Out of all the Southeast Asian countries where kratom grows naturally, only one of them allows the product to be purchased legally. And that country is Indonesia. The other countries don’t allow the sale or purchase of the leaf. Thailand recently set legislation in motion that permits kratom use for medicinal purposes. The government even let a select amount of communities start growing it. But it’s on a trial basis until parliament decides how to move forward.
But Thailand’s neighbor to the South, Malaysia, still looks at kratom as a narcotic. And drug trafficking in the country will get you a mandatory death sentence. So individuals trying to profit from the plant in the country find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Although, selling kratom in Malaysia gets you a more severe sentence than a mere slap on the wrist. It has the potential to cost someone their life. That type of criminalization creates a black market for kratom products. So the majority of the citizens that make their living from the kratom trade in the country belong to actual criminal organizations. Organized crime structures provide more security for those willing to risk it all.
And as long as there are lucrative underground businesses that thrive from marketing illegal products, no law can keep people from obtaining such substances. The American government should understand that fact by now. Throughout its continual War on Drugs, the black market has continued to flourish in times of prohibition.
Border Police Proceed with a Routine Patrol
On November 24, 2020, two Malaysian border patrol police were on a reconnaissance mission patrolling the area for anything suspicious. The cop’s station was close to the border between Malaysia and Thailand. The section of land the police monitored was a known smuggler route used to sneak contraband and illicit substances into and out of the country. So the officers’ job was to observe the surrounding sector and collect intelligence about criminal activity in the region. Once they obtained the information, the cops would relay the details to their superiors. Later, a unit would get dispatched to take the known entities down while their criminal enterprise was in process.
The cops had to remain undetected at all times. So to perform a secretive search, the border patrol agents took a motorcycle from their base and drove down a road that led them to the edge of the Malaysian border. Once they arrived at the area, both cops ditched the bike. It was close to 2 A.M. The police didn’t want the headlights of the bike to give away their position. So the agents continued along the jungle trail on foot. They hoped to sneak up on any unsuspecting criminals that happened to be nearby. However, things didn’t go as planned for those two cops on that night.
Approximately 400 meters from the road where they left the bike, the police saw a group of men gathered together. The cops and smugglers noticed each other at the same moment.
A Firefight Erupts on the Border in the Jungle
There were more than a dozen smugglers crowded together in the dark. As soon as they spotted the border agents, the criminal gang got spooked. The suspects pulled out their weapons and began firing at the two cops. The police unholstered their pistols and returned fire. During the shootout, both officers got wounded. Injured and outnumbered, they began retreating away from the crime scene. Unfortunately, one of the officers was in no condition to make it back. He slumped down on the jungle ground, unable to continue. That officer informed his partner to continue without him and get help. So the other cops made his way back to the motorcycle as quickly as he was able. His gunshot wounds took its toll on him.
He got on the bike and sped back to the guard post, which was approximately 200 meters away. When he was close to the outpost, he began shouting for help. Other officers rushed out to assist him. And he collapsed from his wounds back at the station. Some of his fellow officers rushed him to a nearby hospital. A team of additional officers took off to the crime scene to locate the other injured officer in the jungle. When they arrived at the area, they found their comrade suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. His empty pistol was lying next to him. The cop was unconscious. And he succumbed to the gunshots before they could manage to get him to a hospital.
The Aftermath Brings Down the Heavy Hand of the Law
The shootout with the cops made the criminality of the scenario much more severe. But the cops weren’t the only ones injured during the vicious altercation. The smugglers didn’t fare too much better. As both countries pursued a search, the authorities eventually caught six suspects. Three of the criminals were apprehended by the Royal Thai Army after the suspects sought out treatment for their wounds from the shootout. One of those men had grave injuries that needed treatment, according to the authorities. Once the police questioned the suspects, they provided the officials with the identity of another member of their group. The cops arrested the fourth man shortly afterward.
On the other side of the border, the Malaysian police arrested two additional men suspected as part of the criminal enterprise. After an interrogation took place, they confessed that they had been at the scene and were part of the smuggling operation. Apparently, according to their confession, the Malaysian conspirators were providing bundles of kratom leaves and cough syrup in gunny sacks to their Thai counterparts. They said the cops stumbled upon their outfit as the exchange took place. When the gunfire erupted, the two suspects took off running.
With additional information to go by, the Malaysian authorities were able to track down more of the suspects. By the end of the following day, a total of 18 alleged accomplices were arrested and investigated for murder and attempted murder charges.
Stay Away From Kratom that’s not Grown in Ethical Conditions
From the intelligence the police have gathered so far, the Thai conspirators were supplying the Malaysian syndicate with methamphetamine and heroin in exchange for kratom leaves and cough syrup. But both countries are trying to bring closure for the victims. The Thai government went on record to say it would work with the Malaysian government to make sure the victims get justice. But the smuggling won’t stop. There’s too much money to be made.
The kratom industry has blossomed over the past decade. It’s estimated to be a billion-dollar industry. And at the moment, Indonesia supplies approximately 95% of the world’s kratom. But lately, other countries have been trying to get a piece of the action that Indonesia has reaped. Even with kratom illegal in those countries, gangs and smugglers seek to grab their slice of the pie. Unfortunately, for law enforcement in those nations, criminal activity usually makes a hostile work environment. So bloodshed is inevitable on both sides of the law.
And that’s why kratom vendors need to make sure none of the kratom products they sell are originating from a country where it’s illegal. All kratom companies should steer clear from any supplier that is trafficking such varieties. It brings unwanted and unnecessary heat on the industry. And it could backfire and make kratom illegal in every Southeast Asian country—even Indonesia. Indonesia is already in talks about banning the substance. So let’s not push our luck. Make sure you’re buying from a reputable kratom business.