Test mistook stain remover for ketamine

Test mistook stain remover for ketamine

Forensic police and Department of Medical Sciences officials examine powder seized from a Chachoengsao warehouse on Nov 12. (Photo by Arnun Chonmahatrakool)
Forensic police and Department of Medical Sciences officials examine powder seized from a Chachoengsao warehouse on Nov 12. (Photo by Arnun Chonmahatrakool)

Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin yesterday confirmed that some the 11.5 tonnes of white powder seized from a warehouse in Chachoengsao on Nov 12 is trisodium phosphate, not ketamine as previously stated.

Trisodium phosphate is an inorganic compound used as a cleaning agent, builder (water softener), lubricant, food additive, stain remover and de-greaser.

The minister blamed preliminary test results of the seized substance using test kits for confusing the drug suppression officials handling the substance, saying as the liquid in the test kits used on the substance turned a purplish colour, the substance was assumed to be ketamine at the time of the Nov 12 warehouse raid.

But when later tested again in a proper laboratory by the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), at least 66 sacks of the seized substance were confirmed to be trisodium phosphate, and the rest were being tested again, said the minister.

He said he had to admit that it was a mistake in testing the seized substance that caused it to be mistaken for ketamine.

It was a mistake that the ONCB had never made before, he said referring to the purplish colour results shown by the test kits used during the Nov 12 raid.

He said he would bow to constructive criticism regarding the reliability of both the ministry and the ONCB, adding those responsible for this major gaffe will be held accountable.

And to clear up doubts raised over the seized substance, the ONCB was seeking cooperation from the Central Police Forensic Science Division and the Department of Medical Sciences to again separately test and analyse the substance in their own laboratories, he said.

Results from the different labs are expected next week, he said, adding that any other organisations interested in jointly testing the substance are welcome to do so.

He insisted that the entire haul remains intact and has not been split up.

"I have to admit that it was too soon to hold a press conference to announce findings from the Nov 12 raid [without waiting for lab test results first]," he said.

But the raid was carried out after the ONCB had been notified about a ketamine crackdown in Taiwan, believed to have been related to the substance that was found in the Chachoengsao warehouse.

It had also successfully traced the source of the seized ketamine before connecting the raided warehouse with the ketamine seized in Taiwan, he said.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) alerted the ministry to a similar problem that occurred in two to three countries previously and this was the first time it happened in Thailand, he said.

Police are investigating where the seized substance came from.

At this point it is believed to have been intended to be used to conceal drugs that are white in colour, resembling ketamine, ONCB secretary-general Wichai Chaimongkol said.

False information about the raid has been posted online, misleading the public and discrediting several people not involved in it, said Mr Somsak.

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