Pubdate: Tue, 30 Aug 2016
Source: Nation, The (Thailand)
Copyright: 2016 Nation Multimedia Group
Author: Piyanuch Thamnukasetchai


JUSTICE MINISTER General Paiboon Koomchaya is willing to propose that 
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha invoke Article 44 of the interim 
charter to downgrade the amphetamine drug known as "yaba" to a 
narcotics category two drug, provided that the Public Health Ministry 
has a proper system to combat drug abuse.

Public Health permanent secretary Dr Sopon Mekthon said he was ready 
to respond accordingly if the government revised its policy to 
regulate the drug. He said doctors could not prescribe 'yaba' for 
medical treatment while it remained a category one drug. Category two 
drugs can be used legally with a doctor's prescription. Downgrading 
the category of the drug could address addiction issues, officials 
have said, because the current designation as a category one drug 
carries severe penalties that can deter users from seeking treatment.

Sopon said the ministry planned to implement three measures to 
support a new policy, including amending the law to encourage addicts 
to undergo rehabilitation, improving screening and rehabilitation 
methods for drug users, and increasing the number of centres at the 
tambon level where addicts could seek help.

The last point about service centres is based on a model of the 
Portuguese system.

Paiboon and Sopon spoke at a meeting yesterday focused on yaba use 
and legal innovations to regulate the drug at a Bangkok hotel yesterday.

Another proposal presented to the Public Health Ministry was to 
encourage the use of non-narcotic drugs such as modafinil or 
armodafinil, which are stimulants which could be produced by the 
Government Pharmaceutical Organisation.

The drugs cost only US$1 (Bt34) per tablet compared to Bt200 for yaba 
on the illegal market.

A medical study suggested that if yaba usage is legalised, it should 
be taken less three times a week.

"If yaba remains a category one drug, we can't change anything," 
Paiboon said. "While suppression efforts would require Asean 
countries' determination to destroy its manufacturing base in the 
Golden Triangle ... The new compilation of drugs laws would also 
segregate drug abusers, dealers and those committing both offences 
[for proper penalties] ... traffickers would get death sentences."

"If society is confident in substance control and jail terms for drug 
traffickers, amphetamine prices could drop to Bt5 to Bt10 per pill, 
resulting in the destruction of the drug trade," he said.

He said authorities were also studying the possibility of removing 
from the narcotics list kratom and marijuana, which could be 
classified as medicinal herbs.

The Narcotics Control Board says nearly 2 million Thais consume as 
many as 4 billion yaba tablets a year. A single manufacturing base in 
Myanmar can produce at least 1 billion tablets a year, half of which 
are smuggled into Thailand with about 20 per cent, or 100 million 
pills, seized by authorities.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom