The recent arrest of a Chinese couple allegedly attempting to smuggle heroin out of Thailand highlights how the country has become a narcotics transit hub, according to the Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB).
Many have speculated that drug trafficking in Southeast Asia has surged significantly due to the expanding transportation systems in the region such as the new high-speed train in Laos, making it easier and faster to smuggle drugs from China to the region via Thailand.
Pol Lt Gen Sarayuth Sanguanpokhai, commissioner of the NSB, said Thailand is a desirable location for many Chinese and foreign drug traffickers because it is so open to tourism.
“Tourism contributes a large part of Thailand’s revenues. We have many tourism campaigns attracting foreign tourists. However, at the same time, foreign drug traffickers enter the country with a tourist visa and run their businesses here while disguised as tourists,” said Pol Lt Gen Sarayuth.
He said Thailand is surrounded by neighbouring countries where methamphetamine production is plentiful, making it a convenient spot to transport the drug.
Last week the NSB arrested a Chinese man, Jun Dai, 42, and his partner, Jiali Xie, 28, in tambon Rai Khing of Sam Phran district, Nakhon Pathom province with an arrest warrant dated July 25 issued by the Criminal Court.
The two were charged with being in possession of a Category 1 drug, heroin, and attempting to smuggle it out of the country.
Pol Lt Gen Sarayuth said the NSB had found a suspicious package sent by an international postal service, ready to ship to Australia. Officers examined the package and found 4.19 kilogrammes of heroin inside. The investigation revealed the Chinese couple had sent the package.
After making the arrests in Nakhon Pathom, officers seized the couple’s properties including six apartment rooms in Bangkok and Pattaya, Chon Buri province, one car and gold, worth 9.3 million baht in total.
They were handed over to the NSB’s Division 3 for legal proceedings.
Pol Lt Gen Sarayuth said the investigation revealed the Chinese couple may be involved in a drug network in Myanmar. Officers were tracking down other Thai and Chinese accomplices connected to the drug ring.
“Public transportation systems in Thailand, Laos and China are improving. A train ride from China to mainland Southeast Asian countries only takes several hours. Moreover, many low-cost airlines have flights in this region.
“So, it is even more convenient for traffickers to smuggle drugs into Thailand before shipping them to the country of destination, especially when China reopens after the pandemic,” said Pol Lt Gen Sarayuth.
The NSB commissioner said many transnational organised criminal groups are active in Thailand and they have networks based in Myanmar and China.
“The NSB is working closely with the Chinese police attaché, charge d’affaires and the National Narcotics Control Commission (NNCC) in China to solve crimes related to drugs smuggled through Thailand by Chinese traffickers. Moreover, we have teamed up with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to cooperate in combatting narcotics,” added Pol Lt Gen Sarayuth.
He said the Royal Thai Police has assigned a special task force composed of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) and the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to work with the AFP.
The force focuses on combating drug trafficking, money-laundering crimes and transnational organised crime. It has developed a shared database where officers can quickly access the intelligence and analysis acquired from investigations.
“It is important to keep revising and updating the law to enhance our capacity to fight the ever-changing nature of drug trafficking crimes,” Pol Lt Gen Sarayuth said. Moreover, national and international cooperation will play an important role in taking down the drug networks, he added.