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Yaba drug smuggling, addiction rates record alarming rise in Bangladesh

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Dhaka (Bangladesh), April 23: Smuggling of the highly-addictive drug yaba — and its soaring acceptance among the youth and even celebrities — is a challenge Bangladesh faces increasingly as Rohingya refugees from neighbouring Myanmar are suspected to be peddling it as a means of survival, say border guard officials.

On a recent trip to the border areas of Bangladesh, an Indian media group was told that a wave of yaba use has swept over the country as young people from the middle and upper income classes are experimenting with this “crazy medicine” and fuelling an alarming surge in addiction rates.

Officials of the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) said they have seized 5,297,234 pieces of yaba pills this year up to March and arrested 151 smugglers, including 15 Myanmar nationals, as a massive influx of Rohingya refugees brought increased smuggling from that country. The number of seized pills was around 14,997,570 in 2017 when 649 people, including 15 Myanmar nationals, were held.

Raids on fishing boats on the Naff river– which divides Bangladesh and Myanmar, countries that share a 271-km boundary — have reaped a massive haul of yaba pills, which is a rage among Bangladeshi youth.

“In one raid on March 15, we seized 1.8 million yaba pills abandoned in four sacks in the Naff river,” Brigadier General S.M. Rakibullah told IANS.

Rakibullah, Additional Director General and Regional Commander of BGB’s Adhoc Region Headquarters in Cox’s Bazar, said: “It is the biggest ever yaba seizure by the BGB. The guards arrested 11 smugglers in March, including seven Rohingyas.”

Shahidur Rahman, Director, BGB Battalion, Feni region, said yaba pills have become an easy source of income for the Rohingyas who have poured across the border since the Myanmar military launched a crackdown in their native Rakhine state on August 24-25 night last year.

Rohingya refugees act as carriers of yaba, which is known as “crazy medicine”, and hand over the pills to dealers on the Bangladesh side of the border who then take them to the country’s main cities, Rahman said.

Three young Rohingya refugees — identified as Mohammed Saddam, Masud Talukder and Jamil Hossein — were arrested last week in separate drives and over 100,000 yaba pills (worth in crores) were recovered from their possession in the Cox Bazar area, the official said.

He said “it is a way to make easy money as one tablet is sold illegally for 300 Taka”.

A BGB official, on condition of anonymity, said the force has been facing tough times to stop the yaba smuggling because of the difficulty in patrolling the 54 km of the Naff river.

“Smuggling of yaba came to light some time towards the end of 2015, but the menace has grown since the influx of Rohingyas who are lured by Myanmar crime syndicate as carriers. The internal carriers have increased. Some of them are desperate just for survival,” the official said.

The Sheikh Hasina government in Bangladesh has called for “zero tolerance” on smuggling of yaba, which has one too many nicknames and was outlawed in Thailand in the early 1970s.

Another BGB official said Thailand is one of the largest sources of yaba while Myanmar is one of the biggest producers of it. “Yaba pills are produced in labs on the Myanmar side.”

He said Yaba is mostly popular among those who suffer from sexual or mental problems. “Some unscrupulous doctors and chemists prescribe and sell pills laced with yaba for immediate relief.”

The drug is believed to have led to organised crime rackets, official corruption, street violence and broken families, said the official.

Many syndicates are bringing yaba pills from Teknaf to Dhaka through new routes after the contraband tablets are smuggled from Myanmar. From Teknaf, the pills first reach Patuakhali’s Kuakata in fishing boats and then make their way through different modes of transport.

Acting regional commander of south east region of BGB, Colonel Gazi Md Ahsanuzzaman, said that yaba smuggling had gone up since last year.

“Tablets worth Taka 1.25 crore are smuggled per day into Bangladesh. Earlier the number was in a few lakhs. The tablets are smuggled through the Naff river via no-man’s land near Gumdhum village in the Cox region of Bangladesh.”

Yaba is spreading from urban to rural areas with drug abuse particularly increasing among street children, he said.

According to drug control authorities, from 2007 to 2010, illicit trafficking and abuse of yaba has increased almost 40 times in Bangladesh.

(Rajnish Singh visited Bangladesh between April 15 and 18 as part of BSF-sponsored Indian media group. He can be contacted at [email protected] )

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UK Parliament to vote on May’s Brexit ‘Plan B’ on Jan 29

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Theresa May

London, Jan 17 : The UK Parliament will vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s “Plan B” for Brexit on January 29, the Leader of House of Commons said on Thursday.

Andrea Leadsom told lawmakers that the Prime Minister would put forward a motion and make a statement to the lower chamber on what her next steps would be on January 21, Efe news reported.

“A full day’s debate on the motion will take place on January 29, subject to the agreement of the house,” she told the Parliament.

Leadsom spoke as May met with lawmakers and opposition leaders for cross-party consultations, urging them to “put self-interest aside” and “work constructively together” to find a way forward for Brexit, following her slim victory in a no-confidence vote.

