It’s Reefer Madness all over again at the sprawling Drug Elimination Museum in Yangon, Myanmar. Opened in 2001, the three-story, 154,000-square-foot museum is a time-warped paean to a harsh anti-drug military junta operating in one of the world’s largest opium-producing countries. What lies beyond the creepy Brutalist architecture is a bizarro, pigeon-infested propaganda ghost town. Seriously—it was us, the birds, and a couple of bored security guards.
The exhibits include light-up maps of Golden Triangle trafficking circles and life-size dioramas of meth labs triumphantly seized by the Tatmadaw. They have titles like “Narcotics Elimination Endeavor By Myanmar: The 15-Year Plan” and “Stimulant Drugs: Stairway to Insanity.” About one-quarter of them are interactive and include switches with signs that say things like “You can destroy and set fire to narcotic drugs that endanger the lives of human being [sic] by pressing this button.” Naturally, gruesome depictions of what happens to straight-laced Burmese citizens when they get themselves mixed up with sex, drugs, and rock & roll follow. (The short answer: You die.) Perhaps our favorite part is how the “druggie losers” always have tattoos and wear Western clothes, like Axl Rose T-shirts and frat-boy khakis (as opposed to traditional Myanmar dress like longyi).
The eeriest exhibition in the DEM shows alleged drug traffickers posing in handcuffs behind their seized contraband. The military claims that the people pictured above were caught at a checkpoint with 8.6 million ephedrine and caffeine tablets. What became of them is anybody’s guess, but you know it wasn’t good.
Museum entry is $3 USD for foreigners, plus an extra $5 if you wish to take photos.
Corner of Hanthawaddy and Kyun Taw Rds, Yangon, Myanmar; no phone.