Thai and Lao patrol boats ply the Mekong River in Chiang Saen district of Chiang Rai, in a joint operation to thwart drug trafficking, in September 2015. (Tawatchai Kemgumnerd photo)
NAKHON PHANOM — A larger quantity of dried marijuana has been smuggled across the Mekong River into the country this year as persistent heavy rain brought by storms has raised the water level, making it easier to smuggle drugs across the border, according to Mekong Riverine Unit commander Rear Admiral Warah Thaenkham.
Rear Adm Warah said that during the first eight months of this year, about six tonnes of dried marijuana and more than 400,000 methamphetamine pills smuggled across the Mekong River from Laos have been seized in provinces along the river, particularly Nakhon Phanom.
During the whole of 2016, about six tonnes of dried marijuana and 300,000 methamphetamine pills were seized.
He said the river’s high water level makes it easier for smugglers to ship the contraband across the border because they don’t have to detour around small islands that appear in the river when water levels are low. They can now operate long-tail boats directly from one side to the other during both day and night, making it more difficult for Thai authorities to intercept them. Each boat usually carries 50 – 300 kilogrammes of dried marijuana.
After being smuggled across the river, the marijuana is usually brought to storage areas before being distributed to other parts of the country.
The Mekong Riverine Unit of the navy is responsible for patrolling the Mekong River from Chiang Rai province in the North to Ubon Ratchathani in the Northeast. It is tasked with maintaining law and order and preventing smuggling of contraband.