CHIANG RAI: Authorities have stepped up efforts against drug smuggling from Myanmar by introducing patrols along a river in Mae Sai district.
The Pa Muang Task Force, police and customs officers have extended their patrols to cover the Ruak River in Chiang Saen district, which divides Myanmar and Thailand, the Marine Police Division said.

The joint patrols previously covered Sai Lom market to Ko Sai community in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district, opposite Tachilek in Myanmar.

The move follows a call by deputy premier Chalerm Yubamrung for a clampdown on drug trafficking along border rivers.

Mr Chalerm on Thursday voiced concern over illicit drugs that are mainly produced by armed ethnic groups in Myanmar and smuggled into Thailand. He also claimed Vietnam was a trafficking route for precursor chemicals used to manufacture the drugs.

The problem has shown no sign of abating. The United Wa State Army (UWSA) is continuing to produce methamphetamine, or ya ba, at its major bases in Mong Yawn, opposite Chiang Rai’s Mae Fa Luang district, and in Ban Hong, opposite Mae Hong Son province, according to a Pa Muang Task Force source.

” The UWSA group under Wei Hsueh-kang and Wei Tsai-tang is still producing ya ba. Myanmar’s move towards democracy has not halted drug production by some minorities,” he said.

“They want money to buy arms because they feel uneasy about [peace] talks with Nay Pyi Taw.”

Political unrest and the insurgency in the deep South have limited anti-drug efforts along northern borders in the past six years, he said. Since the 2006 coup, many soldiers have had to monitor local red shirts while others are in Yala to help deal with the unrest there.