation will only worsen.
"The region is being used and abused by organized crime to do business," said Douglas. "It's not hard to say that parts of it have become their playground."
A Perfect Storm
The lax regulation in the Shan state combined with the porous boundaries made it easy for meth producers to import the chemicals needed to make meth. By poorly enforced money laundering controls Kingpins can clean their millions easily.
"The drug threat is slowly eating away our society, ruining the lives of our youth and destroying the dignity and future of our country," he said.
In recent years, another factor has driven the business.
Significant investments have been made in new highways bridges in Southeast Asia, built around products such as food and clothing move. These new roads are also used by smugglers to import chemicals and export their finished products, said John Coyne, former head of the Australian Federal Department of Strategic Information Department.
All this together creates the UNODC's "largest and most dynamic" methamphetamine market in the world, which has led to drug seizures reaching a level "unimaginable a decade ago".
In 2018, the authorities in Asia Pacific confiscated a record-breaking 120 tons of crystal and pills methamphetamine. More than half of these busts occurred in Thailand, where UNODC authorities seized more than 515 million meth-pills.
The problem is not limited to Thailand.
The UNODC The report found that organized crime groups not only "staggered" meth levels to meet demand, but also sought to increase demand by flooding the region with incredibly cheap products.
This, according to UNODC, has led to synthetic drug prices, especially for Yaba, reaching historic lows in Southeast Asia.
Apparently, the record-breaking seizures did not affect prices.
"Price is a A good supply indicator that only indicates that supply is extremely high," said Douglas. "The increase in meth production continues and the factories in Myanmar are in full swing."
Cheap pills are usually shipped to Thailand, Laos. China and Myanmar. Organized crime groups, however, have another, more lucrative source of income.
The high-purity crystal meth is shipped to ports and shipped to richer markets such as Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.
These four countries have a modest population, but account for around one-third of the estimated $ 61 billion of methamphetamine market, with consumers paying far more for the drug, according to UNODC.
Thailand at the forefront Front
While the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have led bloody drug wars to tackle this problem, other countries are focusing on borders and enforcement of customs legislation.
Thailand, however, has emerged as a real front line in this fight against meth trading.
This is due to both the country's proximity to the Myanmar production centers and the renewed focus of the authorities on combating trade.
In early 2019, according to Douglas of the UNODC, the Thai authorities launched an "intensification campaign" along the country's northern border with Myanmar. Here begins the main route for the transport of meth through Thailand.
But these efforts have sent enterprising traffickers to seek new ways. The Thai police state that some operations send their meth eastward and use the 800-kilometer stretch of the Mekong that separates Thailand from Laos. Three days after the discovery of the cave in northern Thailand, the police seized 100,000 tablets at a checkpoint in Kanchanaburi province in western Thailand, bordering on southern Myanmar. The Kanchanaburi route has been used very little in the past. This is an important point this year, which has surprised everyone, "said Douglas of the UNODC.
The UNODC report found that" large volumes "of meth are also transported to Vietnam via Laos, which also borders Myanmar which has sufficient coastline for shipping to nearby markets such as Malaysia and the Philippines, but also to Australia and New Zealand.
Coyne, a former Australian Federal Police official, said drug gangs have the traditional "narco-economic perspective."
The ability to simply ramp up production has enabled meth producers to "write off large-scale seizures as business costs," Coyne said.
"We see here very clear proof that current law-enforcement strategies do not affect supply or organized crime regionally ", he said.
"There is a need for a clear rethink on what we do."
Jake Kwon of CNN in Seoul, Junko Ogura in Tokyo and journalist Vee Intarakatug in Bangkok reported.