Cablegate: Draft Bangladesh Part I for 2007-2008 International

Published: Tue 13 Nov 2007 09:39 AM
DE RUEHKA #1785/01 3170939
P 130939Z NOV 07
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. (U) The following is the draft text on Bangladesh of the first
part (drugs and chemical control) for the 2007-2008 International
Narcotics Control Strategy Report:
2. (U) I. Summary: A Major narcotics bust in Dhaka in October 2007
supported law enforcement officials' claims of a sharp increase in
methamphetamine abuse in Bangladesh, particularly among upper-class
urban youths. The bust included the first seizure of drugs-making
equipment suggesting substantial domestic production, some of which
might be available to shipment to other countries. A November 2007
seizure of 23.5 kilograms of heroin at Dhaka's international airport
confirmed that at least some heroin continues to be transshipped
through Bangladesh. There is no evidence that Bangladesh is a
significant cultivator or producer of narcotics. The Bangladesh
government (GOB) officials charged with controlling and preventing
illegal substance trafficking lack training, equipment, continuity
of leadership, and other resources to detect and interdict the flow
of drugs. An ongoing lack of cooperation among law enforcement
agencies has made narcotics control difficult, although the Ministry
of Home Affairs led an effort in late 2007 to improve coordination.
While corruption at all levels of government traditionally has
hampered the country's drug interdiction efforts, the Caretaker
Government that came to power in January 2007 has made fighting
graft a top priority. Law-enforcement officials say the anti-graft
push has made efforts to go after politically connected drug dealers
easier. Bangladesh is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.
3. (U) II. Status of Country: The country's porous borders make the
illegal flow of narcotics from neighboring countries easy and make
Bangladesh an attractive transfer point for drugs transiting the
region. The number of drug users in Bangladesh has been estimated
at between 100,000 and 1.7 million, with 20,000-25,000 injecting
drug users and 45,000 heroin smokers. Other drugs used in Bangladesh
are methamphetamines, marijuana, and a codeine-based cough syrup.
After years of unwillingness to recognize narcotics issues, the
country's law enforcement bodies took a stance against drugs in
2006, largely due to two factors: high-profile cases of heroin
smuggling to the United Kingdom in 2005 and growing methamphetamine
(locally, yaba) use among the young elite. Yaba was initially
popular among college students who used it to stay awake all night
to study for exams, but has since become a popular stimulant at
parties and is known as the "sex drug." A large proportion of
street urchins in Dhaka also sniff glue as an appetite suppressant
as well as for its drug effects, according to the head of a leading
drug rehabilitation organization.
4. (U) III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2006: Policy
Initiatives. Continuing ineffective government coordination to
counter narcotics abuse led to the creation of a new interagency
monitoring group in November 2007. The new group is led by top
officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Department of
Narcotics Control (DNC). Additionally, all narcotics cases fall
under the speedy trial act, under which a decision must be reached
within three months.
5 (U) Law Enforcement Efforts. Law enforcement units engaged in
operations to counter narcotics include the police, the DNC, the
border defense forces known as the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), customs,
the navy, the coast guard, local magistrates and the Rapid Action
Battalion (RAB), an elite group that plays a leading role in
fighting terrorism, corruption and narcotics abuse. Customs, the
navy, the coast guard and the DNC all suffer from poor funding,
inadequate equipment, understaffing and lack of training. For
example, the DNC budget for 2007-2008 of nearly 150 million taka
(slightly more than $2 million) is marginally less than the budget
for the previous year. Its work force of about 935 people also is
nearly 350 positions short of the number of employees approved by
the government. There is no DNC presence at the international
airports in Chittagong and Sylhet and only two at Dhaka airport, and
DNC officers throughout the country are not authorized to carry
weapons. Land crossings are particularly porous, particularly the
border with Burma over which much yaba and other drugs flow. One
law-enforcement official noted that some border checkpoints
historically have not had female constables who could perform body
searches on women crossing into Bangladesh. Although RAB has become
perhaps the highest-profile anti-narcotics force in the country, it
has neither a special counter-narcotics section nor specific
counter-narcotics training. Its drug-fighting resources appear
stronger than other law-enforcement agencies, however, with a
recently purchased chemical analyzer that can be used to identify
drugs and an internally trained 44-dog canine corps.
