Cox’s Bazar (Bangladesh): Dozens of Bangladeshi drug kingpins surrendered in a meth hub along the border with Myanmar, authorities said Tuesday, as fears grow over a Philippines-style violent crackdown against traffickers.
Addiction to ‘yaba’, a cheap and addictive methamphetamine pill, has soared in the impoverished South Asian nation in recent years, experts say – even in remote rural villages.
Authorities say the border towns have become hotspots for trafficking as Rohingya refugees – 740,000 of whom fled Myanmar in 2017 following a military crackdown – have turned drug smuggling to try and make ends meet.
Some 21 smugglers from Teknaf – a major transit point used by dealers to bring in tens of millions of yaba pills from Myanmar’s border states – surrendered late Monday, police said.
“I welcome those who surrender today because we will not let any drug dealers sleep in peace,” regional police chief Golam Faruk told the gathering at the surrender ceremony.
The smugglers also surrendered thousands of yaba pills as well as weapons, while swearing publicly never to smuggle or sell narcotics again.
The soaring addiction rate has sparked a Filipino-style anti-drug campaign, with security forces killing nearly 500 alleged traffickers – including dozens of Rohingya refugees – from May 2018 according to information available from rights groups.
Activists say many were killed in staged confrontations, where police execute unarmed suspects and later claim it as self-defence. More than 25,000 people were also arrested for allegedly taking part in drug-dealing activities.
Police said those who surrendered Monday would not escape prosecution, but would be given fair opportunities to fight their cases.