Bangladesh’s war on drugs may be covering up extrajudicial killings

More than 200 people have been killed in Bangladesh’s drug war, but activists say some were innocent bystanders.

TEKNAF, Bangladesh — The Bangladesh government says yaba, a pill that combines methamphetamines with caffeine, is “the drug of choice” for the country’s youth — justifying a brutal crackdown that began in early May, with almost 50,000 arrested and more than 200 killed.

Bangladesh's war on drugs has become one of the most aggressive in the world. And though the drug problem is real, critics say that the government is hiding ulterior motives.


Human rights organizations say authorities are using the yaba epidemic as an excuse to intimidate — and in some cases, eliminate — the opposition. And with national elections scheduled for December, activists warn that the killing and arrests will only get worse.

The Bangladesh government has long been criticized for its human rights abuses, including forced disappearances and politically motivated arrests. Critics say the new drug-fueled policies are just more of the same.

“We have seen that before, like before the elections in January 2014,” Adilur Rahman Khan, a lawyer and the founder of human rights group Odhikar, told VICE News.

VICE News went to Bangladesh to look inside the government’s war on drugs — and forward to what its citizens can expect to happen next.

This segment originally aired September 25, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.