Police in Bangkok have arrested a suspected drug trafficking syndicate in a case that sparked a national debate about the war on drugs and a crackdown on organised crime.
Officers say the group of eight men, all in their late teens and early 20s, were behind an elaborate scheme to smuggle cocaine from Thailand to Singapore, via China, through Malaysia and Singapore, through Laos, Thailand and Malaysia.
The suspects, who were arrested by Bangkok police and a court last week, were accused of operating a syndicate of drugs trafficking, police said.
They were charged with drug trafficking and organised crime offences, police spokesman Prawit Wongsuwan said.
“The accused, a known drug traffiker, is also suspected of using the names ‘Garden Roses’ and ‘Winter Garden’ as their aliases,” he said.
The alleged gang had been operating in Thailand for at least 10 years, according to police.
“The drugs were shipped through Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and through the Philippines,” Mr Wongsuwa said.
“They were also selling the drugs in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Singapore.”
Police say the suspects also had connections to drugs traffickers from China and Russia.
Police said they arrested the alleged traffickers at their home on Saturday and they would appear in court on Monday.
While many believe Thailand is now in a war on drug users and dealers, Mr Wongsa said that had been “false”, adding that police were trying to catch the “wrong people”.
“It is not the end of the drug war, it is just the beginning of a new era in the fight against organised crime,” he told the BBC.
Drug trafficking has become increasingly problematic in Thailand since it launched its anti-narcotics campaign in March last year.
It has seen a surge in the number of police officers deployed to fight organised crime and more than 1,300 people arrested, according a government report released last month.
A similar crackdown on drug trafficking in China began in July and has since resulted in the arrest of thousands of people and the seizure of more than 300 tonnes of drugs, including cannabis.
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