PATONG: Kathu Police held a press conference on Tuesday to announce the arrest on Monday of six drug suspects, all of whom confessed to being members of a major drug ring selling ya bah (methamphetamine) and ya ice (crystal methamphetamine) to tourists in Patong.
The conference was chaired by Phuket Provincial Police Deputy Superintendent Kosol Watrakon and Kathu Police Superintendent Arayaphan Pukbuakhao.
The investigation began with the surveillance of 38-year-old gang member Somchai Thongthaengyai of Suphan Buri, who was released from prison seven months ago on a drug conviction.
Mr Somchai was arrested at his rented room on 50 Pi Road with seven bags of yah ice weighing a total of 8.4 grams.
Subsequent investigation led to the arrest of gang members Ms Nanthasiri “Aom” Boonsri, 25; Manit Sujirya, 35, of Wichit; and 22-year-old Ms Thareerat Sriwang from Nongkhai.
Questioning them led to the arrest of the alleged ring leader Kittichai “Ae” Praphanpoj, a 30 year old resident of Phuket, and his girlfriend Monwipha “Loy” Khreusan of Chiang Rai, age 23.
They were found in possession of 8.4 grams of ya Ice and 90 ya bah pills.
All the suspects confessed to the charges and admitted to dealing drugs to tourists for “a long time”.
Thais were charged 400 baht for one ya bah pill, whereas foreigners were charged from 500 baht to 1,000 baht, the suspects said.
Mr Somchai bought ya Ice from Kittichai at 4,500 baht per gram, then divided it into half-gram bags which he then sold for 3,500 baht to 4,000 baht each, police said.
The relatively small seizure did not reflect the amount of narcotics being moved by the gang as most had sold off the bulk of their supplies before their arrests, police said.
Police estimated the size of the network at about ten people and said several more suspects remain at-large, as does Mr Kittichai’s supplier.
Thailand has the highest number of methamphetamine addicts in the world, Department of Medical Services (DMS) deputy director-general Dr Boonruang Trairuangworawat said last month.
Last year, there were 120,000 drug addicts seeking treatment.
In the first seven months of this year, the number had soared by another 100,000.
Of these drug abusers, 32% are aged between 15 and 19 years. The youngest abuser to come forward is just 12 years old.
The scale of the trade and Thailand’s tough anti-drug laws have combined to overwhelm the country’s jails.
The number of prisoners in Thailand’s 143 jails is now well over capacity with more than 200,000 inmates around the country. Of these about 60% have been jailed for drug offenses, Corrections Department Chief Chartchai Suthiklom said on Sunday.
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