Raids on clandestine labs in Myanmar resulted in drug seizures that were "truly off the charts," authorities say. AFP reports that the raids on dozens of labs in remote Shan state between February and April unearthed hundreds of pounds of heroin and raw opium, along with the largest quantities of synthetic drugs ever seized in Southeast Asia. More than 1,100 pounds of crystal methamphetamine was seized, along with 200 million methamphetamine tablets. But authorities say the most disturbing find was nearly a thousand gallons of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid linked to tens of thousands of overdose deaths in the US alone. Investigators believe production of synthetic drugs has flourished in the area following a crackdown in China.
"Organized crime and drug syndicates look for business environments where there’s government dysfunction or limited government control, as well as easy access to the chemicals," says Jeremy Douglas, the regional representative for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Southeast Asia. "Shan State hits every mark." Counternarcotics officials say this is by far the largest fentanyl find ever made in the region, which already dominates meth production. Authorities believe the fentanyl was likely destined for the US, which is the biggest market for the drug, the New York Times reports. Douglas warns that Asian crime syndicates might see the coronavirus "as a business opportunity to move in on Mexican syndicates" and take over the North American market. (Read more fentanyl stories.)