By The Nation
THE SCOURGE of drugs has intensified in Thailand, with nearly every province getting affected despite the country’s serious battle against narcotics, according to the country’s justice minister.
The Kingdom still faces problems with the manufacturing and smuggling of illicit drugs. The Golden Triangle, where the borders of Laos, Thailand and Myanmar meet, has been the world’s second-largest drug-manufacturing base.
These facts were highlighted at an anti-narcotics workshop held in Bangkok yesterday to discuss the government’s plans to fight illicit drugs in the coming year.
“There’s not a single province in Thailand that is completely free of drugs,” Justice Minister ACM Prajin Juntong, who is also deputy PM, said.
He added that despite strict checks at borders, illicit drugs still get smuggled in via all means of transport – water, land and air.
“Some gangs even bring in precursor chemicals to manufacture drugs here,” he said.
His comments were backed by reports that drug-related arrests take place on a daily basis. In some cases, hauls involve millions of methamphetamine pills, and most inmates in Thailand have been incarcerated for drug-related offences.
On Tuesday, police arrested four men – one Shan and three Taiwanese – and seized 200 bars of heroin worth Bt200 million in Chiang Mai.
On Monday, Navy officials seized 14 million methamphetamine pills shortly after they were smuggled across the Mekong River into Chiang Rai’s Chiang Khong district.
Prajin yesterday lamented that the problem with drugs was worsening even though the government has added the fight against drugs to the national agenda.
“Now the government is asking each province to come up with its own anti-narcotics strategy,” he said.
Niyom Termsrisuk, secretary-general of the Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), said his agency was actively implementing a drug-checkpoint strategy in collaboration with the Royal Thai Army and neighbouring countries.
“This strategy focuses on 19 districts in four provinces because they are considered key transit points for drug smugglers,” he said, adding that 47 villages have been identified as being vulnerable.
He explained that these villages in the border zone were most at risk because of poverty. Hence, he said, these villages would have to be developed to lower the risk, instead of just relying on drug suppression alone.
Niyom also reckoned that prevention of drug smuggling would significantly reduce the problem in Thailand, adding that his agency will also be very proactive in curbing drug threats in border provinces in the South.
From tomorrow, ONCB officials – backed by troops from the Fourth Army Area – will survey every village identified as facing a significant risk from drugs in the South.
“We will survey target villages in southern border provinces on foot. If young drug abusers are found, they will be put in drug rehabilitation programmes,” Niyom said.
So far, some 340,000 Thais have undergone drug-rehabilitation programmes, he said.