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Drugs Flooding Over Thailand’s Borders as Safe Mekong Initiative Intensifies

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CHIANG RAI – Large quantities of methamphetamine and crystal meth have flooded into Thailand this year as producers have tripled output to keep up with intensified crackdown efforts.

Sarinya Sitthichai, secretary-general of the Narcotics Suppression Board, made the comment at a briefing for visiting Lao officials led by Deputy National Defence Minister Somwang Thammasith at the Safe Mekong Coordination Centre in Chiang Mai.

The six countries in the Safe Mekong initiative — Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam and China — have been sharing information since 2013 on drug trafficking, resulting in more arrests and seizures of drugs and precursor chemicals.

Over the past three years, 1.1 million kilograms of drugs were seized in Thailand.

A Thai policeman guards bags of methamphetamine pills during the 40th Destruction of Confiscated Narcotics ceremony in Ayutthaya province, 80 km (50 miles) north of Bangkok

Since the beginning of this year, 300 million methamphetamine pills have been impounded, far exceeding the 2017 total of 214 million. Crystal meth seizures have totalled 15 tonnes compared with five tonnes for all of 2017.

Despite the staggering hauls, drugs have kept coming, especially from Wa Special Region in Myanmar, said Mr Sarinya.

“In spite of the crackdowns, drug kingpins have doubled or tripled production and are testing new substances to replace the ones blocked by China and Thailand from entering the Golden Triangle,” he said, adding that Taiwanese chemists had been brought in to help with production.

A Thai commando unit stand guard in front of packs confiscated narcotics before destroying them marking the UN’s International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Ayutthaya province – Photo AFP

Crystal meth is generally smuggled in to be sold in southern Thailand before being transported to a third country. Some 80% of methamphetamine is sold to Thai users including those in Bangkok and vicinity.

Drug dealers avoid being caught by transporting their goods in pickup trucks from neighboring countries and renting warehouses for storage in northern provinces such as Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. They then ship the drugs hidden among produce in 10-wheelers to be stored in the central region.

“Of 30 drug networks, we have cracked down on half,” Mr Sarinya said. “However, ethnic drug dealers are resourceful and operate across borders.

“Two weeks ago, in Tachilek in Myanmar and Bokeo in Laos, authorities seized a large lot destined for Thailand. China also intercepted 600-tonne shipments of precursors in Yunnan.”

By King-Oua Laohong
The Bangkok Post

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