Women told to be vigilant of drugs risk

Thai women travelling abroad should not carry anyone else's luggage, as they might uniwttingly become involved in the trans-national drug trade, warns the Thai embassy in Brasilia.

Out of only 80 Thais _ including embassy staff and their family members _ living in Brazil, at least 40 Thai women have been arrested on drug charges and are in prison in Sao Paulo, Thai ambassador to Brazil Tharit Charungwat said.

He said an increasing number of Thai women have been arrested for drug trafficking in Brazil in recent years.

The number has increased despite awareness of the risks among smugglers, because of the higher pay on offer to those smuggling the drugs, the ambassador said.

Mr Tharit said he was alerted to the trend by Sao Paulo officials, who warned that Thai women were at risk of becoming the largest group of foreign nationals in Brazil's prisons.

He said Africans in Brazil had links to drug networks in Africa and lured Thai women into smuggling drugs from Latin America to Asia.

The African traffickers first gain the trust of the Thai women by marrying them and having a baby together, Mr Tharit said.

Then they trick the Thai women into taking their luggage, packed with drugs, on a trip from Brazil to Thailand.

This ploy works as Thai women are generally kind and carry the luggage for their African husbands without asking what is inside, the ambassador said.

This makes it difficult for Brazilian officials to track the traffickers, he said.

"Thai women should not carry luggage or bags for anybody, no matter how much they love and trust their husbands, as all women from Thailand leaving Brazil with African husbands will be searched," Mr Tharit said.

He said Thai officials should exchange intelligence information with Brazil to track down the drug networks.

Mr Tharit thanked local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which have stepped in to care for Thai women arrested in Brazil, and helped protect them from human rights violations.

Mr Tharit said the Thai embassy will meet the NGOs next week and donate 50,000 baht to help cover their expenses.

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Writer: Thanida Tansubhapol
Position: Reporter