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Booming regional meth industry – Thailand, Myanmar, China and Laos

The Thaiger

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Booming regional meth industry – Thailand, Myanmar, China and Laos | The Thaiger
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“At the same time significant investment has been made in new highways and bridges in an out of Myanmar, Thailand, China, Laos, Bangladesh and Vietnam. This has provided a boom in movement of products like food and clothing. And drugs.”

A UN Drugs and Crime report released this year states that the methamphetamine trade is now worth a staggering US$30-61 billion per year in East and South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Bangladesh.

That’s a two to fourfold increase from the figures just a decade ago, the last time the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) estimated the value of the methamphetamine trade in the region.

Better enforcement, co-operation with neighbouring governments, increased manpower, more sophisticated surveillance and increased numbers of seizures have happened whilst the trade in meth has blossomed in the region.

Methamphetamine pills (aka. yaba in Thailand) are now being sold at highly discounted prices, and the well publicised massive seizures and interceptions do little to dent the operations of highly sophisticated and tech-savvy drug traffickers. Even the crystal methamphetamine (ice) from the region is feeding demand as far away as New Zealand.

Experts say the boom in South East Asia’s methamphetamine industry is the result of a series of regional and political factors, which have seen Myanmar’s lawless Shan State emerge as the regional meth factory.

The Shan State is in Myanmar’s north-east and borders Thailand, Laos and China.

Booming regional meth industry - Thailand, Myanmar, China and Laos | News by The Thaiger

From the 1970s to the 1990s, Myanmar’s lawless Shan State warlords, militias and rebel groups typically sold opium and heroin, but subsequently shifted to synthetic drugs after realising how much easier they were to produce and more profitable they could be.

Lax enforcement in Shan State, coupled with porous borders, enabled methamphetamine producers to easily import the chemicals needed to make meth. Poorly enforced money laundering controls then allowed kingpins to easily clean their millions and flourish.

At the same time significant investment has been made in new highways and bridges in an out of Myanmar, Thailand, China, Laos, Bangladesh and Vietnam. This has provided a boom in movement of products like food and clothing. And drugs. In the ‘Law of Unintended Consequences’, China’s Belt & Road strategy to open up trade routes throughout Asia, has inadvertently made trafficking drugs a lot easier.

Booming regional meth industry - Thailand, Myanmar, China and Laos | News by The Thaiger

Routinely, seizures of truckloads of 1-5 million meth pills are intercepted then paraded by Thai police. But the biggest drug haul was in 2018 when authorities seized a record-breaking 120 tonnes of crystal meth and methamphetamine pills coming out of the Golden Triangle. More than half of the busts took place in Thailand, where authorities confiscated more than 515 million meth pills.

Now, Laos and Malaysia are also reporting record-breaking busts. In the first eight months of 2018 Chinese authorities reported a 22x increase in crystal methamphetamine seizures in Yunnan province, alone, compared with just three years before.

The UNODC report also states that organised crime groups are not only moving “staggering” amounts of meth to meet demand, they are also trying to increase that demand by flooding the region with cheap product. That’s led methamphetamine pill prices to hit historic lows. The flood also creates greater need and a myriad of social problems.

Pills are reportedly selling for less than US$1 (30 baht), even lower than the going price two decades ago.

At the start of this year Thai authorities began an “intensification campaign” along Thailand’s northern border with Myanmar. That’s where the main route south begins through Thailand. But those efforts, and the vast amounts of international investment to open new routes in and around the region, has just sent enterprising traffickers to use new routes, too numerous for effective enforcement.

John Coyne, a former Australian Federal Police official says the capacity for cashed-up and smart producers to simply ramp up production is allowing meth producers “to write off large seizures as a cost of doing business.”

“There needs to be a distinct rethink on what we do.”

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Crime

Yala ramps up security after fatal shooting of volunteer ranger

Jack Burton

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Yala ramps up security after fatal shooting of volunteer ranger | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook

Following yesterday’s fatal shooting of a volunteer ranger in Thailand’s southern Yala province, security in the province’s Muang district has been stepped up. Buddhist communities are being warned to exercise “increased caution” and to be careful of strangers, as authorities are bracing for potential attacks by southern insurgents.

