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Drug Syndicates Using Thailand’s Postal Service for Distribution

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Drug Syndicates Using Thailand's Postal Service for Distribution

Thailand’s Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) is increasing efforts against drug smuggling through the postal service as drug syndicates diversify their distribution methods to try and outsmart authorities across the country.

Piyasiri Wattanavarangkul, the ONCB deputy secretary-general, told the Bangkok Post that drug smugglers are increasingly using postal services to evade detection by authorities.

He said that this has led to an increase in the number of narcotics seized and the frequency of smuggling.

According to Mr. Piyasiri, authorities arrested 12 suspects involved in large-scale drug trafficking between October last year and June this year and confiscated more than 2.76 million methamphetamine pills, 3.5 kilograms of crystal meth, also known as ya ice, and more than 3,000 kilograms of marijuana.

Drugs through the postal service

Drug traffickers have changed their methods of smuggling drugs, Mr. Piyasiri said.

He said it is common for drugs to be hidden in packages and delivered by the postal service to cities from remote rural areas in the northernmost border provinces of Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai.

In Northern Thailand, Hmong hill tribespeople package narcotics as harmless packages and have them delivered by the postal service or private couriers.

The final destination is often Bangkok and the four southern border provinces — Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani and Songkhla.

There was a recent discovery by the postal service of 2.5 million speed pills in Pattani and Songkhla from Chiang Rai’s Mae Fa Luang district and Chiang Mai’s Chiang Dao district.

In Chiang Rai, the districts of Mae Fa Luang and Mae Sai border the Golden Triangle, known for synthetic drug production.

Myanmar’s Shan State is where armed ethnic groups are allegedly heavily involved in synthetic drug production.

Hmong drug couriers also use Chiang Khong, Wiang Kaen, and Thoeng districts in Chiang Rai, as well as Phu Sang and Chiang Kham in Phayao.

As part of its efforts to crack down on drugs smuggled by these means, the ONCB works in partnership with the Narcotics Suppression Bureau of the Royal Thai Police to combat these smuggling methods, which have further increased the spread of illegal drugs across the country along with conventional smuggling methods.

Sending drugs to South Korea

Additionally, the ONCB found that Hmong people from Laos were sending illegal drugs to South Korea via international postal service early this year.

He said that by sending drugs from a neighbouring country instead, drug dealers evade detection by Thai authorities.

These drugs would likely have been sold across the entire region if they had gone undetected, Mr. Piyasiri said.

The ONCB alerts postal and courier service operators in areas where such cases are reported.

Mr. Piyasiri said mail sorting centers, which process parcels and packages for delivery abroad, were also told to watch out for illicit drugs.

The anti-drug police will also use X-ray scanners to detect any drugs hidden in packages.

As a means to address the problem, delivery and logistics service companies are also required by law to keep track of the identity of senders and receivers of packages.

ONCB officials must be notified within 15 days if any packages are suspected of containing illegal drugs.

Those who fail to comply will be fined between 10,000 and 100,000 baht, and their operating licences will be suspended or revoked, according to Mr. Piyasiri.

Options for alternative routes

The ONCB also monitors areas in the upper northeast, including Loei’s Pak Chom and Chiang Khan districts and many areas in Nong Khai.

In case of any difficulties moving drugs on routes in northern provinces, these areas will be used as alternatives, Mr. Piyasiri said.

With transit points on the Lao side of the border, these routes make it easy for drugs to cross the Mekong River from Laos.

He said surveillance is also being increased in lower Northeast areas where drugs are found to have been smuggled across the border, where the Mekong River narrows and large rocky outcrops and islands can act as transit points.

In Laos’ Savannakhet Province, another major drug trafficking network has established ties with drug dealers in the deep south, he said.

Ascendant crackdowns

He said that drug syndicates are being targeted more aggressively by the Myanmar government.

According to Mr. Piyasiri, Myanmar authorities have destroyed numerous drug production facilities and seized large amounts of narcotics and drug precursors as part of Operation Golden Triangle 1511.

Several countries, including China, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam, are participating in the Golden Triangle 1511 anti-drug initiative.

The “Golden Triangle” is a notorious drug production hub between Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar.

Myanmar’s crackdown on illegal drugs benefits Thailand by curbing the flow of illicit drugs across the border, especially speed pills and crystal meth.

Additionally, he added that it prevents the drugs from being distributed to a wider range of countries.

At present, we are focused on seizing assets belonging to drug syndicates, which will essentially emasculate their networks as a whole,” Mr. Piyasiri explained.

He said authorities confiscated drug-related assets worth more than 9.7 billion baht between October last year and July 27.

Public tips about drug trafficking can also be sent to the 1386 hotline. The information provided by the service has already proven valuable, he said. In January, police seized about 5 million speed pills in Phrae’s Den Chai district following a tip-off.

In addition, the deputy secretary-general of the ONCB cautioned against participating in drug networks.

Mr. Piyasiri also warned people not to open bank accounts for drug dealers where financial transactions will be conducted as violating the Narcotics Code will result in three years in jail and/or 60,000 baht in fines.

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