Chopper used in Thai drug bust

THAILAND - A helicopter hovered over a forest zone in Pathum Thani for more than 40 minutes yesterday morning in support of an operation to arrest four suspected methamphetamine manufacturers, including a municipal councillor.

The suspects were Banjerd Yodmali, Kamon Chamcheun, Somsak Puangmalee, and Jakkrit Sudkid. Banjerd is a councillor of Ta Khlong Municipality in Pathum Thani's Klong Luang district. His younger brother, Pradit Yodmali, was arrested on drug-related charges two years ago.

Narcotics Suppression Bureau commissioner Lt-General Atithep Panjamanon said police had monitored the gang for seven or eight months before making the arrests.

"Three days ago, we received reliable information the gang had taken methamphetamine pills out of the house. So we planned the raid and arrest," he said.

The four suspects had rented the house by a forest. When police knocked on their door at 6am yesterday, they fled into the forest zone, prompting police to fan out and deploy the helicopter. After more than 40 minutes, the suspects surrendered.

Police say they found precursor chemicals for methamphetamine, lots of plastic bags, a pill-making machine, and some methamphetamine pills inside the rented house.

"The machine can churn out more than 300,000 pills an hour. It is manually operated and does not make a loud noise," Atithep said.

He said the suspects would be detained for further questioning. Banjerd's financial transactions would be probed and his list of assets checked.

Meanwhile, Narcotics Control Office Region 6 director Janya Sramatcha said the drugs scourge was serious in the lower Northern region where his office oversees nine provinces.

"The problem is spreading among youth and former convicted drug-related offenders," he said.