|New Drug Restrictions Focus on Migrants|
By Sai Silp
May 19, 2006
The Irrawady News Magazine - Burma
Thai officials have stepped up surveillance of small, independent drug traffickers, and new measures are now targeting migrant workers from neighboring countries.
Sukhum Opartnipat, an official with the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, said that the number of Thai nationals engaged in drug trafficking has fallen, while at the same time the number of traffickers among migrant workers from Burma, Laos and Cambodia has increased.
“They work like an ‘ant army,’ little by little, not a big amount [of drugs] but a continuous one,” said Sukhum. “So, they are in our focus.He added that the most popular drugs—particularly among teenagers—remain methamphetamines and ecstasy. Drug users are increasingly avoiding clubs and bars, choosing instead to consume drugs at home or in more private places.
This is in response to greater surveillance by Thai officials, who fear an increase in drug use across the country.
After a meeting on Friday with outgoing Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Pol Lt-Gen Kritsana Polanan, the general-secretary of ONCB, said that the demand for drugs has increased in the last two months in view of the higher frequency of drug arrests, the Thai daily newspaper Matichon reported on Friday.
Kritsana said that the most popular entry point for drugs in Thailand is still in the north, which accounts for about 79 percent of the country’s drug supply. But drug routes have shifted from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai.
An official from the Chiang Rai provincial police said that the shift may be the result of increased checkpoints along border roads in the province—not only the road from Mae Sai.
“They [traffickers] use new routes in Chiang Mai (which borders Burma’s Shan State), and in Wiang Kaen district, Payao province and further south.”
Authorities in Chiang Rai have identified some 45 points of access for drugs along the borders with Burma and Laos. Checkpoints in these areas will be increased during long holidays that are considered peak trafficking times.
Thai drug officials also plan this year to provide treatment for 20,000 people addicted to drugs, according to Kritsana. The program will be funded by the government with a budget of 100 million baht (approximately US $2.5 million).
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