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Thailand News Today | Bangkok exodus, Pattaya air pollution, Vaccine next month? | November 20

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Last day of the week, and the second day of official public holidays in Thailand. We’ll be back on Monday with another Thailand News Today.

Over 5 million escape Bangkok by car and public transport as holiday begins

The Transport Ministry says just under 5.3 million Bangkok residents have left the capital as the long holiday gets underway. Not bad when the official population is 10.7 million.

The exodus began on Wednesday, a day before the holiday period began. Some 2.25 million have left by bus and van. And another 2.74 million personal cars have headed out of the capital, around nearly 40% higher than expected.

The 4 day long weekend was announced 2 months ago as substitute holidays for Songkran and attempts to get Thais and expats, able to get the time off, to travel and stimulate the domestic travel economy.

The state transport service, the Transport Company, says that it laid on 4,502 bus and van services, accommodating over 63,000 travellers. Yesterday, the number rose to 6,000 bus services and 200,000 passengers.

Vaccine could be ready by the end of next month – BioNTech/Pfizer

BioNTech and Pfizer have jointly announced their candidate Covid-19 vaccine could be released for public distribution before the year, at least in the US and Europe.

BioNTech co-founder Ugur Sahin says that both companies plan to apply for “emergency use authorisation” of their candidate vaccine in the US today, while European regulators are still in the latter part of the Phase 3 trials.

The 2 companies announced the completion of their trials involving 43,000 volunteers, more than 21,000 of who received the vaccine without any serious side-effects or consequences.

One of the key challenge with BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine candidate is the distribution. It will need to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius (-94 degrees Fahrenheit).

Responding to vaccine sceptics and the vocal “anti vaxxer” movement, Mr. Sahin says the only option was to keep providing “answers, information and transparency”. He hoped that once people were inoculated, “numbers would only grow when those people shared their positive experiences”.

The vaccine, if successfully released, will require an initial dose and a later booster injection.

PM threatens protesters with full force of the law if unrest continues to escalate

Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha has warned pro-democracy protesters that they face the full force of the law if ongoing political rallies continue to escalate.

On Tuesday, thousands of anti-government protesters gathered outside the Parliament building, where MPs and senators were voting on draft amendments to the constitution.

The PM insists the government has attempted to resolve the situation through peaceful means, accusing protesters of not co-operating. He says the authorities have dealt with protests lawfully, but the situation is now worsening and tending towards violence. He adds that the ongoing unrest risks undermining the national interest and the Monarchy, as well as being a risk to the safety of people and property.

Police violence against democracy demonstrators – letter from Human Rights Watch

In response to Tuesday’s protests outside the Thai Parliament, and the police response, Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, responds. Published in full…

Unnecessary Use of Water Cannons, Teargas; 55 Reported Injured

Thai police unnecessarily used water cannons and teargas against peaceful democracy demonstrators outside the parliament in Bangkok on November 17, 2020, in violation of international human rights standards.

“Human Rights Watch observed crowd control units using water cannon laced with purple dye and an apparent teargas chemical, as well as teargas grenades and pepper spray grenades to disperse thousands of demonstrators, including many students.”

“The Thai authorities should heed the advice of the UN Secretary-General and stop using excessive or unnecessary force against demonstrators”

“The Thai authorities should promptly and impartially investigate the violence, including the alleged use of firearms by pro-government demonstrators, and prosecute all those responsible for abuses regardless of their political affiliation or rank.”

9 arrests as police net huge drugs haul in 4 cases in north, north-east

Millions of methamphetamine pills, over 800 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, and over 700 kilograms of cannabis have been seized by police in 4 separate cases.

The Narcotics Suppression Bureau confirmed the seizures, along with the arrests of 9 suspects, at its headquarters in Bangkok. The parade for the media of police and the seized narcotics are a staple in Thai police PR.

Residents express health concerns as smog engulfs Pattaya

Pattaya residents are expressing concern over a recent spate of air pollution, as the coastal city finds itself engulfed in smog.

The deterioration in air quality has been ongoing for a number of days, with a cloud of haze obscuring the bay and neighbouring islands.

It comes as mass sugar cane burning is again taking place in farming communities around the country, an activity that has caused air quality problems in the past. While sugar cane burning is technically illegal, residents say the law is not strongly enforced, resulting in an annual rise in air pollution levels.

 

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Cannabis

Cannabis drinks now available in Thailand convenience stores

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Ichitan is now selling cannabis drinks across Thailand. (via IchitanGroup.com)

From darkened back alleys to brightly lit 7-11 aisles, people in Thailand can now get their once-illegal cannabis fix in flavoured drinks at convenience stores and vending machines. The nation’s biggest bottled tea producer Ichitan Group has launched 2 new drinks with terpenes, the compounds that give that ganja smell.

The cannabis drinks Ichitan launched are not aimed at the party crowd like other combinations of drinks and controlled substances – they are less Four Loko at the club and more sipping while curled up with a good book. One is a terpene scented sugar-free camomile green tea and the other is a lemon and terpene infused sweet green tea. Cannabidiol or other psychoactive elements have been left out of the teas.

