Methamphetamine seizures lead surge in Thai drug busts

Police stand guard in front of seized drugs during press conference Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, April 3, 2018. Thai authorities say they have seized drugs worth about $29 million and arrested 11 people in recent days as narcotics cases surge in the country. The drugs included amphetamine pills, marijuana, ketamine and ice seized in 11 unconnected cases. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Police pack away drugs after a press conference in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, April 3, 2018. Authorities say they have seized drugs worth about $29 million and arrested 11 people in recent days as narcotics cases surge in the country. The drugs included amphetamine pills, marijuana, ketamine and ice seized in 11 unconnected cases. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Thai policemen stand guard in front of seized drugs in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, April 3, 2018. Authorities say they have seized drugs worth about $29 million and arrested 11 people in recent days as narcotics cases surge in the country. The drugs included amphetamine pills, marijuana, ketamine and ice seized in 11 unconnected cases. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Police pack away seized marijuana after a press conference in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, April 3, 2018. Authorities say they have seized drugs worth about $29 million and arrested 11 people in recent days as narcotics cases surge in the country. The drugs included amphetamine pills, marijuana, ketamine and ice seized in 11 unconnected cases. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Thai police stand guard by seized drugs during a news conference in Bangkok, Tuesday, April 3, 2018. Thai authorities say they have seized drugs worth about $29 million and arrested 11 people in recent days as narcotics cases surge in the country. The drugs included amphetamine pills, marijuana, ketamine and ice seized in 11 unconnected cases. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Police display amphetamine pills during a press conference in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, April 3, 2018. Authorities say they have seized drugs worth about $29 million and arrested 11 people in recent days as narcotics cases surge in the country. The drugs included amphetamine pills, marijuana, ketamine and ice seized in 11 unconnected cases. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Policemen pack away seized amphetamine pills after a press conference in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, April 3, 2018. Authorities say they have seized drugs worth about $29 million and arrested 11 people in recent days as narcotics cases surge in the country. The drugs included amphetamine pills, marijuana, ketamine and ice seized in 11 unconnected cases. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
A Thai policeman stands guard next to seized drugs during a news conference in Bangkok, Tuesday, April 3, 2018. Thai authorities say they have seized drugs worth about $29 million and arrested 11 people in recent days as narcotics cases surge in the country. The drugs included amphetamine pills, marijuana, ketamine and ice seized in 11 unconnected cases. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

BANGKOK — Police in Thailand announced Tuesday that they confiscated an estimated $54 million worth of methamphetamine in one of their biggest-ever drug seizures and arrested 11 people in recent days as illegal drug cases surge in the country.

They said the seizure took place Monday night in the northern province of Chiang Rai on a road by the Mekong River, the border with Laos. Soldiers and police discovered 9.4 million methamphetamine pills and 788 kilograms (1,737 pounds) of crystal methamphetamine in a pickup truck, apparently abandoned by its driver.

The seizure came less than a week after another major haul by the authorities of 700 kilograms (1,543 pounds) of crystal methamphetamine on March 28.

It is not unusual for there to be clusters of drug seizures, as suspects and evidence seized in arrests provide leads to other cases.

Methamphetamine is often smuggled from Laos, and commonly transshipped from Myanmar, where it is produced. Its main market is Thailand, but it is also shipped to Thailand's southern neighbor, Malaysia.

Seizures of millions of methamphetamine pills are not rare in Thailand, where it is a preferred drug, while crystal methamphetamine is not as commonly found.

Police said at a Tuesday news conference that there has been a recent surge in drug cases, with amphetamine pills, marijuana, ketamine and ice seized in 11 unconnected cases since March 25. Drugs displayed Tuesday at the Narcotics Suppression Division outside Bangkok were spread along a row of tables about 15 meters (50 feet) long.

They included nearly 1.8 million methamphetamine pills, 1,380 kilograms (3,036 pounds) of marijuana, and smaller quantities of cocaine, ecstasy pills, ketamine and other drugs.

On Monday, officers arrested a Thai woman returning from Ethiopia with 50 containers of cocaine concealed inside her body. The 11 recent arrests also included two Malaysians and a Tanzanian.

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