Buddhist Monks In Thailand Test Positive For Meth, Leaving Temple Empty As They Go To Rehab

A Buddhist temple in central Thailand has been left without monks after three of its Buddhist monks and an abbot failed drug tests and were defrocked, a local official said Tuesday. The monks, from Phetchabun province's Bung Sam Phan district were sent to a health clinic for drug rehabilitation treatment, reported AFP.

"The temple is now empty of monks and nearby villagers are concerned they cannot do any merit-making," said district official Boonlert Thintapthai.

Merit-making is a worship practice under which worshippers do good by donating food to monks. According to Thintapthai, other monks should come to the temple to enable locals to continue practicing their religion. 

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime revealed in its June report that Thailand's geographical position makes it an important transit point for methamphetamine. The drugs reach the country from Myanmar – the largest producer of methamphetamine – via Laos. “The report “Synthetic Drugs in East and Southeast Asia: latest developments and challenges 2022” confirms that extreme volumes of methamphetamine are being produced, trafficked, and used in the region and that the synthetic drug trade continues to diversify,” UNDOC wrote in a press release.

Jeremy Douglas, UNODC's regional representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific said that “the scale and reach of the methamphetamine and synthetic drug trade in East and Southeast Asia is staggering, and yet it can continue to expand if the region does not change approach and address the root causes that have allowed it to get to this point, including governance in the Golden Triangle and market demand.” The Golden Triangle is the area where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet at the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong rivers.

The report also revealed that last year in East and Southeast Asia,  a record amount of methamphetamine was seized – almost 172 tons, with more than 1 billion methamphetamine tablets recorded for the first time. This is seven times higher than the amount sized 10 years ago, and more than 35 times higher than some 20 years ago.

On the streets of Thailand, these pills cost around 50 Baht, which is around $1.40.

The empty temple due to its monks' drug use, comes at a time of the country’s drug laws struggles.

Thailand’s Marijuana Rollercoaster

In 2018, Thailand became the first Southeast Asian country to legalize medical marijuana. Some four years later, it took those cannabis regulations to the next level and became the first in the region to decriminalize marijuana.

Soon thereafter, Thailand was facing harsh criticism, mostly for the lack of cannabis regulations.

A couple of weeks ago, the president of the Forensic Physician Association of Thailand, Smith Srisont petitioned a court to re-list cannabis as a narcotic to address a wave of news reports about hospitalizations and use by children.

"It was wrong to not have governing laws before unlocking cannabis (...) It is not being used medically, but recreationally," Srisont said.

Recently, the Central Administrative court accepted a lawsuit, which lists Thailand’s health minister Anutin Charnvirakul and the Narcotics Control Board (NCB) as co-defendants. The political parties who joined the lawsuit trying to revoke the decriminalization order include Move Forward, Pheu Thai, Thai Liberal, Thai People Power, and Prachachat parties.

Nutthawut Buaprathum, a co-plaintiff and a member of the Move Forward party, claims it is safer to place cannabis back on the narcotics list until needed laws are established.

“We know that marijuana has a lot of benefits, so we gave full support to decriminalize it. But we did not expect that the Cannabis Act would take this long and that this would cause a lot of negative impacts on society because of no proper laws and regulations,” Nutthawut said.

Now, marijuana advocates are rallying to fight back, reported ABC News. Around 200 cannabis supporters rallied on Tuesday at the Government House in Bangkok, to protest against the possible reversal of the plant’s recent decriminalization.

“We want to ensure that these politicians are not trying to put cannabis on the narcotics list again. If that happens, our fight for years will mean nothing,” Akradej Chakjinda, a coordinator of Cannakin, a network of cannabis decriminalization supporters told The Associated Press.

Last week, the Ministry of Public Health announced that marijuana shops and cafes in Thailand are no longer permitted to allow customers to smoke cannabis on the premises though on-site consumption of medical marijuana will still be tolerated only if the cannabis is sold by a medical practitioner. Thailand opened its first cannabis cafes in late July hoping to beef up its tourism prospects following the pandemic.

Photo: Courtesy of Arisa Chattasa on Unsplash

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Posted In: CannabisNewsMarketsABC NewsAgence France-PresseAkradej ChakjindaAnutin CharnvirakulBoonlert Thintapthaibuddhist monks methJeremy DouglasmethamphetamineNutthawut BuaprathumThailand drugsThe Associated Press.UNDOC Smith Srisont 
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