Officers from Thailand’s Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) seized 6 million meth pills hidden in three vehicles and arrested five men earlier this week in the northern province of Chiang Rai.
Anti-narcotics officers stopped a timber truck and two scout cars at a checkpoint in the district Wednesday after receiving information that a large amount of drugs was to be transported from storage in Mae Fah Luang district to two other storage locations in Phrae and Ayutthaya provinces, before being distributed in Bangkok and southern provinces.
The officers discovered pill bags hidden in the timber truck and both scout cars.
According to Somsak, the five suspected traffickers claimed to have sent three large shipments to the south since October, sending three million pills in October, 3.8 million in November, and 3.2 million in early January.
The five suspects were part of a network of Hmong drug traffickers based in Chiang Rai who received drugs from a neighboring country and stored them in Mae Fah Luang district before delivering them, primarily by truck, to storage points in the central provinces, from where they were distributed to Bangkok and elsewhere, according to ONCB Secretary-General Wichai Chaimongkhon.
Officers seized assets worth 32 million baht from the gang following the seizure of the drugs, including seven plots of land, nine cars, five bank books, and 598,000 baht in cash in Chiang Rai, Phrae, Nonthaburi, and Nakhon Nayok provinces.
Meanwhile, police seized more than a tonne of crystal meth in less than a week, as narcotics trafficking has increased since the country’s borders reopened following COVID-19 lockdowns.
The haul was discovered during a series of drug busts in the country’s north and south, and ten people were arrested.
Police Seize Huge Haul of Crystal Meth
The 1.145 tonnes of crystal meth, smuggled inside tea and coffee packages and hidden in secret compartments of vehicles, was being transported from Thailand’s north and northeastern regions to border areas in the country’s south for onward shipment, according to a statement issued by the Narcotics Suppression Bureau.
“From all of the total confiscated objects, we have seized narcotics, crystal methamphetamine, amounting to more than 1.1 tonnes,” said Chinnapat Sarasin, deputy commissioner general of the Royal Thai Police.
“Because of the ease of transportation, crystal meth is mostly exported to other countries through Thailand,” he explained.
“Some of these drugs were held for a period of time before being transported to the southernmost provinces, with the intention of later shipping to other countries.”
The COVID pandemic had prevented traffickers from moving their hauls, Chinnapat said, noting that Thailand was “surrounded by drugs manufacturing hotspots”.
“The pent-up products are just being shipped in nonstop now that the country has been reopened,” he said.
A large haul of crystal meth, also known as “ice” on the street, was discovered in two raids in the southern Thai provinces of Phatthalung and Surat Thani in the first bust.
Meth Found Teabags in Chiang Rai
After discovering another haul of crystal meth in three pick-up trucks, police arrested three men. The drugs are believed to have been smuggled into Thailand’s northeast before being transported south. Another man was apprehended on Sunday in northern Chiang Rai province as he prepared to transport ice hidden in teabags south to Satun province.
Four people were also arrested after police discovered drugs being sold on the popular Thai messaging app LINE.
Finally, methamphetamine hidden in coffee packages was discovered and two men arrested in central Nakhon Sawan and Patum Thani provinces.
According to anti-narcotics experts, the drug trade in the Golden Triangle – the jungle borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar – has increased significantly since Myanmar’s military coup in February 2021.
According to experts, methamphetamine and opium production and trafficking have increased since the military takeover.
In recent weeks, a number of deadly clashes between police and drug smugglers have also occurred in Thailand’s remote northern hinterlands.
Following a clash near the Golden Triangle in Thailand’s Chiang Rai province earlier this month, the Thai military said it had killed five suspected drug traffickers and recovered nearly 500,000 methamphetamine pills.
Following a clash with suspected traffickers in nearby Chiang Mai province, six suspects were killed and 19 backpacks containing hundreds of kilograms of ketamine were recovered.
According to the Bangkok Post, Thailand’s defence chief, General Chalermpol Srisawat, met with Myanmar’s military leader, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, on Saturday and agreed to collaborate in combating drug trafficking along the Thai-Myanmar border.
According to a United Nations report, Southeast Asia is awash in meth, with authorities netting a record billion pills across the Asian region in 2021.