Thais warned about harsh penalties for taking marijuana into neighbouring countries

Thai Embassies have issued warnings to Thai people about taking cannabis and hemp into Indonesia and Vietnam, where penalties include fines, life imprisonment and capital punishment.

On 9 June, Thailand became the first country in Asia to legalize the growing of marijuana and its consumption in food and drink. As a result, Thai citizens may unknowingly face trouble while traveling abroad. 

On 20 June, the Royal Thai Embassy in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, issued a warning on their official Facebook page that “products containing cannabis and hemp are prohibited from being brought into Vietnam”.

Furthermore, “if an illegal act is detected, the penalty will be 5,000,000 - 500,000,000 Vietnamese dong and life imprisonment or the maximum penalty of death.”

On 21 June, the Thai Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, followed suit by uploading a graphic to their official Facebook page sharing a similar message that the “Royal Thai Embassy in Jakarta would like to warn Thai people not to import cannabis, hemp, or products containing cannabis or hemp into Indonesia”.

Offenders face severe consequences under Indonesian law. Penalties include a fine of 1 billion Indonesian rupiah, imprisonment for from 5 years to life, or the death penalty. The Embassy further recommends travellers to avoid accepting things from others in order to prevent potential smuggling. 

Both Thai and Malaysian authorities have announced plans to step up cross border security to curb the illegal transport of marijuana southwards.

Thailand’s decriminalization of marijuana beyond medical use is unprecedented within Southeast Asia, a region renowned for its strict anti-drug laws. The wider ASEAN response to Thailand’s move remains unclear.

The architect of this policy is Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul, who is also the leader of the Bhumjaithai Party. These reforms rode forward on a promise to boost the economy.

The growing and consumption of cannabis and hemp in food and drink became legal as of 9 June. Smoking pot in public, however, is still strongly discouraged. Cannabis extracts exceeding 0.2% of its psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) remain classified as a narcotic and possession and sale are still illegal.

The Thai Medical Sciences Department has developed a test to determine whether the THC content in cannabis oil and other extracts exceeds legal limits. Those intending to grow cannabis have been told to register with the government app PlookGanja

The initial free-for-all in the interpretation of medical versus recreational use has given way to calls for increased regulation. On 15 June the Ministry of Public Health issued guidelines targeting “inappropriate” use, including controls over use in public spaces, schools and universities, among those under 20 years old, and pregnant women. On 16 June, the Royal Gazette published a Ministry of Public Health announcement on this, but the regulations do not specify any penalties for non-compliance.

On 15 June, Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt announced similar regulations, declaring all city run schools to be cannabis-free zones.

Advertisements

Since 2007, Prachatai English has been covering underreported issues in Thailand, especially about democratization and human rights, despite the risk and pressure from the law and the authorities. However, with only 2 full-time reporters and increasing annual operating costs, keeping our work going is a challenge. Your support will ensure we stay a professional media source and be able to expand our team to meet the challenges and deliver timely and in-depth reporting.

• Simple steps to support Prachatai English

1. Bank transfer to account “โครงการหนังสือพิมพ์อินเทอร์เน็ต ประชาไท” or “Prachatai Online Newspaper” 091-0-21689-4, Krungthai Bank

2. Or, Transfer money via Paypal, to e-mail address: service@prachatai.com, please leave a comment on the transaction as “For Prachatai English”