Bangkok Narco-Bust Tied to Cambodia

A Thai police seizure of drugs they believe emanated in Cam­bodia highlights the country’s growth as a smuggling route for Southeast Asia’s notorious “Gol­den Triangle,” a UN official said on Thursday.

Police seized 430,000 methamphetamine pills—worth some $244,000—north of Bangkok on Tuesday, Sub-Inspector Prut Chamroonsat told the Associated Press.

The police inspector said authorities are hunting for the source of the haul but they believe the drugs came from Cambodia.

Production and consumption of methamphetamines has burgeoned in Cambodia in recent years but the magnitude of the Bangkok haul would indicate it originated in Burma or Laos, a UN official said.

“It is possible [the methamphetamines] were produced in Cambodia but the quality here is still quite poor,” said Graham Shaw of the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention.

“It probably came from Burma or Laos through Stung Treng,” he said.

Smugglers are active in former Khmer Rouge areas skirting the Thai border in north and west Cambodia, where several remote border crossings with Thailand are located, Shaw said.

Stung Treng province on Cambodia’s northeastern border with Laos has increasingly been singled out by police and the UN as a major trans-shipment point for heroin and methamphetamines destined for Vietnam and other third countries.

Thailand has beefed-up anti-narcotics operations, and Cam­bodia has become a smuggler’s “backdoor” out of the “Golden Tri­angle”—the lawless drug-producing region located on the mountainous borders between Burma, Thailand and Laos, Shaw said.

A Thai security source said military operations on his country’s border with Burma were forcing drug smugglers to find new avenues out of the region.

“They are trying other ways,” the source said on condition of anonymity. But whether Cam­bodia is now a major transit route out of the triangle was still open to debate, he said.

Thai military officials said last weekend the opening of an international border crossing between O’Smach in Cambodia’s Oddar Meanchey province and Thai­land’s southern Surin province could spur increased drug and vehicle smuggling between the two countries.

Second Army commander Lieutenant General Jirasak Prom­mopakorn said he would work with the Cambodian military to halt any increase in smuggling when the border crossing opens, the Bangkok Post newspaper reported.

Thais and Cambodians are currently permitted to cross the O’Smach border on Sat­urdays, Sundays and Mondays.



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