Pubdate: Fri, 19 Aug 2016
Source: Bangkok Post (Thailand)
Copyright: The Post Publishing Public Co., Ltd. 2016
Author: King-Oua Laohong


Thailand is on the wrong track in its efforts to address drug 
problems and it is time to treat drug abuse as a health issue rather 
than a crime, says Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya.

Speaking at the "Thailand's Drug Policy Revisited" forum held by the 
Thailand Institute of Justice, Gen Paiboon said the high number of 
drug offenders and widespread drug abuse in communities shows the 
drug policy is failing.

"It has been wrong all these years. If not, why do 70% of drug 
offenders remain in prison? Why does the problem persist despite 
thousands of deaths? And why do people still complain about drugs in 
their community? They're telling us there's something wrong," he said.

Gen Paiboon, who has spoken on a similar theme previously, said the 
country has to shift the emphasis from suppression to treating drug 
abuse as a health problem and engaging the public health system in 
the issue. He said the drug law should be amended to prepare the 
country for the change.

Gen Paiboon said authorities should strengthen the more than 81,000 
communities across the country and increase their ability to tackle 
drugs. He also wants the Public Health Ministry to conduct a 
feasibility study on how to reduce the price of each speed pill to 50 satang.

The Justice Ministry is gearing up for a meeting with provincial 
governors and district office chiefs on the drugs issue next month, he said.

Backing his remarks, Public Health Minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn 
said authorities have been fighting an unwinnable war and have to 
change strategy. He said the role of the public health system is to 
reduce the number of drug users and treat them as patients instead of 

Dr Piyasakol said community-based health clinics will have to be 
engaged in the policy change. A bill is being drawn up to reform the 
system. Under the change, methamphetamines will be removed from the 
dangerous narcotics drugs list which includes hard drugs such as heroin.

Economist Sangsidh Piriyarangsan said certain substances such as 
methamphetamine and plants such as marijuana should be legalised for 
medical use.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom