Pubdate: Thu, 23 Jun 2016
Source: Nation, The (Thailand)
Copyright: 2016 Nation Multimedia Group
Authors: Piyanuch Tamnukasetchai, Prapasri Osathanon


Paiboon Ready to Transfer Drug Rehab Function to Public Health Ministry

JUSTICE Minister Paiboon Koomchaya is ready to transfer drug 
rehabilitation function completely to the Public Health Ministry.

Authorities would proceed with the next step in the decriminalisation 
of methamphetamine, when the system is strong he said yesterday after 
a meeting of agencies including the National Command Centre for Drugs 
and the Public Health Ministry to discuss the findings of the UN 
General Assembly Special Session on Drugs.

The assembly cited world currents shifting from the war on drugs to 
thinking of how to live with drugs.

Paiboon didn't agree with the legalisation of drugs but agreed that 
drug abusers should be regarded as patients and treated accordingly.

While Thailand wasn't ready yet to forsake capital punishment, 
authorities would ensure that punishment fit the crime, as the 
amended drug law would separate major dealers from drug mules, 
pushers and abusers when it came to meting out harsh penalties, he said.

Affirming that drugs, including yaba, were still illegal in Thailand, 
Paiboon said the meeting agreed the country would maintain the 
current drug policy comprising prevention, suppression and 
rehabilitation, but drug-taking would be viewed as a health issue.

The Public Health Ministry would take charge of drug addicts' 
rehabilitation, while drug prevention and suppression would still be 
carried out strictly.

Listing methamphetamine - yaba - in the same category as heroin for 
maximum punishment often led to inappropriate punishment of drug 
abusers, he said.

Revising methamphetamine's status didn't mean all drug inmates would 
be brought out for rehabilitation, he said.

The Justice Ministry wouldn't interfere with already-finalised cases 
and those drug inmates would be rehabilitated in jail, he said.

"We just won't send patients to prisons because jails aren't 
treatment facilities. They must be with doctors," he said.

Systematic tackling

Agencies such as the Department of Juvenile Observation and 
Protection and the Corrections Department would support the Public 
Health Ministry's work, while all agencies would work towards the 
systematic tackling of drug issues, he added.

The Food and Drug Administration ( FDA) and the Narcotics Control 
Board ( NCB) welcomed the idea of decriminalising meth.

Dr Boonchai Somboonsook, chief of the FDA, said the Public Health 
Ministry agreed in principle with the concept, which was a good 
effort to curb drug problems.

However, agencies must further discuss the details and ensure 
everybody was on the same page.

Since 1996 when the country declared yaba illegal the number of 
abusers and pills had surged, he said.

Citing statistics from the FDA, which holds drug case evidence, he 
said the amount of yaba in storage was 50 tonnes.

The agency was scheduled to destroy five tonnes in a ceremony tomorrow.

The old way seemed to be not so effective in solving the drug problem, he said.

Narong Ratananukul, secretarygeneral of the NCB, said earlier 
yesterday that if methamphetamines was taken off the country's 
dangerous substances list and put under the normal drug category, it 
would help reduce its demand and price.

Thailand was the only country that had it on such a list while other 
countries had placed it as a psychotropic substance in Schedule 2, 
whose sale is restricted or is only sold on prescription.

"Thailand should review this," he said.

Dr Jate Siratharanon, chairman of the National Legislative Assembly's 
committee on public health, said he supported the proposal of 
decriminalising meth, as the war on drugs and the listing of meth on 
the country's dangerous substance list still didn't solve the problem.

Yaba's price also went up with more people dealing in syndicates, so 
it was a time for a new approach, he said.

Making meth a psychotropic substance on Schedule 2 would be in line 
with the UN's direction, he said.

Authorities must take time to explain the pros and cons of this move 
to the public, he said.
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