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Rise in Phuket’s troubled teens

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: The director of the Phuket Juvenile Observation and Protection Center (JOPC) said she believes teenagers across Phuket are becoming more aggressive.

Rawee Kuhamooka told the Phuket Gazette that every year JOPC staff have to work harder to control their detainees. Ms Rawee’s comments come after a riot at the center earlier this month left the building’s grounds, cafeteria, therapy and treatment rooms in disarray.

Thirty-five juvenile delinquents tore apart furniture and discharged fire extinguishers in a riot that was only quelled after provincial police were called in.

“We can prove that [detainees] are more aggressive from how hard we have to work to control them,” Ms Rawee said. “Over the past several years we’ve worked harder than ever, even though the number of juveniles coming in the center is the same. Teenagers’ behavior today is characteristic of older criminals. Yet we still use the same soft laws and the same out-of-date methods to deal with them. This is why they’re never afraid of detention and are more likely to commit crimes over and over again.”

Every year, the Phuket juvenile center processes between 400 and 500 cases involving 15-17 year-olds who were convicted of committing a crime. Ms Rawee said the majority of the cases that are referred to the center involve possession of the category 5 narcotic krathom, followed by cases involving violent assaults and the illegal possession of a gun.

“Every day, we have around 30 to 40 teens in the center, who are overseen by about 10 officers,” she said. “The teens are divided into different correctional education classes based on the crimes they’ve committed.”

Ms Rawee said the detainees meet with a multidisciplinary team of psychologists, doctors, social workers and specialists within the first week of their arrival. Afterward, each detainee is categorized into low, medium and high risk groups, following a mandatory drug test and physical examination. Each detainee may spend no longer than 90 days at the facility.

“For teenagers, courts almost always give them the chance to come here first and almost never send them directly to prison,” Ms Rawee said. “More than 80 percent of our detainees are judged to be able to return to society,”

Ms Rawee said she believes the emphasis on treatment is not enough to deter those detainees deemed a ‘higher-risk,’ from recidivism.

“From my experience, I believe that family, society and our weak laws are the three main reasons our detainees are becoming more and more troublesome,” Ms Rawee said.

FAMILY

JOPC staff psychologist Phetcharat Phromphet told the Gazette that teenagers from divorced parents or troubled households are more likely to become aggressive, both at the center and out in society.

“It’s called imitation theory,” Ms Phetcharat explained. “If the kid is living with a violent or volatile family, they’ll internalize and imitate that behavior.”

“Teenage years are a time of change, and during that period they need a rational voice giving them advice, otherwise they will turn into their surroundings. If their family has problems, they’ll turn to their friends,” Ms Phetcharat said.

“On the other hand, if the family spoils their children, if the kids always get want they want, they’ll expect that in real society. They will dare to do anything to get what they want.”

A 17-year-old at the detention center, arrested for possession of marijuana and a gun, echoed Ms Phetcharat’s statements. The Gazette is withholding his name, as he is a minor.

“Actually, my mom knew that I was playing around with marijuana,” he said. “She tried to stop me, but I didn’t listen to her, I think because I’ve always been a little spoiled by my mom. I’m not afraid of her. And since she’s not always around, I still get to smoke.”

“My mom was very disappointed at me after my arrest,” he said. “I think, after I leave here, I will never do it again. If I do it again, next time I might not be taken here, but might go to jail. They gave me one chance already, so I have to be better.”

Ms Phetcharat said it doesn’t always take a volatile household or a pushover parent for teenagers to end up at the JOPC. Sometimes parents have no time to take care of their children, or they live far away from their kids.

“Teenagers are at that age where they’re still learning new things,” Ms Phetcharat said. “It’s the age of trying something new, the age of wanting to win or to be the best at something. Kids want to be recognized and appreciated by others, particularly by their peers.”

“Therefore, if they don’t live with their family, or if their family isn’t around to redirect them right away, the chances are greater that they’ll end up off-course,” she added.

