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B20m in smuggled bird flu vaccine seized


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Extracted from the Bangkok Post: Bangkok Post


By Supapong Chaolaen


Koh Samui's marine police yesterday seized 1,800 bottles of bird flu vaccine worth over 20 million baht at the Na Thon bus station while the smugglers were preparing to transport them to Bangkok. Packed in 30 boxes, the 1,800 bottles of 250ml avian influenza virus vaccine were made by a Chinese vaccine manufacturer.


The smuggling took place as the country is in the peak season of bird flu, which is rampant in the cold season.


Pol Lt-Col Kosol Kaenkaew, of Samui Marine Police office, said the smuggled vaccine arrived at Samui airport on Friday via Bangkok Airways flight PG 804 from Hong Kong.


Three Bangkok residents, identified as Vichien Sirimaneetham, Noppandon Wonglert, and Chula Wittayasinthana, turned up to claim the parcels and shifted them onto a bus bound for Bangkok yesterday.


The trio were charged with illegal smuggling of unregistered medicine into the kingdom and breaching customs regulations.


''We believe the smugglers use the direct flight from Hong Kong to Koh Samui and carry them to Bangkok by bus to avoid being checked by customs officers at Suvarnabhumi airport,'' said Pol Lt-Col Kosol.


Police had traced the bird flu vaccine smuggling gang since last month when they were alerted by intelligence officers.


''This is not the first time the gang has done this,'' said the marine police officer.


He said police must carry out tough inspections at airports and checkpoints, since the arrest would force the wrongdoers to change smuggling routes and tactics.


Surat Thani provincial livestock office chief Attaporn Thepya said it was the first time smuggled bird flu vaccine had been seized in the province. In the past, most such cases occurred in the northern provinces.


''Bird flu vaccination in fowls is prohibited in Thailand,'' he said. ''The country's bird flu prevention operation will be badly affected if these 1,800 bottles of H5N1 virus vaccine were able to find their way to poultry farmers.''


The use of vaccine in fowl has been debated as poultry raisers and experts are divided.


Traditional fowl raisers, including those who raise free-range ducks, favour the vaccine, claiming it would help prevent their poultry from dying of avian flu. But many virologists say the vaccine would speed up virus mutations to a point that triggers a pandemic.


Next month the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry's panel on bird flu vaccination will send to cabinet its word on whether the ban should be lifted

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This surprised me, they clearly have big legit businesses willing to accept the transaction. i would have thought they would have used a boat. or brought it across the cambodia border.

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