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Justice minister targets drug money laundering

Jack Burton

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Justice minister targets drug money laundering | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Nation Thailand

With the government struggling to find revenue streams for its economic stimulus plans to rebuild an economy battered by Covid-19, Thailand’s justice minister thinks he has an idea to help. He wants authorities to target businesses that launder drug money from the Golden Triangle and has set a target of 1.5 billion baht by August.

The minister says anti-drug forces, both civilian and military, have arrested 125 drug suspects and seized millions of speed pills and manufacturing equipment in northern Thailand. Officials are also expected to freeze around 50 million baht worth of assets related to the arrested traffickers. He says the Golden Triangle, bordering Chiang Rai and northern provinces, is a huge source of drugs and a haven for traffickers. Traffickers launder money there then send it back to drug syndicates in other countries.

The money laundering involves the purchase of precious metal bullion, gold ornaments and construction materials as well as online gambling, which facilitates daily money transfers.

“Officials will look for suspicious businesses that have grown disproportionately in the past few years. The Revenue Department will also support the investigation.”

The justice minister believes intensified action should result in the seizure of at least 1.5 billion baht by August, compared with 700 million baht seized from drug traffickers last year. Just last week, assets valued at 42 million baht were frozen by Chiang Rai police.

Drug syndicates smuggle drugs into Thailand across the border from Myanmar, Cambodia or Laos, then distribute them to Bangkok and other major cities. The Thai and Burmese governments have independently stepped up their anti-narcotics efforts in the Golden Triangle region, mostly with little real effect, other than a parade of weekly photo opportunities with large drug seizures – in truth, a tiny proportion of the drugs that leak through their patrols.

Authorities say the number of drug seizures has risen 1000% in just the past 2 years, a stark indication of the growth in industrial-scale production in the Golden Triangle.

Thailand remains a major trafficking route for opiates and synthetic drugs manufactured in Myanmar’s Shan and Kachin states, the northeastern states that border China, Laos and Thailand.

SOURCE: Chiang Rai Times

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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.

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Border officials on alert for Burmese coup protesters fleeing military crackdown

Maya Taylor

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Border officials on alert for Burmese coup protesters fleeing military crackdown | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Wikimedia

Border police have increased patrols in the northern province of Chiang Rai amid concerns that Burmese protesters may try to cross into the Mae Sai district. This follows a military crackdown in the Burmese border town of Tachilek as the army tries to quell anti-coup rallies.

According to a Bangkok Post report, Sompong Chingduang from Thailand’s Immigration Bureau says the authorities in Mae Sai continue to monitor the situation in Tachilek. On Saturday, 2 protesters were killed in the Burmese city of Mandalay after officials opened fire on demonstrators protesting the February 1 coup.

The following day, thousands rallied in the town of Myawaddy, on the border of the Mae Sot district in the Thai province of Tak, while another protest was held in Tachilek. The Tachilek protest led to the border between Thailand and Myanmar being shut for 2 hours. It’s understood the largest rallies yet are being planned for today.

Meanwhile, Sompong has issued a warning that nobody fleeing the military crackdown in Myanmar will be granted entry to Thailand but will instead be turned away from the border. He says to do otherwise would pose too much of a health risk for Thailand, given the Covid-19 situation.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Air Pollution

Air pollution reaches “unhealthy” levels in Thailand’s north and northeast

The Thaiger

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Air pollution reaches “unhealthy” levels in Thailand’s north and northeast | The Thaiger

18 provinces in Thailand’s north and northeast are being hit by a wave of smoke and air pollution as the burning season kicks in for the country’s agricultural sector. The next 2 months are the peak of the burning off season for agricultural waste as farmers prepare their land for the next crops of corn, rice and sugar and use the fires to aid the harvest of some of their crops.

With sugar cane plantations, for example, farmers choose to burn the leaves off the plant, exposing the stalks, before harvesting the profit-making stalks, saving time and money. There are mechanical ways to achieve the same result but the farmers, pushed to slender profit margins by the multinational food companies, are unable to invest and amortise the additional costs.

The levels of PM 25 micron particulate, a measure of the smoke and haze, has been at “unhealthy” levels in Chiang Rai, Phrae, Sukhothai, Phitsanulok, Tak, Phetchabun, Phayao, Nan, Chiang Mai, Lampang, Khon Kaen, Roi Et, Chaiyaphum, Ubon Ratchathani, Saraburi, Nong Khai, Nakhon Phanom and Nakhon Ratchasima.

The Pollution Control Department are now openly admitting that the major cause of the seasonal smoke is “open burning by farmers who are preparing their land”, according to the Bangkok Post. On Monday the Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan issued orders to prevent farmers from starting the plantation fires. You can check the result of his orders in the fire map below.

Air pollution reaches

iqair.com measures the average level of PM2.5 dust in the North at between 35-85 micrograms per cubic metre (μg/m³) yesterday, considered “unhealthy”. In the Northeast, the levels ranged between 40-99μg/m³.

The Thai Pollution Control Department considers PM2.5 readings below 50μg/m³ as “safe” but the Thai standard is twice as high as what is considered safe by the World Health Organisation.

firms.modaps, the NASA satellite fire tracking service, shows the number of fires currently alight around Thailand and the concentrations in the north and north east. The fires in northern Cambodia and north east Myanmar are also contributing to the Thailand’s smog and haze, depending on which way the winds are blowing. During this time of the year, the winds are predominantly north east and light across much of Thailand. The firms.modaps feed is live, registering the fires alight at the time the screen capture was taken.

Air pollution reaches

Bangkok starts off Wednesday with relatively better air quality than the past few weeks.

Air pollution reaches

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Thailand

Thailand non-profit offers Zoom calls with Santa and his elephant friends

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thailand non-profit offers Zoom calls with Santa and his elephant friends | The Thaiger

Santa Claus isn’t at the North Pole this year. He’s in Northern Thailand. And he’s not with elves. He’s mixing in with some of Thailand’s beloved elephants. Don’t believe it? Give him a Zoom call.

Zoom calls on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with “Santa & his Elves” are offered by the Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort and the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation.

Zoom calls with Santa and his elephant friends are limited, and pricey! The effort is intended to raise money for the program which ethically cares for elephants that were formerly in the entertainment business. The reservation for a 20 minute call requires a $2,500 USD donation.

Those interested in supporting the elephant program can make a donation. “Elephant trunk calls” are also available during the coming year, but Santa won’t be around after Christmas.

The resort’s director of sustainability and conservation, John Roberts, says it costs $18,000 USD a year to feed just 1 elephant. A $20 donation feeds an elephant for one day.

“Since the start of the national lockdown in Thailand in March, we have taken in three elephants and their mahouts. The COVID-19 elephant refugees, whose camps were unable to care for them and would ultimately have left them unfriended and unfed, are now matched with friendship groups and, of course, have their own diet plan.”

To make a donation to the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, click HERE.

SOURCE: Travel and Leisure

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