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Bid to widen opium crop substitution 

Thailand will urge neighbouring countries to replace drug crops with other crops, to cut the spread of drugs in the region.

The justice, foreign affairs, interior and defence ministries met to discuss the plan yesterday.

Justice Minister Pongthep Thepkanchana said Thailand had already implemented crop substitution successfully in Ban Yongkha village in the Shan state, Burma, and the approach should be expanded.

``We agree that it is the only sustainable solution to drug problems,'' he said.

Meanwhile, methamphetamine pills were expected to start crossing the border again after the government's war on drugs ended this month.

Instead of being smuggled in lots of hundreds of thousands of pills, the drugs were likely to be distributed among small-scale smugglers in thousand-pill lots.

Pol Lt-Gen Chidchai Wanasathit, secretary-general of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), said 80% of drug communities nationwide had been cleansed thanks to the drugs war.

The rest of the country would be cleansed by Dec 2, when the government would declare Thailand as a nation free of illicit drugs, he said.

An ONCB official said the government's fight against drugs had raised the price of methamphetamines to 400-500 baht a tablet in some areas because of their scarcity.

Deputy Prime Minister Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said the government would have to step up cooperation with neighbouring countries especially Burma to stop drug smuggling. 
Bangkok Post online 25.04.2003

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