Ministry wants to reduce terms for drug offences

Ministry wants to reduce terms for drug offences

The Ministry of Justice is working to pass laws to reduce jail terms for drug offenders, in a bid to reduce prison congestion.

Somsak Thepsuthin, the justice minister, told the media on Saturday that regulations concerning jail term reductions await the Lower House's scrutiny which will take about four months.

The ministerial regulations would reduce jail terms for drug offences. Almost 80% of Thailand's 380,000 inmates are behind bars for drug crimes.

Under the draft regulations, the jail term would be revised to more closely reflect the nature of the crime. The existing law focuses on giving severe jail terms as a deterrent even when a relatively small amount of drugs is involved.

"Under the law, jail terms of 10 years to life can be imposed even if the convict is only caught in possession of one pill of ya ba [a methamphetamine variant]. The change reduces jail terms for some drug felonies to a 15-year maximum. This will open the window for judges to decide on cause and effect," said Mr Somsak.

Another regulation seeks to help convicts on parole who are sent back to prison for bad behaviour. They will be able to serve out their remaining jail term, instead of restarting the term from day one.

Also awaiting the Lower House's scrutiny is a bill on the legalisation of kratom (Mitragyna speciosa).

The Justice Ministry hopes to reclassify the plant, long used as a traditional medicine to treat pain, fever, dysentery and diarrhoea, from a Type-5 narcotic due to its medicinal properties.

"People are worried the legalisation of kratom will encourage more use for recreational purposes. This law will let kratom be used for medical purposes and benefit the economy," he said.

The cabinet has approved the move in principle to remove kratom from the list of banned drugs.

However, moves to legalise kratom have reportedly worried the anti-narcotic agency.

The number of cases concerning kratom logged by the Office of the Narcotics Control Board's operations centre rose sharply by 46% between April and June, which suggest many people believe the plant has already been delisted.

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