These cannabis drinks are selling for 30 baht across Thailand in 7-11 stores, malls, conveniences stores, and more than 13,000 vending machines. Ichitan is hoping to sell 500 million baht worth of the teas this year as the first company to nationally mass market cannabis products. Their CEO said the “urban new generation” is their target demographic and that being first to market is an important strategy.

Thailand first legalised registering medicinal marijuana in 2019, but in January restrictions were loosened to open the gates to various products and usage. Restaurants and cafes sprung up cooking hemp dishes, and bars created hemp-infused cocktails. People can now get a permit to grow hemp and manufacture and sell cannabis products. Thai law still treats hemp and cannabis differently as hemp is almost completely free of THC and is traditionally used for making clothes, rope, paper and similar products from its strong fibres.

Ichitan admits that the cannabis used in their drinks aren’t fully legalised yet, though they expect the entire supply chain and process to be approved soon as the cannabis legalisation trend grows around the world. Farming is still only allowed with strict government observation, and the narcotic use of ganja is only allowed for cultivation, research and medical use.

Recreational use is not permitted in Thailand yet, though 16 states in the US allow it, and Mexico has legislation pending. Medicinal marijuana is legal in 50 countries already.

Covid-19 has delayed a surge of cannabis progress in Thailand, with businesses on lockdown and a Bangkok cannabis convention postponed from April 19-20 (4/20 – cannabis enthusiast’s magic number) to July 19-20, as well as a seminar on cannabis extracts cancelled yesterday.

But in Thailand, the government sees huge potential, with MFC Asset Management planning Thailand’s first hemp-related mutual fund with expectations of over 17% annual growth over the next 5 years. Farmers could grow hemp and cannabis with large profits, and the Thai government is even eying a tourism boost for medical tourism and just plain curious travellers.

SOURCE: Nikkei Asia

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Cannabis may ease lung inflammation from Covid-19, study

Neill Fronde

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Stock photo by Washarapol D Bin Yo Jundang for Pexels

Cannabis may help ease and reduce lung inflammation for Covid-19 patients, according to a recent study. Researchers in the study claim the non-psychoactive component of cannabis, cannabinol, or CBD, has anti-inflammatory properties.

More research should be done on how CBD and treating severe lung inflammation from the coronavirus, according to researchers from University of Nebraska and the Texas Biomedical Research Institute indicates. Their recent peer-reviewed article in the latest issue of Brain, Behaviour, and Immunity investigates cannabis’ anti-inflammatory qualities.

Covid-19 can cause inflammation that leads to pneumonia which can clog lungs and cause breathing difficulties, an often deadly symptom of the coronavirus. This is why researchers are emphasising anti-inflammatory treatments for infected patients.

“There are drug treatments like Tocilizumab that clears patients’ lungs with a 90% success rate, but the side effects are harsh, including the risk of coronary artery disease and pancreas inflammations. Cannabis may be a key solution since it doesn’t carry such severe negative side effects.”

The CBD treatment made from cannabis does not carry the same effects of THC or smoking marijuana would, though THC has also been shown to be anti-inflammatory but is with more side effects. Cannabis already carries FDA approval, even being used for children with intractable epilepsy.

Aside from anti-inflammatory use, CBD also reduces several factors that contribute to severe Covid-19 cases and also increases proteins that prevent the virus from replicating by activating immune cells. Previous studies with asthmatic animals showed CBD reduced airway inflammation as well as pulmonary fibrosis, which can be an after-effect of Covid-19 damaging and scarring lung tissue causing breathing problems.

The cannabis study on lung inflammation shows that doses up to 1500 milligram a day were safe for up to 2 weeks. The researchers also noted that as an added bonus CBD reduces anxiety, something very useful for the stress of life during a pandemic. Helpfully, cannabis was recently legalised in Thailand and the government has been drafting regulations on importing it.

While the article doesn’t directly link cannabis as a treatment for Covid-19, the evidence on CBD’s effect on lung inflammation, a dangerous symptom of coronavirus, makes further research worthwhile. The researchers urge further research to experiment if cannabis can be directly incorporated into Covid-19 treatment to help with inflammation and anxiety too.

SOURCE: Forbes

 

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Thailand

Thailand drafting new regulations for cannabis and hemp seeds

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Photo by Rick Proctor for Unsplash

A new regulations for cannabis and hemp seeds imports is in the works by Thailand’s Agriculture Department. With certain parts of the cannabis plant now off the narcotics list, many are tapping into the market for CBD, or cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive component in hemp and cannabis.

With the rising demand for hemp and cannabis, the department is revising regulations to make the rules more clear, according to department’s director general, Pichet Wiriyapapha. Those importing cannabis and hemp seeds will also need to get permission from the department. He says they plan to announce the new plan on cannabis and hemp seed regulations in May.

“Now we have only four strains of hemp developed for higher fibre yield, but not for the strain for higher CBD that is currently required for cosmetics and healthcare products. That is why we do need to actively develop such a strain to respond to the high demand in the market.”

CBD is known for its relaxing effects. Although there is still little research to back the claims, many say CBD can lesson anxiety and depression as well as provide relief for muscle pain and arthritis. In Thailand, CBD is growing in popularity, but parts of the cannabis plant high in the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, are still classified as a Category 5 narcotic.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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