The flow of drugs between Thailand and Cambodia has slowed markedly into northwestern towns since the closure of the frontier in the wake of the Jan 29 anti-Thai riots in Phnom Penh and Thailand’s recently launched “war on drugs,” police and anti-narcotics officials said on Monday.
Anti-drug officials, however, fear the cross-border narcotics trade could be transplanted to alternatives routes through Laos and into Stung Treng province.
Drug smuggling and dealing have been reduced noticeably in Banteay Meanchey province in recent weeks, particularly in Poipet town, provincial Deputy Police Chief Chhoeun Sokhom said on Monday.
“Since the border was closed the situation of drug use and sales has calmed down,” Chhoeun Sokhom said.
Nuth Ly, police chief in Poipet town, said Thai border security have sealed all the illegal border crossing points, and the frontier crackdown has slowed the sale of drugs.
“We strictly ban our people passing by the illegal checkpoint. It’s dangerous for them,” Nuth Ly said.
Earlier this month, a 34 year-old Cambodian man was shot dead by Thai police after crossing the border illegally. Thai police said they found 50 methamphetamine pills on the dead man’s body and accused him of also attempting to steal motorcycles.
In Battambang province, sources for the UN report a four-fold increase in the price of methamphetamines, a price hike that indicates supply routes have been seriously hampered since the border closure, Graham Shaw of the UN Office for Drugs and Crime said.
The sources in Battambang reported a single methamphetamine pill has rocketed in price from around $1 per tablet to almost $4, Shaw said on Monday.
“It’s a clear indication that when a real crackdown takes place it can have a direct affect of the supply of drugs in Cambodia,” Shaw said.
While Thailand closed its border with Cambodia following the Jan 29 riots—and restrictions still remain in place—Thai authorities are in the midst of a controversial war on drugs that has resulted in 22 suspects being shot dead by police in a little more than three weeks, according to Thai authorities.
A further 588 alleged drug traffickers have been killed by drug gang members, who are believed to be scrambling to protect themselves from capture.
Agence France-Presse reported on Monday that more than 21,000 drug suspects have also been arrested in Thailand and 8.5 million methamphetamine pills seized.
“Since January 29 and the Thai closure of the border, the use and selling of drugs is quieter than before,” said Im Dara, deputy commander of Battambang Provincial Military Police.
Reports of drug busts in Stung Treng last week could also indicate a surge in drug smuggling through northeastern Cambodian as traffickers look for routes that bypass Thailand and the re-enforced border.
Two suspected drug smugglers were arrested in the province last week with a total of 26,000 methamphetamine pills destined for Phnom Penh, Stung Treng Provincial Police Chief Loong Lim said on Monday.
Stung Treng has been fingered as a major smuggling route for drugs produced in the Golden Triangle region—bordering Burma, Thailand and Laos—and trafficked to Cambodia for local consumption or international trans-shipment.