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All time high – Thai drug smuggling in Thailand

Jack Burton




2019 was Thailand’s worst year to date for smuggling of MDMA, commonly known as “ecstasy,” mainly from Germany, Portugal, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Slovenia. Thailand’s Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) says that since October, many seizures were of ecstasy pills originating from drug syndicates in the Netherlands, indicating attempts to broaden markets in Thailand.

The drug gangs are now attempting to widen their network and distribute the drugs to more provinces, such as Phuket, Surat Thani, Bangkok, Pattaya City and Chon Buri. Last year authorities seized 230,544 ecstasy pills, known locally as “ya E,” the largest number in five years. A total of 15 seizures in the past six months saw 20 suspects, 15 Thais and five foreigners, nabbed over new shipments.

“High demand for ecstasy among clubbers in large cities is a key factor in the large volume of the drug being smuggled into the country from Europe. The motive behind this exponential rise in ecstasy smuggling activities is a huge margin in the trade of this drug, which is several times higher than that of methamphetamine.”

An important factor was big intervention improvements in the Thai postal services that were being abused by drug smugglers to distribute their illicit products

Aside from ecstasy use at night clubs, small ecstasy “raves” in apartments, especially rental apartments and rented condos, were also found to be popular among rich teenagers.

“Ecstasy remains a drug of the elite, the night club scene. We’ve seen it in the Thai and Southeast Asia market for years, but at modest levels because it is expensive for users.”

“Because of the higher prices, ecstasy remains popular mainly with well-to-do club goers, which explains why ecstasy is commonly found in crackdowns at nightclubs involving suspects who are foreigners.”

The illegal recreational drug is commonly used together with alcoholic beverages, especially beer.

“Part of the problem is that what is sold as ecstasy on the streets or in clubs in Thailand and Southeast Asia is sometimes different – sometimes methamphetamine mixed with ketamine, or meth and other drugs in dangerous combinations.”

And authorities say the price of ecstasy pills is falling. The maximum price has dropped from 1,500 baht to 800 baht.

Ecstasy is one of those drugs that many people have heard of and several have tired, though the popularity for ecstasy has gone up and down over the years. It became very popular in the 70s and 80s as a party drug because it was legal. But when outlawed the popularity temporarily dropped as other drugs were easier to get. However, ecstasy use and abuse is growing once again. Technically speaking, any use of ecstasy is abuse as it was never intended to be taken as a party drug or one used to get high. Originally, ecstasy was for psychological warfare, then it was used to treat people through psychotherapy, but it quickly became a drug for fun as it lowered inhibitions.

As many know, original ecstasy had the chemical makeup of MDMA, but current ecstasy is far from this formula and contains little, if any, MDMA. However, the same effects are often felt through a mixture of other substances. Current day, street level ecstasy tends to contain some mixture of cocaine, LSD, heroin, amphetamines, methamphetamines, caffeine, rat poison, dog dewormer, and much more. Each maker or dealer places their own stamp on a small pill. This is almost a calling card for a particular dealer, area, or recipe and is usually something simple like an animal or symbol. However, even two pills with the same stamp could have different concentrations of the given ingredients as there is no testing for purity levels of illegal drugs. This is also what makes ecstasy so dangerous – The River Rehab

Classified as a Type 1 narcotic under Thai law, ecstasy has a strong negative impact on health, including the potential for severe dehydration, sudden kidney failure, accelerated heart rate, high blood pressure, spasms and sleep disorders. And because ecstasy also boosts libido, sexually transmitted diseases were found to be associated with unprotected sex among users of the drug.

Long-term use of ecstasy has also been linked with psychosis, as with other stimulants, which can cause hallucinations and heart failure in overdose cases.

Trafficking of ecstasy is considered a crime under the 1979 Narcotics Act, which carries a maximum penalty of death.

Police say drug syndicates from across Europe intend to expand their markets to Asian zones, which means drug dealers have to change smuggling methods often. This has resulted in a rapid spread of ecstasy pills nationwide. Drug gangs mostly smuggle drugs via delivery in parcels from international shipping operations.

With information sharing with international narcotics suppression agencies, including Germany and the Netherlands, authorities have cracked down on a large number of ecstasy traffickers, both Thai nationals and foreigners across Thailand.

Along with cracking down on ecstasy smuggling, seizing assets owned by the busted traffickers and their accomplices was a key measure adopted to enhance the performance of ecstasy suppression by the NSB and its partners.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post | The River Rehab


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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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