Two major drug busts in Thailand

One consignment was entering the country near Myanmar, the other was heading south to Malaysia

BANGKOK • Thailand made two major drug busts over the weekend, killing nine traffickers at its northern border with Myanmar, and interrupting an international syndicate that was trying to bring a load of drugs into Malaysia to be flown to a European country.

In northern Chiang Rai province that borders Myanmar, a gunfight between Thai security forces and a band of Golden Triangle drug smugglers left nine traffickers dead, a senior official said yesterday. This was the latest clash sparked by the booming regional trade in narcotics.

Mr Narongsak Osotthanakorn, governor of Chiang Rai province, said the firefight broke out on Saturday evening, 2km inside Thailand from the border with Myanmar.

"The authorities told them to halt but they refused and started shooting. The two sides exchanged fire for about 10 minutes, leaving nine smugglers killed, with the rest fleeing," he told AFP, adding that the smuggling group was originally 15-strong.

Some 700,000 methamphetamine tablets were found alongside semi-automatic rifles, he added.

The Golden Triangle, a region in the borderlands of Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and southern China, is the world's second-largest drug-producing region after Latin America.

Huge quantities of opium, heroin and methamphetamine pills are churned out in remote jungle labs each year for the Asian market and beyond. Corruption and weak law enforcement help the trade thrive.

Meanwhile, the Thai authorities on Saturday intercepted a consignment of drugs bound for a European country via Malaysia.

The drugs comprising 1.2 million "Yaba" ("crazy") pills, made from a type of methamphetamine drug, and 1.1 tonnes of ganja were seized from a small lorry about 3pm in the Banmor district in central Saraburi province.

The drugs were en route to Hat Yai in southern Thailand.

"We believe the drugs were meant to be smuggled into Malaysia from Hat Yai and from there it was to be sent to a third country," a high-ranking source told Bernama. "We have not ruled out the probability that the drugs were targeted at a European country upon reaching Malaysia, where its price could be tripled or quadrupled."

He said four men, aged between 42 and 54, were detained.

The authorities stopped the lorry in Saraburi following intelligence on an attempt by "an international drug syndicate" to smuggle drugs from northern to southern Thailand.

The authorities, said the source, had also been tracking one of the four suspects since his release from jail in June last year.

"We received information the group was trying to ferry drugs from north-eastern Thailand to Hatyai and made the move on the four men," said the source.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BERNAMA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 15, 2017, with the headline 'Two major drug busts in Thailand'. Print Edition | Subscribe