By Cathy Turner
BBC News, Saigon
The seizure included 14 tonnes of heroin and opium, along with other drugs, police say Police in Laos have found a record amount of drugs in a crackdown on trafficking in the Laotian-Thai border region. Two Thai nationals were detained in the seizure, which also included 146 guns, 7,389 kg (15,000lb) of heroin and 2,650kg (5,000lb) of opium. The region, dubbed the Golden Triangle, has long been a major source of illegal drugs, and is notorious for smuggling guns and drugs. Laos has the second largest coca crop in the world, after Colombia. However, this bust may be seen as an attempt to crackdown on the influx of illegal goods through the country’s porous borders. Traffickers are sometimes flown in, even put up in luxury hotels. The Golden Triangle is not the only area in south-east Asia where narcotics are smuggled from Thailand. Cocaine production is widespread in the region, as is the smuggling of guns. Small steps Despite widespread publicity, the problem is believed to be slowly increasing. Vietnam produces 35% of the world’s heroin – a figure that is slightly higher than the previous record, from 1991. Police say a number of drug dealers based in Thailand are now in Laotian jails, and many operate openly across the border. They are only arrested when their fleets of overloaded vehicles lose their way or they are busted by authorities in Thailand or Laos. At least 12 people have been killed by crossfire in border areas since the drug crackdown began, but so far no organ trafficking has been reported.
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