Thai port fire uncovers huge drug shipment

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Authorities announce the seizure of 985kg of crystal meth hidden in 632 boxes of shoes destined for the Philippines. Bangkok Post (Narcotics Suppression Bureau photo)

BANGKOK (Bangkok Post) – A fire that engulfed cargo containers at the Laem Chabang port recently exposed a large shipment of crystal methamphetamine, or ya ice, waiting to be exported and dragged the reputation of the Seri Ruam Thai, an opposition party, through the mud.

The blaze prompted port authorities to relocate many cargo containers as damage to the charred site was assessed. Many burnt containers had to be replaced.

According to the police, one burnt cargo container in particular caught the authorities’ attention. It was declared to the customs office as holding canvass shoes destined for export to the Philippines.

The consignments had to be moved to a new container quickly if they were to have any chance of beating the export deadline.

The shipping agents lost no time transferring the goods and, in the process, one of the agents could not help but notice brown crates which, when lifted, felt too heavy for shoes.

Some of the crates were also partially burnt, which gave the agent and the officials a glimpse into the contents – many packs stamped with an emperor logo containing what looked like fine white crystal beads.

The shipping agent immediately contacted the freight forwarding company handling the cargo container. The agent suspected the contents may be illicit drugs.

The freight firm representative came and opened the packs, which revealed what they believed was drugs inside.

On June 12, undercover police at the Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) were informed of the drugs shipment and Pol Col Tinnakorn Rungmart, deputy chief of the Narcotics Suppression Division 3 (NSD3), reported the matter to his superior, NSB Commissioner Pol Lt Gen Chinnapat Sarasin.

Pol Lt Gen Chinnapat appointed his deputy, Pol Maj Gen Pornchai Charoenwong, as lead investigator of a team to probe the cargo haul. Meanwhile, Pol Col Thannakorn headed the police unit which worked on the ground to scour for information.

Pol Col Tinnakorn said his unit had met the shipping agent who stumbled on the drugs and examined the cargo which tested positive as ya ice.

The unit then devised a plot to lure the masterminds out of the shadows. The freight forwarding firm called two Chinese men, identified as Filuang Gloxion, 25, and Zhou Qiangch, 85, who were waiting to receive the shipments in the Philippines and told them about the Laem Chabang port fire. The firm asked the Chinese to book the next flight to Thailand to deal with the damaged cargo.

Pol Col Tinnakorn said that around that time the firm was contacted by Suban Mahachanon, 57, who claimed to be a lawyer for the Chinese duo, and Joy Yaekang, 55, who delivered the “shoe” shipment to the port. They tried to negotiate with the firm to export the shipment at the earliest possible opportunity.

“At that point, I sent undercover officers posing as shipping agents to monitor developments with the help of the agent who first discovered the drugs,” Pol Col Tinnakorn said.

”Mr Suban had offered a bribe to the shipping agent to help get the drugs out of the country as soon as possible,” Pol Col Tinnakorn said.

According to Pol Col Tinnakorn, Mr Suban suggested to the agent that he would keep four crates of ya ice and sell them since he was familiar with drug circles. The agent was promised a 5-million-baht cut from the sale of the crystal meth.

Pol Col Tinnakorn said he instructed the agent to accept the offer. When the two Chinese men arrived in Thailand, the agent made a time to meet them at a cargo container park in Sri Racha district of Chon Buri, where the “shoe” consignments were being kept at a bonded warehouse.

As the Chinese men unsealed the packs, Pol Col Tinnakorn and his unit as well as customs officers swooped and arrested them. The unit seized from them 985kg of ya ice with an estimated street value of more than two billion baht, hidden among 632 boxes of shoes.

Mr Suban and Mr Joy were also apprehended at the container park along with the Chinese suspects. The four suspects were charged with possessing ya ice with the intent to sell.

Mr Suban had been a party-list MP candidate for the Seri Ruam Thai Party in the March 24 general election.

Pol Col Tinnakorn said Mr Suban was not a lawyer although he has a law degree..

Investigators were trying to ascertain whether the politician has committed similar offences in the past.

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