Over 20,000 arrested in Thai war on drugs

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Under the current narcotics crackdown, police say they have arrested more than 20,000 people in numerous raids across the country, and seized 1.6 million amphetamine tablets and other illegal drugs worth more than Bt100 million.

Meanwhile, a senior officer with Satun police was suspended after ecstasy pills and “ice” flakes were found in his Songkhla home. At a news conference, Pol LtColonel Natthawat Phongrakthai was branded “very bad” for his alleged drug dealings as he is a policeman.

In a separate case, Pol Sr SgtMajor Phairoj Wongsrikaew was arrested at a Surat Thani checkpoint while allegedly transporting 120,000 amphetamine tablets. The suspect was discharged for similar drug dealing two years ago.
In the nationwide crackdown, police raided homes in 4,655 communities and arrested 21,130 people suspected of either using or dealing drugs among other crimes. Police seized 295 kilograms of marijuana, 8.5kg of “ice” flakes and a large number of illegal firearms, national police chief Pol General Wichean Potephosree told a news conference yesterday.

He said an assessment of the crackdown would be conducted on January 21, when the crackdown had been in effect for one month, and further raids would be conducted in the meantime.
Of the 21,130 suspects, 2,573 were arrested in eight Western provinces under the jurisdiction of Regional Police Bureau 7. Also seized were 269 handguns, including 44 illegal weapons, which police were used in gunforhire rackets, for which the region is known.

Police in Surat Thani expressed concern over extensive use of legal firearms by gangs to escort drug transports, and called on the provincial governor’s office to use extra caution in issuing firearm licences.
In the jurisdiction of Regional Police Bureau 8, which covers Surat Thani and other provinces in the upper South, 638 alleged drug dealers and 595 alleged users were arrested and 53 legal handguns were seized.
The Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) anticipates a drop in overall drug abuse after the arrests of more than 3,000 smalltime drug dealers during the crackdown, saying the a longterm drop would occur if the price of drugs soared soon.

ONCB secretarygeneral Sureeprapha Traiwate said the higher prices would indicate some success of the government’s crackdown. “Overall drug abuse and import will decrease, and should result also in a decrease in the number of drug users.”

She said the ONCB would discuss with the government and relevant agencies accommodation, rehabilitation and shelter of a large number of drug users both during and after the crackdown.
A meeting between relevant agencies and all provincial governors is scheduled for January 14 next Friday to coordinate local drug suppression programmes, she said.

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