Facing death if caught, for a measly 5,000 baht, drug mules swim across the Mekong river from Laos with loads of methamphetamines.
Read another article on smuggling along the Mekong river here. Map below of the Mekong river.
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Mekong awash with drugs, Traffickers look to new routes by Wassayos Ngamkham
Illegal drug smuggling along the Mekong River is growing rapidly with "mules" wearing special shoes and swimmers who carry guns and bombs.
Along the natural border between Thailand and Laos the US Drug Enforcement Administration is now engaged on a new battlefront to stem the flow of illegal substances.
The US DEA has been working in Thailand for years to counter the upsurge in drugs - especially methamphetamine, ice (crystal methamphetamine) and cannabis - smuggled into America from certain Asian nations through Thailand, concentrating mainly along the Burmese border and the Golden Triangle.
"These days, ya ba [methamphetamine] has become a growing problem in the US ... and it is best to tackle the drug problem at its origin,"said Sombat Chao, a US DEA special agent.
The tough crackdown on drug trafficking along the Thai-Burmese border has forced the traffickers to find alternative routes along the Thai-Lao border, said Pol Col Thanachai Phianchang, chief of Sub-Division 10 of the Marine Police Division, who oversees drugs suppression along the Mekong River in Nakhon Phanom, Ubon Ratchathani, Amnat Charoen and Mukdahan provinces.
The drugs are smuggled into Laos first and then spirited across the Mekong River into Thailand, said Pol Col Thanachai who is responsible for tackling the drug smuggling problem along the Thai-Lao border from Mukdahan down to Ubon Ratchathani
The frequency of drug smuggling from Laos into Thailand is growing quickly. The most common form of smuggling tactics is to put methamphetamine tablets in a pair of shoes modified to hide the drug.
As many as between 1,000 and 2,000 tablets of ya ba can be stuffed in one pair of shoes.
Another drug smuggling tactic is to swim across the river and drop the drugs on the Thai bank.
This tactic is far more difficult to detect and intercept as the traffickers chose isolated wooded areas to drop off the drugs where other traffickers collect them.
The Lao traffickers are very experienced at swimming across the fast-running river, said Pol Col Thanachai, adding that traffickers usually use a plastic oil container to help keep them afloat.
They normally work in teams of at least five members who each get about 5,000 baht to traffic drugs, he said.
Khemarat district of Ubon Ratchathani is seen as a "red zone" for drug trafficking from Laos. This district is opposite Songkhone district of Savannakhet province in Laos.
Ban Tha Prachum, a Lao village in Songkhone district, directly opposite Khemarat district, has become one of the largest spots for the storing of drugs waiting to be trafficked into Thailand, said Pol Col Thanachai.
Pol Lt Col Sanya Phumphothong, head of the 4th marine police checkpoint of Division 10 in Khemarat district, said the fight against drug trafficking there goes on around the clock.
By day, police officers are stationed at the border pass to search travellers upon their arrival for drugs that may have been hidden somewhere in their bodies or luggage.
By night, the marine police are also responsible for intercepting drug traffickers who swim across the river - a much more difficult task that cannot be accomplished without accurate information from informants.
Equipped with night vision telescopes, the marine police wait in hiding to grab anyone they see swimming across the river.
It's a difficult and dangerous task as these traffickers would rather die than be arrested.
They no longer carry only a gun but also a bomb. They are well aware that they face the death sentence if arrested, so they may think they have nothing to lose by clashing with the Thai authorities," said Pol Lt Col Sanya.
Contact Crime Track: email@example.com.
(Source: Bangkok Post, Mekong awash with drugs, Traffickers look to new routes, 1/08/2011, Wassayos Ngamkham, link)
Drug Suppression Vocabulary
illegal - against the law ผิดกฎหมาย, นอกกฎหมาย
illegal substances - same as "illegal drugs"
methamphetamine - an illegal drug that is a stimulant; commonly sold as tablets, known in Thai as "yaa baa" (See Wikipedia and Google Definitions)
ice (crystal methamphetamine) - more expensive form of methamphetamine that is smoken
cannabis - marijuana; the most commonly used illegal drug; considered a soft drug, it consists of the dried leaves of the hemp plant; smoked or chewed (See Wikipedia)
Golden Triangle - the area on the Thai border famous for drug production and transportation, the place where the three countries Thailand, Burma and Laos meet, China is not too far away also; the largest nearby town is Maesai, Chiang Rai (See Wikipedia)
Mekong river - the world's 12th longest river starts in the mountains of China, forms the natural border between Thailand and Laos (See Wikipedia)
seize (verb) - grab; take hold of something quickkly, firmly and forcefully
seizure (noun) - the act of taking hold of something by force
drug seizure - when the police find and take hold of a large amount of illegal drugs stored at a place
a measly 5,000 baht - the very small amount of 5,000 baht
drug mules - a person who smuggles something illegal across a national border or on an international plane, smuggling gangs employ mules to "reduce the risk of getting caught themselves, while often profiting most. The mule typically gets paid an amount which is small compared with the profit, but large for somebody with little money, so that it seems to him or her like an easy way to make money" (See Wikipedia)
