Yunnan has long had trouble policing its 966-kilometer border with Myanmar. Stemming the flow of drugs out of the Golden Triangle into the province is costly, time-consuming and has, in the past, been confused by a tangle of legal issues.
Increased international cooperation began in 2011 between the drug enforcement agencies of China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand following the murders of 13 Chinese sailors on the Mekong River. Cross-border police collaboration has been credited with multiple high-profile seizures. Despite such successes, drugs continue to flow across Yunnan's border, and by the size of recent busts, appear to be arriving in record quantities.
Last month police in Xishuangbanna arrested two men attempting to carry more than 100 kilograms of methamphetamine across the border from Myanmar. The men were driving two cars loaded with drugs estimated to have a street value of 30 million yuan (US$4.95 million). Guns and more than 100 rounds of ammunition were also confiscated. The two were reportedly promised a 1.2 million yuan delivery fee upon their successful arrival in Jinghong.
Officers in Lincang have also been busy recently. A man was apprehended in the southwestern prefecture with ten kilograms of heroin on October 26. Earlier that same week, two separate drug cases were concluded in Cangyuan County when five men were arrested while transporting 36 kilograms of heroin into China from Myanmar.
The seizures in Xishuangbanna and Lincang were part of a "one hundred day campaign" against illegal drugs by Yunnan police. The operation — which ended October 30 — encompassed 733 drug-related investigations in the Kunming municipal area alone. More than 600 suspects were arrested over the course of the campaign and police confiscated a reported 406 kilograms of illegal drugs.
Provincial officials have been wrestling with the issue of drug trafficking for years but it appears the situation is becoming worse rather than better. An article published recently in People's Daily summarized the situation currently facing the province:
The political situation in the region, including unrest in Myanmar and other complex situations, has led to the collusion of domestic and foreign criminals in the unlawful manufacture and trafficking of drugs, as well as the increased infiltration of drugs across the board. The influx of large amounts of drugs and guns have made narcotics work an extremely dangerous challenge.
Despite shared cross-border drug intelligence and accompanying large-scale busts, reports have yet to mention cartel leaders by name. Those arrested have largely been low-level couriers, which may indicate Yunnan and its neighbors have uncovered the symptom of a greater problem but have been unable to effectively identify and combat the source.
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