Hundreds of thousands of people have become addicted to yaba, a cheap synthetic drug
Yaba is a mixture of methamphetamine and caffeine sold as cheap red or pink pills that first appeared in Bangladesh in 2002 and since then its use has been rising. The drug is being manufactured illicitly in industrial quantities in Myanmar and it’s being smuggled into the country through the far south-east border which partly follows the River Naf.
Dealers have seen the perfect opportunity to expand their business since hundreds of thousands Rohingya refugees fled into Bangladesh back in 2017 in order to escape from the Burmese military. Taking advantage of their desperation and need for money, dealers have managed to turn some of them into mules. This is a time of rapid growth for Bangladesh which is becoming one of the world’s fastest growing economies, so dealers try to up their business by selling huge quantities of yaba for cheap prices to create a captive market.
Specialists say that yaba was able to become so popular due to the fact that Bangladesh is a nation where alcohol is not readily available and drinking is frowned upon. Even though yaba users are struggling to keep their habit purely recreational, the drug’s availability and the chaos it’s causing made the Bangladeshi government increase the penalties for yaba possession.
They also declared a zero tolerance policy which some claim it involves summary execution by law enforcement agencies. It was estimated that in the first 7 months of 2018 the government’s anti-drug operations lead to nearly 300 being killed across Bangladesh. The local press hints at the popular suspicion that the shoot-outs are staged putting the word “crossfire” in inverted commas. But Superintendent A B M Masud Hossain denies the existence of a shoot-to-kill policy for suspects in the yaba trade.