The soaring spread of Yaba, an illegal drug produced with a mix of methamphetamine and caffeine usually consumed in pill from, is rattling government across Asia. In Bangladesh alone, annual sales of Yaba stands at US$ 3 billion, while the total size of sales of this illegal drug would exceed US$ 45 billion. Main markets of Yaba are Bangladesh, Pakistan, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia, Macau, Hong Kong, Vietnam, China, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. But since 2011, this dangerous pill has also started entering Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
For last couple of years, Yaba has also entered Syria, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, UAE, and Saudi Arabia.
Since 2013, Al Qaeda, and later Islamic State started making hundreds of millions of dollars through transnational illegal trade of Yaba. Al Sayyaf has been controlling a significant proportion of Yaba trade in the Philippines. Locals know this pill as ‘Shabu’ and ‘Meth’ too.
Drug addicts in Bangladesh alone consume around two million Yaba pills a day, most of which is made in labs in the lawless border regions of Myanmar. To stop the availability of Yaba in the country, Bangladesh authorities have decided to ban imports of Pseudoephedrine, which is a decongestant used in popular over-the-counter cold remedies. But it can also be used as a so-called precursor in methamphetamine production. Several governments around the world imposed controls on its imports.
One kilogram of pseudoephedrine, costing up to US$ 67, can be used to make as much as 400,000 Yaba pills, worth around US$ 400,000. Bangladesh’s annual pseudoephedrine imports have jumped over 7 times to around 23 tonnes from five years ago. A 2014 report by the US Department of State identified Bangladesh as a source and transit point for the chemical diverted to make the drug methamphetamine elsewhere.
Anti-narcotics officials in Myanmar told Reuters that large quantities of pseudoephedrine produced in India’s huge and ill-regulated pharmaceutical sector are smuggled into the country to make Yaba.
Sources at the Department of Narcotics Control in Dhaka told Weekly Blitz, the government with the help of intelligence agencies have already prepared a list of over 150 people driving Yaba trafficking in the country. There also is a list of Yaba traders, who are selling this pills to various districts in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh government took up the issue of eliminating Yaba from the country following an exclusive report titled-Beware of Ice Pill, published in Weekly Blitz in 2016.