13-16 June 2024

15 Jun 2024
The Vico

Narcotopia: In Search of the Asian Drug Cartel That Survived the CIA

This is a gem of a story from Patrick Winn about a south-east Asian nation the size of Belgium which is a huge drug cartel controlling a $60 billion meth trade. “Wa State” is an autonomous zone nestled in the highlands of Myanmar bordering China and Thailand with its own army, schools, and tax collectors. The Wa’s self-sufficiency derives from one of its top exports, methamphetamine, which it produces with such knee-weakening efficiency that, frankly, they make me want to try some. Their ya-ba, or “insanity pills,” sell for anything from one to three bucks a pop; they’re dyed a cheery Benadryl pink, infused with an imitation vanilla scent, and stamped with wy, a logo that’s “as recognizable to Asian drug users as Nike’s swoosh.” This is a real Narco State, selling to another Narco State and a fascinating glimpse of what the 22nd century might look like.  


Patrick Winn with Naoise Nunn