Ketamine yet to be found in 11.5-tonne drug bust

Ketamine yet to be found in 11.5-tonne drug bust

Trisodium phosphate but no horse drug found in 14% of product tested so far

Officials inspect some of the sacks, believed to contain a total of 11.5 tonnes of ketamine, seized at a warehouse in Chachoengsao on Nov 12. (Reuters photo)
Officials inspect some of the sacks, believed to contain a total of 11.5 tonnes of ketamine, seized at a warehouse in Chachoengsao on Nov 12. (Reuters photo)

Not all of the 11.5 tonnes of the product seized during what was billed as the country's biggest-ever drug haul in Chachoengsao province last week is ketamine, according to the Narcotics Control Board (NCB).

NCB secretary-general Vichai Chaimongkol on Saturday took members of the media to see the product that was being stored securely at the NCB Region 1 office.

The move came after criticism that there had been no progress since the massive haul — the largest in Thai history if it was confirmed — was reported last week.

Thailand made worldwide headlines on Nov 12 after drug officials found 11.5 tonnes of what they said was ketamine at a warehouse in Chachoengsao. The product had a market value of 28.7 billion baht oficials said. 

NCB officials admitted on Saturday that initial sample-testing at the warehouse in the eastern province found a purple-coloured product that looked like ketamine. However, after sample-testing 66 sacks of the 475 in total at a laboratory, the product turned out to be trisodium phosphate, not ketamine. Each sack contained 25kg of the product.

The NCB plans to invite representatives of related agencies and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to join its officials in testing the contents of the remaining 406 sacks and checking whether ketamine was hidden in any of them, as tipped by their Taiwanese counterparts.

On Sept 29, Taiwanese drug authorities seized 300kg of ketamine hidden in similar sacks. They alerted Thai officials, leading to the search and crackdown in Thailand. They also asked Thais to check the source since the product seized in Taiwan had been shipped from Thailand.

NCB officials subsequently checked warehouses in Chachoengsao and found the sacks that looked like what the Taiwanese had described to them.

Although the lab testing has yet to find ketamine, a crime had been committed and suspects were caught in Taiwan. Thai officials would proceed with it as an international case, said Mr Vichai.

The owner of the warehouse was a Chiang Mai native, he said. The origin of the product was China but intelligence information indicated it might have been sent from the Golden Triangle.  

Trisodium phosphate is a compound used in pharmaceutical and food production. Scientists say it is possible that its colour is purple and ketamine might be put in boxes and buried in it. 

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