Global Study on Illegal Drugs The Case of Bangkok, Thailand February 2000

Global Study on Illegal Drugs
The Case of Bangkok, Thailand
February 2000
Bangkok Research Team1:
Nualnoi Treerat
Noppanun Wannathepsakul
Daniel Ray Lewis
This research project was sponsored by the
United Nations Drug Control Programme
Nualnoi is currently associate professor of Economics at Chulalongkorn University,
Noppanun is assistant professor of Economics at Chulalongkorn University, Daniel is
adjunct professor of Economics at Chulalongkorn University. Please contact us at
[email protected], [email protected], [email protected]
Drug Situation in Thailand
Bangkok/Thailand is currently experiencing an amphetamine epidemic.
Amphetamine use is widespread. Seizures of amphetamines in the last year are far higher
in absolute terms than any other country in the world. The greatest number of users are
youths (boys) who use the drugs in groups before engaging in some other activity such as
snooker, motorcycle racing, etc. The government has responded and is working hard to
suppress drug use, but to little effect. It is even possible that the government’s
advertising approach is counterproductive, since in our survey, drug use among youths
increased with increased police effort. The production of amphetamines is clearly geared
towards children with pills coming in different tastes, smells, and colors. These
amphetamine tablets are produced outside the country, mostly in Burma.
Bangkok/Thailand also has a long-term problem with heroin. As is well-known,
opium is grown in this area making heroin easily available. Thailand has also played a
role as a distribution hub for heroin that is brought to Bangkok and then sent around the
world. Due to strong suppression efforts by the government, very little opium is grown in
Thailand, but a lot is grown in neighboring countries, especially Burma and Laos. A
great deal of heroin still passes through Thailand, and there are still many heroin addicts
in Thailand, though overall their number seems to be stable. Users tend to be
marginalized members of society who are obvious in their drugged-out appearance. This
is in contrast to amphetamine users who appear normal, and who may use drugs socially.
Bangkok/Thailand also has a little spillover use of “high class” drugs such as
ecstasy, cocaine, and ketamine, etc. from wealthy countries. These drugs are used at rave
parties or discos by the wealthy. They are too expensive to impact the lives of most
There is also some casual use of marijuana. “Thai” marijuana, which may not
always be grown in Thailand, is quite popular outside of Thailand. The use in Thailand is
not too great, which may be a result of stiff repression of what is actually a quite mild
Bangkok and Thailand seem to have escaped some of the negative side effects of
drug use, in particular violence. There is not much of a history of violence in Thailand of
any sort. In Bangkok, there is very little violence that can be associated with drugs.
Buyers seem to be able to get enough drugs to support their habit without resorting to
violence or robbery. Perhaps that is because drugs are reasonably cheap here, close to the
source of production in Burma. Probably it is also because amphetamines are not truly
addictive, and if the money is not sufficient, they need not be bought.
There is also little violence from rival gangs as the distribution network is quite
decentralized with many separate channels for bringing and distributing drugs from the
Interestingly, corruption among police may also help limit violence by tacitly
licensing the drug trade. Generally, each seller must pay a fee to the police in their street
so that the police will “look the other way”. If another seller enters the market, the first
seller may have the option of reporting the second seller to the police who then arrests the
second seller on normal drug charges. Another effect of corruption is that there is little
interaction (outside of bribes) between local police and the drug pushers. If the police
don’t start a fight, why should the sellers start it?
Amphetamine use is very widespread in Bangkok. One taxi driver stated it this
way “There are 10,000 little side streets in Bangkok. You can buy amphetamines on
every single one of them.” Drug use is also not especially an urban phenomenon in
Thailand. Drug use is just as prevalent in other parts of the country, with some regions
being worse, and others better.
Amphetamines are viewed as a serious problem, both by the government and by
the population. They are not accepted as a matter of course. However, there may be
significantly different perceptions by different generations, with parents being very
concerned that their kids are using drugs, and kids thinking that amphetamines are not a
serious problem.
The physical risk from amphetamines seems to be small. Most of the risk of using
amphetamines is from being caught, wasting money, and most especially, wasting the
opportunity to do something better with their lives. This author’s opinion is that the
amphetamine epidemic is likely a fashion, that will fade in coming years. Nevertheless,
the sheer magnitude of the problem is cause for alarm. Thai youth will probably move on
to something else.
