Mekong task force inspects boats destined for key ports

Mekong task force inspects boats destined for key ports

Four countries in the upper Mekong River will tighten up goods inspections on vessels travelling to major ports in a bid to crack down on transnational drug trafficking.

Authorities in China, Myanmar, Laos and Thailand will hunt for drug runners, who are rampant in the northern Mekong River, by targetting boats destined for the ports of Guan Lei (China), Muang Phong (Myanmar), Muang Mom (Laos) and Chiang Rai's Chiang Saen.

The decision to strengthen river security comes after years of crime and drugs seizures on the Mekong.

In 2011, 13 crew members on two Chinese boats were murdered on the river. An investigation revealed the culprit as a Shan drug trafficking gang, led by the notorious syndicate leader Nor Kham, who hijacked the Chinese barges and used them to smuggle drugs into Thailand.

But earlier government efforts focused only on land inspection, said Permphong Chavalit, secretary-general of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, yesterday.

The inspections, which will start next month, will require more cooperation between officials from countries in the region, according to Mr Permphong. Beijing will supply drug detection equipment and Bangkok will share its knowledge of Burmese drug networks, he said.

Thai officials will also help Nay Pyi Taw develop areas occupied by ethnic minority farmers who engage in drug production, as some armed ethnic groups in Myanmar are known to produce drugs and smuggle them into Thailand via the Mekong River, he said.

The flow of drugs, particularly methamphetamines, into Thailand continues to be a widespread problem, according to authorities.

A couple was arrested in Nakhon Pathom yesterday with 40,000 meth pills and 3kg of crystal meth, or ice.

Upon searching their home in Sam Phran district, police found an additional 250,000 meth pills and 43kg of ice.

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