On Tuesday night, MPs voted against May’s plans for Brexit by a historic margin: 432 votes against to 202 in favour — the largest defeat for a sitting government in history.

May is currently trying to resolve a political deadlock set up by her antagonists, both from the hard-Brexit and anti-Leave camps.

One of the demands is that May should rule out any possibility that the UK might crash out of the European Union (EU) in March without any deal in place.

Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29.

In a statement in Downing Street shortly after midnight on Thursday morning, May had said: “It will not be an easy task, but MPs know they have a duty to act in the national interest, reach a consensus and get this (Brexit) done.”

The Prime Minister said she wanted to approach the discussions in a “constructive spirit”.

May is expected to hold meetings with both Conservative Brexiteers and the DUP on Thursday.

May has scheduled meetings with Scottish nationalists, Welsh nationalists and pro-EU Liberal Democrats.

The Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru all spoke with Theresa May on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Last night’s offer of talks with party leaders turned out to be simply a stunt, not the serious attempt to engage with the new reality that is needed.”

“I say to the Prime Minister again – I am quite happy to talk but the starting point for any talks about Brexit must be that the threat of a disastrous no-deal outcome is ruled out, taken off the table, and we can talk about the future of the plans that we will put forward and the future relationship with Europe,” he added.

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May’s government braces for no-trust vote after Commons defeat

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Theresa May

London, Jan 16: UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party government braced for a vote of no confidence on Wednesday, a day after she suffered a historic defeat in Parliament where lawmakers roundly rejected her Brexit plan.

Her agreement setting out the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU, the result of two years of negotiations with Brussels, was rejected in the House of Commons by a majority of 230 lawmakers — the worst defeat for a sitting government in the country’s democratic era.

It was turned down by a crushing 432 votes to 202. The confidence vote was expected to be held at about 7 p.m. GMT, the BBC reported.

In response to the significant defeat, which had been widely predicted by political observers, opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would table a motion of no confidence against May’s government.

“This is a catastrophic defeat. The house has delivered its verdict on her deal. Delay and denial has reached the end of the line,” Corbyn told the Commons, the lower chamber of Parliament, as he announced the motion, something which had also been expected in case of May’s defeat.

The Prime Minister told MPs she would return to the Commons with an alternative plan next week, provided she survives the confidence vote.

“The House has spoken and this government will listen,” she said on Tuesday night, offering cross-party talks to determine a way forward.

May delayed the initial parliamentary vote on her deal in December when it became clear that it would not make it through the chamber.

The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the withdrawal process was “at a standstill”.

“So, in this context, it is up to the British authorities today or tomorrow to assess the outcome of this vote and up to the British government to find how we are to take things forward on March 29 towards an orderly withdrawal,” he told the European Parliament.

Some 118 members of May’s Conservative Party, including pro-European Tory MPs and hardline Brexit supporters, rebelled against the government in Tuesday’s vote. As did the 10 parliamentary members of the DUP, a right-wing unionist party from Northern Ireland and ally of the Conservative government.

The formation of right-wing Tory backbenchers, collectively known as the European Research Group, and the DUP signalled they would back May in the motion of no confidence, making it less likely for Corbyn to be able to force a general election.

If May gets ousted, then the government would have 14 days to present a new leader. However, if that candidate also fails to secure the confidence of Parliament and no viable alternatives are presented, then the UK could head towards an early election.

May survived a no-confidence motion lodged by hardline members of her own party in December. According to Conservative Party rules, such a vote cannot be tabled for another year, meaning that if she withstands Labour’s attempt to oust her, her job would be safe.

The UK is slated to leave the EU on March 29, exactly two years after May officially notified the EU of the UK’s intention of exiting the bloc by triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Also, there had been increasing calls for a second referendum. The UK electorate decided to leave the EU in a referendum in 2016.

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Man bedridden after selling kidney for iPhone, iPad

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Wang Shangkun
Wang Shangkun, Image: AsiaWire

San Francisco, Jan 16: A Chinese man who sold his kidney as a teenager to buy the latest Apple iPad and iPhone in 2011 is now bedridden with organ failure, the media reported.

Wang Shangkun was 17 years old when he made the decision to undergo surgery and sell his right kidney in the black market to buy the Apple products.

Shortly after the illegal surgery, he began suffering from a decreased level of kidney function, news.com.au reported late on Monday.

“Shangkun had sold his kidney to black market organ harvesters in April 2011 where he received $4,500 Australian dollars. He purchased an iPhone 4 and iPad 2 with the funds,” the report added.

The man suffered renal failure in his second kidney after having one removed. It is said that it was due to the unsanitary conditions where the surgery took place.

In 2012, a total of nine individuals connected to the organ harvesting case were jailed for their involvement. Five surgeons involved with the procedure were among those convicted, according to Newsweek.

IANS

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