THAILAND’S Justice Ministry is currently looking into a proposal to exclude ‘ya ba’, or pills containing a mixture of methamphetamine and caffeine, from the list of narcotics and to instead treat it as a normal drug in order to encourage drug addicts to seek help.
At a meeting to discuss narcotics issues on a global scale, Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya said even after 28 years of fighting against drugs and drug abuse, the world had yet to see any large strides towards victory, and the number of drug addicts is only increasing.
He said that governments were now changing tack and trying to find ways to “co-exist” with drugs, and called for Thailand to overhaul its narcotics laws, including allowing courts to sentence convicted drug addicts to treatment and rehabilitation rather than a prison term.
Thai PBS quoted Paiboon saying that methamphetamines are less hazardous to one’s health compared to cigarettes and liquor, but that society at large accepts cigarettes and liquor as the norm, as opposed to meth.
However, local health experts have voiced their concerns over the proposal, as they believe that leniency will not help reduce the number of drug users.
A professor at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Pisonthi Chongtrakul, told the Bangkok Post that de-listing ‘ya ba’ may result in improper use of the drug.
“A new approach is to provide rehab treatment for drug users instead of criminalizing them, which is a better way to tackle the problem,” he said.
In response to criticisms of the move to de-list ‘ya ba’ as a narcotic, Paiboon said allowing people to legally possess the drug was actually part of the government’s “secret and well-advanced” drug reforms.
On Thursday, 800,000 ‘ya ba’ pills – which means “mad drug” or “crazy drug” in Thai – were confiscated in Suphan Buri following a car chase, reported the Bangkok Post.
According to 2014 statistics from the Office of the Narcotics Control Board and the Narcotics Suppression Bureau, there are 1.3 million people in Thailand who are addicted to drugs, which is approximately 2 percent of the Southeast Asian nation’s population.