Could that be another drug, or another anti-social behavior?
Certainly it is possible, but we don’t know. As an aside, this author is also interested in
going to try amphetamines now that I have heard so much about it. Such is the power of
In summary, Bangkok/Thailand is currently experiencing an amphetamine
epidemic mostly amongst its youth. Amphetamines are used mostly as a social drug.
Some of the worst aspects of drug epidemics are not in evidence in Thailand, with little
violence, but with a commensurate rise in drug-related corruption as sellers, and
sometimes buyers, pay off the police.
Thailand shares extensive borders with some of the largest producers in the world
of both amphetamines and heroin in the world. Despite great success at suppressing the
production of illegal drugs of all kinds within its borders, Thailand’s location makes
drugs both cheap and easily available. This is likely to continue for some time into the
Research Objectives
1. To investigate the decisions made by illicit drug consumers, producers and distributors
– the actors that constitute the illegal drug market.
2. To provide a rigorous basis for the development of drug policies for both national and
international level.
3. To prepare a comprehensive study of the illicit drug market in Bangkok as a part of the
UNDCP cross-city analysis.
Research Methodologies
This research was prepared on the basis of both primary and secondary research
methodologies. Secondary research consisted of an extensive literature review of related
documents, past research and surveys, and recent unpublished papers, as well as evidence
from the popular press. Primary research included a survey, a number of interviews, and a
focus group discussion. Primary research took up approximately 80% of this team’s work
effort, and secondary research about 20 percent. The primary research work can be
described as follow:
Cross-sectional survey
The selection of the population and the samples for the survey were done using
the “judgmental sampling” technique. The “probability sample” technique could not be
adopted because due to the illicit nature of drug use, sampling from the total drug user
population is not feasible. The largest group of drug dependents who are systematically
available is the treatment client group. Of this group, heroin dependents make heavy use
of treatment services while other drug addicts, such as amphetamine and marijuana users,
do so much less frequently. Recently however, the court has been sending drug addicts of
all sorts for treatment at full-cycle treatment centers. In our survey, more samples were
correspondingly selected from the treatment centers with the full 4-stages of the treatment
cycle. More samples were also selected from public hospitals and those private
organizations with sufficient clients addicted to amphetamines.
The 177 participants in our survey were from eight different treatment and
rehabilitation facilities located in Bangkok. Of these, 10 cases, or 5.6%, were chosen
from private clinics, 36 cases, or 20.3%, were drawn from non-government treatment and
rehabilitation facilities, and 131 cases, or 74.0%, came from public hospitals.
Interviews with users
In-depth interviews were carried out with 13 participants in the illegal drug
market: 3 heroin users, 8 amphetamine sellers, and 2 amphetamine users at the Klong
Prem prison, Communita Introtro at Phatum Thani, and the New Life Project under the
Duang Prateep Foundation at Lamae, Chumporn.
Interviews with experts
Interviews were completed with high-ranking officers from the Office of
Narcotics Control Board, the head of the Office of Narcotics Suppression Center and
some high-level enforcement officers from the Royal Thai Police Department. On the
treatment and rehabilitation side, our team interviewed authorities at the Thanyarak
hospital and the New Life Project under Duang Prateep Foundation. Interviews were also
conducted with experts from Institute of Health Research, Chulalongkorn University, and
from the Narcotics Control Division, the Food and Drug Administration, the Chief
Advisor of the governor of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, and key personnel
who work on drug issues at the 99.5 FM radio station.
Focus group
A focus group was organized with representatives from the Bangkok Metropolitan
Administration’s drug-control operation team, community leaders from drug sensitive
areas, and members of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Limitations of the Research
Some biases exist in our survey. Firstly, the survey may more heavily represent
the poor than the rich. Most of the rich undergo treatment at private hospitals, but private
hospitals refuse to cooperate in contacting or arranging interviews with clients. Secondly,
treatment centers must be of sufficient size and have clients who use both heroin and
amphetamines to be selected. The third, and biggest bias however, is that the survey is
slanted towards the type of drug users who end up in treatment centers. These will tend
to use drugs more heavily than the general drug using population, and perhaps are more
likely to be pushers (more likely to be caught), or have more means of entering treatment
than the general population.
