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Thailand’s Biggest Drug Bust Turns out to be Cleaning Agent and Food Additive

Representative image.

Representative image.

The Thai justice minister had to take back his words and said that the claim was a ‘misunderstanding’ as the new tests showed no signs of drugs.

Thailand’s claim to have seized a $1 billion worth of the contraband drug Ketamine has turned out to be a ‘misunderstanding’ and blaming it as a ‘technical error,’ its justice minister has said.

However, after further testing, the Thai justice minister had to take back his words and said that the claim was a ‘misunderstanding’ as the new tests showed no signs of drugs.

"This was a misunderstanding that our agency must accept," Mr Somsak told reporters, adding that there was a ‘technical error in the field,’ according to a Bangkok Post report. He further explained that the mix-up happened as the preliminary tests showed purple in the field testing in the presence of ketamine hydrochloride as it reacts the same way to trisodium phosphate.

Ketamine is widely used in an aesthetic or an anti-depressant drug and due to its hallucinogenic effects is also labelled as a ‘party drug’. It can cause serious harm to the body and be fatal if used in an uncontrolled manner. Whereas, Trisodium phosphate is a similar white powder that is used in cleaning agents as a stain remover and even as a food additive.

According to local reports, Thai authorities had announced earlier this month that they seized close to 11.5 tonnes of the contraband, having declared it as the biggest Ketamine bust from a warehouse and linking it to a multinational drug network.

About 475 sacks containing a white, granular item weighing 11.5 tonnes in all were seized during a raid by the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) officials at a warehouse in Chachoengsao province, on November 12, 2020. Samples taken during the field test turned out purple, which prompted the ONCB officials to declare it as Ketamine and to triumphantly claim the seizure to be the largest ever in Thailand’s history.

Minister Somsak, blamed the initial false claim as ‘technical error’ and later admitted that it might have been premature to hold a press conference at such an initial stage.

The ONCB authorities have confirmed that at least 66 bags out of the 475 are cleaning powder, while tests continue as of Sunday.

first published:November 26, 2020, 18:02 IST