PHUKET: Despite the recent effort to ‘restart’ Thailand as a more civil and corruption-free society, continued reports of drug-related arrests indicate that our nation still has a long way to go in curbing the chronic problems of illicit drugs.
The reflections of two female inmates serving lengthy sentences at the dangerously overcrowded Phuket Provincial Prison should serve as cautionary tales for anyone tempted to try their hand at dealing drugs as an ‘easy way’ to make money.
When it comes to drug dealing, the risks simply do not justify the rewards. In few countries is this truer than Thailand, which has particularly harsh sentencing for convicted drug dealers. Even those caught in possession of as few as 20 ya bah (methamphetamine) pills typically get a minimum three-year prison term.
Given the apparent popularity of meth among Thais and the role of poorly-educated young women in our country’s notorious night life industry, it comes as little surprise that some 42,000 Thai women, about 14 per cent of the total prison population, are behind bars.
This puts Thailand among the nations with the highest percentage of female inmates anywhere in the world. The scale of the meth problem is further indicated by the fact that more than three-quarters of all inmates in Thai prisons are serving sentences for drug-related convictions.
According to an estimate by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, about 1.4 per cent of Thais are addicted to amphetamines or related stimulants, among the highest national percentage in the world.
From 2009 to 2014, the number of drug cases nationwide more than doubled, from about 151,000 to about 347,000. Over the same period, the number of registered drug offenders increased from nearly 168,000 to almost 366,000, according to official figures.
Yet, out-and-out addicts appear to make up only a small portion of the much larger ‘iceberg’ of recreational drug users in the country. This is evidenced by the fact that authorities seize about 100 million ya bah pills annually, not to mention a metric tonne of the even more potent ya ice (crystal meth).
It is difficult to imagine why anyone would roll such dangerously loaded dice by selling drugs, putting not only their own future, but also that of friends, family and loved ones, at risk.
Despite the harshest of deterrents, many young people still take to drug dealing with reckless abandon.
If any of their number happens to be reading this column to its conclusion, please take this advice and quit while you’re ahead.
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