Selling and buying ketum leaves will continue to be illegal in Malaysia despite neighboring Thailand’s decision to legalize it, Kedah’s state police said today.
Border restrictions will also be tightened to prevent smuggling.
State police chief Kamarul Zaman Mamat said that the sale and purchase of the psychoactive ketum leaves will remain prohibited in the country and that the police will do all they can to prevent smuggling at various border entry points, without specifying the actions they will take. His statement comes after Bukit Aman’s narcotics criminal investigation department director Razarudin Husain said that the Thai government’s decision to allow the sale of ketum leaves might drive up demand for supply from Malaysia.
“We have been aware of the many syndicates involved in the smuggling of ketum leaves in the north and elsewhere,” he said. “Hence, police will ensure tight control at the country’s border entry points, especially through ‘Op Benteng’.”
The operation, dubbed Op Benteng, involves the Royal Malaysia Police, Malaysian Armed Forces, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, and Malaysian Border Security Agency, as well as other security agencies. It was introduced together with the implementation of the Movement Control Order lockdown restrictions to effectively curb the transmission of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the influx of illegal immigrants.
“We will be using all available resources, including from other enforcement agencies, to prevent such smuggling activities,” Kamarul added last night.
Ketum trees come from the plant family known as Rubiaceae and are grown in abundance in Malaysia’s northern and east coast states. It is legal to grow ketum trees, whose leaves are used in traditional medicine and believed to enhance strength. However, ketum leaves also contain psychoactive ingredients that can lead to sedative or euphoric effects and are often abused.