Thailand's giant drug bust claim turns out to be false

Elias Hubbard
November 28, 2020

Thailand's claim to have seized nearly $1bn worth of the drug ketamine has turned out to be a "misunderstanding", its justice minister has said. Whereas, Trisodium phosphate is a similar white powder that is used in cleaning agents as a stain remover and even as a food additive.

In medicine, ketamine is used as an anaesthetic or an anti-depressant, but as a recreational drug it is used to induce dreamy or trance-like sensations, and sometimes hallucinations.

Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin said that when the test for ketamine is applied to trisodium phosphate, it can produce a false positive result.

At a press conference announcing the supposed historic seizure, the country's Office of Narcotics Control Board said it had acted on a tip that a foreign drug network planned to smuggle the ketamine to Taiwan via Thailand, The Nation reported. He further explained that the mix-up happened as the preliminary tests showed purple in the field testing in the presence of ketamine hydrochloride as it reacts the same way to trisodium phosphate.

"This was a misunderstanding that our agency must accept", Mr Somsak told reporters, adding that there was a "technical error in the field", according to a Bangkok Post report.

On November 12, Thailand seized almost 11.5 tonnes of white powder from a local warehouse after a tip-off from Taiwan. About 475 bags of a white, granular substance were seized from a warehouse in Bang Pakong district, Chachoengsao province, on November 12 after testing kits turned purple, and officials with the Office of the Narcotics Control Board assumed the presence of ketamine, reports the Bangkok Post.

The Bangkok Post reports that Somsak has since admitted the initial announcement may have come too early.

"But in this case, the ONCB had been informed of the seizure of ketamine in Taiwan, investigated and found an undeniable link to it. Moreover, on the day I held the press conference, I did not say it was 100 percent ketamine".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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