28 January 2019 RSIS
By Iftekharul Bashar and Phidel
The counter-narcotics efforts of the Philippines and Bangladesh can be successful only if a comprehensive and long-term approach is taken.
THE INCREASE in
Since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016, he has made it clear that war on drugs is his top priority. Likewise, Bangladesh under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina started its crackdown on drugs in mid-2018.
Oplan Tokhang: War on Drugs in the PhilippinesThe Philippines’ anti-drug campaign locally known as “Oplan Tokhang” stirred controversy because in some of the police-led operations human rights were reportedly violated. According to the Philippines Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), the anti-drug campaign has left nearly 5,000 people dead in the course of 113,570 operations carried out mainly by the Philippine National Police (PNP). The death of innocent victims in
According to President Duterte, the number of drug addicts in the country is around four million, which is contrary to the data of the Dangerous Drugs Board that shows there are only 1.8 million drug users. Most of the drug abusers are male, unemployed and poor. According to the Dangerous Drugs Board, there are 10 male drug abusers for every one female drug abuser in the country.
Because of the lack of coordination among various agencies, the government failed to stop the proliferation of drugs in the Philippines. More than US$129.5 million (P6.8 billion) worth of illegal drugs slipped past the country’s ports this year, which shows
Bangladesh’s War on Drugs: Three ChallengesBangladesh’s anti-narcotics campaign was launched in May 2018. Though a variety of drugs are used in Bangladesh, the ongoing operations are a response to the surging Yaba trade and the growth in the number of users across the country. Though various agencies are involved in anti-narcotics operations, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), an elite force of the Bangladesh Police, spearheads them.
There are 3.6 to 7 million active drug users in Bangladesh, the majority of whom are from the capital Dhaka and the port city of Chittagong. The majority of
The annual turnover of the drug trade in Bangladesh is nearly US$12 billion. While the war on drugs has been getting popular support, a long-term strategy is needed to win the war in the long run.
The first challenge to Bangladesh’s war on
The second challenge is Bangladesh’s long and porous border with Myanmar. There are reportedly 39 Yaba factories in Myanmar’s Rakhine state near Myanmar-Bangladesh border and the drug is being trafficked into Bangladesh through 15 different routes both by land and by sea. According to sources in Myanmar, Yaba is also known to be produced by the Wa State Army using ingredients sourced from China, India
The third challenge is institutional capacity. Though Bangladeshi law enforcement agencies have been
Though some of these media campaigns have already started in both countries, there is a need for sustained campaigns. Secondly, there is a need to build the capacity of various state agencies particularly the police, local governments, and the judiciary. Better inter-agency coordination at the national level is necessary too. Finally, there is a need for closer regional cooperation to counter trafficking of drugs.
Iftekharul Bashar is an Associate Research Fellow at the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR) and Phidel