Myanmar's army is backing militias that make a fortune off of meth

A crystal meth user sucks fumes from a DIY bong in a Bangkok flophouse renting rooms by the hour. The drug is often used to ease the drudgery of grueling work days. This user works in an office by day and drives a taxi at night until the wee hours. 
Mark Oltmanns

YANGON, Myanmar — From its hilltops to the tropics, Asia’s go-to drug is now methamphetamine.

Far more than a party drug, meth is sought by factory hands and office drones alike. Go-getters powering Asia’s economies rely on meth to zap fatigue. Millions seek out its speedy euphoria — a high suited to a region powered by frantic labor.

But a GlobalPost investigation into Asia’s billion-dollar meth underground reveals that this drug isn’t just produced by mere gangsters. Many of the meth trade’s key players are, in fact, armed groups overseen by Myanmar’s military.

Myanmar is now soaking up international praise for holding elections that could end decades of tyranny. 

All the while, its government is quietly fueling the meth trade.

In the series “Asia’s Meth Wars,” GlobalPost reveals how Myanmar’s army props up militants who flood Asia with cheap, potent meth.

The dark red area shows where most of Asia's little pink pills come from.

Our documentary team traveled to Myanmar’s northern frontier, where speed pills are cranked out with impunity. 

We step into drug dens where men melt pink pills and inhale the fumes. We connect with a former DEA agent who divulges the military’s collusion with narco-militias who produce these drugs.

And we embed with religious vigilantes, armed with bamboo sticks, who are fed up with a meth epidemic enflamed by the army. Our cameras follow ragtag enforcers as they yank drug users from their homes and beat them until they vow to get clean.

While the US celebrates Myanmar’s much-hyped reforms, “Asia’s Meth Wars” exposes secret links between the government and narco-militias — and reveals how their top product, pink meth, is sowing chaos and misery across the region.

Watch the trailer for the documentary:


Check out the full series.