Four-nation taskforce tackles Mekong triangle drug trade

In its first two operations aimed at suppressing the drug trade in the Mekong triangle, a four-nation taskforce has seized 30 tonnes of chemical precursors that could potentially produce 300 million amphetamine tablets, the secretary-general of the Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) said yesterday.

Permpong Chaovalit said between January 12 and February 18 the Safe Mekong Coordination Centre made 1,289 arrests in 1,117 raids in Thailand, China, Laos and Myanmar, member countries of the SMCC, and seized 9,444,468 amphetamine tablets, 440 kilograms of "ice" flakes, 180kg of heroin and 59kg of opium liquid.

The SMCC regards its second operation a success, he said.

Like the first operation, Thailand supervised the second operation. The operations were conducted in China's Yunnan province, Myanmar's Chan State, Laos' Bor Kaew and Nam Tha provinces and Thailand's Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son provinces.

Five major operations were conducted in China, assisted by anti-drug counterparts based in Canton and Shanghai.

In Thailand on February 11, Permpong said 447,051 tablets were seized in a series of drug raids that also saw 77 arrests and assets worth Bt65 million seized. Another 288,000 tablets were seized and three suspects arrested in a raid on January 26, he said.

In related news, Railway Police in Prachuap Khiri Khan province yesterday arrested a drug courier allegedly on his way to deliver 20,000 amphetamine tablets to a dealer in Hat Yai district in Songkhla province.

Athichai Jantharo was charged with possessing illegal narcotics with intent to sell.

He initially denied the charges but he later confessed when police showed him footage from surveillance cameras at Bang Sue train station in Bangkok, where he bought his train ticket. He was seen carrying a black bag containing the tablets, in 10 packs of 2,000 tablets.

He refused to say who hired him to transport the tablets or who would be picking them up.

The suspect, 36, also known as Jo Pattani, has a record as a drug dealer and user.