Support Grows For Legalisation Of Addictive ‘Bai Kratom’

Plainclothes police officer destroying Bai Kratom in Phuket Province, 28 August 2013.

(29 August) Thai
officials continue to voice their support over the plan proposed by the Minister of Justice to
decriminalise Bai Kratom plants – considered by many to be a very Thai version of
marijuana.

Bai Kratom plants can be found in many parts of Thailand, but its use is mostly
associated with the southern part of the country.

While older farmers and labourers chew its
leafs to get on with their daily works in the matter of consuming energy drinks, younger folk brew
the leaves with other alcoholic beverage for much stronger effect, especially in the troubled border
Provinces of Thailand which are plagued by shadowy separatist violence.

Arrests of Bai
Kratom growers occur frequently. Just few days ago, police in Phuket Province apprehended a man who
allegedly grew Kratom plants and sold their leafs to young Burmese labourers in Patong
District.

The Thai authorities generally harbour a non-compromising attitude toward illegal
drugs in term of legality. But a crack may appear in that attitude following the suggestion by
Minister of Justice Chaikasem Nitisiri that Bai Kratom should be removed from narcotics
catergory.

Mr. Chaikasem believes that by decriminalising the plants, drug abusers might be
convinced to switch to Bai Kratom instead of sticking to the more dangerous substances such as
amphetamine.

In an interview, he likened Bai Kratom to coffee and alcoholic beverages.
“People take it when they are stressed,” the Minister said, adding that the Netherlands has even
gone as far as legalising marijuana uses. 

Other officials agree with Mr. Chaikasem.
For instance, Mr. Pradit Sinthawanarong, Minister of Public Health, said the decriminalisation
process could start with permitting the growing of Bai Kratom as a medicinal plant, noting its pain
relief effect.

Dr. Anek Yomchinda, director of the Central Institute of Forensic Science,
noted that Thailand is the only country that categorises Bai Kratom as illegal substance. Relevant
agencies are now working on ways to legalise its uses, he said.

Even the public security in
the restive South hinges on legalising the plants, according to Lt.Gen. Paradorn Pattanabutr,
director of the National Security Council.

 Legalisation of Bai Kratom, he explained,
would unburden the security forces from raiding local farms and orchards to look for the illegal
plants, which in turn would lead to less chance of confrontation between the authorities and the
local residents.

Raids on Bai Kratom plantation have escalated to clashes and gunfights
before, the director said, adding more trouble to the already highly flammable situation in the
region.

“Because Bai Kratom is illegal, the security forces can use it as an excuse to make
arrests” said Lt.Gen. Paradorn, “but the locals do not think they have done anything wrong. They eat
Bai Kratom as part of daily lives”.