Current official records relating to drugs from the public authorities are diffused
or not available at all. It takes several years for these records to be published and made
public. Therefore, some quantitative data could only be presented incompletely.
Few government officers have a clear understanding of the current drug situation
in Thailand. Interviews, in many circumstances, mistakenly led us in the wrong direction.
After all, every piece of information was checked and represented in the report.
This report consists of the following parts.
Chapter 1: Supply
Chapter 2: Demand
Chapter 3: Market Clearing Mechanisms
Conclusions and Policy Recommendations
Appendix I: The Questionnaire
Appendix II: Narcotics Control Laws
Appendix III: Drug Related Information.
Chapter 1 discusses the supply of drugs to Bangkok, including both the production
stage in Burma, and the supply to, and within Bangkok. Chapter 2 contains the results of
our questionnaire about drug use in Bangkok. It also gives considerable information
about demand for illegal drugs in Bangkok. Chapter 3 gives information about the price
and quality of illegal drugs in Bangkok, and then discusses the market structure at
different levels of the supply chain. It also contains data about the estimated profits to
different members of the supply chain. The conclusions and policy recommendations
section tries to distill some of our insights from conducting this research. Finally the
appendices give related information that does not easily fit into the general text of the
Chapter 1
Supply of Illicit Drugs in the Bangkok Area
The illicit drug market has become much more diversified in the 1990s, in terms
of type of drug, supply channels, demand (users) and form of distribution. The share of
heroin in the illicit drug market has declined while the share of the stimulant drug,
methamphetamine, has increased. At this time, methamphetamine and heroin are the
major illicit drugs in Bangkok and Thailand.
This chapter aims at explaining the sources of supply of important illicit drugs in
Bangkok. The chapter explains the main points of the existing market structure, with an
emphasis on the supply side. The nature of the illicit drug enterprises that supply
Bangkok market is described. This includes the size of the organization, the supply
network, connection with other illegal activities, financial credit system, and the structure
of the market. For the production side, the methods they employ to produce drugs,
trafficking route, and the characteristics of the drug traffickers are discussed. Finally, the
sensitive area of illicit drug market in Bangkok area is discussed.
I. Dynamism of the illicit drug supply in Thailand.
Amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS)
The synthetic substances or amphetamine-type stimulant includes amphetamine,
methamphetamine and ecstasy-type substances. Trends on the extent of production,
trafficking and consumption of ATS continued to rise sharply in Thailand during the past
20 years. The history of ATS market in Thailand can be divided into 4 periods2.
1) The amphetamine period (before 1980)
Amphetamine was first marketed as over-the-counter (OTC) synthetic medulla
stimulant drug in 1955. Amphetamines are known locally as yaa ma, literally
translated as “horse pill”. Initially the pills were imported and imprinted with the
picture of a “horse head” on the one side and “London” on the other side.
Amphetamine was orally administered widely among unskilled labors and truck
drivers on long cross country routes. The pills were mainly taken for work. It
enabled a person to work non-stop over a long period of time without feeling tired.
Amphetamine abuse became prevalent throughout the country and presenting a
serious problem. The government took various administrative actions and designated
amphetamine as “narcotics in the same schedule of Heroin”. The import of
amphetamine has become under control.
Viroj Sumyai separates the period of the amphetamine into 3 periods; the abuse of
amphetamine came first, on the dawn of western medicine in Thailand; the second wave
involved bogus amphetamine or look-alike amphetamine; and the third, the abuse of
methamphetamine (Viroj Sumyai, Thailand Country Report on Amphetamine – Type
Stimulants, p.5).
2) The look-alike amphetamine period (1980-90)
Look-Alike Amphetamines or bogus amphetamines are tablets or capsules that
were made to look like real amphetamines and roughly imitate their effects. They
usually contained varying amount of legal substances such as caffeine, ephedrine,
pseudo-ephedrine and phenylpropanolamine, which were found in decongestant pills.
