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Phuket Gazette: Central America most violent; U.S. Coast Guard crash; Hackers arrested

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Phuket Gazette: Central America most violent; U.S. Coast Guard crash; Hackers arrested | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

UN describes Central America as world’s most violent area, and the U.S. the biggest drug market
PHUKET (News Wires): The United Nations (UN) on Tuesday described Central America as one of the most violent areas in the world as drug-related violence continues to rise, signaling the United States as the world’s biggest drug market.

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), which identified Honduras, Costa Rica and Nicaragua as key transit countries for smuggling drugs primarily destined for the United States, stated that drug trafficking organizations have increased their operations in the region, posing a serious threat to the security of the region.

In its annual report, the INCB said the increase in drug-related violence comes as many Mexican drug cartels – under pressure from Mexican authorities – have moved their operations south of the border. Furthermore, the report noted that El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Jamaica now have the world’s highest homicide rates as a result of drug-related activities, and the proliferation of street gangs and availability of firearms has led to an increase in crime rates.

With more than 45,000 people in the region dying of drug-related causes every year, North America has remained the world’s largest drug market, followed by Europe. The alarming death rates constitute the highest annual drug-related mortality rate in the world.

INCB also highlighted the increasing flow of heroin into Africa which is causing a surge in drug abuse throughout the region, particularly in East and Southern Africa.

Last year, record seizures of heroin were carried out in Kenya and Tanzania, and the smuggling of other drugs such as cocaine and cannabis continue to pose a threat to the region, with INCB warning that most countries still lack appropriate systems to monitor and combat drug abuse.

The report also emphasizes the abuse of prescription drugs and over-the-counter pharmaceutical preparations in South Asia, stressing that many of these are being sold through illegal Internet pharmacies which target a young audience.

It also warns that in East and South-East Asia as well as South Asia, the use of amphetamines is increasing and is contributing to a higher rate of HIV and hepatitis C infections.

U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crashes in Alabama; 1 dead, 3 missing
PHUKET (News Wires): A United States Coast Guard (USCG) helicopter crashed in Mobile Bay in Alabama on Tuesday evening, officials said yesterday. At least one crew member was killed while three others remain missing.

The accident happened at approximately 7:40pm local time when a Coast Guard MH-65C helicopter crashed approximately 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) from the shore in Mobile Bay, a Gulf of Mexico inlet which is located in the state of Alabama. Four people were on board.

Soon after the accident, one of the crew members was found unresponsive by the crew of a 26-foot (7.9-meters) Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Boat. The crew member, whose identity was not immediately released, was later declared deceased. Searches for the three other crew members were continuing on Wednesday.

“CG-6535 was flown by a four-person crew and was conducting training operations,” said Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert Papp. “A full Coast Guard and interagency search and rescue effort was launched – the aircraft was quickly located. One deceased crew member was recovered, and extensive efforts continue to locate the other three crew members.”

At least three aircraft and half a dozen boats are involved in the search effort, as well as Good Samaritan vessels. Authorities have remained hopeful as the crew members were equipped with survival gear, but chances of finding survivors were diminishing quickly on late Wednesday.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the crew members during this difficult time,” said Captain Don Rose, commander of Coast Guard Sector Mobile. “We are working through the night to continue to conduct a robust search for the three crew members who are still missing and we appreciate the assistance of all of the agencies and personnel who are volunteering their time and resources to assist with the search and rescue efforts.”

The cause of the accident was not immediately known, but Papp promised a detailed investigation. “We will conduct a full investigation into this incident to determine the cause,” he said in an e-mail.

Police nab 25 ‘Anonymous’ hackers in Latin America and Europe
PHUKET (News Wires): More than two dozen suspected hackers belonging to a group who call themselves ‘Anonymous’ have been arrested in Latin America and Europe on Tuesday, the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) said yesterday.

A total of 25 individuals across four countries in Latin America and Europe were arrested in an international operation, which was launched in mid-February following a series of coordinated cyber-attacks originating from Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Spain against the Colombian Ministry of Defense and presidential websites, as well as Chile’s Endesa electricity company and its National Library, among others.

“This operation shows that crime in the virtual world does have real consequences for those involved, and that the Internet cannot be seen as a safe haven for criminal activity, no matter where it originates or where it is targeted,” said Bernd Rossbach, Acting INTERPOL Executive Director of Police Services.

The Interpol-backed Operation Unmask, as it was dubbed, was carried out by national law enforcement officers in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Spain. Interpol said its Latin American Working Group of Experts on Information Technology (IT) Crime facilitated the sharing of intelligence following operational meetings in the four participating countries.

Some 250 items of IT equipment and mobile phones were also seized during searches of 40 premises across 15 cities during the operation, as well as payment cards and cash, as part of a continuing investigation into the funding of illegal activities carried out by the suspected hackers who are aged 17 to 40.

According to Spanish national police, four people were arrested in Spain, ten people were arrested in Argentina, six people were arrested in Chile, and five people were arrested in Colombia. Police said one of those arrested in Spain is a 16-year-old girl who is an alleged member of “sector 404,” a hacking group which is believed to be linked to cyber attacks claimed by Anonymous.

In addition to the arrests and the equipment seized, authorities also closed two servers in Bulgaria and the Czech Republic.

Websites of both INTERPOL and Spanish National Police were offline early Wednesday morning, apparently caused by a retaliation attack which was claimed by Anonymous.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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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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