Drug smuggling via eight provinces in the lower Northeast is of concern, judging from the numbers of cases and suspects arrested, Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin said on Sunday.
Mr Somsak spoke after meetings with officials from the Region 3 Office of Narcotic Control Board, whose area of jurisdiction covers Chaiyaphum, Nakhon Ratchasima, Buri Ram, Surin, Si Sa Ket, Yasothon, Amnat Charoen and Ubon Ratchathani in the lower Northeast.
Between October 2019-March 2020, 18,360 suspects were arrested in 17,685 drug cases in the eight provinces. The highest number of arrests was made in Ubon Ratchathani, followed by Nakhon Ratchasima and Si Sa Ket.
Most of the drugs seized were methamphetamine pills, crystal meth or ice, and marijuana.
According to Mr Somsak, drug smuggling was rife in the lower Northeast because of the long borders with Laos and Cambodia. From the lower Northeast, drugs could be further delivered to Bangkok and nearby provinces.
Although the closure of borders with Laos and Cambodia to stem the Covid-19 pandemic had made smuggling more difficult, drug smugglers had adopted new methods. One of them was for buyers to transfer money to them first, and then pick up the drugs from designated spots later.
Mr Somsak said he was considering making more use of technology to track down smuggling rings, which he hoped would lead to the arrests of ringleaders and the seizures of their assets. He did not elaborate.