Drug Offenses in Thailand

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Introduction: The Kingdom of Thailand strictly enforces a draconian set of drug laws. The police enjoy broad discretion when enforcing these laws. The courts may impose comparatively harsh penalties on minor offenders. Major offenders may be sentenced to death. While there are few defense options in the Thai courts, there are some options for foreign drug offenders.

Offenses: The two predominant drug related statutes are the Narcotics Act 2522(1979) and the Psychotropic Substances Act 2518 (1975). The Narcotics Act regulates drugs that cause significant psychological or mental effects, require increased dosage, and cause withdrawal symptoms when the user is deprived of the substance. The act prohibits consumption, possession, sale, production, advertising,
licensing, distribution, or any other involvement with the listed substances. Any offense under the Narcotics Act qualifies as the predicate offenses for a conspiracy charge. Substances regulated under the act are divided into five categories:

Category I -Dangerous Narcotics such as Heroin
Category II-Ordinary Narcotics such as Opium and Cocaine
Category III-Narcotics in Medicinal form that include Category II Substances
Category IV-Chemicals used for producing Category I & II Substances
Category V-Narcotics not in Category I-IV such as Marijuana

The act restricts the categories separately. Category I and V substances are prohibited. Category II and III substances may only be used as per a doctorís prescription. Category IV substances require licensing by the government. The each of the categories carries separate sentencing guidelines.

- Violations involving Category I substances carry a fine of up to 5 million baht or a sentence of life in prison.
- Violators guilty of distributing Category I substances may be subjected to the death penalty.
- Persons convicted of an offense involving Category II drugs may be subject to fines up to 5 million baht and imprisonment from one year to life.
- Persons convicted of offenses involving Category III substances may be fined up to 300,000 baht and imprisoned for up to three years.
- Persons convicted of offenses involving Category IV substances may be fined up to 1.5 million baht and imprisoned up to fifteen years.
- Persons convicted of offenses involving Category V substances may be fined up to 1.5 million baht and imprisoned up to fifteen years.

The other Thai statute that addresses drugs is the Psychotropic Substances Act 2518 (1975). Like the Narcotics Act, the Psychotropic Substances Act separates offenses by placing different drugs into different schedules:

Schedule 1-Dangerous Drugs like Marijuana, Psychedelic Mushrooms, and DMT
Schedule 2 -Drugs like Ephedrine, PCP, and Ketamine
Schedule 3 -Medical Barbiturates
Schedule 4 -Medical Drugs like Valium, Klonopin, and other Prescription Drugs

Schedule 1 substances are strictly prohibited. It is illegal to buy, sell, use, or produce them under all circumstances. One may produce, use and sell Schedule 2 substances only in accordance with a government issued license. Similarly, a license is required for Schedule 3 and 4 drugs. The punitive scheme of the act is somewhat convoluted. Essentially, violators may be imprisoned up to 20 years and fined up to 400,000 baht.

Police Powers: The police are granted extensive liberties under the two statutes. The police may enter and search any premise that is licensed to deal with listed substances. They may also enter and search any premise that they believe is used to commit drug offenses. The police may also stop and search any vehicle or occupants thereof. Additionally, the government may seize any property that they believe to be involved in the commission of an offense. Also, Thai police have been known to raid nightclubs and administer urine tests to all patrons.

Defense: Criminal Trials in Thailand are conducted in front of three justices. There are no juries. Defendants may try to prove that they didnít commit whatever act they are charged with committing. This is often an uphill battle. The police power allows the authorities to conduct searches that typically yield enough evidence for a conviction. However, it may be possible for a U.S. citizen to petition their home government for extradition to the U.S. In this case, they will be permitted to serve their prison term on U.S. soil. This is a complicated procedure that often proves unsuccessful.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Siriporn Denkesineelam
Thai attorney at law with the license number 3339/2547

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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