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Myanmar announces record narcotics bust

YANGON -- Myanmar authorities on Monday hailed progress in their war on drugs after an unprecedented multi-million dollar seizure at an narcotics factory in eastern Shan state.

Police detained nine suspects with 73 kilograms (161 pounds) of “ice” crystal methamphetamine and 274 kilos of liquid meth along with drug-making equipment and a pistol during a raid on a house in Laukkai on July 9, state media reported.

Officials said the haul was worth an estimated US$3.7 million.

“It's our biggest ice seizure in history. It's a part of our crackdown on the chemical ingredients and factories,” a senior official at the home affairs ministry, who did not want to be named, told AFP.

Synthetic drug production and poppy cultivation for opium is prevalent in Myanmar's remote border areas, where armed ethnic minority rebels have used the profits from narcotics to fund their operations.

President Thein Sein's reformist government has signed peace accords with a number of armed groups as part of sweeping reforms since taking power last year. Myanmar has said it aims to eradicate illegal drugs by 2014.

The country, which is slowly emerging from decades of military rule, is the world's second-largest opium poppy grower after Afghanistan.

Shan state is a major source of methamphetamine tablets, according to the UN, which estimates that global seizures of amphetamine-type stimulants nearly tripled between between 1998 and 2010, reflecting fast-growing demand.

In May the government and Shan rebels together agreed to wipe out drug production in the vast northeastern state.

A drug control official said the recent raid had posed “many difficulties and risks.”

He added: “We have no experience like this in the past raiding a factory which produces ice and other stimulants.”

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