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Authorities in Thailand and Myanmar have destroyed 25 tonnes of seized drugs worth more than £1.6 million in dramatic ceremonies designed to warn off drug traffickers.

More than £680 million worth of confiscated illegal substances was destroyed in Myanmar alone to mark the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on Friday. A pile worth an estimated £117 million was incinerated in the country’s largest city, Yangon, with firefighters forced to step in when an awning accidentally caught fire. A video shows black plumes of smoke rising as drugs including opium, heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana, ketamine and crystal meth burn in a blaze in Myanmar.

Similar ceremonies took place in Mandalay, Lashio and Taunggyi – all areas close to where drugs are commonly produced. South Asia’s Golden Triangle – where northern Myanmar, Laos and Thailand meet – is notorious for illicit drug production, in particular heroin in the past. Synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl are now more popular.

Travel restrictions and checkpoints imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic have helped to reduce smuggling activities, Thai counter-narcotics chiefs have said. However, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says the trade is still going strong – despite repeated attempts to crack down.

Wisanu Prasarthong-osoth, a deputy national police chief, said criminals were often sending narcotic drugs to ‘children’ in parcels after they order them online. UNODC regional representative Jeremy Douglas added that an ‘increase in drug availability’ was sending prices down, describing the situation as ‘very dangerous’. Hla Wai, a Myanmar police colonel said: ‘Frankly speaking, Myanmar has become the transit place of narcotic drug distribution to Europe and Asia.’

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