Speeding on the road to 'ya ba' ruin
Headline news reports about an attempt by the government to soften penalties for methamphetamine (known as <i>ya ba</i>) have left me dumbfounded.
The reason for such a move as given by Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya is: The drug in question is "not severe as alcohol and tobacco".
"The world has now surrendered to drugs, and has come to think of how to live with drugs. It is like a man suffering from cancer and having no cure and he has to live a happy life with the cancer," said Gen Paiboon, after a meeting to discuss the results at the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs.
Umesh Pandey is editor of Asia Focus, Bangkok Post.
Gen Paiboon's proposal, which pushed for so-called "proportionate punishments", was seconded by Thailand's Supreme Court president Veerapol Tungsuwan.
We are also told that a bill has been drawn up to reform the system of drug laws and, according to the Justice Minister, it has received cabinet endorsement. It will be soon tabled to the National Legislative Assembly for deliberation.
With two of the country's top people in charge of the judiciary pushing for such a move, it is no wonder the country's fight against drugs has achieved little.
I do not know where Gen Paiboon and Mr Veerapol get their information from but seldom do I see people high on alcohol or tobacco slit someone's throat or stab someone.
But read the news or watch the vernacular Thai-language television stations and every few days one gets to see or read about these atrocities being committed by drug abusers all across Thailand.
In case Gen Paiboon and Mr Veerapol have forgotten, I can remind them of how a drug abuser raped an underage girl in Bangkok not too long ago or how a son killed his own mother -- again not too long ago. Both were high on the drug that the minister and supreme court president want to have "proportionate punishments" for.
And it remains unclear what the term "proportionate punishment" means, but if we ask the victims, their families and the neighbours who live close to drug abusers, I am sure the answer would not be to soften punishments for these crimes.
If we did a random survey of how the general public think about this issue, I can bet there would be no support for this controversial proposal.
Also, ask school personnel or the parents who have lost their children to this substance. I doubt if anyone would have the courage to tell them about how law and enforcement would be compromised.
Besides, there are interesting statistics I think Gen Paiboon and Mr Veerapol should consider before throwing their support behind this cause -- regarding the scourge that every country in the world is looking to eradicate.
I would like to remind them that countries in this region (Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos and China) saw as many as 286 million pills of ya ba seized last year. Out of the total, more than 90 million pills or a third were found in Thailand.
It is known that this region is a hub for ya ba and although China's land mass and population is six times larger than that of the other five countries combined (Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam), the fact that a third of all pills seized were in Thailand is scary.
If one takes the 90 million-plus pills that were seized (we are not talking about the number that got away), that would represent 1.3 pills for each Thai.
This is not including the 27,000 kilogrammes of crystal methamphetamine, also known as ya ice, and other kinds of drugs that were seized in this region.
I may sound very abrasive in stating all these statistics but I really see no reason for such a proposal.
Which country in the world gives up the battle against amphetamines? The United States has been fighting it for ages, and yet it has not given up.
Australia, the United Kingdom, Japan, you name it, all countries are fighting this social evil. In fact, I am an advocate of a more severe punishment for those involved in the amphetamine trade.
In my opinion, we should follow our Asean neighbours, namely Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, which welcome all travellers with this announcement: "Drug trafficking is punishable by death."
Bangkok Post Editor
Umesh Pandey is Editor, Bangkok Post.