CHIANGRAI TIMES – Special Investigators searching into the cold medicine smuggling racket have unravelled evidence of a huge gang that includes government officials and politicians. Very senior public health officials and Northern-Based Politicians are strongly suspected, a police source said.
Data from the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) indicates San Kamphaeng district in Chiang Mai is a major transit point for medicines containing pseudoephedrine. The medicines are stolen or bought from other countries before being sent into Myanmar and Laos to make methamphetamines which are then brought back into Thailand for sale.
In February, authorities raided a house in San Kamphaeng district and found about seven million empty cold pill packets. The Department of Special Investigation has now taken over the case from the police and issued arrest warrants for two suspects.
On March 28, authorities also found empty packets for five million tablets discarded in a forest in San Kamphaeng district.
Smuggling the medicines on such a scale requires huge financial support and influence beyond the capability of ordinary people, the source said.
A DSI source said the two wanted suspects are now probably in Myanmar’s Tachilek province opposite Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district.
“The two suspects are key to resolving the case,” the source said.
According to the Public Health Ministry, a cold tablet contains between 30 and 60 micrograms of pseudoephedrine. The stimulant in a cold tablet can produce three methamphetamine pills.
The source said Wa drug producers in Myanmar began to buy cold pills in Mae Sai in 2007.
They offered big money for the pills and when pharmacies in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai started to run out, the producers turned to hospitals.
A cold tablet normally costs about one baht and the estimated number of pills that are missing _ 48.3 million _ means large sums of money have changed hands.
The source said the cold pills are removed from their packets so they can be smuggled more easily. Authorities have only found discarded empty packets.
A police source in San Kamphaeng said locals are paid 50 satang per tablet to remove them from the packets. The whole procedure pushes up the price of the smuggled pills from between four to six baht per tablet to 10 baht per tablet, the source said.
ONCB authorities in the North said the pills are usually smuggled through Kiew Pha Wok border pass in Chiang Mai’s Chiang Dao district, a secret channel in Chiang Mai’s Mae Ai district and a border pass in Mae Sai district.
A DSI source said the agency has officials and politicians on its list of suspects and is looking for evidence to implicate them. The agency has also sent officials to protect some pharmacists who could provide crucial information, the source said.