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Valium bust strands Kiwi teen in Phuket



Valium bust strands Kiwi teen in Phuket | Thaiger

PHUKET TOWN: A teenager from New Zealander is stranded in Phuket after being arrested for possession of diazepam pills without a prescription.

The 17-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was set to fly back to his current home in Australia on December 11.

But four days before he was due to leave, he was caught by Kathu Police in possession of a package of diazepam, better known under the trade name ‘Valium’.

The arrest meant he missed his flight – and the chance to spend Christmas with his family.

Now on bail, he is due to appear in court for the second time later this week.

According to Thailand’s Psychotropic Substances Act of 1974, possession of a ‘schedule IV’ drug such as diazepam without a prescription is illegal and punishable by up to one year in prison, a fine of 20,000 baht, or both.

But despite the law, drugs such as diazepam and alprazolam (trade name Xanax) are widely available at pharmacies in tourist centers such as Patong – with the tacit acceptance of some local authorities.

Ten milligram diazepam pills typically sell in Patong drug stores in packages of ten for 200 baht.

A high-ranking source in the Phuket Public Health Office (PPHO) admitted his department permitted pharmacies to sell the drugs, but only in “small” amounts.

“It is illegal to possess prescription drugs without a prescription, but in Phuket we’re not so strict as this is a tourist place,” he said. “We grant permission to pharmacies to sell the drugs, but they need to report to the PPHO first.”

There are around 250 pharmacies in Phuket, making it impossible for the PPHO to enforce regulations properly, he explained.

“We only have four or five staff members who work in this area,” he said. “But they have other jobs too – they can’t just run around chasing these people.”

One long-term expat resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said he had been buying these and other prescription medications in Thailand for over 20 years and had never had a problem finding them in Patong.

“I knew it was technically illegal, but never thought it could get me in trouble,” he said.

Asked about his force’s attitude to the prescription drug trade in Patong, Kathu Police Superintendent Grissak Songmoonnark Superintendent was emphatic.

“If you have these drugs in your possession without a prescription, the police have the right to arrest you,” he said.

“If you can show you have permission from a doctor to use the drugs, we’ll let you go. Otherwise, we have to send you to a court to let them judge,” he said.

— D. Waites & K. Pornmongkhonwa


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

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