CHIANGRAI TIMES – The Department of Special Investigation suspects that smuggled cold and allergy tablets seized from two hospitals were to be sent to illegal drug makers in Myanmar.
The pills contain the active ingredient pseudoephedrine, a common decongestant that is a chemical precursor used in the production of methamphetamine.
A joint investigation by the DSI, police and the Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) suggested the pills confiscated from an Uttaradit hospital and another hospital in Udon Thani were destined to be smuggled into Myanmar through Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai, Pol Lt Col Phong-in Inkhao, head of the DSI’s security cases office, said yesterday.
Smuggling gangs had paid someone 1 baht per tablet to remove the pills from their packages and when the drugs were smuggled into Myanmar successfully, the prices would be marked up to 8 baht a tablet, said Pol Lt Col Phong-in.
Late last month, police concluded that a senior pharmacist at Udon Thani Centre Hospital and at Thong Saeng Khan Hospital in Uttaradit was involved in smuggling the cold and allergy pills from the hospitals.Police found nearly 65,000 pills Udon Thani and 975,000 pills at Uttaradit.
Preliminary police investigation results showed the pharmacist in Udon Thani acted alone and no one else was involved, said Pol Lt Col Phong-in.
DSI investigators are trying to figure out if others at the hospitals might be involved in helping smuggle the pseudoephedrine pills.
Procedure dictates that any purchase of cold pills containing pseudoephedrine from a hospital must first be approved by the hospital’s director, said Pol Lt Col Phong-in.
The DSI also found that both cases were probably linked to the arrest of a pseudoephedrine smuggling gang in Chiang Mai’s San Kamphaeng district last month, he said.
Pol Col Kowit Charoenwattanasak, Udon Thani’s police chief, said the ONCB has frozen the assets of Somchai Sae-Kow, the pharmacist in Udon Thani, including 7 million baht in bank accounts and a Honda Civic.
The mother of Mr Somchai, who disappeared after learning about the police investigation, said she would try to locate her son and ask him to meet with police, Pol Col Kowit said.