Ephedrine and caffeine were found in common medicinal drugs and in the case of
caffeine, it is a social drink such as coffee. They are sold on the street as “speed” and
purported to be authentic amphetamines3. This type of amphetamines entered the
market after the import of amphetamines was under control. It was a truly available
substitution of authentic amphetamines. The law and regulations did not in effect
until such drugs were spread out widely. In 1988, the psychotropic Substances Act
1975 was amended to strengthening control over raw materials of look-alike
amphetamines. It led to the vanishing of the look-alike amphetamines in the markets.
However, comparing with the amphetamine type, the consumption of look-alike
amphetamine produced side-effects more than the consumption of pure
amphetamine. Therefore, producers had been searched for the new type of stimulant
drugs that had better quality.
3) The methamphetamines period I (1988-96)
The new stimulant drug has been brought into the illegal market after the lookalike amphetamines declined. The new product has been synthesized in clandestine
laboratories operating in Bangkok and upcountry beginning in late 1988. Most of the
production were concentrated in the central area The steps of production were
divided into 2 steps: producing methamphetamine powder and making complete
tablet. The base material (precursor) is ephedrine which was smuggled into Thailand
through three major routes: the Klong Toey port in Bangkok; the Thai-Burmese
border, and the coasts of the Gulf of Thailand (Samut Sakhon) and eastern region. In
1996, the government changed the common name of ATS from “ya ma” to “ya ba”
(meaning mad pill) to warn the public against its negative impact.
However, these laboratories are small-scale operations and operated on an
irregular basis rather than on a consistent production schedule. Operators often
produce a batch of finished product, disassemble the laboratory, and either store or
move it to another location while they acquire additional chemicals. Relocating the
laboratory affords some protection against detection by drug law enforcement
authorities. Besides, the first step to produce methamphetamine powder makes
strong smell so production sides were located far from community areas to hide
themselves from the officials. However, pill making were often employed in urban
area or even in the van. Therefore, while there were only 5-10 large manufactures of
methamphetamine, located in the central region covering 6-7 provinces, pill makers
were found in more than twenty provinces. In 1988, Thailand succeeded in
destroying 15 clandestine4 methamphetamine laboratories with the seizure of 97.415
kilograms of methamphetamine powder, 45 kilograms of ephedrine powder and
240,020 methamphetamine tablets.
Viroj Sumyai, Thailand Country Report on Amphetamine – Type Stimulants, p.5
In general, the term clandestine laboratories range from elaborate, purpose-built
constructions to mere kitchen operations.
4) The methamphetamines period II (1996-present)
The decline of production side inside the country arose from a strong suppression
and an increase production in the Golden Triangle. Since 1996, the heroin producer
group, especially the Wa group, in the Golden Triangle has increased its attempt to
produce the stimulant drug type because it delivers a high return. The producer have
access to ephedrine manufactured in Yunan. The ATS can be exported across ThaiBurmese border along existing heroin trading routes. Currently, ephedrine substances
are produced in China, Taiwan, India, Japan and Germany. Such substances are
under the control of UN.
“Another trend which has been highlighted with regard to illicit heroin
manufacture in South-East Asia is the increased connection of a networking in the
production and subsequent trafficking of heroin and methamphetamine”5.
The seizure data of methamphetamine along the Myanmar-Thailand has confirmed
the fact that the Golden Triangle has been the new production side of ATS. In 1997
and 1998, 24.25 and 30.86 million tablets of methamphetamine were seized in transit
from the Golden Triangle to Bangkok.
It is estimated that approximately 70-80 per cent of methamphetamines used in
Thailand is from the Golden-triangle area. The ATS from the Golden Triangle are in
orange colour and imprinted with ‘wy’. The remaining are produced in Cambodia
and Thailand. The old producer groups are still producing methamphetamine on time
to time basis and mainly for pill making.
Heroin entered the market in Thailand following the decline of opium after opium
became an illicit drug in Thailand in 1959. Although McCoy (1972) has cited the
interview of one police officer that the heroin number 3 laboratory was found in
Bangkok, most supply of heroin number 3 were imported from Hong Kong by the
Chinese network. However, in the late 1960s the “white powder” or heroin number 4 has
been engaged in the market.
