BANGKOK (AFP): Five Thai monks have been defrocked after confessing to using methamphetamines (‘ya bah’), while another five caught in a drug raid also face being ousted from religious life, police said this morning. Acting on a complaint from local worshippers, police yesterday carried out urine tests on 26 monks living at a temple in the central province of Ratchaburi. They found that 10 of them had drugs in their system. Five confessed immediately and further tests were being carried out to confirm the guilt of the remaining five, according to Lieutenant Colonel Krisana Sapdej of Ratchburi police. The confirmed drug users have been sent to a provincial hospital for rehabilitation, Col Krisana said, adding that they had been taking drugs before they entered monkhood. Krisana said drug abuse was a widespread problem among monks because parents often sent their drug-addicted sons to temples in the belief that they would give up once they entered religious life. Thailand is facing an enormous drug addiction crisis fed by methamphetamines which are churned out in clandestine factories along the Burmese border. Authorities say that the amount of drugs flowing into Thailand has skyrocketed over the past three years, despite efforts to curb trafficking. Some 700 million amphetamine tablets are expected to enter Thailand this year, an enormous jump from the 100 million tablets estimated for 1998. About six percent of the nation’s population of 62 million is believed to be addicted to drugs. Religious Affairs Department official Manop Polpairin said earlier this year that some ten percent of Thailand’s 300,000 monks and novices have fallen prey to drug abuse and sought treatment at rehabilitation centers.
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