Author Topic: A fresh start to fighting drugs  (Read 922 times)

Offline thaiga

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A fresh start to fighting drugs
« on: June 29, 2013, 01:10:04 PM »
The BMA is moving to build 'walls' to keep kids and teenagers away from pushers

The seemingly unstoppable flood of methamphetamine and crystal methamphetamine into Bangkok has forced City Hall to take a fresh look at its attempts to prevent youngsters from being lured into taking drugs.

Students of Wat Chong Lom in Bangkok’s Yannawa district relax in front of their school where an anti-drugs banner is hung. Youngsters are the target of City Hall’s new drug prevention campaign ‘Bangkok Clear’, aimed at protecting them from the dangers of drugs. PANUMAS SANGUANWONG

Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra recently opened the Bangkok Clear Centre in the hope that it would become a new focal point in alleviating the problem rather than employing harsh measures against drug suspects.

"We will take a pro-active approach in the communities, schools and workplaces," said MR Sukhumbhand, who is the chairman of the centre.

Bangkok Clear Centre's directors are drawn from the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration's seven departments and 50 district chiefs. These officials will work together on various issues to safeguard city residents, especially youth people, from drugs.

According to City Hall, Bangkok is a trading, storage and transit point for all types of drugs, while the addiction problem is "very serious" in 318 Bangkok communities.

The number of drug addicts who undergo rehabilitation under City Hall programmes increased from 4,153 in 2003 to 25,209 last year.

The pro-active approach is a fresh move by the city to build "walls" to keep drugs away from children and teenagers - the groups considered most vulnerable to falling under the influence of pushers.

To carry it out, teams of volunteers in all 50 districts of Bangkok will be set up to "monitor and look out for drug activities", deputy Bangkok governor Pusadee Tamthai said.

These volunteers will encourage young people to stay away from the influence of drugs by inviting them to play sports and take part in outdoor activities at community sports grounds, she said.

Next, City Hall will engage with social advocacy groups, including youth and slum networks, over two weeks to discuss further ways to solve the drug problem in communities, which Ms Pusadee admitted "are hardly concretised" in terms of community spirit.

Many authorities have good intentions about trying to solve the problem but their efforts are not always successful. Even police investigators who have the best resources to search for and arrest drug gangs cannot assure communities of fruitful results.

Current and former policemen agree that the authorities need much stronger cooperation from the communities to fight the problem, which is what City Hall emphasises.

"An important key to success is public participation," said Pol Maj Gen Vichai Sangprapai, a former city police chief who currently works as an adviser to MR Sukhumbhand.

Deputy city chief Pol Maj Gen Itthiphon Phiriyaphinyo supports the move to have city officials work more closely with communities to learn of their needs and problems.

Their information, including clues about dealers, is needed to help authorities plan ways to curb drugs in their communities, he told a discussion forum on drug prevention operations held by City Hall last week.

However, it will not be easy to get information from them if city officials cannot gain the trust of community residents.

"Some communities fear giving information because of concerns for their safety," Lat Phrao district chief Khachit Chatwanit said.

"State authorities must approach them and show them they do not want to be involved in the drug trade."

Suphap Buranasin, a Muslim community leader in Chom Thong district, admitted the fear is a hindrance and blamed some officers for their slow response to communities' calls.

"Sometimes we ask them to arrest drug sellers or users but they send officers to our community too late," he said.

Other difficulties that slow the efforts to combat drugs include limited budgets within the communities.

Mr Suphap called on district officials or police officers to plan ways to give financial support to communities that fight against drugs.

Pol Maj Gen Itthiphon also asked City Hall to consider the importance of rehabilitation programmes for drug users because these are an important part of the city's attempts to fight drugs.

In recent times, arrested drug users in Bangkok have been sent to military camps for rehabilitation because there are no specific venues for them.

"But it appears they cannot completely stop using drugs because they feel they are being punished rather than rehabilitated," Pol Maj Gen Itthiphon said.

Currently Bangkok has only public health centres to help them. They receive treatment but are not allowed to stay there. The result is that some of them later lose contact with the centres, making it difficult for officials to check on whether they have stopped using drugs, Mr Khachit said.

The concerns of Mr Khachit and other participants are proving useful and challenging to the Bangkok Clear centre and city administrators who promise better solutions.

The city's pro-active approach is a good start but more action is needed if officials want to give better protection to vulnerable residents.


Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.