From War to Wonderland

Thailand is rethinking its war on drugs

From War to Wonderland Desperate to revive tourism after the crippling impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Thailand has relaxed its drug laws. But will doing so worsen the complex drug problems the nation already faces?
Pre-pandemic, 20 per cent of Thailand's GDP stemmed from tourism - but when COVID-19 swept the globe, the industry came to a standstill. In the wake of the pandemic, Thailand has relaxed its infamously strict drug laws in a bid to rejuvenate the tourism industry - with cannabis legalised in June. Legal expert Nathan Feeney has seen countless tourists arrested for drug offenses over the years: 'This is the plot of a lot of movies - you come to Thailand, get involved in drugs, you get arrested, and life's over. Now we've got cafes open in public legally selling marijuana'. Yet this drastic change to the law coincides with Thailand being flooded with record quantities of drugs from Myanmar, particularly the infamous methamphetamine 'Yaba'. 'They want to sell drugs in order to buy weapons to fight Myanmar's military junta', explains one drug officer. But for social worker Toon, the government's policy towards drugs is wrong-headed, and ignores the needs of local communities: 'The government policy on drug issues every year focuses only on suppression. But what about the community?'

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