6. (U) Law Enforcement Efforts continued: Bangladesh's
counter-narcotics operations received a huge boost in late October
when the RAB made one of the largest drug busts in the country's
history. In a raid on a Dhaka office the RAB seized about 130,000
yaba tablets, with a street value of more than $1 million, and large
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amounts of drugs-making equipment and raw materials. RAB officers
arrested a man suspected of being a leading drugs baron. One
immediate result of the raid was to send the street price of yaba
from 200-300 taka a tablet to 700 taka ($10) or more.
7. (U) The DNC keeps tabs primarily on seizures by its own officers.
Drugs seized by the department from January through September 2006
are as follows: 18 kg of heroin (compared to 16.3 kilograms in all
of 2006 and 20.2 kilograms in 2005); 1,373 kilograms of marijuana
(compared to 1,345 kilograms in 2006 and 1,589 kilograms in 2005);
more than 20,000 bottles of phensidyl, a codeine-based, highly
addictive cough syrup produced in India; 215 ampoules of pethedine,
an injectable opiate with medical application as an anesthetic; and
5,652 tablets of yaba. The RAB reported seizing nearly 133,000
tablets of yaba in 2007 through October, almost all of which came
from the one Dhaka raid, compared to about 5,000 tablets in all of
2006 and less than 1,000 tablets in 2005. Heroin seizures by RAB
through October 2007 were 19.8 kilograms, compared to 38.5 kilograms
in all of 2006 and 341 kilograms in 2005. More than 80,000 bottles
of phensidyl were seized through October, compared to nearly 190,000
bottles in all of 2006 and about 120,000 bottles in 2005.
8. (U) Corruption: The Caretaker Government that came to power in
January 2007 made fighting the country's endemic corruption that
permeated all levels of politics and society a top priority. The
chairman and members of the largely ineffective Anti-Corruption
Commission were replaced with a new team led by a retired army chief
that has charged many of Bangladesh's leading politicians,
businessmen and civil servants with graft. The Government also
formed a National Coordination Committee to help with the graft
investigations. Several task forces were set up to help the
committee with its work in Dhaka and outlying districts. Between
100 and 200 high-profile graft suspects were in jail as of October
2007. RAB officials say the new environment has made it much more
conducive to target suspected drug barons. The GOB does not, as a
matter of government policy, encourage or facilitate illicit
production or distribution of drugs or controlled substances or
launder proceeds from their transactions. No senior official has
been identified as engaging in, encouraging, or facilitating the
production or distribution of drugs or controlled substances.
9. (U) Agreements and Treaties: Bangladesh is a party to the 1988 UN
Drug Convention, the 1961 UN Single Convention, and the 1972
Protocol amending the Single Convention. The GOB and USG signed a
Letter of Agreement on Law Enforcement and Narcotics Control (LOA)
in September 2002 under which the U.S. would provide equipment and
technical assistance to the DNC and its central chemical laboratory.
The LOA also provided for training, via the U.S. Department of
Justice, to law enforcement personnel involved in counter-narcotics
activities. There is no US-Bangladesh extradition treaty; however,
Bangladesh law permits extradition without the existence of a
treaty. There has been limited cooperation with the return of
fugitives from Bangladesh.
10. (U) Cultivation/Production. The DNC reported it eradicated
about 60,000 poppy plants and about 20 kilograms of poppy seeds in a
single operation in early 2007. The DNC acknowledged that a limited
amount of cannabis is cultivated in the hill tracts near Chittagong,
in the southern silt islands, and in the northeastern region,
claiming it is for local consumption. The DNC also reported that as
soon as knowledge of a cannabis crop reaches its officers, that crop
is destroyed in concert with law enforcement agencies.
