Government 'won't legalise' meth
Traffickers will still face 'drastic' penalties
Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya has confirmed the government will not legalise methamphetamine, but will remove it from the dangerous narcotic drugs list that includes hard drugs such as heroin.
"There's no way ya ba (methamphetamine) will be made legal. It will remain as an illicit drug. We're not ready to legalise the drug," said Gen Paiboon following a meeting of the National Administration Centre for Narcotics Prevention and Suppression.
Gen Paiboon's earlier proposal to "lift ya ba from the narcotics list" came under fire despite several parties agreeing with the idea, while many questions and concerns were raised. However, the justice minister said Wednesday the current policy toward speed pills is not working and needs to change, especially in the area of punishments for drug offenders.
"Traffickers and major dealers will face drastic measures while those who suffer abuse by drug networks as well as drug addicts will receive measures proportionate to their offences," he said.
A new bill which was drawn up to reform the system of drug laws will draw a distinction between producers, traders, workers and addicts and they will be treated differently, he said.
However, he said Thailand is not ready to abolish the death sentence in narcotics cases.
Gen Paiboon said putting methamphetamine in the same category as heroin which carries severe penalties is deemed wrong and unfair to drug addicts. Other drugs, not just methamphetamine, will be reviewed and reclassified, he said.
Gen Paiboon said meeting delegates agreed the drug policy should have three approaches -- prevention, suppression and rehabilitation. The Public Health Ministry is likely to be the core agency in drug rehabilitation.
"Don't send drug patients to jail because jails are not places where they can be treated. We've been sending patients to prison," he said.
Once the public health system is ready for drug rehabilitation, reclassification of drugs could proceed, he said.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) secretary-general Boonchai Somboonsook said health authorities agreed with the Justice Ministry's new policy towards drugs.
However, he said the proposed change in the status of methamphetamine will need to be discussed thoroughly.
"After methamphetamine was called ya ba and declared an illicit drug in 1996, its abuse continued to increase and so did the amounts of the drug," he said. The FDA is responsible for storing and destroying seized methamphetamine.
Office of the Narcotics Control Board secretary-general Narong Rattananukul said Thailand is the only country that classifies methamphetamine as a narcotic drug as dangerous as heroin. Elsewhere, the drug is a controlled substance.
He said if methamphetamine is reviewed and reclassified, its demand may decrease and so may the price, which will discourage traders and traffickers from dealing the substance.
National Legislative Assembly committee on public health chairman Jate Sirathranont has also thrown his weight behind the justice minister's policy, saying a new approach is needed to fight drugs.
However, he said the policy towards methamphetamine might trigger public criticism and called on relevant authorities to explain to the public any change in attitude toward drugs.
Meanwhile, four people have been arrested with large amounts of methamphetamine worth about 100 million baht in two separate incidents, the Royal Thai Police Narcotics Suppression Bureau said.
In Nakhon Pathom, Mongkol Kasemjit, 45, a former drug convict, was nabbed at the entrance of a soi in Kamphaeng Saen district.
Police allegedly found 600,000 methamphetamine pills and 5kg of crystal meth in his car.
In a second operation, three suspects, a 17-year-old whose name was withheld; Peerapas Nutcharoen, 24; and Suwinai Boon-iem, 23, were arrested in Sikhiu district.
The suspects were travelling from Sakon Nakhon to Nakhon Ratchasima. Police said they found them in possession of 214,000 methamphetamine pills.
The suspects allegedly told police they had been offered 50,000 baht to deliver the drugs to customers in the Central provinces.