29 Oct 2009

Big Drug Bust in Chiang Rai Thailand

"Soldiers in the northern border province of Chiang Rai have seized 500,000 methamphetamine pills and two kilogrammes of crystal meth, also known as "ice"." The street value was estimated at 150 million baht - that's about $5... sorry, $5 million.

OK, not earth-shattering news but the bust took place in the border town of Mae Sai, which made me smile as smuggling seems to be the town's main industry.

I was there a couple of years ago to do one of many tedious visa renewal trips. The no-man's-land buffering Thailand and Myanmar was a sleepy run-down place, unlike the one in Aranyaprathet which has spawned a whole casino industry.

Most borders seem to have a so-called Friendship Bridge which, ironically, serves to remind one of hostilities rather than comradeship. In Mae Sai the rather plain bridge spanned what can best be described as a canal and, rather like Venice, this narrow strip of water was flanked by buildings maybe 3 or 4 storeys high. As I ambled across I could see guys lobbing cardboard boxes across the canal. As there was a perfectly good bridge to cart them across I naturally assumed the said boxes were not going to make it into the trade statistics of either country.

One Myanmar border policeman looked on in disdain. Some things do not need translating and this guy looked dumbfounded at the sheer stupidity and hugely annoyed that it meant him doing some work. It was hot. Nobody wants to work when it's hot - apart from smugglers.

So, the idea of slinging a few kilos of speed across a lazy slither of water isn't that unlikely. Whatever happened to the nearby Golden Triangle?

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