11. (U) Drug Flow/Transit. Customs officials seized 23.5 kilograms
of low-quality heroin at Dhaka's international airport on November
12, 2007. Media reported that two Bangladeshis bound for China and
suspected of belonging to an international drug smuggling syndicate
were arrested after the heroin was found in their luggage. A month
earlier, the RAB reported the seizure of three kilograms of heroin
from the Sylhet village home of a Bangladeshi UK resident who was in
country on vacation. The heroin, according to RAB, came through
India to Bangladesh from an unknown location. Two years earlier, two
smuggling cases of about 75 kilograms of heroin to the UK and the
resulting investigations by the GOB identified weaknesses in the
country's narcotics-detection infrastructure. Bangladesh is
situated between the Golden Crescent to the west and the Golden
Triangle to the east, placing the country at continued risk for
transit crimes. Opium-based pharmaceuticals and other medicinal
drugs are being smuggled into Bangladesh from India. White
(injectable) heroin comes in from Burma.
12. (U) Domestic Programs (Demand Reduction). Law-enforcement
officials believe that drug abuse, while previously a problem among
the ultra-poor, is becoming a major problem among the wealthy and
well-educated young. Recent cases of yaba addiction in wealthy
neighborhoods and on university campuses are of particular concern
to the government. The GOB runs several domestic programs, but is
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not funding them at levels to ensure their success. The DNC
sponsors rudimentary educational programs aimed at youth in schools
and mosques, but there is little funding for these programs and no
clear indication of their impact. In addition, the DNC currently
runs outpatient and detoxification centers in Dhaka, Chittagong,
Khulna, and Rajshahi. These centers only remove the drug from the
addict's system; they do not address the underlying causes of
individual addiction. Hence, they are not successful in assisting
addicts to overcome their addiction over the long term. There are
other, non-governmental centers with a variety of treatment
therapies available. Unfortunately, most of these are quite
expensive by Bangladeshi standards and therefore beyond the reach of
most drug addicts. One drug addicts' rehabilitation organization,
APON, operates five long-term residential rehabilitation centers,
including the first center in Bangladesh for the rehabilitation of
female addicts (opened in 2005). APON says it is the only
organization that includes street children in its drug
rehabilitation program.
13. (U) IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs. Policy
Initiatives: The USG continues to support Bangladesh's
counter-narcotics efforts through various commodities and training
assistance programs. With State Department narcotics assistance
funds, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration held a "Basic Drug
Enforcement" training academy in Bangladesh in June 2007.
Thirty-one counter-narcotics officers - including participants from
the Bangladesh Rifles border security force, the police, customs and
DNC - participated in training that covered topics from operational
planning and undercover operations to proper evidence handling and
report writing. The instruction included drug identification using
test kits supplied by the DEA, and hands-on training in proper
handcuffing techniques. The U.S. Agency for International
Development provides about $3 million annually to Family Health
International to implement the Bangladesh AIDS Program, which
includes working with intravenous drug users. DOJ efforts to
improve the anti-money laundering and financial intelligence
capabilities of the Bangladesh Bank support counter-narcotics
activities in the country.
14. (U) The Road Ahead. The USG will continue to provide law
enforcement and forensic training for GOB officials, much of which
will be useful to Bangladesh's counter-narcotics efforts. Mission
has about $52,000 available from previous years in narcotics
assistance funds that it plans to provide to APON to improve its
facilities for rehabilitation of female drug addicts. In late 2007,
Mission also began distributing to local narcotics enforcement
agencies hundreds of kits to test for marijuana, methamphetamines
and opiates. Post received no new International Narcotics Control
and Law Enforcement funding for fiscal years 2007 and 2008.
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