How to safeguard yourself from accidentally being a drug smuggler in Thailand

Think accepting free luggage is a good idea? Think again. Source: Shutterstock.

THAILAND gets 35 million tourists a year and tourism receipts and indirect tourism activity account for at least 15 percent of Thailand’s GDP, making it the largest sector in the economy.

But why are tourists often targets in petty crime and scams?

To add on, it is not always the locals that are causing tourists and expatriates in Thailand to fall prey to a criminal practice.

On Dec 10, 2018, an Iranian man was arrested after using travel “freebies” to lure an unsuspecting Japanese tourist into smuggling crystal meth.

The unnamed tourist found the deal on a travel website that offered free getaways to Thailand, Shanghai, and Frankfurt, complete with thousands in spending money.

However, after arriving in Thailand, he was handed a “suspicious” luggage for his next trip to Shanghai, Thai immigration department deputy chief Major General Itthipol Itthisarnronnachai told reporters.

“Inside the bag, he found clothes that felt more solid than usual. He then contacted the Japanese embassy,” Itthipol said.

According to the Thai police, the clothes had been coated with crystal methamphetamine, otherwise known as meth or by its street name, “ice”.  Four bags of the drug were also found, adding up to 2.2 kilograms in total.

“It’s a never-seen-before method, luring tourists to traffick drugs out of the country,” Itthipol added.

Source: Shutterstock.

Thailand is notorious for tourist scams, overpriced taxi rides to tuk-tuk scams, to fake gems and low-level thefts to the “big guns”: transnational drug-running.

Meth, in particular, has been seeing a surge in demand in the region as the authorities, including those from the neighboring countries of Indonesia and Malaysia, are attempting to crack down on the lucrative business.

For the uninitiated, drugs in Thailand are not legal and anyone caught carrying, transporting, or using drugs may face the death penalty.

So how do you safeguard yourself from accidentally being a drug smuggler in Thailand?

First and foremost, always pack your own luggage. Best if you pack your luggage in the privacy of your own home or room so no one can slip anything into your bags.

Also, never carry someone else’s luggage for them or agree to carry packages for strangers. Even if you are offered a free luggage, do not accept it. Scammers hide or sew drugs into the lining of the luggage or package and leave you to smuggle the drugs for them.

Source: Shutterstock.

When at the airport, remain alert and vigilant. Keep an eye on your luggage and before checking in, examine your belongings such as zippers and locks to ensure they have not been messed with.

If you find any tampered locks or suspicious rips/cuts, report it to the authorities immediately.

Above all, absolutely do not do drugs.

There have been cases of tuk-tuk drivers setting tourists up by offering to get them drugs (such as marijuana) only to have the police turn up almost immediately after the transaction to arrest said tourist.

Meanwhile, the Iranian national was arrested when he went to retrieve the luggage after the Japanese man pretended to be sick and said he wanted to cancel the trip.

Authorities later found 10 kilograms of ice and ice-coated clothing in the suspect’s apartment.

“We will pursue this case and investigate networks in Thailand and Japan to take down this scam,” Maj Gen Itthipol said.