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Thailand’s Shocking Counterattack on Drug Smuggling: Inside the Groundbreaking International Narcotics Control College!

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Situated in Chiang Rai, the recently created International Narcotics Control College (INCC) is poised to deliver top-notch training to law enforcement agencies and associated institutions in an attempt to counter drug smuggling activities in the Mekong region. The center, a pioneer in the Mekong region, is nestled within the compound of the Hall of Opium, often referred to as Thailand’s opium exhibit, set in the district of Chiang Saen.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Thailand’s Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) joined forces to inaugurate this institution. Jeremy Douglas, the Regional Representative for South East Asia and Pacific at UNODC, regards the college as a gratifying opportunity for ONCB and its associates to unfold interactive measures to combat the issues related to drugs.

Douglas elaborated on his plans, stating, “Our goal is to impart knowledge on drug intelligence and analysis, border management, precursor chemical control, alongside drug policy and demand reduction, at the INCC.” He envisions delivering these training programs to Thai agencies as well as representatives from Laos and other nations in a collaborative effort.

In addition to the INCC, the existing Safe Mekong Coordination Center (SMCC) overseen by the ONCB in Chiang Saen will sustain its vigilance over drug trafficking in the Golden Triangle and other Mekong subregion nations. Positioned in the Golden Triangle—an integral opium production hub comprising Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand—within a kilometer of the borders of Myanmar and Laos, the INCC and SMCC hold symbolic importance in their fight against drugs.

Douglas shared his belief in the significance of regional commitment to tackle drug issues and cross-border crimes. He underscored the importance of meetings such as the recent Mekong MoU on Drug Control in Beijing, where the six Mekong subregion countries—Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, and China—alongside the UNODC agreed upon innovative law enforcement strategies.

He further discussed specific challenges, the imperative need for more significant information sharing and cooperation, and the importance of engaging with politically challenging areas like Myanmar where the drug problem is concentrated.

ONCB’s Secretary-General, Wichai Chaimongkhon, shared details about the physical aspects of the INCC, explaining that it came into existence after the Mae Fah Luang Foundation, the organization in charge of the Hall of Opium, donated land to ONCB. With the idea to set up an international institution against drugs for individuals across the subregion, ONCB eventually gave birth to the INCC.

Situated near the Mekong River within a forest, the college offers first-hand experiences on combating drug trafficking via land and water, utilizing the museum’s strategic location in the heart of the Mekong subregion. The INCC even boasts a shooting gallery, recreated crime scenes, study and seminar equipment, and accommodations for trainees thanks to funding from ONCB’s Drug Prevention and Suppression Fund.

Expressing an intention to strengthen regional capacity to combat the increasingly complex issue of drug trafficking, Chaimongkhon stated, “We need to increase our capacity to ensure we can cope with drug crimes in the region.” Despite its recent inauguration, the college aims to complete all facilities, including a seminar room, shooting gallery, and drug research center, by next year.

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