Rising drug seizures including tonnes of crystal methamphetamine, more death sentences and tens of thousands of arrests in just weeks do not tell us Thailand is winning the war on drugs. In fact, it only confirms it is losing it. Drug barons on the kingdom’s borders are growing more successful at peddling their poison and misery to millions in the country and globally. Now, we hear in parliament reports that the same evil may be spreading its corrupting tentacles into the police force.
The growing and insidious threat to Thailand from across its borders in the Golden Triangle was raised by the opposition last week during the no-confidence motion against the government which saw parliament being told that top police officers may be acting in cahoots with the drug lords. On Monday, the National Police Commissioner set up a top priority investigation into the claims headed by two senior police officials.
The National Police Commissioner, Suwat Jangyodsuk, has ordered a full investigation into sensational allegations raised by the opposition benches during last week’s censure debate on the government, alleging senior police officers may have been involved in a plot to smuggle 1.9 tonnes of crystal methamphetamine across the border from Myanmar into Tak province in October 2019, an operation which was foiled by Thai security agencies.
In parliament, it was suggested a police colonel and a lieutenant general were linked with the conspiracy to import the illicit substances fuelling a drugs boom in the kingdom.
Two top police officers assigned to investigate and report on the claims within a week to the police chief
The police chief, General Suwat, has assigned two top police commanders to lead the probe.
They are Police General Manu Mekmok who is the chief of the National Command Centre for Combating Drugs (NCCD). He will be joined by Police Lieutenant General Montri Yimyaem who is the head of the Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB).
The officers are due to report their findings within a week.
Difficult to prove such claims
The allegations in parliament were also addressed by Police Major General Yingyot Thepjamnong, a force spokesman.
He disclosed that the Royal Thai Police were aware of the charges but explained that it is a difficult proposition to prove the complicity of senior key officials in serious criminal activity.
However, he assured the public that top police officers would ‘try their best’ to get to the bottom of the matter.
Central Investigation Bureau Chief launches defamation action over a Facebook page exposé
This followed reports that the boss of the Central Investigation Bureau, Police Lieutenant General Torsak Sukwimol, has assigned one of his senior officers, Police Lieutenant Colonel Ekkasit To-adithep to file defamation charges against a Facebook page which is published under the name Sanap Sanun Patibatkan Tamruat or ‘We support police operations’.
The case is to be filed through the Crime Suppression Division and alleges that the top police commander’s photo was used in a way that could have sown confusion among the public after it reported on his involvement in a high profile 2019 drug trafficking case.
It is understood an investigation was previously carried out by Provincial Police Region 6 into the alleged involvement of the top officer in the case which categorically cleared him of any malfeasance.
Scale of Golden Triangle drug production capability feeding into a bigger Thai drugs problem locally
The scale of drug production activity across Thailand’s border in the Golden Triangle area between the kingdom, Myanmar and Laos is a growing cause of concern for Thai authorities.
In a crackdown launched by police from December 2020 to January 2021 alone, over 76,000 people were arrested with massive amounts of drugs seized.
This included 47.5 million methamphetamine tablets, 1.9 tonnes of crystal methamphetamine and 260 kgs of heroin.
The Golden Triangle region is a place at the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong rivers bordering Thailand, Myanmar and Laos.
Sons of former Kuomintang drug lord sentenced to death for heroin trafficking in 2019 while in prison
The police and the courts are fighting back hard but for each drug baron jailed, more rise to take their place.
Last week in Bangkok, the Criminal Court sentenced two sons of a former Kuomintang drug lord, Lao Ta Saenlee, to death during a video conference from prison where they were already serving life sentences.
Preecha Seaelee and his brother Amnart Saenlee were found guilty of heroin trafficking and money laundering.
Three other defendants received life terms and were also in jail while being sentenced having been refused bail by the courts.
All had been arrested by police in September 2019 as they tried to ship a huge heroin load south from the Fang district of Chiang Mai to Sungai Kolok in Narathiwat province.
The brothers had earlier received a life sentence for selling 20kg of crystal methamphetamine in 2017.
Their father, Mr Lao Ta, his wife Asa Ma Saenlee and two other sons were also convicted by the court on drug trafficking charges in 2016.
UN body says representative drug barons have mastered narcotic production technology
It comes as the UN body with oversight of the war on drugs in the region, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, is warning yet again that drug lords operating within militia-controlled mini-states in the border region of Myanmar have made further gains in their ability to produce illicit substances more easily and cheaper.
‘It is increasingly clear organised crime are using pre-precursors and have particularly impressive capacities in place to produce their own precursors — something nobody understood until recently,’ Jeremy Douglas, the representative of the body said last week.
This follows rising output from the key global source of illicit narcotics over the last decade with swingeing falls in prices being charged.
Falling precursor seizures, bigger product seizures clearly tell a story of rising and cheaper output
Mr Douglas drew attention to falling levels of seizures for key components of chemical drugs such as pseudoephedrine and ephedrine within Myanmar and other jurisdictions in direct proportion to rapidly escalating levels of product seizures delivered out of the Golden Triangle which from 2017 to 2019 rose by 69% to 139 tonnes and continues to grow exponentially.
The conclusion is that the drug barons are progressively moving towards self-sufficiency in production which is resulting in lower costs and potentially unlimited capacity.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan has ordered tougher action against the threat
The developments within the Golden Triangle are increasingly gaining the attention of top security chiefs in Thailand.
Earlier in February, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan ordered the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) to step up operations to fight the drug labs and factories pumping their poisonous product into the kingdom.
A spokesman for the DPM who has a special role in security matters, Lieutenant General Koncheep Tantravanich, suggested that recent intelligence shows a 400% decrease in the production costs to drug lords and this has led to a spike of drug shipments into Thailand.
‘The amount seized from late last year until early this year has risen dramatically,’ Lieutenant General Koncheep told the press.
Police Chief is also proactive, leading the raid which tracked down ‘Lupus Taiwan’ in January
As well as the fight against the drug traffickers coming across borders, the National Police Commissioner is also leading a crackdown on drug dealing activity within the kingdom.
At the end of January, he personally led an operation that nabbed a high rolling drug dealer who flitted around Bangkok staying in four high-end apartments to avoid police having arrived on a Thai Airways flight eight years ago on a false passport from Taiwan.
Thai police had nicknamed him ‘Lupus Taiwan’ due to his elusive nature as they tried for a long time to track him down.
Police had linked 38-year-old Chou Yi Shen to the infamous ‘K Nompong’ drug mixture which took the lives of 11 drug addicts in the city weeks ago.