Yaba leaving bitter taste as drug pushers target kids
The pills come in a pretty rainbow of colours - purple, pink, orange and green - and boast flavours such as chocolate and strawberry to mask the bitter concoction of drugs inside.
But far from being the confectionary it is designed to resemble, yaba - which translates to "crazy medicine" - is a mix of methamphetamine, better known as crystal meth, and caffeine that can leave users awake for days.
Long the drug of choice for adults in Thailand, yaba producers are now trying to sell it to children through Facebook, Thai authorities say.
"Yaba [producers] are trying to change their product to meet the demands [of] targeted groups," Viroj Verachai, of the Princess Mother National Institute on Drug Abuse Treatment, recently told the English-language daily The Nation.
"These flavours help the users take the drug more easily, but it could severely affect their [central] nervous systems."
Yaba tablets are small enough to fit into a straw and are generally swallowed, or crushed into powder and snorted, smoked or injected.
As the drug has gained popularity over the years, so has its potency - increasing in its methamphetamine concentration from 20 per cent to as much as 95 per cent for yaba's more pure, crystalline form, "ice".
Verachai said that roughly 75 per cent of those seeking treatment at drug rehabilitation centres in Thailand were yaba users, with the remainder seeking help for ice.
As individual yaba tablets are sold for up to only 200 baht (HK$48) each, the drug is easily accessible and highly popular with various social classes in Thailand.
Data from the UN's Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that about 1.4 billion yaba tablets are produced there each year. A 2011 report stated yaba was the drug of choice in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei, the Philippines, Japan and South Korea.
A 2003 war on drugs by the then Thai prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, led to more than 2,500 people being killed in three months. By 2011, the authorities estimated that one in 60 Thais was a methamphetamine user.
A second crackdown took place between April and June last year, when a joint operation between China, Thailand, Burma and Laos seized almost 10 tonnes of drugs, and more than 2,500 suspects were arrested.
But a year on, the trade is far from stemmed. Just last week, police seized 1 million yaba tablets stashed in a pickup truck in Chiang Rai, Thailand.