Connect with us

Thai Life

Law, Life and Society: The real cost of incarceration

Legacy Phuket Gazette

Published 

 on 

PHUKET: Last month, Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya announced that methamphetamine will be removed from the list of Category 1 hard narcotics. It was met with controversy but it is a welcome change to a policy that has devastated Thai society.

According to the Corrections Department, Thailand has a prison population of 371,347 which is the 8th largest prison population in the world and accounts for about 40 per cent of the those incarcerated in Southeast Asia. About 70 per cent of the Thai prison population is in for drug related crimes.

The most commonly used illegal methamphetamine is ya bah. It is generally taken orally, but can also be inhaled or injected. The drug is addictive and habit forming. It is a stimulant that can keep users awake for days and generate hallucinations. The drug is harmful, but being found guilty of possession of ya bah can be more destructive. When ya bah was categorized as a hard narcotic, a finding of guilt could result in up to 10 years in prison.

It is generally accepted that incarceration is required by a civil society to maintain order and protection from individuals whose release could be dangerous to the general public. But there is a cost to incarceration. With hundreds of thousands of individuals locked up, the public is required to expend large amounts of financial resources to house, feed and supervise them, as well as provide health services. These financial resources should be redirected to preventing serious crimes like violence, theft, embezzlement, and other crimes with victims.

There is also a social cost to incarceration. Men and women are taken away from their community, friends and family, resulting in a social void. Families are disrupted. Children are without their parents. Men and women are without their spouses or loved ones. Parents are left without their children. Without the family unit, there is a reduction in household income, as well as an increase in poverty, parentless children and unsupported elderly. In addition, the fear of incarceration prevents some drug abusers from seeking assistance for their addiction.

We are not saying that Thailand should get rid of jails or prisons. However, the law should take into account the social and economic costs of incarcerating non-violent drug offenders. Community service and treatment is a better alternative for those convicted of the use of narcotics. Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya has moved in the right direction.

There should be examination of other prohibited drugs to see if alternative penalties would be a better option in light of the social and financial costs of incarceration.

Until the law changes, foreigners visiting or living in Thailand should not consume illegal narcotics or be in situations where they can be a victim of a drug scam. There are multiple cases of foreigners claiming that they have had drugs planted on them for extortion purposes. We personally know of an Australian man who was in a hotel room with a girl in a red light area when the police entered the room. The police claimed that he was in possession of illegal drugs, which they found hidden in the room.

The threat of incarceration in Thailand’s overcrowded jails is an easy tool for extortion. My advice for foreigners is to stay away from using illegal drugs, excessive drinking and red light areas.

For foreigners who ignore this advice, they should keep the phone number of a trusted local English-speaking criminal attorney and the number of their local embassy with them. Following an arrest, signing documents or making pleas without understanding the language or consequences can result in long-term imprisonment.

Additional reporting by Yutthachai Sangsirisap

Robert R Virasin is a licenced US attorney and managing director of Virasin & Partners. Yutthachai Sangsirisap is a licenced Thai Attorney at Virasin & Partners. They can be reached at info@virasin.com or their website virasin.com.

— Robert R Virasin

 

Want more Thailand news from the Thaiger family?

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS for instant updates on your mobile
📝️ Join the conversation on Thaiger Talk - discuss news & life in our Thailand forums
📧 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🔔 Subscribe to or Join our YouTube channel for daily video updates

image

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

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

Follow Thaiger by email:

Thailand2 hours ago

Tourism officials eye August reopening under “Pattaya Move On” travel scheme

Thailand3 hours ago

Thailand News Today | Covid vaccine for foreigners, PM “not going anywhere”, Boss update | June 15

Best of3 hours ago

Top 8 Affordable Hotels to stay in Bangkok

Phuket Sandbox July 1st

days
hours
minutes
seconds

Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in July - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages in June!

Sponsored by image

Thailand3 hours ago

Central Bankruptcy Court approves Thai Airways debt restructuring plan

Best of3 hours ago

Top 5 secret islands and beaches in Thailand

Best of4 hours ago

5 best national parks in Phuket

Thailand4 hours ago

Australian man arrested for alleged child sex abuse in Thai border town

Best of4 hours ago

10 best fruits and vegetables in Thailand

Thailand4 hours ago

3 dead in 3 truck crash in Surat Thani

Thailand5 hours ago

Bangkok Post and Fazwaz join together to galvanise property listings platform

Bangkok5 hours ago

CCSA has yet to begin talks on lifting alcohol ban at Bangkok restaurants

Coronavirus (Covid-19)5 hours ago

Yala enters lockdown today

Thailand6 hours ago

Thai police say they’ve gathered “strong evidence” on transnational drug trade

Phuket6 hours ago

Indonesian fisherman rescued after 9 days adrift at sea

Thailand7 hours ago

More than 100 cats rescued from owner

Thailand3 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism3 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism4 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism4 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8

Trending