Thailand Methamphetamine Bust: Police Confiscate 4 Million Pills
BANGKOK — Thai police said they confiscated more than 4 million methamphetamine tablets Friday in northern Thailand in one of the largest such seizures in the country in recent years.
The pills were seized when a pickup truck was stopped at a checkpoint early Friday morning in Chiang Rai province, which borders Myanmar, a police department statement said.
The government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, which took office last August, has declared suppression of the drug trade one of its priorities. In late January, police made another major seizure of methamphetamine, confiscating 3.8 million tablets and 156 pounds (71 kilograms) of crystal meth found hidden in an empty house in Bangkok's northern outskirts.
Thailand is a leading market and transit point for methamphetamine, much of which is produced in neighboring Myanmar.
Yingluck's brother Thaksin Shinawatra also launched a war on drugs when he was prime minister from 2001 to 2006.
The campaign was popular in some rural areas and slums where the scourge of methamphetamine had led to soaring addiction and crime. But Thaksin's war on drugs drew the ire of human rights advocates, who charged that it involved the extrajudicial executions of alleged dealers.
Thai authorities claimed then that the increased number of drug-related killings involved shootouts and infighting among traffickers.
Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubumrung, who is in charge of the current campaign, said in September that previous mistakes wouldn't be repeated and that "there will be no license to kill."
In Friday's seizure, two suspects fled after abandoning the drugs, which were packed in 34 backpacks, each containing 120,000 tablets, the police statement said.
The drug-laden backpacks were flown to Bangkok in the company of combat-equipped special unit police from Chiang Rai and were displayed at a news conference attended by Chalerm.
Chalerm told reporters that the traffickers' movement of such a large number of pills in a single shipment implied that there was a shortage of the drug in Thailand so they had to take risks to meet the market demand.
In a separate incident, police in Chiang Rai on Thursday night arrested three men they alleged were transporting 200,000 methamphetamine tablets.
Associated Press writer Thanyarat Doksone contributed to this report.