Thailand drastically lowers threshold for meth possession

Photo courtesy of Thai PBS World

In a landmark decision, the Thai Cabinet redefined what constitutes personal drug use, slashing the permissible quantity of methamphetamine, also known as Yaba, and crystal methamphetamine (ice). Possessing just one Yaba tablet or 100mg of ice will now classify an individual as a drug user, a dramatic reduction from the previous threshold of five tablets or 500mg.

Deputy government spokesperson Karom Pholpornklang announced the change, highlighting the government’s intent to crack down on small-scale drug dealers.

“By reducing the permissible amount of these narcotics, we aim to tackle the growing number of small-time dealers.”

The revision follows public outcry over a ministerial regulation, effective since February 9, which had set a higher threshold.

“The initial regulation led to public demands for a review.”

Under the new regulation, possession of a single Yaba tablet or 100mg of ice will no longer be treated as a serious offence. Instead, offenders will be directed towards rehabilitation, although their conduct and level of addiction will be carefully considered.

Thailand has been inundated with Yaba, largely smuggled across its porous border with Myanmar. Hill tribe armed guards, aligned with ethnic minority forces in Myanmar, are frequently implicated in these operations.

According to Thai anti-narcotics and security sources, the escalating civil war in Myanmar has exacerbated the situation, reported Thai PBS World.

“The conflict between government troops and rebel forces has fueled a surge in Yaba production and smuggling into Thailand to finance the war.”

ORIGINAL STORY: Thailand to lower meth possession threshold to one tablet

Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health is pushing for regulatory changes that will classify anyone caught with more than one methamphetamine tablet as an offender, a shift from the current threshold of five tablets.

This proposal aims to close a controversial loophole that has allowed individuals found with up to four tablets to be treated as addicts requiring rehabilitation instead of facing potential prison sentences.

The current regulation, introduced by former Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew, specifies that possession of five or more meth tablets categorises an individual as an offender. Critics argue this regulation has been exploited, allowing those with fewer tablets to escape more severe punishment. Minister Somsak Thepsutin responded to social pressure by proposing to lower the threshold to one tablet.

The ministry has already submitted a draft regulatory amendment to the Cabinet for consideration. Somsak highlighted that the proposed change has garnered support from over 90% of participants in recent public hearings.

Under the new regulation, individuals found with just one meth tablet will need to disclose the source of the drug to the police, facilitating efforts to trace and apprehend suppliers and dealers. Somsak explained that this distinction between drug addicts and dealers is crucial, allowing addicts to receive proper rehabilitation and helping to reduce prison overcrowding.

The Department of Mental Health has been tasked with enhancing coordination efforts to ensure appropriate treatment for drug addicts while the amendment is under review.

In another development, Somsak received a petition from the Youth Network Against Cannabis (YNAC), which included 100,000 signatures supporting the government’s effort to reclassify cannabis as a narcotic drug.

A recent survey by the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA), conducted from April 5 to April 29, revealed mixed public opinions on the government’s drug suppression policy. The survey showed that 44% of respondents were highly satisfied with the current measures, while 41% reported no change in their level of satisfaction over the past six months. However, 12% indicated a decline in satisfaction with the policy and its implementation, reported Bangkok Post.

Somsak emphasised the importance of the proposed changes.

“Separating drug addicts from dealers allows the former to get access to proper rehab and lessen prison overcrowding.”

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Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

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