SOCIETY

After the family, society as a whole has large role in affecting teenagers’ behavior, Ms Phetcharat said.

“Phuket is a very diverse place, and there are a lot of foreigners and Thais moving here from other provinces to work and live. While that’s good for the economy, growing villages into cities means there’s more likely to be crime,” she said. “We can see that teenagers are moving here by themselves from other provinces to study, and that group is hugely vulnerable.”

“A high fluency in technologies like social media, also means that teenagers can access nearly anything at any time, which is another big issue,” Ms Phetcharat said. “This is part of the reason that they’re acting older than their age and more unexpectedly.”

Ms Phetcharat said that social media gives teenagers access to new friend groups, allowing them to try new things and access illegal substances or weapons.

Another 17-year-old who agreed to speak with the Gazette, said that he met his friends online and that they introduced him to drugs for the first time.

“I was arrested for krathom,” he said. “My parents work a lot, so I spend most of my time with friends. At first, I didn’t drink krathom, but when I started hanging out with them more often, I just wanted to try it.”

“The first time I was arrested and taken to the JOPC, I was very worried,” he said. “I heard from people outside that there’s a lot of hazing and pressure from the older generation inside and that the punishments were really harsh, but the JOPC is not like that. They teach us and change our minds a lot. I will never commit a crime again after I leave here. I think I’ve learned a lot here.”

LAW

Ms Rawee said she believes the teenagers under her charge are becoming bolder with each passing year. For her, changes need to be made in order to ensure that the JOPC can adequately focus on treatment and reducing recidivism.

“The most important part of this problem is that our laws are weak,” Ms Rawee said. “If the law is strict, people are deterred from crime, particularly teenagers. If we punish them harshly when they do wrong, they’ll be afraid of the consequences of doing it again.”

“Thailand’s laws give teenagers several chances,” she said. “The punishments are mostly just going to the JOPC, which isn’t much of a deterrent.”

But Phuket’s Provincial Police Commander Teerapol Thipjaroen disagrees.

“Laws and how we enforce them are at the end of the equation,” General Teerapol said. “The law gives teenagers multiple chances, as they are not old enough to think like an adult. This is an international standard and we cannot punish teenagers harshly.”

“Arresting teens isn’t our goal,” he said. “The real goal is to help them.”

— Kongleaphy Keam

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Thailand

Thai FDA expedites the process to list cannabis as an “essential medicine”

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thai FDA expedites the process to list cannabis as an “essential medicine” | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Healthserv.net

Cannabis could soon become an “essential medicine” in Thailand. While the plant’s euphoria-inducing buds are still illegal and classified as a narcotic, other parts of the plant that do not cause a “high,” like the leaves, are being pushed into the food and medicine industry.

The Thai Food and Drug Administration is even trying to speed up the process to include cannabis on the National List of Essential Medicines and to also allow it to be used in food, according to the FDA secretary general Supattra Boonserm. Yesterday, the FDA committee approved a draft ordinance to allow the once-criminalised plant to be on the essential medicines list as well as to be an ingredient in food.

“Users can put oil extracts from cannabis in breakfast cereals, bakery products, beverages, snacks or butter as well as in food supplements.”

There are 2 main components in cannabis: tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, and cannabidiol, known as CBD. THC is the psychoactive component which causes the “happy-hungry high” while CBD is understood to have health benefits and has been used to treat anxiety and insomnia. THC is still illegal in Thailand.

Since the Public Health Ministry approved the use of cannabis and hemp for medical and research purposes, more than 50,000 patients in Thailand have been prescribed cannabis-based treatments, according to Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.

Anutin says the FDA’s move to expedite the process of listing cannabis as an essential medicine is intended to make sure there is a sustainable supply of cannabis and the products are available to those who need it.

“The efficacy and safety of medical cannabis will continue to be reviewed, and the findings will be used to support further changes to medical cannabis laws.”

The health minister spoke at the official opening of the Ministry’s Institute of Medical Cannabis, which will be the coordinating agency to make sure cannabis-based products are in line with government policies.

