No change to ‘five-pill rule’, says minister

No change to ‘five-pill rule’, says minister

Cholnan hits back at critics of new ‘personal use’ limit intended to get more meth users into treatment

Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew speaks to reporters at the Department of Medical Services on March 11. (Photo: Pattarapong​ Chatpattarasil​l)
Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew speaks to reporters at the Department of Medical Services on March 11. (Photo: Pattarapong​ Chatpattarasil​l)

Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew insists no more changes will be made to a new regulation that specifies the maximum amounts of certain drugs that will be considered for personal use if found on someone’s person.

The minister was responding to widespread criticism of the regulation, which says people with up to five methamphetamine pills will be considered users — rather than suppliers or traffickers — if they agree to undergo rehabilitation.

The new five-pill rule has been blamed for a spike in the number of drug users. Previously, anyone with more than one speed pill in their possession was deemed a drug dealer.

Asked if the limit would be lowered, Dr Cholnan said it would depend on the government’s policy and so far there was no sign of any change.

He said the new regulation was related to one of the three core objectives in tackling narcotics: stemming trafficking, strengthening communities and treating drug users as patients.

The rule was introduced to encourage drug users to undergo rehabilitation on the assumption this would keep them away from illicit drugs and therefore help eliminate small-scale drug dealers.

The minister said he did not think the five-pill limit had anything to do with the alleged increase in the number of drug users, noting that when authorities intensified their efforts, more users would be identified.

According to some media reports, small-time dealers have been exploiting the new rule by separating speed pills into packs of five. Some even offered to sell meth on social media platforms.

Dr Cholnan declined to comment on the reports but said the prime minister has assigned local administrative officials, police, military, public health officials and local communities in each province to tackle the narcotics problem.

If authorities fail to do their job properly, then action should be taken against them, he said.

“This indicates that some elements don’t function as they are supposed to,” he said. “Public health officials are responsible for rehabilitation and they can’t succeed if others don’t do their work.

“It’s not fair to single me out when problems arise.”

The minister also said that during the government of Thaksin Shinawatra from 2001-06, officials who failed to do their job were transferred.

In a related development, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said he had instructed the army chief, the acting police chief and the Office of Narcotics Control Board to step up their drug crackdown along the nation’s borders.

Writing on his X account, he also asked authorities to outline measures to deal with people found in possession of fewer than five speed pills.

He said all parties had agreed to collaborate and intensify their work to keep society safe from the scourge of illegal narcotics.

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