Thailand extends methamphetamine probe to overseas

Thai authorities are extending their investigation into the diversion of cold tablets for the production of the illegal stimulant methamphetamine overseas after finding that huge quantities of the pills may have been illegally imported from China and South Korea.

Department of Special Investigation Director-General Tharit Phengdit said Thursday that his agency found documents about a Thai company's deal to purchase 10 billion pseudoephedrine-based cold pills from a Chinese firm. He said it also found evidence of illegal purchases and shipments of such drugs from South Korea.

Thailand is a major market and transit point for methamphetamine. Tharit said the smuggled medicine was sent to drug dealers along the Thailand-Myanmar border. Myanmar is a major producer of the illicit drug.

Tharit said Thai officials will meet with staff from the Chinese and South Korean embassies in Bangkok before investigators travel abroad.

The DSI has been investigating hospitals, clinics and pharmacies around Thailand that made suspiciously large orders of pills containing pseudoephedrine, which is commonly used in the production of methamphetamine.

The agency began its investigation after the discovery in February of discarded packaging for 1.2 million cold tablets in northern Thailand.

Since then, investigators have found that more than 11 million tablets went missing from at least 12 hospitals nationwide. Hospital directors and pharmacists were called in to give testimony and some were removed from their posts.