Thailand burned more than seven metric tons of confiscated drugs worth $622 million on Friday to mark the International Day Against Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, a practice that the country has repeated every year for the last 45 years.
The incinerated drugs were seized by the Thai Narcotics Suppression Bureau during over 5000 criminal cases in the country, where more than 1.2 million people are drug addicts.
The public burning of illicit drugs took place in Thailand’s capital Bangkok, outside the Utility and Environment Management Center in Ayutthaya Province.
Deputy Prime Minister, Yongyuth Yuttawong, presided over the annual ceremony.
"This is not for show, as you can see just now that, this is for real. We have to show the international community that we are not ignoring the problems of this issue and we must find a way to tackle it," he told reporters.
"There are various drugs that totaled up to seven tonnes. I think the weight was more than last time, which is a concern," Yongyuth Yuttawong said.
Around 2 percent of Thais are addicted to amphetamine-type stimulants, one of the highest percentages of a country’s population in the world, according to estimates by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime. In the last five years drug addiction cases have more than doubled, according to the Bangkok Post.
Laws against drug use and trafficking are strict in the country and the number of people seeking treatment and rehabilitation as well as the amount of drugs being seized have been increasing in recent years.
Thailand is one of 32 countries imposing the death penalty for some drug offences and has executed 30 people for drug crimes since 1979, according to the Bangkok Post. Forteen others are currently on death row and more than 75 percent of all prisoners in the country are drug offenders.
Officials say Thailand's northern borders separating the country from Myanmar and Laos are used by drugs traffickers. They claim the traffickers have taken advantage of forests and mountains in the border area to operate more freely, but police corruption is also considered a significant reason for the ongoing smuggling issue.
The International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1987 to urge the world to focus more on the global drug problem.