Anti-drug campaign aided by pandemic checking
More than 5,800 suspects have been arrested and 233 million methamphetamine or "speed" pills seized during a regional anti-drug campaign that has benefited from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Niyom Termrisuk, secretary-general of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), said the mushrooming number of checkpoints due to the outbreak has led to more drug arrests for the six-nation Safe Mekong Operation project.
The Safe Mekong Operation, which kicked off in 2013, saw Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and China unite in the fight against drug trafficking along the 4,880-kilometer Mekong River, which runs through each country.
"More travellers are being screened in every country, which makes drug trafficking a lot more difficult," Mr Niyom said at a press briefing on Tuesday.
"These checks scare smugglers, often forcing them to change routes or go into hiding. Some tried their luck but were arrested."
Over a four-month period ending last Friday, about 8.3 tonnes of drug precursors were seized -- enough to produce 7.9 billion speed pills or 170 tonnes of crystal meth, according to Mr Niyom.
In addition, about 233 million speed pills were confiscated over the same period, he said.
The crackdowns are focused on major smuggling routes, including the Golden Triangle -- a major narcotics production hub located where Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet at the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong rivers -- and the Thai-Cambodia border.
Mr Niyom believes international anti-drug efforts will be strengthened now that China is intensifying crackdowns after it appears to have successfully controlled the spread of Covid-19.
He said Beijing's efforts, which began on April 15, are currently focused on the southwestern province of Yunnan, near the Golden Triangle.
At present, Thailand is carrying out a surveillance mission and soldiers from the 3rd Army have been ordered to intensify patrols along northern borders across five provinces, Mr Niyom added.