“The institute will also provide accurate information about the plants and their use, as public interest in the plants have grown.”

More than 300 community enterprises have joined with the ministry to grow cannabis for medical and research purposes, Anutin said. He adds that households with permission from a local hospital can grow up to 6 cannabis plants on the property.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Cannabis

Thai government hopes cannabis will be a primary cash crop for farmers

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thai government hopes cannabis will be a primary cash crop for farmers | The Thaiger

While marijuana traffickers are still getting busted by police, many smuggling the plant across the Mekong River, the Thai government is encouraging local farmers to grow cannabis, as long as they partner with a provincial hospital to use the plant for medicinal purposes. A deputy government spokesperson told Reuters the government hopes that cannabis and hemp will be a “primary cash crop for farmers.”

Late last year, Thailand removed certain parts of cannabis off the narcotics list. Parts of the plant with high amounts of the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, are still classified as a Category 5 narcotic.

So far, 2,500 households in Thailand and 251 provincial hospitals have legally grown 15,000 cannabis plants, according to deputy government spokesperson Traisulee Traisoranakul. She says those interested in growing cannabis have to seek approval from authorities. Universities, community enterprises and those in the medical industry can obtain licenses to grow cannabis.

“Everybody has the right to grow marijuana by partnering up with provincial hospitals for medical use.”

With the declassification of certain cannabis parts, the plant can be used in food and beverages at restaurants. Over the past few months, some cafes and restaurants have started to offer dishes made with cannabis leaves. Traisulee says cannabis used in food ends to come from an approved producer. She says the Medical Marijuana Institute will hold information sessions next month.

SOURCE: Reuters

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Cannabis

Thailand becomes more cannabis-friendly after leaves removed from narcotics list

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thailand becomes more cannabis-friendly after leaves removed from narcotics list | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook/ ไปเลย

With cannabis leaves now off Thailand’s narcotics list, the once taboo and criminalised plant is making its way into daily life in Thailand. Since the government decision in December to remove certain parts of the cannabis plant from the narcotics list, Thailand’s first cannabis cafe “Taste of Ganja” opened in Prachin Buri and another called “420 Cannabis Bar” just opened in Bangkok. The Bangkok dessert shop Kanom Siam also announced it was adding a special ingredient to its pandan coconut Thai pancakes… cannabis.

The Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine is even encouraging the public to use the plant… as long as it has very low traces of the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. The plant’s THC-rich buds are still illegal.

The department recently held a 2-day informational event at the Museum of Public Health and Medicine in Nonthaburi, just outside Bangkok, to educate people about the various uses of cannabis… and probably not the uses you’re thinking of. There were no tips on how to make a gravity bong out of household products or how to make cannabis butter for magic brownies. Tips were more like how to use the plant’s stems and fibre to manufacture textiles and paper as well as how to use the leaves to make cannabis tea.

Some are using the cannabis leaves in foods. The leaves have very low traces of THC and won’t cause a “high.” At the Taste of Ganja, people can munch on deep fried cannabis leaves and stir fried meat with basil and cannabis leaves. The cafe is affiliated with Chao Phraya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital which opened Thailand’s first medical cannabis clinic in 2019.

The 420 Cannabis Bar offers cannabis teas and drinks with names like Stoner Plummer, which is made with plum soda, and Herbs Party, which is tea made with lemon. Prices range from around 125 baht to 145 baht. The bar also serves Fly High Cookies and Happy Brownies for 180 baht. Despite the names, the food and drinks won’t get you stoned.

Cannabis buds are still classified as a Category 5 narcotic with fairly harsh penalties. Police are continuously cracking down on the illegal marijuana trade. Just over the weekend, officers seized 484 kilograms of dried, compacted cannabis, commonly known as “brick weed,” in a bust by the Mekong River in the Isaan province Nakhon Phanom, which borders Laos.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post| Coconuts Bangkok

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