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“Off the charts” – biggest drug seizure in decades

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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

Asia’s biggest drug kingpin arrested in Netherlands

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Asia’s biggest drug kingpin arrested in Netherlands | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Sky News

Asia’s biggest drug kingpin is under arrest in the Netherlands after years of authorities chasing him worldwide. 57 year old Tse Chi Lop, a Chinese-born Canadian citizen, was arrested by Dutch police acting on a request by Australia’s federal police.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime named him as the suspected leader of the Asian mega-cartel known as “Sam Gor”, a major producer and supplier of methamphetamines worldwide. Tse is commonly compared to the Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

Sam Gor is suspected of laundering billions in drug money through businesses such as casinos, real estate and hotels in Southeast Asia’s Mekong region. Australia’s federal police said Friday’s arrest came after a 2012 operation that arrested 27 people linked to a crime syndicate spanning five countries. The groups was accused of importing large amounts of heroin and methamphetamine into Australia, according to police.

“The syndicate targeted Australia over a number of years, importing and distributing large amounts of illicit narcotics, laundering the profits overseas and living off the wealth obtained from crime.”

The arrest of Tse Chi Lop almost 10 years after that operation’s launch is a major break for Australian authorities. The country’s attorney-general will now begin preparing a formal extradition request for the alleged drug lord to face trial.

Most of Asia’s meth comes from “Golden Triangle” border areas between Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and southwest China. The production of methamphetamine, either in tablet form or the highly potent crystalised “ice” version, take place in Myanmar’s eastern north Shan state. Ketamine and fentanyl are also produced there as well, mostly in ‘portable’ labs that hide underneath the thick rainforest canopy.

In 2018 alone, Thailand netted more than 515 million methamphetamine tablets, a number 17 times the amount for the entire Mekong region 10 years ago. Traffickers are constantly finding more creative ways to ship their products as drug busts are featured daily on the news in those regions.

SOURCE: The Bangkok Post

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Crime

2 shot dead at Phuket Bus Terminal Saturday night

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2 shot dead at Phuket Bus Terminal Saturday night | The Thaiger
PHoTO: Nashaplaneta.net

Police say 2 men were gunned down at the Phuket Bus Terminal by a colleague at the terminal along the stretch of Thepkasattri road heading into Phuket Town last night. The incident happened at about 10:15pm with the local police chief arriving along with medical staff from Vachira Hospital shortly after the incident.

60 year old Wian Iadchuthong, the alleged gunman, was waiting to surrender at the scene when police arrived. Police say Wian appeared to be drunk and told them he had a serious argument with the 2 men and decided to take their lives with the gun. Police say they found 50 year old Yod Sae Lee lying on the ground in front of a taxi service stand, badly wounded. He was given CPR before being rushed to Vachira Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

54 year old Prakob Chuthong was also found lying dead by the counter of a 24 hour car park service kiosk. Police say he had been shot 2 times, once in the left side of his head and once in his left rib cage, according to Bangkok Post.

Witnesses say before the shooting, Wian was quietly drinking alone. But after getting drunk, he walked to the counter of the car park service kiosk and allegedly fired 2 shots from a 9mm gun at point-blank range, killing Prakob instantly. Wian then ran towards Yod, who was sitting in front of the taxi service stand. Yod saw Wian coming at him with the gun and he ran away to 1 side of the terminal building, only to be intercepted by Wian who allegedly fired 5 shots. Yod was hit 1 time in the head, 2 times in the torso and 2 times in the legs. Yod was also rushed to Vachira Hospital where he later died.

An initial police investigation found that the 3 were close colleagues at the workplace, but often engaged in heated fights over motorcycle taxi and taxi services at the bus terminal.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Crime

29 arrested in Pattaya for smoking shisha above Indian restaurant

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29 arrested in Pattaya for smoking shisha above Indian restaurant | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Pattaya Soi 7 - YouTube

Police are investigating an Indian restaurant where they arrested 29 people for a late night party in Pattaya’s Soi 7. The incident took place at 12:30am at a 5 story building which had the first 3 floors closed. Police say the venue was actually operating as a shisha lounge, pool hall, and bar.

The raid was based on a tip from an undercover officer who had previously confirmed the location was open and operating. When police entered the building, they found 29 people either smoking shisha, or hookah pipes, while others were playing pool, or snooker. Police say they found 18 hookah pipes (as distinct from 18 hookers).

In Thailand, shisha and hookah is illegal. 11 foreigners from India, Cambodia, and other countries were found at the venue. The remainder were Thai nationals. All 29 were arrested and taken to the Pattaya Police station where they will face charges under the Emergency Decree Act, the Communicable Disease Act and possession of an illegal substance.

Police say they don’t know who owned or managed the venue and they claimed many of the people present were “playing dumb” in terms of how they knew about the venue or who was responsible for it. Police say they will be interrogating and interviewing those arrested today to determine who should be held responsible. They also seized documents from offices on the top floor relating to ownership.

Pattaya is a “highly controlled” zone as set by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, which sees it under the toughest rules in the country in order to curb the spreading of Covid infections. Chonburi has seen 0 new cases in the past 3 days, sparking anticipation from residents and business owners for the strict measures to relax. Health authorities say they will review the measures at the end of the month, but are not promising to make a change.

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

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