Soldiers in Northern Thailand Kill 6 Drug Couriers, Seize 300Kg of Ketamine
Six drug couriers were killed and 300 kilograms of ketamine were seized in a clash between soldiers and armed men on Monday in Chiang Mai’s Fang district, which borders Myanmar’s Shan State.
A patrol of army rangers spotted 15-20 armed men carrying backpacks walking through forest near Chinag Mai’s Fang district, early on Monday. When the patrol ordered them to stop for a search, they then opened fire on the soldiers. The gun battle lasted about ten minutes.
On the army’s side, there were no casualties. Later that afternoon, soldiers searched the area and discovered the bodies of six men drug couriers from the clash scene. They also seized 19 abandoned backpacks containing 300kg of ketamine, three shotguns, and four cellphones.
As the soldiers continued to clear the area, they discovered two or three men hiding in a creek, believed to be smugglers. The men took off into the jungle. The drugs and other items seized during the fight were transported to Chiang Mai’s Fang police station for legal processing.
Thailand a Ketamine transit hub
A source in the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) said that gangs in Taiwan, China, and Thailand have collaborated to smuggle ketamine into Thailand for re-export to lucrative markets in Malaysia and Hong Kong.
The revelation came after a new variant of the drug, “powdered milk ketamine,” was discovered to have killed seven people in Bangkok this week.
The Royal Thai Police said it couldn’t confirm whether the substance, which resembled powdered milk, was a combination of ketamine and sleeping pills, as previously speculated. The results of the victims’ autopsies have yet to be released.
According to an expert, the “powdered milk ketamine” was primarily made up of four ingredients: ketamine, heroin, ice, and a sleeping pill known as “Rosé” (ramelteon, commonly prescribed under the brand name Rozerem). Three other substances discovered were sodium pentothai, pencuronium bromide, and potassium chloride, all of which are used to execute prisoners.
The ONCB source reports that drug trafficking networks in Taiwan and China have collaborated with Thai drug gangs to smuggle ketamine into Thailand before re-exporting it primarily to Malaysia and Hong Kong, where the drug is sold at high prices.
Some of the re-exported drug was also sold to Taiwanese customers. According to the source, ketamine abuse is spreading locally in provinces with a high concentration of nightclubs.
To entice potential customers, dealers offer steep discounts on ketamine. Liquid ketamine costs between 400 and 500 baht per bottle, while crystal ketamine costs between 200 and 500 baht per small spoon. Ketamine is usually sold for 350,000-370,000 baht per kilogram.
According to the source, drug enforcement agencies in Mekong River countries have exchanged information on the ketamine trade and smuggling. They discovered production bases in India, China, and Myanmar.
In 2018, China seized more than 5.7 tonnes of ketamine en route to the United States. Some of it was concealed in tea sachets and smuggled into Thailand through border areas in Chiang Mai’s Chiang Dao, Mae Ai, and Fang districts, as well as the northeastern provinces of Bung Kan, Nakhon Phanom, and Nong Khai.
According to an ONCB source, the largest ketamine haul seized by law enforcement authorities weighed up to 800 kilograms.