Updated: Wed, 26 Jun 2013 11:30:17 GMT | By Agence France-Presse

Myanmar and Thailand burn $400 mn of seized drugs

Myanmar and Thai authorities incinerated $400 million-worth of narcotics on Wednesday in a bid to tackle their reputations as hubs for illicit substances and mark World Drug Day.

Some 31 million methamphetamine tablets, nearly 300 kilogrammes (660 pounds) of crystal meth -- known as 'Ice' -- and 125 kilos of heroin were destroyed in an industrial park in the Thai city of Ayutthaya, according to the kingdom's Public Health Ministry.

The haul was worth around $320 million, the ministry said, adding it was accumulated through more than 2,500 drug seizures by Thai authorities.

In neighbouring Myanmar, where experts say increasing amounts of amphetamines are being manufactured in jungle laboratories, authorities burned $76 million-worth of drugs including more than 800,000 pills and half a tonne of opium and heroin.

Myanmar remains the world's second largest producer of opium -- the raw ingredient for heroin -- after Afghanistan, accounting for 10 percent of global production, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

"Drug seizures increased this year," said Lieutenant Colonel Tin Aung from Myanmar police force's drug control team.

"We seized the most in Shan State," he said of the province bordering Thailand which has long been a hotbed of drug production, the proceeds of which are believed to have fuelled conflict between ethnic rebels and Myanmar's army.

The two sides are currently observing a tentative ceasefire.

"The main challenge is combating poverty. We need to reduce poverty of the people who cultivate opium," the officer added.

The burning ceremonies were held to mark the UNODC's World Drug Day.

"Increases in seizures and use of opiates and methamphetamine throughout Southeast Asia -- and the diversification of smuggling routes -- indicate the drug economy is growing," said the UNODC's Jeremy Douglas in Bangkok.

Myanmar also destroyed more than 1.2 tonnes of speciosa -- known as kratom in Thailand where it is also popular -- a mildly narcotic naturally occurring leaf that is chewed and can prove addictive or cause mental health problems among frequent users.

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