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PHUKET OPINION: Saving lives is not an ‘internal affair’

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET OPINION: Saving lives is not an ‘internal affair’ | The Thaiger

PHUKET: The dismissal en masse of Patong-based volunteer rescue workers by the Kusoldharm Foundation once again raises the need for better standards in emergency medical rescue services – not just in Patong, but across all of Phuket.

As a privately administered organization, the Kusoldharm Foundation has the right to dismiss volunteers whose conduct is inappropriate, but to terminate the services of all 33 volunteers without offering any public explanation is somewhat surprising.

The Kusoldharm Foundation is Phuket’s largest and best-funded charity providing emergency services. (See story, this week’s issue of the Phuket Gazette. Digital subscribers, click here to download the full newspaper.)

To be fired from a paid position is one thing, but to be told that services rendered free-of-charge will no longer be accepted is an affront, one that naturally raises questions about what, exactly, lies at the heart of the dispute between the organization and its former volunteers.

Both sides mention the possibility of a court case, but neither cares to reveal what charges might be laid – or against whom.

When the motivation for the actions of any group or individual come into question, it is generally a good idea to follow the money trail. Unfortunately, however, the Kusoldharm Foundation releases very little information about its management policies, decisions or finances.

Shedding some light on the issues involved is Kathu Police Superintendent Arayapan Pukbuakao, who charged the ex-volunteers with using their positions for their own personal benefit, such as by accepting payment for delivering patients to certain hospitals.

Col Arayapan also charged the ex-volunteers with having poor rescue skills that put accident victims at extra risk, tampering with evidence at accident scenes, and drug use.

He also says that valuables were often reported missing from accident scenes by foreign tourists who received assistance.

But there are always two sides to a story.

The director of Patong Hospital said he wasn’t aware of any problems arising from the volunteers’ work, while charges of involvement in illegal drug use have thus far been backed up with reference to a single case of marijuana possession.

There is no question that Kusoldharm will need to beef up its staff in Patong in time for the rapidly approaching high season, when the increase in the number of people on the ground, coupled with the various enjoyments they pursue, virtually guarantees a higher accident rate.

So recruiting and training new staff to meet the obvious and urgent need would be great – if it could be done in time.

The worst situation, one to be avoided at all costs, would be to allow two rival rescue groups to operate on the same turf. Patong has enough problems as it is, so violent confrontations between rival rescue services, all too frequent in other parts of Thailand, would not be welcome in Phuket.

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Thailand

Cannabis could generate 8 billion baht for Thai pharmaceutical industry by 2025, expert says

Caitlin Ashworth

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Cannabis could generate 8 billion baht for Thai pharmaceutical industry by 2025, expert says | The Thaiger

Cannabis could become a major cash crop in Thailand. An expert says the cannabis-based medicinal products could generate up to 8 billion baht for the Thai pharmaceutical industry by 2025. Medical cannabis has been legal in Thailand for the past couple years, but recently the government agreed to allow parts of the plant with very, low traces of the “high-inducing” component tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, to be in medicinal products and food.

Cannabis-based medicines have been used as palliative treatment for some cancer patients in Thailand. Last year, nearly 1 million patients used cannabis-based medicines, according to an economist at Kasetsart University’s Agricultural and Resource Economics Department, Ravissa Suchato.

Around 1.2 billion baht worth of medical cannabis was consumed last year, according to Ravissa, who led a recent study on the economic impact of commercial cannabis cultivation in Thailand. If the average consumption rises as expected, medical cannabis could generate 8 billion baht within the next 5 years.

“We believe marijuana has great potential as a cash crop because more patients will start using marijuana-based drugs soon.”

In the past, Thai officials have discussed the opportunity to tap into the global cannabis market by exporting medical cannabis, but Ravissa says Thailand still has a way to go.

“Globally, the recreational use of marijuana has risen a lot faster than pharmaceutical use, so the prospect of exporting marijuana-based medicines from Thailand is still a long way off.”

Parts of the cannabis plant that are rich in THC, like the buds, are still illegal and classified as a Category 5 narcotic. Trafficking the plant is still heavily criminalised. Just over the past few days, border patrol police in the Northeastern province Nakhon Pathom seized hundreds of kilograms of dried, compressed cannabis believed to have been trafficked across the Mekong River from Laos and destined for the South, possibly to Malaysia.

SOURCE: Thai PBS

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Crime

Another drug bust near the Mekong River, 500 kilograms of cannabis seized

Caitlin Ashworth

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Another drug bust near the Mekong River, 500 kilograms of cannabis seized | The Thaiger
PHOTO: MGR Online

In another drug bust in Northeastern province Nakhon Phanom, police arrested a man and seized 500 kilograms of compressed cannabis. Just yesterday, border patrol police in the province seized 920 kilograms of compressed cannabis from a boat on the Mekong River. In both cases, police suspect the cannabis came from Laos, just across the river.

Police say they searched a black Nissan Navara pickup around 1am in the province’s Na Kae district. Police opened the truck’s bed cover and found 12 sacks with 500 packages of dried, compacted cannabis. Each package of cannabis weighed 1 kilogram, similar to the previous bust on the river.

28 year old Saravut Butngam was arrested. Saravut previously worked in construction, but has recently been unemployed. He allegedly told police that a man called him with an opportunity to make 50,000 baht. He was told to drive the pickup truck from a petrol station in the Na Kae district to a specified location in the neighbouring province Sakon Nakhon, police say. From there, another driver would take over.

Border police commander Sippanan Sornkhunkaew says he suspects the cannabis seized in the province was trafficked from Laos across the Mekong River. He says he believes the cannabis was planned to be trafficked to Southern Thailand and then smuggled across the border, possibly to Malaysia.

On Sunday morning, police confiscated 920 kilograms of cannabis from a boat on the Mekong River. When police approached the boat, men jumped off onto a smaller boat and fled the scene. The dried, compacted cannabis was wrapped in 1 kilogram packages.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Drugs

Police seize 920 kilograms of cannabis smuggled across the Mekong River

Caitlin Ashworth

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Police seize 920 kilograms of cannabis smuggled across the Mekong River | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thairath

In a major bust on the Mekong River, notorious for drug smuggling, border patrol police seized 920 kilograms of dried, compacted cannabis from a boat along the Nakhon Pathom riverbank, bordering Laos.

Police were tipped off about a large shipment of drugs being trafficked across the Thai-Laos border. Police spotted a boat around 4am yesterday. When police moved in, men onboard the boat jumped onto a smaller boat and sped off. Police found 23 sacks filled with 1-kilogram packages of compressed cannabis.

Police seize 920 kilograms of cannabis smuggled across the Mekong River | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: MGR Online

In the recent months, police have seized more than 5 tonnes of cannabis. While the Thai government has been loosening measures on cannabis, allowing parts of the plant with low traces of the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, to be used in food and medicinal products, trafficking cannabis is still illegal. Cannabis with high amounts of THC is still classified as a Category 5 narcotic.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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