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Red pill: The odyssey of yaba from Myanmar to Bangladesh

  • Published at 01:35 am May 17th, 2019
yaba pills-Mehedi Hasan-Dhaka Tribune
It is widely believed that the colossal trade that involves billions of US dollars, is patronized by none other than the Burmese military Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

It all begins in the mountainous jungles of Myanmar, where yaba is produced—on an industrial scale—for a booming market in Bangladesh, India, parts of China, and Thailand

Behind every red or pink pill that lands in the hands of an addict in Dhaka, there is a perilous journey behind it. 

It all begins in the mountainous jungles of Myanmar, where yaba is produced—on an industrial scale—for a booming market in Bangladesh, India, parts of China, and Thailand. 

It is widely believed that the colossal trade that involves billions of US dollars, is patronized by none other than the Burmese military. 

According to witnesses and yaba traders, the Myanmar armed forces facilitate smugglers across the borders with consignments of the highly addictive mixture of methamphetamine and caffeine. 

Ali Mia, a fisherman from Teknaf worked as a mule in the yaba trade for 10 years. 

His work was simple: to go to a designated location across the Naf River in Myanmar with his fishing boat and pick up the "parcel" to be delivered to someone in Teknaf. 

“While carrying out the cross-border delivery, I witnessed Burmese border guards help moor my boat to the official jetty and hide the parcel inside the boat, many times,” Ali recounted.

The second stage of smuggling was completed with Ali delivering the parcel to its recipient in Teknaf.  

To avoid detection, the Bangladeshi recipient uses a Myanmar Posts and Telecommunication (MPT) SIM card. Across the border, the sender communicates via Bangladeshi cell phone carriers Robi or Grameenphone.

All three services are operational in the border areas.

However, with the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) manning numerous checkpoints on the highways to prevent smuggling and intercept fleeing Rohingya refugees, yaba traders have evolved their own innovative ways to pass through.

To the surprise of the Bangladeshi law enforcement, recently, hundreds of thousands of pills were discovered in fake gas cylinders on their way to the major cities of Bangladesh. 

Moreover, according to BGB sources, yaba traders are now using the outer bay routes to reach the heart of the market—where an estimated nine million addicts await their arrival.

Once the parcel reaches Dhaka, dozens of young men and women scattered throughout the city, enter the supply chain.

Long-time yaba addict, Mohammad (not his real name), said the entire network of the trade is run on cell phone networks. 

“All you need to do is to obtain the mobile number of the supplier—with a reference—and the product is delivered to wherever you want in an hour,” Mohammad explained.