The heroin laboratories were set up in the Golden Triangle in the 1960s. The
heroin trading were used to finance several groups of minority in the fight against the
Burmese government. Golden Triangle supplies about 60-70 per cent of heroin sold in
the US market. However, since 1991 the production of opium in South West, covering
Afghanistan and Pakistan, has surpassed the opium production in Golden Triangle, the
area covering Burma, Thailand and Lao. The production of opium in Burma accounted
for approximately 90 per cent of total opium production in Golden Triangle. Thailand’s
opium production has been less than 10 metric tones since 1994. This was a result of
successful narcotic crops control and highland development program initiated in the
1960s. However, since 1995, the opium production area has tended to increase from 168
hectares, producing 2 tones of opium, to 716 hectares in 1998, producing 8 tones of
opium. However, it is no evidence of the existing of heroin manufacture in Thailand.
United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, Global Illicit Drug
Trends, 1999, p. 25
Therefore, it has been estimated that most heroin supplied in Thailand market is from the
manufactures in neighboring countries.
The major change of heroin market occurred in 1996, when there was a sudden
drop of heroin supply in the market, following the surrender of Khun Sa, the drug lord
who controlled major heroin production and trafficking for many years, to the Burmese
government. The price of heroin had increased, after staying stable for a long time.
Some heroin abusers turned to use ATS as substitute drug. At the same time an
expansion of ATS market to the young generation that aims to use drug for entertainment
has increased dramatically. The heroin market, therefore, has lost its market share to the
ATS market.
II. Politics of illicit drug producers in the Golden Triangle.
While Thailand has been successful in its war against domestic illicit drug
producers, the rise in narcotic production in Burma’s northeastern Shan State and the
trafficking of heroin and the recently introduced methamphetamine into the Kingdom are
causing serious problems. Thai anti-narcotic officers are increasingly and genuinely
worried about the potential reversion to the situation of 1960s-80s when Thailand was
plagued with serious drug addition and served as a trafficking route to the world markets.
(Nation, 8/3/1999).
The United Wa State of Army (UWSA), who currently is the major producer of
heroin and methamphetamine, came into existence shortly after the Communist Party of
Burma (CPB) crumbled a decade ago. A cease-fire agreement, orchestrated by Burma’s
security chief Lt Gen Khin Nyunt, was signed in 1989 after the collapse of the
Communist Party of Burma. Most of the CPB’s foot-soldiers were ethnic Wa who later
joined the UWSA, which has its headquarters in Panghsang on the Burma-China border.
The idea was to neutralize an approximately 20,000-strong army that had enough
weapons to last them at least a decade. Burmese government did not want these weapons,
most of which came from China, to fall into the hands of other rebel groups, especially
the Mong Tai Army (MTA), leading by Khun Sa. Khun Sa was formerly, the volunteer
local army under permission of the Burmese government to fight against CPB. However,
Khun Sa had used that opportunity to expand his army and heroin trafficking by using the
public road to transit heroin to the Thai-Burmese border. The profit from drug trafficking
has been used to finance the expansion of his army and later had demanded the
independence of the Mong Tai group. The MTA became the threat to the Burmese
government. At the same time, due to an expansion of narcotics trafficking has
threatened the world communities, especially the US that the problem of narcotics
addictive has increased considerably. The world has pressured the Burmese government
to arrest Khun Sa. The support of UWSA was the old strategy of Burmese government to
support one minority group to fight against the other rebel group in this area because
Burmese government has limited resources, both in terms of military and money, to
suppress the rebel group.
For the Wa, it was an opportunity to expand their heroin empire from their
stronghold in Panghsang, northeast of Burma, to a new frontier along the upper ThaiBurmese border, the southeast of Burma. But nothing comes easy in trouble-plagued
Burma as the same situation has repeated again. The expansion meant that a war between
Wa and the Khun Sa’s Mong Tai Army, the Wa’s arch rival and business competitor, was
inevitable. In November 1995, Khun Sa and his army surrendered to the junta and the
territory once controlled by the former opium warlord was left up for grabs as Burmese,
Thai and Wa troops rushed in to plant their flag poles. The Wa has tried to control over
the area from Panghsang to Mong Yawn and has demanded to own this land that they
haven’t have it before. The conflict between the UWSA has increased after the surrender
of Khun Sa.
