Drug tests for Thai residents in troubled community

PHOTO: The Nation/ANN

Anti-narcotics officials are preparing to get all residents in the Suan Son Soi 9 community to undergo drug tests next Friday to determine if they have used narcotics.

It is estimated there are about 500 residents in the drug-plagued community in Bang Kapi in Bangkok.

Narcotics Suppression Bureau chief Pol Lt-Colonel Rewat Klinkesorn said yesterday the drug tests were scheduled for July 10.

He disclosed the plan after recent inspections in the community found that a seven-year-old child had already started taking drugs.

Police found that a mother fed her two-year-old child with the narcotic kratom mixed with water, he said at a press conference.

Permpong Chaovalit, who heads the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, said the joint operation by his office, the NSB and military units had managed to nail down eight drug suspects, who were now wanted under arrest warrants.

"Some drug peddlers are just 15 and 16 years old," he said.

Rewat said drug dealers in the community reportedly sold methamphetamines at between Bt37 (S$1.48) and Bt100 a tablet.

In a related development, Agence France-Presse quoted an official as saying paramilitary forces shot dead seven suspected drug smugglers and seized six bags of heroin after a firefight near the Myanmar border, in the latest clash over narcotics in the remote region.

Heroin and methamphetamine pills are frequently smuggled from Myanmar into Thailand, the gateway to the lucrative Southeast Asian drugs market.

The latest clash broke out between around a dozen suspected drug traffickers and the paramilitary forces on Thursday night in Mae Fah Luang district in Chiang Rai, district chief Vorayan Bunarat told AFP.

"We still don't know the identities of the victims," he said, adding that a machine gun and six bags of heroin were seized, without providing an estimated value or the size of the haul.

He said some of the group of between 10 and 15 people escaped.

There were no casualties among the paramilitaries.

The notorious "Golden Triangle" region covering parts of Laos, Thailand and Myanmar was formerly one of the world's top producers of opium and heroin until the emergence of Afghanistan as a drugs production hub.

Myanmar's eastern Shan State accounts for nearly all of the illegal poppy cultivation in the country, which remains the world's second largest opium producer.

Much of the raw material is believed to be smuggled across the border for processing into heroin in China, which is home to the world's largest number of addicts.