Saad Hammadi traces the route through which yaba is smuggled in to Bangladesh and how it is also produced here Between midnight and early morning, the safest hours of the day, Burmese drug dealers land inside the Bangladesh territory through the unfenced parts of the Myanmar border to deliver the widely-circulating pink pills known as yaba to their Bangladeshi counterparts based in Teknaf. Their arrivals are scheduled, and deals for the next delivery are settled in the last meeting. Manufactured in Burma, yaba’s invasion into Bangladesh was greatly possible because of the unrestricted border passages and the low cost for the drugs. Inside the closed doors of hotel rooms, booked in Teknaf, Cox’s Bazar and Chittagong, more often, the tablets are sold in thousands, at unit price of between Tk 40 and Tk 50. Zipped in small blue packets, the tablets are packed in usually 200 pieces per bag. From the point of delivery at Teknaf, the tablets mostly targeted for the Dhaka based customers, several hands change in the chain, until its final consumption, when a user buys a piece for Tk 450 to Tk 550. ‘The floating border population are involved in the yaba racket,’ says Abdul Hakim, director of the operations wing for the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC). The routes until now that have been explored are via the Bangladesh border with Myanmar and by air from Bangkok, Thailand. The yaba tablets are so small in size that a small lot of 500 to 1,000 pieces is easily concealable from security check. The channels in both the routes, apparently, until now, have operated so tactfully that law enforcers could hardly find any clue as to how and from where exactly the tablets are managed. Caught off guard, the law enforcers and narcotics control departments are unacquainted with the drug lords involved. Moreover, investigation further discovers that seven years since yaba was first introduced in the country, it is now produced locally as well. On October 24 and 25, Rapid Action Battalion raided a warehouse in Gulshan-1 where they discovered 30 contraband items including 130,000 yaba pills, 149 bottles of foreign liquor, 132 bottles of phensidyl, 5,000 pieces of Ice, the latest choice of drugs, along taka 46 lakh cash, numerous foreign currency notes and Voip equipment. Based on information provided by the six people arrested before, the RAB arrested Amin Huda and Ahsanul Haq Hasan in the two day operation and unearthed Dhaka’s biggest factory known till date that produces yaba and Ice locally. In the overnight raids, the RAB found the machineries used for producing yaba and ice. Amin is said to be a kingpin behind the drug smuggling chain in the country. Mushfiqur Rahman alias Tomal, one of the six arrested in the first drive on October 18 admitted of buying yaba from Amin for Tk 300 to Tk 350 per pill. ‘In fact the locally produced quality is equivalent to those imported from Thailand by air, whereas the Burma-produced are no longer genuine yaba, having been mixed with heroin,’ says a source who explains that local produced ones cost Tk 100 to Tk 200 more than the Burmese yaba. Much down the line in the channel, the yaba is retailed in 50 to 100 pieces for further distribution at a cost of Tk 250 to Tk 300. Those in the business, retailing in smaller quantities apparently have a sale of between 800 to 1,000 pieces per day which has an investment of nearly Tk two lakh at a cost of Tk 200 per tablet, bought from the wholesale chain that originates from the Teknaf-based Bangladeshi dealers. The small buyers in the last tier of the channel who distribute the tablets among the users have established their business over the phones. To save their business from any untoward situation, the delivery is swift and often on the streets or in local restaurants, says Anisur Rahman, who delivered yaba mostly in Badda localities, based on phone communication. ‘My job was to hand people envelops in different locations at different times. At the end of the month I earned Tk 3,000 for it from my boss Waliur,’ says Anisur, who was arrested by the Rapid Action Battalion on October 24. In Gulshan, Banani and Baridhara, a number of small scale yaba dealers travel in SUVs and cars, driving away right after making a delivery. ‘Although Dhaka remains yaba’s major market, there are dealers and users in Chittagong’s Pachlaish, Nasirabad, Khulshi, Shugandha and similar posh areas,’ says AKM Shawkat Islam, an assistant director of DNC, based in Chittagong. In June this year, the DNC picked up Myanmar citizen Huchong Juhur with 1,000 yaba tablets in his possession when he boarded M/S Kashem Boarding in Chittagong’s Asadganj. Juhur was expecting a local agent who had agreed to buy the consignment from him but did not reveal his name. He had confessed to the narcotics controlling authorities of smuggling yaba in the country. ‘We have sent letters to the Myanmar high commission informing them about Huchong’s offence, his subsequent arrest and that his passport has been seized. He is now serving jail under narcotics control act 1990,’ says a DNC source in Chittagong. Amazingly, the Myanmar citizens are well adapted to the Bangla language which help them make fast deals, says a DNC source. ‘We are working on to nab the dealers based outside Dhaka but for the sake of investigation we are not disclosing them now,’ says Hassan Mahmood Khandker, director general of RAB. Since the arrest of six young men belonging to the upper echelons of society on October 18 in connection with the ‘Y’ lifestyle involving, drug usage, dealing, blackmailing women and making porn movies, the RAB and the DNC have arrested at least 18 members with more than 1.30 lakh yaba tablets and 5,000 ice pills from their possession. In an overnight raid beginning from 4:00am on October 24, the RAB-1 has recovered 425 yaba tablets from dealers based in Dhaka’s Badda area. Four suspected criminals have been arrested in the raid but their main man, Waliur Rahman, apparently escaped from the rooftop of his apartment in Uttar Badda. Waliur’s extended passport reveals his visit to India at least nine times, while he once went to China and also to Dubai. Although the passport does not reveal much of how he managed the yaba tablets, a New Age investigation reveals his business of Burmese clothes and products in the Suvastu Nazar Valley’s Nafis Collection. It indicates to his relationship with Burmese nationals. While he has managed to get away in the first attempt, the detective branch of police has matured a list of 20 top most yaba dealers and profiled them based on their previous case records, physical description, location and others. ‘We have already begun our hunting operation, utilising full resources of the force,’ says Abdus Sobhan, additional deputy commissioner of the DB, heading the narcotics control unit. Another 50 retail and lower tier yaba dealers have been sorted based on similar characteristics whom the DB police is looking for. ‘The primary list of profiles suggests that the top drug dealers do not belong to the educated and elite society,’ believes Sobhan. Members of the elite society are the consumers of the drug who get into the habit out of passion, depression and frustration, aided by lack guidance and care from guardians, he says. However, they eventually end up being dealers to secure their income for buying more drugs when they are addicted to it. In a span of seven years, yaba has exploited the social norms and lifestyles of medium to upper class society, by its craze, sensation and numerous bluffs such as helping develop stout figures for men, slim figure for women, energy, sexual ecstasy, sharp memory and what not, to sell it in the market. In the murky business of drugs, the young men arrested by the RAB on October 18 have shed the light on to how they exploit women for money, sex and addiction. Tomal is one of the pioneers to have introduced yaba in the country along with friends Jewel and Imran who were all arrested in 2002 with some 550 yaba in their possession.
This article was first published in New Age Xtra