The prevalence of drug use on the island has been on the rise for years. Only this time last year it was revealed that Phuket was facing its worst state in the fight against drugs with more drugs on the island than ever before and on average 23 people being arrested for drugs every day of the year.
That trend has continued, as evidenced by the ever-ongoing number of arrests of minor dealers and and users, most for drugs possession. While most of those arrested are wayward young people testing the boundaries between social behaviour and the law, many of them are also everyday people caught up in recreational drug use. That factor finally appears to be understood by the authorities, with anti-drugs awareness campaigns now targetting the average citizen.
As with any country trying to contain illicit drug use, the larger question of why such everyday good people are now turning to drugs to enhance, cope with or otherwise distract from their daily lives remains unexplored by those in a position to make a change. One one hand it seems governments want people to not use drugs, then they do very little to give them a reason not to – and they wonder why saying “just don’t do it” seems to have no effect.
With the annual “Seven Days of Danger” road-safety campaign for the New Year underway this week, the role of drug use in road accidents can no longer be ignored. The volume and prevalence of drug use on the island demands that police no longer just test drivers for alcohol – and not just for the Seven Days, but for the whole of the year.
Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda, under whom the Royal Thai Police operate, earlier this month called for trucking companies to ensure their drivers take adequate rest stops over the New Year holiday period – one of the deadliest weeks on Thai roads throughout the year.
That call came after trucking companies and truck drivers were outraged over one driver for being arrested after being found in possession of one lone pill of methamphetamine, also well known as ya bah, meaning “crazy drug”, found in the truck driver’s cab. The truckers protested, suggesting the pill was planted by police, but it is no secret that long-haul drivers in Thailand resort to minor drug use in coping with the long hours they must work to get paid.
In Phuket, the danger lies in young people and our own transport drivers. A van-on-van wipeout earlier this month brought on by an overtired driver highlighted the long hours worked by those trusted to safely ferry our tourists around the island. Thankfully no tourists were injured in that collision.
It seems that police openly already know who should be targetted first for drug use while behind the wheel. They just seem to be unwilling to do it. Surely we are beyond the time to think the public don’t already know.