Fight against illegal drugs 'needs boost'
Thailand needs better strategies to combat illegal drugs, an increasingly serious problem across the country despite more frequent crackdowns, experts say.
Though the government has declared anti-drug operations as urgent, "we see no single province that can declare itself drug-free," Deputy Prime Minister Prajin Juntong told a workshop preparing a 2019 anti-drug campaign on Wednesday.
Only some "white" communities can be really free from the trade in narcotics, he said, referring to the name of a government plan that encourages villages nationwide to join efforts in eradicating drugs in their areas.
A recent assessment found the drug problem is increasing with Thailand classified as both a production area and a transit country through which drugs are smuggled in for delivery elsewhere.
"The North face drugs being smuggled across borders as does the Northeast from Nakhon Phanom to Ubon Ratchathani," ACM Prajin said.
In the South, coastal provinces are also plagued by drugs being smuggled into the country from "the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea to Malaysia", the deputy premier said.
The most notorious area is the Golden Triangle, an overlapping mountainous area of about 950,000 square kilometres shared by Myanmar, Laos and Thailand near the Mekong River.
The Golden Triangle is known as the second largest drug production zone in the world, ACM Prajin said.
He on Wednesday urged provinces across the country to draft their own strategies and work more closely with security agencies in next year's anti-drug campaign.
"One aim is to reduce both the demand and supply of drugs," he said.
The government will give full financial support and manpower to the provinces to make progress, he added.
The Office of the Narcotics Control Board, which spearheads drug crackdowns, is also working with neighbouring countries to set up more checkpoints and strengthen drug prevention in border villages to curb transnational drug trafficking, its secretary-general Niyom Termsrisuk said.
It is essential to help underprivileged people as they can be easily lured into drug-related crimes, he said.
He said users will continue to be treated as patients, not criminals.
So far 340,000 people have been sent to take part in rehabilitation programmes, Mr Niyom said.
The government will continue working with drug addicts to put them back on the right track as part of efforts to reduce the demand for drugs, he added.