June 26, 2017 / 8:23 AM / in 3 months

Myanmar, Thailand incinerate illicit drugs worth $800 million

Thai narcotics officials put bags of methamphetamine pills into a bin during the 47th Destruction of Confiscated Narcotics ceremony in Ayutthaya province, north of Bangkok, Thailand June 26, 2017. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

BANGKOK/YANGON (Reuters) - Officials in Myanmar and Thailand burned illegal narcotics worth more than $800 million on Monday to mark the UN day against drug abuse and trafficking.

The move came even as authorities struggle to stem the flood of illicit drugs in the region, with Thailand’s justice minister last year saying the country’s war on drugs was failing.

In Thailand’s Ayutthaya province, more than 9 tonnes of drugs with a street value of over 20 billion baht ($590 million) went up in smoke including methamphetamines, known locally as “yaba” or “crazy drug”, according to police.

“Currently, we are able to take down a lot of networks, including ... transnational networks bringing drugs into Thailand ... to be shipped to Malaysia and other countries,” Sirinya Sitthichai, Secretary-General of the Office of Narcotics Control Board, told reporters in Ayutthaya.

In neighboring Myanmar, the police said they destroyed confiscated drugs worth around $217 million.

Myanmar remains one of the world’s largest producers of illicit drugs, including opium, heroin and methamphetamines. Those narcotics are often smuggled into China.

Last year, law makers in Myanmar voiced disappointment over the country’s lackluster efforts to tackle the drug problem.

The market for methamphetamines has been growing in Southeast Asia, the United Nations has said. It estimates that Southeast Asia’s trade in heroin and methamphetamine was worth $31 billion in 2013.

($1 = 33.9400 baht)

Reporting by Juarawee Kittisilpa in AYUTTHAYA and Aye Win Myint in YANGON; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Joseph Radford

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