CHIANG RAI – Drug Trafficking networks have smuggled tens of billions of baht out of Thailand, Labour Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung revealed at a workshop in Chiang Rai yesterday, held with 200 bank representatives and officials to seek ways of suppressing cash smuggling and money laundering.
Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) deputy chief Sukhum Opasnipat said that compared with previous years, drug suppression operations in 2012-13 saw many suspects arrested and large amounts of narcotics seized thanks to the cooperation of law-enforcement agencies involved. But most arrests involved small-time dealers and smugglers rather than smashing key drug rings and their finances.
So, the workshop, hosted by the ONCB’s Narcotics Control Strategy Bureau and Narcotics Law Enforcement Bureau, sought to find ways to crack down on key drug rings by intercepting money laundered through illegal drug operations.
Chalerm, also director of the National Command Centre for Drugs Elimination, said the focus of authorities would now be on hitting their funds by intercepting smuggled cash.
“In the past drug-trafficking networks have smuggled cash worth tens of billions of baht out of Thailand,” he said.
Provincial Police Region 5 chief Pol Lt Suthep Detraksa said police had increased checkpoints on suspected drugs routes in Chiang Rai’s Mae Fa Luang, Mae Chan and Mae Sai districts as well as in Chiang Mai. Checkpoints in Sukhothai, Uttaradit, Tak, Phrae and Lampang had also led to more arrests, he said.
However, he said investigators had also found that drug gangs were using trusted people to open bank accounts to launder money. The nominees would then withdraw up to Bt2 million in cash at a time via Mae Sai branches. The money would then be collected by couriers, who were hired to smuggle up to Bt500,000 per time across the Mae Sai border in northern Thailand. The money was then claimed for use in business investments, he said.
Meanwhile, Police Region 1 chief Nares Nanthachote and senior police boarded a helicopter and led Ayutthaya Police in a raid on Talad Wang Noi Community in Ayutthaya at 7am yesterday.
Eight police rappelled down ropes from one helicopter to raid a house belonging to Noi Reungjai, wife of inmate Ratchaphum Phanchimlek, who was caught dealing drugs from his prison cell in Khlong Phai Prison. However, no illicit drugs were found in the raid. The police team then went on to arrest three other drug suspects at another house in Wang Noi district.
Nares also led officials to raid a rented house in Bang Pa-in district where they found a total of 140,000 ‘yaba’ pills. The raid stemmed from the previous arrest of four suspects who were caught in possession of 28,000 yaba pills, 940 grams of crystal meth-amphetamine, or “ice”, and drug manufacturing equipment at a house in Bangkok’s Tha Kham district.