Ris­ing de­mand in Thai­land for ke­tum fu­els smug­gling

New Straits Times - - News -

RAN­TAU PAN­JANG: Lo­cal ke­tum juice has found a big mar­ket across the bor­der in Sun­gai Golok town as it is cheap, widely avail­able and easy to smug­gle from here, Thai po­lice said.

Sun­gai Golok po­lice chief Colonel Prayut Phongsanti said the con­sump­tion of the il­le­gal juice was now a trend among Thai teenagers as young as 14.

“Many choose ke­tum juice as it is much cheaper than other drugs,” he told the New Straits Times.

Prayut said Sun­gai Golok po­lice had iden­ti­fied the prob­lem fol­low­ing a se­ries of seizures of ke­tum leaves re­cently, mostly at Thai­land’s bor­der with Ke­lan­tan.

He said most of the leaves were seized shortly af­ter they were smug­gled into Sun­gai Golok town via the river.

“Ke­tum from Malaysia is in high de­mand among Thai drug traf­fick­ers, who will process the leaves into juice, which they sell for as low as RM2 per packet.”

Prayut said records showed that many teenagers were at­tracted to ke­tum juice as it was easy to ob­tain in Sun­gai Golok.

“Smug­glers can bring in ke­tum leaves, which they get from north­ern states in Malaysia, and ferry it across the river any­time Thai drug deal­ers want it.

“Smug­glers will un­load the con­tra­band on the river bank for Thai drug sup­pli­ers to pick up.”

On whether ke­tum trees were planted in Thai­land, Prayut said lo­cal drug traf­fick­ers knew that it was an of­fence to grow the trees.

Prayut ad­mit­ted that smug­gling of ke­tum leaves was ram­pant along the bor­der, but this would not ham­per po­lice from tack­ling the prob­lem.

It is learnt that in Malaysia, Kedah is among the states with the most num­ber of ke­tum trees.

Based on records last year, there were 81 ke­tum op­er­a­tors in Kedah, with the most in Padang Terap (40), Kubang Pasu (17), Kota Se­tar and Pokok Sena (13), Bal­ing (10) and one in Sik.

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