Reopening of borders leads to increase in illicit drug trade, say police
Police have seized 1.1 tonnes of crystal methamphetamine of “ice” in less than a week, officers said on Tuesday, as the kingdom cracks down on smuggling that has surged since the country’s borders reopened.
The haul comes after a spike in clashes between police and smugglers in northern border regions, long a hub for the trade in illegal narcotics.
Following a tip-off, police arrested 10 Thai nationals in a series of raids in the north and south of the kingdom.
“Some of these drugs were kept for a period of time before being transported to the southernmost provinces, and they were supposed to be shipped to other countries later,” said Pol Gen Chinnapat Sarasin, deputy national police chief.
He said Thailand was “surrounded by drugs manufacturing hotspots”, but that the Covid pandemic had prevented smugglers from moving their wares.
“Now that the country has been reopened, the pent-up products are just being shipped in non-stop,” he said.
Police said in a statement that a transnational drugs gang was behind the illicit trade.
In the first operation, officers found 731 kilogrammes of crystal meth, also known by the street name “ice”, in two raids in the southern provinces of Phatthalung and Surat Thani.
Following a tip-off, officers arrested three men last Thursday after they discovered 688kg of crystal meth in three pickup trucks, which they believe was smuggled into the Northeast before being transported south.
Police later arrested four more people after finding 43kg of the drug, which was being sold via the Line messaging app.
On Sunday, another man was arrested in Chiang Rai as he prepared to transport roughly 300 kilogrammes of ice — hidden in tea bags — south to Satun.
Southeast Asia is awash with methamphetamine, and authorities netted a record billion pills across the Asian region in 2021, according to a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.