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UNODC Thai joint mission assesses trafficking along the border with Lao PDR

Nong Khai (Thailand), 18 March 2021
- A joint team of UNODC and Thai authorities completed a two-day assessment of the border with Lao PDR in the northeast of Thailand to examine and consider recent trafficking patterns and organized crime developments.

The mission started with a meeting at the Surasak Montri Task Force Centre of Army Region 2, including in-depth briefings from the Royal Thai Army and the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) on the area’s intensifying drug challenges, trafficking routes and latest trends. UNODC Regional Representative Jeremy Douglas remarked, “The Laos border is being heavily used by traffickers to move drugs from the Golden Triangle into Thailand and then onwards for the regional and inter-regional drug trade, especially crystal methamphetamine, but also ketamine and heroin. Trafficking of people and the smuggling of migrants, as well as illicit wildlife and timber trafficking, are also major challenges in the northeast, and precursor chemicals are going back the other way for illicit drug production in Myanmar.” He added, “It has been important to meet with and hear from authorities and local citizens who are concerned and asking for help. A large part of the solution lies across the border in Laos, and we will be talking to authorities there about the situation and improving cross-border cooperation.”

The field mission, which is part of a series of UNODC vulnerability assessments conducted along major entry points of illicit commodities into Thailand, follows a large increase in two-way flows of illicit drugs and chemicals, and other contraband, transiting Laos. The trend has shown no sign of slowing down despite the partial closure of the border and decrease in official trade due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and authorities have noted mounting challenges along the border between Thailand and Laos, particularly on the Mekong River.

Aside from the Army and ONCB, the assessment mission included meetings with the Vice Governor of Nong Khai, and meetings and briefings with the Royal Thai Police and local security volunteers in Tambon Sikai along the Mekong where a recent seizure of 5.6 million methamphetamine tablets took place, with the Royal Thai Navy Riverine Unit in Nong Khai, and with Customs at the first Laos-Thai Friendship Bridge. The joint Thai - UNODC assessment and mission team was also briefed at legal and illegal border crossing points, including the at key trafficking routes along the Mekong river.

UNODC has been liaising and working with partners in East and Southeast Asia since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown to study and respond to related risks, including by assessing cross-border movements and trends in the Mekong.

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