Mekong nations launch fresh drug blitz

Mekong nations launch fresh drug blitz

Countries in the Mekong region have launched the third phase of drug crackdowns along the Mekong River and in the Golden Triangle. 

Narong Rattanakul, secretary-general of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, yesterday revealed progress in the Safe Mekong Joint Operation to combat drug trafficking in the region under the third phase, which begins this year and runs until 2018. 

The first phase of the multinational anti-drug drive started in 2013. 

This year, the number of countries involved in anti-drug operations along the Mekong River have increased from four to six, with Cambodia and Vietnam joining Thailand, China, Myanmar and Laos.

Under a recent agreement concluded for the third phase, member countries will work together to intercept precursors and chemicals used in drug production and prevent them from reaching narcotics production bases.

The crackdown will also focus on blocking drug-smuggling routes along the borders of each country, and increasing drug checkpoints at the Myanmar-Laos Friendship Bridge and the Soap Loi port in Myanmar opposite Chiang Saen port in Chiang Rai, Mr Narong said. Joint patrols by member countries will also be stepped up along the river to look for vessels used for smuggling drugs.

They will also raid areas that serve as transit points for drug distribution on the river and in the Golden Triangle, Mr Narong said. The Golden Triangle is one of the world's largest illicit drugs-producing areas.

He added that member countries will set up joint investigation teams to track down drug kingpins, trace their money trails and share information on money laundering probes.

Alternative development projects will be introduced to improve the livelihood of residents in border villages plagued with drug problems in each country, Mr Narong said.

Prasong Rattanaphan, director of the Safe Mekong Coordination Centre based in Chiang Mai, said the joint anti-drug operations have significantly reduced drug smuggling along the river.

During last year's joint operations involving Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and China, more than 7,900 drug suspects were arrested, with more than 104 million methamphetamine pills, 286kg of crystal meth, 333kg of heroin, and more than 40 tonnes of drug precursors were confiscated, Mr Prasong said.

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