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“Off the charts” – biggest drug seizure in decades

The Thaiger

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“Truly off-the-charts.” That was the assessment of Jeremy Douglas from the UN Office of Drugs and Crime talking about a major drug seizure in Myanmar’s northern Shan state. How off the charts?

Authorities seized 200 million methamphetamine tablets (yaba), more than 500 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine (ice), and 35.5 tonnes and 163,000 thousand litres of precursor chemicals used to manufacture illicit drugs. They also seized nearly 3,750 litres of liquid methylfentanyl, used to manufacture the powerful synthetic opioid-like drug fentanyl. They also seized 300 kilograms of heroin.

South east Asia, generally, has been spared an opioid crisis, similar to the one that has been sweeping the US, but experts warn that drug producers in Asia may continue the switch to synthetic opioids, made to mimic the chemical structure and effects of poppy-based drugs. The Golden Triangle, straddling northern Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, remains the world’s centre of poppy cultivation. But in recent decades the production of synthetic drugs has pushed the illicit factories deeper into the forests of Myanmar, often semi-portable, making their detection much more difficult than the open poppy fields.

Poppy fields require space, are highly seasonal, low-yield and labour-intensive. Modern opioids and methamphetamines just require a secret location, simple equipment and minimal labour.

The Golden Triangle is still notorious for its lawlessness, especially on the Burmese side of the borders, mostly governed by local militias and warlords and out of reach of the largely ineffective and remote Myanmar government.

The result is an unprecedented explosion in the synthetic drug trade. The methamphetamine market in East and South east Asia is now valued around $61.4 billion a year, according to the UNODC report.

The potency of synthetic opioids like fentanyl means it is easier to overdose. Laced with other illicit drugs, consumers often have no real idea what they are taking. A trio of overdoses in Bangkok last September was one of the first indications that fentanyl had appeared in the city’s heroin chain.

Jeremy Douglas, regional coordinator for the UN Office of Drugs and Crime says that the amount of methylfentanyl precursor chemicals seized could manufacture a batch of synthetic opioids “large enough to replace the region’s heroin production for a year”.

“This may be the moment we have feared, synthetic opioids are in the region in a big way. It’s clear that a network of production facilities like those found would not be possible without the involvement and financial backing of serious transnational organised criminal groups.”

The report also claims that authorities uncovered evidence “that some militias operating in the lawless areas of northern Myanmar were involved in the trade”, though the report neglected to lay out evidence about this claim. Drug law enforcement agencies in the region have long accused the armed groups in northern Myanmar of being complicit in the region’s drug trade.

33 people were arrested in the operations, which were carried out between February and April.

SOURCES: BBC | CNN | Reuters

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Crime

Cross-border drug trafficking is a “leading concern”

Caitlin Ashworth

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Cross-border drug trafficking is a “leading concern” | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Caitlin Ashworth

Thousands of people have been arrested since October for drug trafficking in Northeast Thailand. Methamphetamine and cannabis cross the Laos and Cambodia borders into Thailand and make their way down to Bangkok other parts of Thailand. According to Bangkok Post, the issue has now become a leading concern for Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin.

18,360 people were arrested from 17,685 cases between October 2019 and March 2020, the Post reports. Many of the cases were made in Ubon Ratchathani, a north eastern province near the Laos and Cambodia borders.

While methamphetamine and marijuana come over land borders, ecstasy is typically flown in from European countries, most from the Netherlands. From October 2019 to March 2020, the Airport Indiction Task Force, or AITF, seized a total of 105,382 ecstasy pills. 2019 was reportedly Thailand’s worst year when it came to the importation of illegal ecstasy.

It’s safe to say the border closures have probably lowered the amount of illegal drugs smuggled in. Thepsutin says drug smugglers at the Laos and Cambodia borders are trying different ways to get around the border closures. Some transfer money first and then pick up the drugs later, in a so far undisclosed manner.

Back in March, the government sent out three patrol boats t0 Laos and Myanmar to tackle the blossoming drug trade around the Golden Triangle. The region borders northern Thailand, the Shan state in northern Myanmar and parts of Laos. Methamphetamine and heroin are illegally shipped into Thailand on the Mekong River.

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Bangkok Post | Bangkok Post

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Crime

Gang raids virus screening checkpoint and empties community pantry

Caitlin Ashworth

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Gang raids virus screening checkpoint and empties community pantry | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Caitlin Ashworth

A coronavirus screening checkpoint in Northern Thailand has been ransacked yesterday morning. Police say around 3 men cleaned out and knocked over the community pantry, which was stationed at the checkpoint, and destroyed some of the plastic chairs.

Around 1 am, the group stormed the checkpoint, a tent step-up used to check people travelling in and out of the village in the Tak province. Temperatures of the passersby are checked as well as signs of other virus symptoms. The Bangkok Post said a few people were staffing the checkpoint during the raid, but they were not hurt.

According to police, the men smashed tables and chairs, and damaged some medical equipment. There was also a community pantry set up at the checkpoint to provide those in need with dry groceries. That was emptied and knocked over.

The men could face charges for destroying government property as well as violating the 11pm to 4am curfew.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Crime

Chon Buri police hunting man for shooting ex’s new partner

Jack Burton

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Chon Buri police hunting man for shooting ex’s new partner | The Thaiger
PHOTO: 77kaoded

Police in Chon Buri province’s Saensuk district say they’ve applied for a warrant for the arrest of 38 year old “Adisorn P.” after he used a 9mm handgun to shoot his ex partner’s new young lover in the head. The warrant is for attempted murder and weapons offences.

26 year old “Thanachok”, the victim, is unconscious and fighting for his life unconscious in Burapha Hospital. Doctors there rate his survival chances at 50/50.

He was shot in the parking lot of a condo behind the Laem Thong shopping centre in Chon Buri’s Muang district.

Police are seeking the addresses of the suspect’s parents and siblings in an effort to flush him out, so far with no success, according to the Daily News. The investigation continues.

SOURCES: thaivisa | Daily News

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