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How Thai Customs intercepts drug traffic by land, sea, and air

Jen Lynch
Jen Lynch
Marketing Director

ResQ handheld 1064nm Raman analyzer in labAugust 1, 2022 - Thailand Customs Agents monitor the country’s access points by land, sea, and air.

Their task: intercepting drugs, explosives and their precursors disguised as regular products. Criminals find endless ways to smuggle contraband over the border. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack — hour by hour, day after day.

But customs agents have a major advantage — a Rigaku ResQ handheld 1064nm Raman spectrometer.

It’s the most effective handheld analyzer on the market for identifying unknown threats.

That’s why the World Customs Organization chose the ResQ for Project Global Shield, an international effort to debilitate smuggling networks. Thailand is one of 85 participating countries.

These agents want to capture drugs and bombs before they can do harm.

Thailand’s airport agents have done good work with their ResQ units, almost doubling capture rates.

Not to be outdone, customs officials at the Bangkok seaport used the ResQ to make headline-grabbing busts, including 2,000 pounds of crystal meth found in a cargo container. It would’ve sold for $88 million over the border to Taiwan.

That’s a major loss for drug traffickers and a lot of meth off the streets. It’s all in a day’s work when you’re in the Golden Triangle.

Guarding the Golden Triangle with high-speed Raman spectrometers

ResQ handheld 1064nm Raman analyzer on a table

The Golden Triangle between Thailand, Laos and Myanmar is an amphetamine production base. Organized crime syndicates use it to supply distribution networks around the world.

But they’ve got to get past customs officials first, and that’s become increasingly difficult.

The WCO chose Rigaku’s Progeny ResQ because it’s the most capable unit you can get.

They wanted a lightweight, high-speed unit with WIFI connectivity, military-grade durability, and an extensive spectral library.

Customs agents need highly sensitive equipment that’s tough enough to last in the field, whether they’re sorting through shipping containers, working airport security or on border patrol.

By sea: Safeguarding seaports

Container ship at port in Thailand

There are many places to hide contraband at a major port. Bangkok officials found almost $30 million of meth inside punching bags last year.

Ports are fine-tuned commercial hubs involving tons of goods and commodities. Agents need rapid testing to inspect all that cargo and keep shipments on schedule.

Before they had handheld analyzers, agents had to detain suspicious cargo and wait two or three days for lab results.

That’s an eternity in the shipping business.

The WCO wanted a spectrometer that could offer results in five minutes. The ResQ does it in one or less.

Now agents quickly decide whether to confiscate cargo or send it on its way. No crime, no delays.

By air: Airport security scans

Suvarnabhumi Airport

The ResQ allows customs to test sealed parcels and carry-on items.

Agents didn’t used to test unopened products and risk harming an innocent person’s property.

That's why one smuggler thought he could get away with dissolving cocaine in a resealed whiskey bottle.

He was mistaken.

Back when the agents relied on chemical test strips, he would’ve made it on that plan without a problem. But the ResQ scanned right through the glass and gave the alert, bottle cap still sealed.

By land: Border patrol

Aerial view from the border town of Mae Sai District, Thailand

The Golden Triangle houses an interconnected drug production network.

Precursors are often produced in China and smuggled to Myanmar. There, drugs are made and transported over the border to Thailand before they’re shipped around the world.

Drug producers regularly change their ingredients to confuse law enforcement. They also mislabel their shipments. Meth precursors are commonly marked as legal products like household cleaners.

Border agents need the ResQ’s regularly refreshed onboard database to keep up with ever-changing drug components.

When a new precursor is discovered, agents can update the database and keep the rest of their team informed. The next agent to come across that new precursor will automatically get an alarm, notifying them to seize the shipment.

Request a free trial and see the benefits for yourself

If it works in the Golden Triangle, it will work anywhere.

Let your team get their hands on a ResQ handheld 1064nm Raman analyzer, and they won’t want to work without it.

Nothing can match its speed, reliability and expansive database.

Want to see for yourself? Request a free trial, and we’ll schedule an in-person or virtual demonstration with a local representative.

Visit our learning center to learn more about advanced handheld Raman spectrometers. You’ll find information about working with narcotics, explosives, chemical agents, and more.