Sources in Shan State East say the real owner of the 8.7 million yaba pills and 52.8 kg of heroin seized on Monday, 13 February, has been strictly left alone by the military authorities.
They had instead took into custody Miju, an Akha woman, whose husband Ah Mu had managed to slip away, when the raiding party led by Col Khin Maung Soe, Commander of the Tachilek Operational Command, entered the village of Pha Khao in Loi Taw Kham tract. Two other suspects, Ah Ka and Ah Kar, also got away, according to ASTV The Manager Online.
It did not mention anything about Ah Mae, age around 47, a former militia leader who is believed to be the real owner.
Sources say Ah Mae, sponsored by a Thai in Chiangrai, has been producing yaba (methamphetamine) for years. “He is close to most Burmese officials in Tachilek, including Col Khin Maung Soe,” said one. “He is known as a mobile ATM (Automated Teller Machine) by them, who often asked for monetary contributions from him, either for their personal or public undertakings.”
It is however not known why his village was targeted by the authorities. Thai reports have claimed that it was the result of the official request by Thai authorities after a police officer was killed and another wounded by drug smugglers coming from the Loi Taw Kham area.
“One thing’s sure,” said a source. “The order did not come from Khin Maung Soe, but from higher authorities.”
Ah Mae’s neighbors who are also known for their heavy involvement in drug production and trade: Ja Ngoi of Punako, Yi Shay of Nampoong and Way Zin Moe of Nayai are likewise left untouched.
One of the sources believed the actual haul was much bigger than reported. “Already militiamen from the raiding party are offering to sell yaba at ridiculously low prices, about 25-30 baht ($ 0.7-1.0) per pill, when others are selling them for 40 baht ($ 1.3).”
Local competition in the drug trade is among local People’s Militia Forces (PMFs) set up by the Burma Army, but not with the United Wa State Army (UWSA), a PMF leader was quoted as saying. “Our vehicles are not stopped by Burmese checkpoints, and if not stopped, not searched,” he said. “Only Wa vehicles are stopped and searched.”
Thai police, a day later, seized 1,830,000 yaba pills in Chiangrai.