Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Chittagong, Bangladesh: Yaba methamphetamine tablets, often used as an aphrodisiac in Bangladesh, continue to be increasingly popular among drug users, despite the efforts of law enforcement agencies to curb the dangers of the narcotics trade, according to intelligence agencies of Bangladesh.

While law enforcement agencies are struggling to stop the inflow of such drugs from abroad, Yaba tablets are now being manufactured at home. Locally-produced Yaba is more popular than that smuggled into the country, despite its higher price. Most foreign Yaba comes to Bangladesh from Arakan State, Burma, sources said.

Many drug addicts now prefer Yaba tablets to other types of drugs because of their stimulating effects and increasing availability in the country.

According to an intelligence report, the drug cartels smuggle amphetamines into Bangladesh from Burma and India, and supply them to different parts of the country using a strong chain of dealers.

In parts of Arakan State, especially Sittwe, Buthidaung, and Maungdaw townships, commercial sex and drug peddling has spread quickly. Sex workers, particularly prostitutes, run their businesses openly from rented hotel rooms in Sittwe, and the practice has spread to many other towns. In Maungdaw, the Naypaydaw junction is famous for sex workers and drug addicts and peddlers. The number of floating sex workers is on the rise. Various sexually-transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS can be spread quickly by sex workers and their customers.

Students of different universities, colleges, and schools are also gradually drifting into the danger of being addicted to Yaba, but so far the drug is most popular among affluent families. Many celebrities, including film stars, singers, and artists, are regular consumers of this drug. Smugglers use luxurious cars and sell the drugs mostly to different bars and hotels.

“Since our business is illegal, we have to pay bribes to the law enforcement officials, such as the police and the Sarapa (Military Intelligence),” said a hotel manager in Sittwe.

On various occasions, the said authorities have worked to enforce laws against drug use and prostitution. Some sex workers and their clients have been arrested, but the arrestees get released quickly following the payment of bribes, many have alleged.

According to a report about drug and HIV/AIDs from Arakan State said that he estimates about 30% of youths have been or are currently addicted to narcotics such as Yaba and cannabis, and he fears HIV/AIDS has been spread among the youths through of the use of shared needles to inject heroin.

According to an NGO worker in Arakan State, of sex workers who come to Arakan State from central Burma Proper, approximately 90% are infected with HIV/AIDS, but the authorities allow them to do their business freely.

“Over 500 persons have already been infected with HIV in Buthidaung Township and are taking treatment from an NGOs( don’t want to expose), but the NGOs kept it very secret,” said the NGOs worker.

Sources said the international drug syndicates use Bangladesh as a transit country to move narcotics from Burma to different destinations. They employ teenaged boys and girls, mostly students, to carry out their business.

Major Md Shakhawat Hossain, deputy director of the media wing of Rab, said this year his office has arrested 571 Yaba traders and seized over 74,000 tablets.

Sources said Yaba tablets were first brought to Bangladesh from Chiang Mai, the northern capital of Thailand, in 1990, but trading of the drug started to spread in 2000 due to a lack of law enforcement by the authorities concerned.

Home Minister Sahara Khatun recently promised stern action against drug peddlers and suppliers, and requested parents allocate more time for their children to ensure that they do not get involved with narcotics.

Health rights workers encouraged waging a united movement by teachers, students, guardians, and conscientious citizens of the country to stop the abuse of drugs.

MH Choudhury Lelin, a specialist in preventive medicine, said passion, depression, and frustration, coupled with a lack of guidance and proper care, drives many into consuming such drugs.

Describing the upward trend in drug abuse as dangerous for society, Lelin said that addicts often get involved in criminal activities such as larceny, snatching, and hijacking to obtain money for their habits.

Dr Ranjan Kumar Nath, a specialist in medicine, said Yaba may cause dangerous diseases such as heart problems and high blood pressure, and can damage blood vessels in the brain, which may lead to strokes. Chronic use of the drug can result in inflammation of the heart lining. Overdose can cause hyperthermia, convulsions, and even death. Individuals who use Yaba may also have episodes of violent behavior, paranoia, anxiety, confusion, and insomnia.

In Bangladesh, different nightclubs and beauty parlors are hubs for sex workers and drug traders, said a local hotel manager from Dhaka.

A local leader from Sittwe, Arakan State, said that it is very important that the government launch a massive campaign to raise awareness of the adverse effects of such drugs, and to strengthen morality among young people.