CHIANGRAI TIMES – Presiding over a press conference yesterday to announce the seizure in Chiang Rai of 2.5 million ya ba tablets and 50 kilograms of crystal meth, or “ice”, worth Bt800 million, Deputy Premier Chalerm Yoobamrung vowed to change the law to ensure that drug dealers who are sentenced to death are executed within 30 days of the final verdict in their cases.
Chalerm also warned hospitals and pharmacists not to supply pseudoephedrine-based cold medicines to makers of ya ba and “ice”, or they would face serious punishment.
Meanwhile, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) said cold medicine from some 30 hospitals had reportedly been smuggled to drug networks. The DSI would probe Kalasin’s Kamalasai Hospital and Chiang Mai’s Doi Lor Hospital this week. Central Udon Thani Hospital clarified that a check of its cold medicine stocks for the past three years found that 4.8 million tablets had been embezzled – not 37 million tablets as some news agencies said.
During yesterday’s conference at Suvarnabhumi Airport, where male suspect Damrong Samawawiang, 39, and females Hassareudee Arthorn-prachachit, 34, and Parichart Charoonwit, 27, were presented with the seized drugs, Chalerm said officials had been investigating the alleged drug ring since January. It allegedly sent drugs from Chiang Rai to Bangkok, leading to a stakeout at a Muang Chiang Rai house.
Police on Thursday followed the two female suspects, who had packed boxes at the house and taken them to Damrong at a warehouse on the Chiang Rai Super-Highway. Police presented themselves at the warehouse and searched the six boxes, in which they found the drugs, leading to the arrest of the three. The boxes were bound for Bangkok’s Saphan Sung, with bogus names.
Damrong reportedly told police he sent such packages 10 times before in smaller amounts. Chalerm said the husband of Parichart, who rented the house, was arrested with accomplices in a previous bust involving 300,000 ya ba tablets and Bt3 million in assets.
Hassareudee – who is the sister of Parichart’s husband – was arrested once before in a police sting with 200 ya ba tablets, Chalerm said. He added that the group didn’t seem to fear the law or to have learnt a lesson, so they deserved the severest punishment. He said he would propose an amendment requiring drug dealers sentenced to death to be executed within 30 days of their final verdict, as drug-trafficking was a serious issue and many inmates continued to deal drugs in jail.
The National Command Centre for Drugs (NCCD) said that from Sept 11, 2011 to March 15 authorities had arrested 321 suspected ya ba dealers and seized 26 million tablets; plus 143 suspected “ice” dealers and seized 600kg of the drug. They also seized 200kg of heroin, 4.6 tonnes of marijuana, 13.7kg of cocaine and 4.2 million tablets with pseudoephedrine.
Commenting on the probe into alleged theft of cold medicine at Central Udon Thani Hospital, Uttaradit’s Thong Saeng Khan Hospital and Chiang Mai’s Doi Lor Hospital, DSI chief Tharit Pengdit said investigators had traced drug-lot numbers and found a link to a February 18 cold-medicine seizure in Chiang Mai. Tharit said the DSI-Food and Drug Administration probe found many hospitals and clinics bought suspiciously large amounts of cold medicine.
Based on the lot numbers, he said three public hospitals, one private hospital, eight clinics and one pharmacy were linked to the Chiang Mai cold-medicine seizure. He said this had led to a suspicion that a gang was siphoning cold medicine from the public health system through some 30 hospitals to San Kamphaeng in Chiang Mai for narcotics production.
After the case at Kalasin’s Kamalapisai Hospital, in which 356,535 cold medicine tablets were missing, was made public, three drug-dispensing personnel were suspended and face disciplinary probes. Kalasin deputy police said an initial investigation found at least five people were involved. A check of last year’s receipts found 21 had inflated the amount of drugs actually distributed. The case report would be sent to the Drug Suppression Police this week.
Police also seized 9,019 ya ba tablets in Rayong’s Klaeng district, but the suspect, Theerawat Sriserm, 24, the son of an official, fled. Police seized 32,000 ya ba tablets in Lop Buri’s Tha Wung district but the alleged owner, female village head Panida Meejaijeu, 33, fled.
A policeman lines up heavy packs of illicit drugs in preparation for yesterday’s press conference at Suvarnabhumi Airport about the seizure.