Year published :2009

Pages :200 pp.

Size :14x21 cm.

ISBN: 9789749511596

Merchants of Madness: The Methamphetamine Explosion in the Golden Triangle

by Bertil Lintner and Michael Black

For decades, Southeast Asia’s Golden Triangle—where the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Burma intersect—has been infamous for its opium and heroin production. But then, in the 1990s, the drug gangs in the Golden Triangle began to produce methamphetamine, a synthetic drug that does not depend on any unreliable crop such as the opium poppy. In Thailand the drug has become known as yaba, “madness drug” or “madness medicine.” Unlike heroin, which is a “downer,” yaba—or speed—is an “upper” that makes those who take it hyperactive and often aggressive. It has led to murders, stabbings, and the kidnapping of innocent people. It breaks down the users mentally as well as physically. It is a real “madness drug.” But who are the merchants of this madness?

This book provides the answer. It is based on extensive research, spanning several decades and including a collection of first-hand accounts of the drug trade from law enforcement officers and intelligence officials alike, as well as sources close to the drug traffickers themselves. This book will lead to a better understanding of the Golden Triangle drug trade, how it all began, and how it has grown to become a multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise.

About the authors

BERTIL LINTNER, a journalist and author based in northern Thailand, has covered the Golden Triangle drug trade for more than two decades.

MICHAEL BLACK is a Thailand-based freelance writer who has also written extensively about the region’s drug trade.

What others are saying

Andrew Marshall, author of The Trouser People — “Anti-narcotics officials claim to be winning Southeast Asia's war on drugs. Rubbish, say Lintner and Black. Opium production in the Golden Triangle is creeping up again and almost nothing can stop the regionwide explosion of methamphetamine or yaba pills. This gripping and controversial book sets out to explain why, stripping bare a narco-hierarchy that stretches from the highlands of Burma to the mean streets of Thailand and beyond. We meet drug barons who drive Humvees and live in hilltop mansions with private bowling alleys and torture chambers; bankers, businessmen, and Burmese generals who have built empires on the suffering of millions; and United Nations officials who ignore official complicity in the trade and the complex ethnic and political issues that sustain it. As Merchants of Madness shows, where there are pills there are politics. Fortunately, where there are politics there are also two of the region's most experienced journalists. Their conclusion is indisputable: until we tackle the root cause of the yaba trade—Burma's decades-long civil war—then it will be business as usual in the Golden Triangle.”

David Scott Mathieson, Asian Times Online — “Bertil Lintner, one of the world's most-respected analysts of Myanmar's Byzantine drug trade, with co-author Michael Black, a security writer with Jane's Intelligence Review, have written a short, sharp book on the dynamics of Myanmar's ATS [amphetamine-type stimulants] trade. Merchants of Madness has the fast pace and almost unbelievable dramatics of a thriller. That is, except that it's all true.” Read the full review here.

Book Reviews

  • Merchants of Madness: Book review by Reinhard Hohler (Asean Affairs, July–August 2010), PDF
  • No Speed Limit: Book review by David Scott Mathieson (Asia Times Online, 31 January 2009)

Related news

  • Few highs for drug busters: Drug agencies in Thailand expect a surge in drug supplies from the North (Bangkok Post, 3 February 2010)