For two decades, drug dealers have been smuggling yaba to different parts of Bangladesh from Myanmar, taking a terrible toll on the youth of the country.
After making its way to drug-fueled parties, yaba has now entered the homes and residential hotels in Dhaka.
According to the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC), Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), and the police, at least 12 homes and hotels are sheltering buyers of different kinds of drugs in Dhaka.
Even though there is no specific statistic about the drug users, DNC and police say about 3,000,000 to 4,000,000 people use yaba in Bangladesh.
In a report published on December 5, 2017, the Association for the Prevention of Drug Abuse (Manas) said yaba pills worth around Tk30 crore enter Bangladesh every month, taking the total value of the drug trade to Tk350 crore per year.
Yaba trade has witnessed a boom following the recent influx of Rohingyas, which began on August 25, 2017.
However, the law enforcement agencies have intensified surveillance across Bangladesh to tackle the drug trade.
The law enforcement agencies say the drug dealers seem to be adjusting strategies and opting to use residential houses and hotels to carry out their drug trade to prevent arrest.
A source said drug users know exactly where the drug businesses are and in some cases, the drug is delivered to their door steps.
On Thursday (March 15), RAB detained four people from a residential home in Dhaka’s Dhanmondi with 123,000 pieces of yaba tablets.
RAB 2 Commanding Officer (CO) Anwaruz Zaman told the Dhaka Tribune: “Acting on a tip-off, we raided the house and arrested them with the yaba tablets worth over Tk3 crore.
“Detainee Mohammad Alom is one of the main kingpins of yaba trade in Dhaka. He smuggles yaba from Myanmar and other dealers in Teknaf and stores it in his rest house in Cox’s Bazar.”
He said: “Alom brings the tablet to his house in Dhaka at a favorable time. His family knows about it but they do not have the courage to protest against it.”
The RAB officer also said Alom rented a flat for his brother Jashim Uddin so that even he could run the business from there..
How yaba dealers avoid arrest
Local drug dealer Selim owns a house which is situated in a densely-populated area under Bangshal police station in Old Dhaka.
During a drive, the DNC authorities discovered that 15 closed-circuit cameras were set up at different points near his house. Selim had hired people for the surveillance of his house and their main job was to alert him when law enforcers come to raid it.
Selim’s tactics worked as he successfully escaped the crime scene by jumping from the third floor of the building on February 12, 2017. The drug dealer is still at large.
Assistant Director of DNC Md Khorshid Alam told the Dhaka Tribune that they had arrested six people from three different flats in Elephant Road, Kalabagan, and East Rajabazer areas with 50,000 pieces of yaba tablets last year.
Of the arrestees, four are said to be from the same family.
Korshed said the arrestees were secretly trading yaba form an apartment in the name of sanitary business.
In another raid on November 5, 2017, DNC detained two people--Masud and Imran-- with 400 pieces of yaba pills and 25 bottles of phensedyl from Hotel Deluxe in Purana Paltan area.
Talking about the raid, Khorshid said Masud revealed that they brought yaba from Khulna and sold it from the hotel.
During interrogation, Masud told the law enforcers that they would change hotels every 10 to 15 days.
Masud also said prior to renting Hotel Deluxe, they had rented rooms in Hotel Imperial.
Mukul Jyoti Chakma, Deputy Director of Dhaka Metropolitan Region of the DNC, said: “Yaba is also being smuggled by women who work in households or sent in person to various destinations in Dhaka by cohorts of the dealers.
“So far we have found that yaba is mainly being sold in residential hotels in Rajarbagh, Fakirapul, Motijheel and Paltan. However, other parts of Dhaka is not free from the drug trade.”
He said as most of dealers use residential homes and hotels, the law enforcers have adopted new tactics to bolster their operations.
RAB Legal and Media Wing Director Mufti Mahmud Khan, and Dhaka Metropolitan Polices (DMP) Deputy Commissioner (media) Masudur Rahman expressed concern over the growing volume of drug trade in houses and residential hotels.
They said it becomes difficult to arrest the dealers and users as they continue to change places.
Yaba dens are spread throughout Dhanmondi, Wari, Kadamtali, Bangshal, Uttara and other parts of Dhaka city. Most of these dealers have CCTV cameras installed in their place of business. They follow methods similar to that of Selim’s, which makes it very difficult for law enforcers to apprehend the culprits.
How the drug trade works
Preferring not to be named, a yaba dealer in his 50s, said: “I run the business from my house. I have rented out my bedroom.
“My customers do not stay in the room but they use it and I charge them around Tk3,000 to Tk4,000 a month but then again it is not a fixed amount.”
He said: “They give me money whenever I run out of money, especially to purchase yaba. So, the fixed amount does not matter.”
“They also share the pills with me whenever they use my room to have yaba,” he added.
On the other hand, a yaba addict from Old Dhaka, said: “I have not paid anyone to use their house to have drugs.
“But yes, I have used my friends’ and their friends’ houses for the purpose.”
The 29-year-old said: “Usually, the person whose house we visit does not have to pay us for the pills.
“We take care of the expenses. Even if they do contribute, then it is a very small amount. They pay for two to three pills.”
According to him, a group of three to four people take 10 to 12 pills per sitting.
When asked about the prices of the tablets, he said: “It varies from area to area like the prices of clothes in different shopping malls.
“The price of yaba tablet in Dhanmondi will differ from that of Gulshan and Old Dhaka.”
He added: “Chompa [lowest quality of yaba] costs something between Tk70 to Tk120.
“R [better quality yaba in reddish-orange colour] costs max Tk500 in Gulshan.”
When asked about the green yaba, he said: “None of us really buy those. It is given to us for free as an exchange gift.”
“If we buy 100 pieces of R, we get one green yaba for free,” he said adding that Green yaba is of the same quality as the regular R.
Wishing anonymity, a resident of Zinzira, said: “Basically, Chompa is red in colour and R is reddish-orange or green.
“Green yaba can be consumed but the dealers tell us that it is kept with other kind of R to prevent it from getting damp.”
The yaba addicts, who are mostly youths, spend minimum of Tk1,000 to 1,500 per day for to buy yaba pills. One spends minimum of Tk30,000 to over Tk45,000 per month on the drug.