load - a quantity of some object moved or transported from one place to another
a load of methamphetamines - a quantity of the illegal drug methaphetamines
crackdown - strong official action to punish lawbreakers การปราบปรามขั้นเด็ดขาด
tackling - making an organised and determined attempt to deal with a problem การรับมือ แก้ไข จัดการกับปัญหา
tackle problem - to make an organised and determined attempt to deal with a problem แก้ปัญหา, จัดการกับปัญหา
tackle problem at origin - solve the problem (at the place where the problem is created)
trafficking - buying and selling illegal goods (such as illegal drugs, stolen goods, illegal weapons, wildlife, wood, etc) (spelt "traffic" without the "ing")
traffick drugs (verb) - sell illegal drugs
drug trafficking (noun) - the crime of transporting and selling illegal drugs such as yaa baa (See Wikipedia)
traffickers - the gangs and criminals who sell illegal drugs
US Drug Enforcement Administration (US DEA) - the US government agency that works to stop drug trafficking (See Wikipedia)
suppression - stopping illegal activity การระงับ การปราบปราม การใช้กฎหมายหรือกำลังยุติกระบวนการ หรือความรุนแรง
drugs suppression - stopping the transport and sale of illegal drugs
smuggling - secretly and illegally taking goods or people into or out of a country ลักลอบขนสินค้าหรือคนเข้าและออกจากประเทศอย่างผิดกฎหมาย
awash with drugs - very large amounts of illegal drugs exist at the place
intercepting - catching a person while they are moving from one place to another place
intercepting drug traffickers- catching drug traffickers while they are moving drugs from one place to another place
tactic - a planned way of doing something ยุทธวิธี particular methods for achieving some goals (over a shorter period of time than "strategy") กลเม็ดเด็ดพราย วิธีการ ไม้เด็ด
smuggling tactic - a method for bringing goods into the country illegally
drug smuggling tactic - a method for bringing drugs into the country illegally
natural - found in nature (not made in a factory by humans) ตามธรรมชาติ
border - the official line separating two areas, regions or countries เขตแดน อาณาเขต
natural border - rivers, mountains, lakes, oceans that separate two countries (this kind of "border" is easy to see and understand)
engaged - actively involved in what you are doing
battlefront - the place where two armies contact each other and fight a battle in a war
stem - to stop something from increasing or spreading หยุดยั้ง,ยับยั้ง,สกัด
counter - to take action to oppose or stop something ต่อต้าน
upsurge - a sudden increase in something การเพิ่มขึ้นอย่างรวดเร็ว
counter upsurge - take action to stop a sudden increase in some activity
concentrating - directing your efforts towards a particular activity, subject or problem
tough - difficult to do or to deal with ยาก ยากลำบาก
alternative - another possible way, different from the usual ways; another choice ตัวเลือก / ทางเลือก
frequency - the number of times something happens within a particular period (often or rare?) ความบ่อย
common - seem often, used often, happens often
stuffed in - put into a small space with force, squeezed into a small space (example: He stuffed his shoes into the bag already full of his clothes.)
detect - to notice, to discover or find out พบได้, สังเกต
bank - a raised area of land along the side of a river ริมฝั่งแม่น้ำ
Thai bank - the Thai side of the river
intercept - to stop and catch something or someone before they are able to reach a particular place สกัด
isolated - a long way from other places ที่ห่างไกล
isolated wooded areas - places in the forest with few people
drop off the drugs - leave the drugs at a place for another person to take
afloat - floating on water ลอยอยู่ในน้ำ
traffic - the number traveling to a place during a period of time (people, aircraft, ships, trains, cars, trucks, etc.) ความหนาแน่นของจำนวนคน หรือยานพาหนะในช่วงเวลาใดช่วงเวลาหนึ่ง
marine - relating to the sea เกี่ยวกับทะเล (sea, ocean, and boats; here boats are operating along a river)
marine police - the police who operate with boats on bodies of water (rivers, sea, lakes)
checkpoint - a place where people are stopped and questioned and vehicles are examined, especially at a border between two countries ด่านตรวจ
officers - police officers (formal term for "police")
search - to look somewhere carefully in order to find something ค้นหา
arrival - when someone reaches where they are going (arrives) ขาเข้า การเข้ามา
task - a piece of work that someone does; a responsibility; work a person must do หน้าที่; ภารกิจ
accomplished - skilled ซึ่งมีทักษะ
accurate - correct, exact and without any mistakes ถูกต้อง, แม่นยำ
accurate information - correct information (the truth; without mistakes)
informants - people who give information about crimes and criminals to the police
equipment - the things used in some activity such as a job or a hobby อุปกรณ์ (equipment: a shovel is part of the equipment of a farmer used to dig holes when needed)
equipped with ... - having the equipment ...
night vision - the ability to see in low light conditions either by natural biological means or aided by technology (See Wikipedia)
telescope - a long tube with a lense to make faraway things seem closer when you look through the tube กล้องโทรทรรศน์ (See Wikipedia)
night vision telescopes - telescopes that can be used to see faraway things at night (See Wikipedia)
aware - knowing that something exists, or having knowledge or experience of a particular thing ทราบ
well aware - know very well, completely know
sentence - a punishment given by a court of law การตัดสินลงโทษ
death sentence - the punishment of death for committing a crime
authorities - government officials; the police or people in official organisations who have the legal power to make people obey laws or rules เจ้าหน้าที่ (ตำรวจ หรือผู้มีอำนาจ)