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Raids fuel hike in heroin price

                                        October 31, 1998 

 Raids fuel hike in
 heroin price

 Agents doubt motives in Burmese action

 Burmese troops have mounted a series of attacks on heroin
 refineries, driving up the price of the drug in Thailand by 20 percent,
 an anti-narcotics official said yesterday in Chiang Mai.

 The price in Bangkok of a standard 700-gramme package of grade 4
 heroin, the highest quality, has jumped to about 2.5 million baht from
 1.9 million baht, said the official.

 The price hike has also been caused by a seasonal shortage of opium
 - from which heroin is derived - since the new harvesting season
 usually begins at the end of December.

 But the main pressure came from a Burmese offensive which began
 two weeks ago, when six battalions, each with about 500 troops,
 were sent to wipe out heroin refineries along the border with Thailand,
 said the official, who works with the police narcotics suppression

 All the drug refineries are believed to be guarded by heavily armed
 guerrillas belonging to ethnic minority groups, he said.

 Military intelligence officers question whether the stepped up attacks
 represent a genuine crackdown on the narcotics trade, because of
 suspicions that several senior officers in the Burmese army's Eastern
 Command may have been receiving protection money from the drug
 traffickers, he said.

 They also believe that some of the opium confiscated by the Burmese
 military has been channeled back into the market by corrupt officials,
 he added.

 Burmese troops last week attacked a heroin refinery near Mong Thaw
 in the southern part of Shan state, killing two armed guards and
 forcing 50 guards and 20 laboratory workers to flee to Thailand,
 intelligence sources said.

 The guards are believed to have formerly worked for one-time drug
 lord Khun Sa, who commanded the 10,000-man self-styled Mong Tai
 Army until his surrender almost three years ago.

 A Burmese government press statement issued Thursday claimed that
 62 remnants of the Mong Tai Army had surrendered last week after
 "realising that their destructive acts did not benefit the nation".

 It is believed that surrendered troops were guards who fled from the
 refinery near Mong Thaw.

 Meanwhile, an extradition order on Praphan Thongchaisawang, an
 accomplice of alleged drug kingpin Li Yun-chung, was upheld in the
 Bangkok Appeals Court yesterday.

 Praphan and Li are accused in the United States of importing 486kg
 of heroin on March 20, 1991. Li was earlier deported to the US to
 stand trial.

 Praphan claimed he was the victim of mistaken identity but the court
 said evidence provided by the US Drug Enforcement Agency was

 Meanwhile, a man and a woman were charged with making
 amphetamines yesterday.

 Acting on a tip, police nabbed Narong Chaemchuen, 39, at Ariston
 condominium in Soi Wat Dan, off Srinakarin Road in Samut Prakan
 province, and found 200 speed pills and a handgun in his possession.

 In a subsequent search of his room, Wassana Tumthong, 42, was
 found using a machine to produce amphetamines. Police recovered
 2,000 pills, a bottle of amphetamine concentrate and two boxes of
 corn flour.

 The two said they produced 1,000 pills a day and sold them at 40
 baht each. - AP/Bangkok Post



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 Last Modified: Sun, Nov 1, 1998
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