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Thailand transit area for illicit drugs

Thailand has been used by drug traders as a hub and transit area for the transport of drugs, particularly crystal methamphetamine or ice and heroin, to various countries, Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin said on Monday.

Mr Somsak said Thailand had rarely been used as a drug production base due to its severe penalties against drug production and trade.

Most of the drugs were produced by minority groups in the Golden Triangle area of Myanmar and smuggled into Thailand on many routes.

The drugs were smuggled via Tak and Kanchanaburi provinces across the western border, as well as through Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai in the North. There were also drug smuggling routes via Laos to Notheast Thailand and Vietnam.

Mr Somsak said crystal methamphetamine and heroin transported through Thailand were destined for 19 countries and territories, including China, Macau, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore, Israel, New Zealand, Australia, Norway, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Since late 2019 crystal methamphetamine and heroin have been seized in larger quantities than before and this was a common problem of countries in this region.

However, many lots of the drugs managed to slip through the dragnets and reached the destinations, including the 316 kilogrammes of crystal meth seized in Australia and 9,040.49 grammes of ice seized in South Korea.

The justice minister said there were three main groups of traders smuggling drugs from Thailand to other countries.

The first group was traders from countries in West Africa, the second comprised Thai nationals and minority groups, and the third was foreigners who came to Thailand to buy, sell and smuggle the drugs out of the country.

Moreover, methods of drug smuggling had changed.

The drugs were found to have been sent using private delivery companies and sold on social media such as Line and Facebook. Drug money is then transferred through cash deposit machines or internet banking, he added.

Wichai Chaimongkol, secretary-general of the Office of Narcotic Control Board, said before the Covid-19 outbreak, drug traders concealed them in luggage, shampoo bottles or jars of cosmetics. Some smugglers hid the drugs under their clothes or even swollowed them.

After the outbreak, the drugs were found hidden in electrical appliances, picture frames and miscellaneous items.

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