Meth trade links: drugs fueling instability inside Bangladesh’s refugee camps

Drugs are fueling instability inside Bangladesh’s refugee camps, the AFP news agency is reporting.

It’s understood that unemployed Rohingya are becoming drug runners for a criminal organization back in Myanmar and with those responsible for forcing them out. Methamphetamine pills or ‘Yaba’ as they’re known, are being smuggled across the Cox’s Bazar region of Bangladesh by the Rohingya refugees. Almost all of the drug enters the Teknaf region of Bangladesh from Myanmar, arriving by boat across the Naf River.

The street value of Yaba currently sits at between 3 to 3.5 US dollars and its attractiveness has even encouraged interested groups to look the other way on ethnicity. With the price of a yaba pill tripling to $3-$3.5 in Bangladesh,

“no one cares who is Buddhist or Rohingya”, explains Bangladesh Border Guard commander Lieutenant Colonel Asadud Zaman Chowdhury.’

In the camps, local authorities are reporting drug linked crimes like shootings, kidnappings and extortion taking place. Since the crisis and arrival of Rohingya in Bangladesh, there has been a spike in drug seizures across Cox’s Bazar along with the arrests of over 100 Rohingya refugees on drugs charges. It’s understood that local criminal gangs see a large, cheap and malleable workforce to draw on.

A Rohingya community leader in Shamlapur called Abdus Salam told AFP,

“Many young men are falling into the drug lords’ trap,” and that, “It’s very easy to exploit refugees.”

In March, frightened traffickers dumped 1.8 million tablets along the Cox’s shore with almost a million more found on boats abandoned by the traffickers. Despite these two incidents, the Bangladeshi Department of Narcotics Control predicts that around 250 – 300 million will still get through and be used in 2018.

Back in Myanmar, speculation is rising that the Rakhine and Rohingya militant groups are collaborating over the drug trade in order to buy weapons, according to a Myanmar police source speaking to AFP.

For the Rohingya living in Bangladesh, drug dealing and smuggling is a way to survive and repay debts. But, it’s not without its human cost and police are linking a number of murders in the camps to the drug trade.

This reflects our findings in the Snapshot Survey: Rohingya living in camps across Cox’s Bazar have few livelihood opportunities and are desperate to provide for their family, by any means possible.


Meth trade forges unlikely link between Rohingya and Myanmar soldiers; AFP;

Meth trade links Rohingya, Myanmar soldiers; Bangkok Post;