1.2 million Thais are addicted to drugs

CHIANG MAI - The Interior Ministry and the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) yesterday revealed that there were 1.2 million drug addicts in Thailand, some as young as 11 years old.

The authority urged stricter and more integrated anti-drug measures in the Northern region as drug gangs smuggled drugs through the north to other regions.

Interior Ministry officials, police, provincial and local administration organisation representatives in 17 northern provinces attended the meeting at Chiang Mai Phukham Hotel to receive the "Power of the Land to Win Over Illicit Drugs" policy and guidelines for 2012.

ONCB secretary-general Adul Saengsingkaew said that ONCB oversaw the preventive measure to guard some 60,000 Thai villages nation-wide from drug crimes under the leadership of Deputy PM Chalerm Yoobamrung.

He added that the drug-plagued areas also had more frequent thefts, rising number of addicts, and increasing number of knife-point hostages and self-afflicted injuries.

Deputy permanent secretary for Interior Pracha Terat said civil servants involved in drug dealing must be fired.

ONCB deputy secretary-general Permpong Chavalit said that the narcotics outbreak, especially Yaba and crystal meth, covered 70 per cent of the Thai villages.

While more than 300,000 addicts underwent drug rehabilitation. Drug rehabilitation costs the government about Bt12 billion ($483 million).

According to him, drug-abusing newbies rose by 70 per cent and among them were youths as young as 11 years old.

He added that police handled around 200,000 drug-related cases per year.

Adul also presided over a separate press conference about the 50,000 Yaba tablets, two blocks of raw opium, and three grenades seized after Thai officers clashed with a 10-strong armed drug-smuggling gang in the border area of Chiang Rai's Mae Chan district at 2am yesterday.

One suspect was killed and two suspects were arrested, whilst seven others fled.

It was also reported that the opium growing areas in the Southern Shan State in Burma last year grew to 36,000 rai that could produce 14 tons of heroin.

There were seven tons of heroin to be smuggled to and sold in other countries.

Hence this year would see more drug smuggling attempts through Thai northern borders.

Adul also urged related agencies to watch for suspicious chemical experts and heroin- smuggling through northern borders.

He also advised the post offices to be stricter on package mailing after drugs were reportedly mailed to customers.

Meanwhile, Metropolitan Police announced the arrest of drug suspect Neung Daengsri, 25, along with a kilogram of crystal meth and 40,000 Yaba tablets worth Bt11 million.

This arrest stemmed from the March 27, 2011 arrest of three members of the Khao Bin Prison drug-dealing ring.

Despite police findings that he did this times before, Neung, a former youth football star and son of a national marathon runner, reportedly confessed to deal Yaba only two times because he owed Bt1 million in football gambling debt.

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