The volunteer ranger was identified as 43 year old Nikorn Sombatthong, who was part of the 41st paramilitary battalion. He was reportedly murdered as he arrived in front of a school in Tambon Wang Phaya at about 8:30am, after returning from neighbouring Pattani province.

People entering the district by road are being subjected to searches and identification checks by police and military personnel manning checkpoints on all the roads leading to the township. Intelligence sources say some insurgents have sneaked into the district, possibly to carry out attacks on “soft targets”.

Yala and its neighbouring provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat, and Songkhla along the Malaysian border, are home to a decades-old separatist insurgency – which to date has claimed more lives than the Palestinian conflict in the Middle East.

Read more about Thailand’s Southern Insurgency HERE and HERE.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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South

Volunteer ranger shot dead in Yala

Jack Burton

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Volunteer ranger shot dead in Yala | The Thaiger
PHOTOS: Facebook

Police report that a volunteer ranger has been shot dead by a gunman on a motorcycle in the Raman district of the southern border province of Yala this morning. According to a radio report called into the Thathong police station, the attack occurred about 8:45am in front of Prachanukroh 41 School on the Kotabaru-Thung Yang Daeng road.

Witnesses say 43 year old Nikorn Sombatthong, of the 41st Ranger Regiment, was returning to camp on a motorcycle. He was overtaken by 2 men on another motorcycle. The passenger fired 6 shots from a 9mm pistol, hitting him in the head and the back. Nikorn reportedly died on the spot.

2 people on a motorbike, one driving, the other brandishing a weapon, is a popular method of chasing and shooting rangers in attacks in the South.

Yala is near the Malaysian border in which the province has been the scene of a decades-long, bloody separatist movement known as the Southern Insurgency.

Police say they are still investigating the incident.

Volunteer ranger shot dead in Yala | News by The ThaigerVolunteer ranger shot dead in Yala | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: Bangkok Post | Facebook

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Crime

Millions of meth pills, tonnes of marijuana seized in 3 major drug hauls

Jack Burton

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Millions of meth pills, tonnes of marijuana seized in 3 major drug hauls | The Thaiger
PHOTO: thaivisa

In what is becoming an increasingly common story, police have announced the seizure of millions of methamphetamine pills (ya ba) and more than 2 tonnes of marijuana, among other types of illicit drugs, in 3 major anti-drug operations last week. The head of the Narcotics Suppression Bureau told a press briefing that drug agencies confiscated nearly 1.5 million methamphetamine pills, 2.4 tonnes of cannabis and 6 kilograms of ketamine, and arrested about a dozen suspects.

He says that in the first bust, in Isaan’s Sakon Nakhon province, officers seized about 400 kgs of marijuana, a Hyundai pickup, and arrested 24 year olds Peerapat Chaisunthorn and Chariya Niyompeng. In the second operation, police in Lampang province, near Chiang Rai, arrested 40 year old Songkod Sriharan, 63 year old Chaisri Kongauksorn, and Ratchanok Boonta after a traffic stop while they were making their way to Chiang Mai province. Around 1.5 million ya ba pills were confiscated.

The NSB chief says the 3 are believed to be connected to the same gang of smugglers arrested with 4 million methamphetamine pills in northern Thailand earlier this year.

In the third operation, police in Isaan’s Udon Thani province nabbed 6 suspects and seized two tonnes of marijuana and 6 kgs of ketamine. They were identified as 31 year old Mongkol Chonthanasilp, 48 year old Thanabodee Yakasem, 36 year old Bussayaporn Rangvigee, 35 year old Niroj Mingkwan, 30 year old Boonprom Laknongbu and 38 year old Patracha Taweewan.

Police froze assets suspected to have come from the men’s alleged drug dealings. In May, one of the biggest drug hauls in decades, was made in Myanmar’s Shan state.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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