Police have discovered a stash of more than four million methamphetamine pills hidden within the Shwe Baho monastery in one of the most Buddhist nations in the world.
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, currently has around 48 million practicing citizens, but on the flip side, is also one of Southeast Asia’s biggest narcotics producers. As well as Buddhism, the nation is known for exporting large quantities of opium, cannabis, and methamphetamine to surrounding countries.
A respected leader at a monastery located in the western town of Maungdaw, named Monk Arsara, was caught by Myanmar’s anti-drug task force whilst he was driving towards the Bangladesh border after they had received an anonymous tip off, according to recent reports. He was found transporting around 400,000 methamphetamine tablets together with hundreds of dollars worth of local currency. After he was intervened at the border, the police proceeded to visit the monk’s monastery where they discovered a further 4.2 million pills which had an estimated street worth of $4 million, together with a grenade and some other ammunition.
Local police officer Kyaw Mya Win, told Myanmar news reporters, “This is not a normal case, and when we were informed that the monk was arrested, we were all shocked.” The Irrawaddy also reported on the incident, claiming that this seizure is the first time that police in Maungdaw have ever arrested a monk for drug dealing. Following Arsara’s arrest, reports have claimed that his religious career is now very likely to be over. As drug trafficking is certainly not considered to be very ‘monk-like’, and Myanmar’s Religious Affairs Minister, Soe Min Tun, has since indicated that faith would not be enough to save him from prosecution. He said, “What will happen to the monk is that he will have to give up his monkhood right away and face trial as an ordinary person.”
Although religious drug lords are not arrested often, the Myanmar authorities have recently cracked down on the country’s thriving drug trade in the past few years. In 2016, the authorities seized 21 million methamphetamine pills near the Chinese border, whilst another 6.2 million were also seized near the monastery where the most recent stash was found, on the site of a Maungdaw construction company. Last year’s total methamphetamine tablets seized by police totalled around 98 million tablets – a record amount.
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