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Thailand blames Myanmar after massive drug haul

BANGKOK: A senior Thai politician on Thursday accused neighbouring Myanmar of failing to tackle drug production after 3.3 million amphetamine tablets were seized in Bangkok.

The haul, with a street value of $350,000 and believed to be one of the biggest on record in Thailand, has prompted fears of a surge in the amount of drugs pouring into the kingdom.

"They (the pills) were produced inside Myanmar by the Wa ethnic group," Chalerm Yubamrung, a deputy prime minister in charge of a nationwide blitz on drugs, told reporters of Wednesday's seizure.

The Wa live in an autonomous region in northern Shan state, bordering China and Laos, and are believed to have a thousands-strong army that analysts say is sustained by drug money.

Notorious for their isolation and fierce tribal loyalty, drug barons in the area are believed to have turned from opium to amphetamine production over recent years.

Thai border troops have said 500 million amphetamine pills are waiting to be smuggled from Myanmar, Chalerm said, adding the government will boost patrols to contain the situation.

"We have to be straightforward otherwise we cannot solve the drugs problem... I will ask China to exert its influence on Myanmar," he added.

The outspoken politician also blamed Taiwanese and Indian manufacturers for an influx of base chemicals used to make synthetic drugs and hit out at human rights groups who oppose his idea of swift execution for convicted drug traffickers.

Thailand's Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) says nearly 360,000 people were arrested on drugs charges over the last year, while 72.5 million amphetamine pills have been seized in that period.

Across the border Myanmar authorities have recently warned the country faces a deepening drug crisis after a surge in pill hauls in anti-drug operations.

 

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