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Phuket hits high note for number of drug cases, arrests in the country
Phuket Provincial Court, from January through October this year, prosecuted more cases for drug-related offenses than any other provincial court in the country, other than Thung Song Provincial Court in Nakhon Sri Thammarat. The island’s status as the nation’s “runner-up” for drug prosecutions came by a report from the Courts of Justice made public earlier this week, confirming that during the eight months Phuket Provincial Court processed 6,697 cases, second only to Thung Song Provincial Court, which processed 7,438 cases. However, Phuket Provincial Court outshone all other provincial courts in the country for prosecutions of possession of illegal drugs and possession of illegal drugs with intent to sell, taking the number one position with 3,076 cases and 702 cases respectively. Phuket, even as one of the smallest provinces in Thailand, still ranked third in the country for total number of drug-related prosecutions after including cases heard by the provincial minor court, called the Kwaeng Court, with 5,120 prosecutions heard. Phuket Vice Governor Supoj Rotreuang Na Nongkhai took the nation-leading number of drug cases as good news, saying “It shows that officials and police are doing their work very well.” Vice Governor Supoj, who chairs the provincial anti-narcotics committee, added, “This year we have specifically focused on preventing drugs from being brought into the province by fishing boats, as this now seems to be the preferred method of smuggling drugs into Phuket.” To that end, a report from the Phuket Provincial Police, which accumulate their statistics from October through September each year (in line with the Thai fiscal year), confirmed that Phuket City Police Station processed 1,552 drug-related cases. During the same 12 months, Chalong Police Station processed 1,058 cases, Thalang Police Station processed 977, Patong Police Station processed 969, while Thachatchai Police Station processed 676. The same statistics reported increases in the volume of every category of drug seized, with 18.45kg of crystal methamphetamine (ya ice) seized from Oct 2017 to Sept 2018 rising to 19.29kg in the 12 months that followed. Similarly, the number of methamphetamine pills (ya bah) seized in Phuket rose from 303,161 pills in 2018 to 556,383 pills in 2019. Kratom busts also saw a huge increase in contraband seized, with 2.9 tonnes of the plant (25,390 leaves) seized on the island in 2018 rising to 3.73 tonnes (34,058 leaves) in 2019. Meanwhile, marijuana raids saw 7.31kg of the plant seized in 2019, along with 12.76kg of ready-to-smoke dried marijuana. Heroin maintained a much smaller, but still concerning, presence, falling from 292.4 grammes seized in 2018 to 116.87g the following year. “Phuket’s drug problem remains, and mostly because of weaknesses in the community,” Vice Governor Supoj said this week. “However, I still expect the number of drug cases to fall as we focus more on fixing problems in the community first,” he added. Vice Governor Supoj cited a slew of specific issues believed to be contributing to the drug problem. “Most suspects arrested come from other provinces, and Phuket is a busy tourism area full of tourists and non-native people. This has contributed to Phuket’s high rank in the number of cases,” he said. “Also, the economy is not good, and people are ready to take risks. They are willing to be minor sellers, not major sellers like other provinces,” he added. Dealers were also pushing harder for everyday people to risk earning extra money by selling drugs, V/Gov Supoj explained. “Dealers even have promotions like ‘Drugs for sale’. For example, where they would normally charge B200 per ya bah pill, they would sell ya bah to an addict or regular user at B80 per pill just to get their regular business. “Another issue is peer pressure. I have found most young women arrested for drugs are caught selling the drugs with their boyfriends,” he added. V/Gov Supoj told The Phuket News that he wants to seriously start targetting social issues in the community to help prevent people from wanting to take drugs, or sell them. “We want to focus on the community as a priority. Phuket as a community needs to be stronger. It is an important issue that I have to talk about with drug suppression teams and local officials in each area. “Of course this includes working with the police, who the statistics show have already been working hard on this problem,” he said. Pol Maj Gen Rungrote Thakurapunyasiri, who arrived on the island in October to take up the post of Phuket Provincial Police Commander, told The Phuket News on Tuesday that police will ramp up their efforts to prevent anti-drugs efforts in a special campaign for the New Year. “Police will search and focus on drugs hidden in any type of vehicles, such as cars, buses and trucks, from Dec 24, 2019 to Jan 31, 2020,” he said. “Our goal is to eradicate entire drug-trafficking networks, from producers to major dealers to people selling drugs on the street. It also includes those who support drug-trafficking networks,” he added. In addition to the development of a national anti-drugs database, officers will focus “intensive efforts” on all target groups who may be involved in illegal drug cases, Maj Gen Rungrote said. “We will also set up a programme to prevent drugs from spreading to youths, schools and communities, to keep them safe and away from drugs,” he added.