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Neighbour countries increase drugs

Subject: Neighbour countries increase drugs inflow 

                                       November 23, 1998 

 Border supplies
 compound the

 Neighbour countries increase drugs inflow

 Anjira Assavanonda 
 Chiang Rai

 Being the border province in northern Thailand, Chiang Rai has been
 noted as the major route for drug smuggling into the country and
 concerned authorities are admitting one major factor which has
 aggravated the problem is the spread of drugs in neighbouring

 A source in the Northern Narcotics Control Office (NNCO) in
 Chiang Rai said drug abuse is a cross-border problem which needs
 solutions and cooperations at a bilateral level.

 A report of the NNCO revealed that while planting areas and
 production of opium in northern Thailand are dramatically decreasing,
 drug problems still exist as the major sources are in neighbouring

 A United Nations survey found that at least 2,000 tons of opium are
 produced in Burma each year, half of which are used for local
 consumption, and the rest used to produce 80-100 tons of heroin each

 Laos is also reported to be a generating source of 200 tons of opium
 each year, but the entire amount has been used up for consumption by
 hilltribes people living in Laos and along the Thai-Lao border.

 Since 1995, heroin manufacturers in Shan state in Burma have turned
 to produce amphetamines in place of heroin because of low
 production costs, easier manufacturing processes, and stronger

 According to the NNCO report, there are five amphetamine
 producing factories along the Thai-Burmese border and about four to
 five factories along the Thai-Lao border. The produced drugs are
 smuggled into Chiang Rai through border districts such as Mae Sai,
 Maefahluang, Chiang Saen, Chiang Khong, Wiang Kaen, and Thoeng.

 In Chiang Rai, the survey between 1997 and 1998 found 1,000 rai left
 for illegal planting of opium. 

 The production amount, however, are not sufficient for consumption
 by ethnic minority groups. These highlanders therefore have to buy
 raw opium from both neighbouring countries at higher prices. (The
 price has increased from 3,000 baht to 12,000 baht per 1.6 kg.)

 There are three main routes of drug smuggling from Chiang Rai. The
 first route starts from Mae Sai district, through Mae Chan,
 Maefahluang, Chiang Saen district, before entering Phahonyothin road,
 passing Phayao province, and towards Bangkok.

 The second route starts from Chiang Rai, passing Phayao, to Song
 district of Phrae, through Uttaradit and Phitsanulok, before heading for
 Bangkok. The third route starts from Chiang Rai province, passing
 Thai-Lao border, entering Nan province, and heading towards the

 Prices of drugs are variable. Wholesale price of opium along the
 border is about 5,000-6,000 baht per one joi (1 joi=1.6 kg), while the
 retail price in the villages is about 10,000-12,000 baht per joi.

 Wholesale price of heroin at the border is about 200,000 baht per
 kilo, while the retail price is about 1.5 million baht a kilo. Wholesale
 price of amphetamines at the border is about 18-20 baht per tablet,
 while the retail price is about 60-80 baht per tablet.

 The report revealed that about 1.10 percent of population in Chiang
 Rai are drug addicts, half of them hilltribes people who use opium and
 heroin. Since 1997, amphetamines have been widespread in the city,
 particularly among students at secondary and university levels. 

 Last year, police confiscated 4.5 million tablets of amphetamines from
 1,654 suspects arrested in Chiang Rai. A report from January to
 September this year disclosed that 3.5 million amphetamine tablets
 were confiscated and this figure is expected to reach five million by the
 year end.

 Several attempts have been made over the past to manage the drug
 problem along border provinces. Highlanders are target groups
 because they are easy to become addicted or lured into the illicit drug

 For these highlanders, it is their tradition to smoke opium to alleviate
 body pain and other types of sickness. Several methods have been
 done in the past to treat hilltribe drug addicts, but those attempts failed
 due to lack of necessary skills, knowledge and follow-up measures.

 The United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP)
 has initiated a three-year sub-regional project on reducing illicit drug
 use in the highlands of East Asia. 

 The project is designed to pilot test community-based and sustainable
 approaches to illicit drug use prevention and consumption reduction
 among the ethnic highland people in Cambodia, China, Laos, Burma,
 Thailand and Vietnam.

 The project objective is "to develop community, national and
 sub-regional capabilities to reduce the illicit use of drugs and related
 social problems among selected highland ethnic minority groups."

 Three villages in Chiang Rai have been chosen for project experiment
 in Thailand. They are Baan Ah Lae in Maefahluang district, Baan
 Paendin Thong in Thoeng district and Baan Huailou of Wiang Kaen

 After one year of implementation villagers are now developing a better
 understanding about drug problems, and become participants in
 different steps. Many have agreed to quit smoking opium after realising
 that the drug could destroy their families.

 Maefahluang district chief Manas Sokanthika said poverty and a lack
 of farmland prompted a number of hilltribes people to enter the drug
 business. Though not being addicted to amphetamines, these
 highlanders became sellers and smugglers themselves.

 Nimit Wanchaithanawong, Thoeng assistant district chief, said some of
 the highlanders in his district are involved in drug rings. For example,
 some of the villagers in Ban Paendin Thong are believed to belong to
 drug gangs and so far police have been unable to reach them.



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