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Thailand News: Kratom may be decriminalized; Govt firm on rubber; Chinese tourists in speedboat crash; Blair’s visit confirmed




– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Kratom may be taken off narcotics list
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) is responding positively to the proposed legalisation of kratom (Mitragyna speciosa), which is currently on the narcotics list.

The ONCB will be meeting with the Food and Drug Administration, the Public Health Ministry and the National Police Office next week to discuss whether kratom should be removed from the list. Available records show that Thailand is the only country that describes kratom as a narcotic.

“We will listen to the opinions of all relevant parties,” ONCB secretary-general Pongsapat Pongcharoen said yesterday.

Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri, who is pushing for the legalisation, said he grew up in Bangkok’s Thon Buri area where kratom was grown and used, and he had never encountered anybody going into a drug-crazed stupor from its consumption.

“In fact, kratom was used as a traditional medicine in the past,” he said, adding that he did not wish to promote the use of kratom, but believed it may distract people from using harmful drugs like methamphetamine or crystal-meth.

“Caffeine in coffee and energy drinks is also more addictive than kratom,” he added. Meanwhile, Dr Anek Yomchinda, chief of the Central Institute of Forensic Science, admitted that preliminary studies showed that kratom did indeed have medicinal properties.

“In New Zealand, it is a component in the production of painkillers and antibiotics,” he said.

A Senate-appointed committee, tasked with studying the pros and cons of kratom use, has found that the plant contains mitragynine, which serves as an analgesic. While its pain-easing effect is about 10 times weaker than morphine, it does not have an adverse effect on the respiratory system nor does it cause nausea, the committee said.

There are also no records to show that kratom consumption might be behind crimes. The study suggests that relevant authorities decided to ban kratom in 1943 because they could not collect tax on it like they did on opium consumption. The committee also pointed out that if kratom were to be legalised now, it could deliver economic benefits to Thailand, where it is an indigenous plant.

“It can be used in the production of several medicines, and can also cut down on Thailand’s dependence on imported morphine,” the panel said.

A survey shows Satun province had the highest number of kratom trees. Also, truck drivers and labourers widely consume kratom leaves because it keeps them alert. In addition, kratom is cheaper than coffee and energy drinks costing between Bt1 and Bt3 per leaf.

Govt stands firm on rubber price
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Agriculture Minister Yukol Limlamthong yesterday stood by the government’s offer of Bt80 per kilo during an hours-long negotiation session with farmer representatives.

Farmers’ leaders from the North and the Northeast walked out of the negotiation room at Government House and lambasted the government for ignoring rubber farmers’ plight. Meanwhile, the Ramkhamhaeng University Student Organisation plans to join the mass rallies of rubber farmers across the country next Tuesday.

“We are the children of farmers,” president Uthai Yodmanee said yesterday.

Rubber farmers are preparing to stage huge protests in various provinces on September 3 to demand that the government shore up the rubber price, which has plummeted during the past two years. Uthai said the government had ignored farmers’ problems and was apparently engrossed in the granting of political amnesty. He showed up at Parliament to submit an open letter to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, urging her to show her sincerity by addressing the crisis of plunging crop prices, stopping the politicisation of the protest and investigating the use of force against rubber planters in Nakhon Si Thammarat.

Last Friday, some police and farmers were injured during clashes when the protesters cut off a road. The blockade of the road and a railway continued in the southern province. While some rubber farmers in other areas have said the railway action is not appropriate, they do not rule out the possibility of occupying roads next Tuesday if their plight continues to be ignored.

“Whether we will block roads depends on how the situation develops,” said Manoon Uppala, chairman of the Wiang Sa Agricultural Cooperative based in Surat Thani.

He believes the rally on Tuesday in Surat Thani will draw more than 5,000 participants. Songkran Khampisai, chairman of the Beung Kan Rubber Farmers Network, said more than 30,000 farmers in the Northeast would head to the mass rally in Nakhon Ratchasima’s Sikhiu district on Tuesday, where the seizing of a road has been planned.

Prompong Nopparit, spokesman for the Pheu Thai Party, said the government was ready to listen to what rubber farmers had to say.

2 Chinese tourists killed in speedboat accident
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Two Chinese tourists were killed and four others injured yesterday when their speedboat crashed into a long-tail boat anchored in waters off southern Pattaya in Chon Buri’s Bang Lamung district.

The “Chok Suwannee” speedboat was carrying about 20 tourists from Koh Lan to the Pattaya Pier when it struck the second boat at 1.45pm about 200 metres from the pier.

Two passengers fell out of the vessel and were fatally struck by its propeller.

Blair confirms visit to Bangkok
Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, who is also a deputy prime minister, said yesterday that former British leader Tony Blair would definitely deliver a speech in Bangkok next Monday despite protests against him this week.

He also called on those protesting against Blair and the government’s forum, “United for the Future: Learning from Each Other’s Experiences”, to become part of the solution, adding that the ministry was holding the forum so Thais could learn from other countries’ experiences.

Though he did not wish to brand the protesters as people who wanted to drag society down, he said he really did not understand why they were against Blair so much. The former British PM has been widely condemned for his key role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The protesters claimed that Blair was paid 20 million baht to deliver a speech – a charge the government has denied.

Keep checking the Phuket Gazette’s Thailand news pages, join our Facebook fan page or follow us on Twitter @PhuketGazette for the latest national news updates.

— Phuket Gazette Editors


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