Crystal methamphetamine has now begun to flood into Thailand after the Myanmar authorities recently cracked down on narcotics production and the Covid-19 pandemic caused smuggling delays, according to the country's drug tsar.
Secretary-General of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) Niyom Termsrisuk said drug traffickers have been smuggling large quantities of crystal methamphetamine hydrochloride recently to unload stock which had become stuck in the country earlier.
"As the government started to relax Covid-19 measures, drugs from the neighbouring country made a return after smuggling had been obstructed by national lockdowns as well as Myanmar's heavy crackdown on production," Mr Niyom said.
So far for the 2020 fiscal year, 11 tonnes of crystal meth have been seized by authorities in 17 separate operations. Authorities believe that most consignments were en route to third countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
"Thailand's geography, with its borders adjacent to drug production sites in the Golden Triangle, and its status as a hub that connects land, air and maritime transport make it hard for the country to avoid being used as a route to smuggle crystal meth to other regions," said the secretary-general.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has noted that Thailand and countries in the Mekong subregion are facing more severe narcotic problems, especially with crystal methamphetamine, due to the expansion of synthetic drug manufacture in the region.
According to the ONCB's operation centre, only 10.8 tonnes of the drug were seized in the whole of the 2019 fiscal year.
During the Covid-19 lockdown easing from May–July, the Thai authorities made eight arrests in relation to the smuggling of over 100kg of crystal methamphetamine, accounting for 4.3 tonnes of the year's total so far.
On July 11, Surat Thani police arrested three men for smuggling over one tonne of the drug hidden in cow dung. The defendants said they had brought the consignment from Samut Sakhon and were going to drop it in Satun province. The haul was expected to fetch 3.6 billion baht if sold abroad.
Over the past two weeks alone, officers made two consecutive arrests for drug trafficking in Surat Thani and Narathiwat and seized amounts of crystal methamphetamine weighing 2.44 tonnes in total.