The Burmese government has demanded that the UWSA retreat to the Chinese
border. Essentially, this would mean that their heroin and methamphetamine network
through Thai gateways would be shut. However, the Chinese does not want them along
their border either. In fact the growing drug problem in Yunan state forced the Chinese
authorities to summon UWSA leader Pao Yochang for a stern warning. At one point, the
Chinese threatened to cut off the flow of food to Wa territory (Nation, 24/3/1999).
In short, the UWSA has become one of the world’s largest armed narcotics
trafficking groups which operates out of Burma’s Shan State along the China-Burma and
Thailand-Burma borders. The UWSA is becoming the dominant heroin trafficking army
in the Golden Triangle, replacing Burma’s former opium warlord Khun Sa who
surrendered to the Burmese junta in 1996 in return for amnesty. The group commands
about 20,000 armed troops. Since 1996 UWSA has become the major methamphetamine
producers for Thai market. Large quantities of heroin are transported through Thailand
and Southern China on the way to markets abroad. Millions of methamphetamine tablets
have flooded into Thailand (Nation, 12/4/99).
Burmese government, after joining the ASEAN, must express its view on the
narcotic problem. In 1999, Burmese government announced its plan for a long-term
solution to its drug problem and claimed that it will eradicate all opium cultivation within
15 years, according to Win Aung, Burmese Foreign Minister. The Thai government has
been faced with an immediate problem as the country has tuned in to a lucrative market
for the methamphetamines, the raw material for which is produced inside Burma and
along the two countries’ common border. However, the Burmese Foreign Minister
dismissed allegations by some Western countries that Rangoon government has turned a
blind eye to narcotics trafficking and blasted a recent narcotics report by the United States
government for criticizing the Burmese military junta for not doing enough to tackle the
problem. The US government has also criticized the Burmese junta of providing
sanctuary for major drug traffickers, such as Khun Sa, who has been indicted in a US
court for narcotics trafficking.
The Foreign Minister defended Burma’s decision not to punish the former opium
warlord or extradite him to the US on the grounds of national reconciliation and on the
basis of the number of human lives saved with the amnesty deal between the former
opium warlord and the junta. More than 15,000 of Khun Sa’s troops have surrendered
and put down their arms (Nation, 9/3/1999). There is a rumor that Khun Sa has become
the businessman who owns real estates and hotel in Rangoon.
While defending the country from the blame of causing the narcotics problem in
international communities, the Burmese Foreign Minister argued that the world must also
share the blame for the methamphetamines that have flooded into neighbouring Thailand
and the region as the precursor chemical needed to make the drug came from abroad and
was transported through Burma’s neighbouring countries.
“We don’t have chemical ephedine in Burma. These chemicals are imported from
India, China and Thailand” (Nation, 9/3/1999).
However, finally Thailand and Burma agreed to intensify cooperation and the
coordination of the law enforcement efforts with the aim of achieving total eradication of
illicit drug production, processing, trafficking and use in ASEAN by the year 2020 in
accordance with the Joint Declaration for a Drug-Free ASEAN as announced in Manila
on July 25, 1998 (Nation, 9/3/1999).
In 1998, tension between Burmese junta and the UWSA has been building up,
threatening to end a decade-old cease-fire agreement. The Burmese government has
ordered the UWSA to move back to their stronghold in Panghsang on the Burmese border
with China, so far issuing two ultimatums without specifying the consequences should the
armed rebels not comply. Naturally, the UWSA chose to ignore the demands and instead
beefed up their logistics along the Thai-Burmese border opposite Chiang Mai province.
The group has begun to welcome the outsiders, allowing Thai merchants to transport
everything from household goods to construction materials. Twice a week, hundreds of
local merchants line up at the checkpoint just north of Chiang Mai’s Ta Thon district to
be screened by immigration and customs officers before entering what has long been a
no-go area and only a couple of decades ago a place where headhunters roamed (Nation,
The trade relationship between Thailand and the Wa group is now expanding
dramatically. Business dealing with the Wa group has gone on unchecked as national
security took a back seat to the interests of a few in the private sector. Security officials
say the controversial Baan Son Thon Doo checkpoint, which opened in 1998 after local
businessmen lobbies the National Security Council, has enhanced the business link
between Thai merchants and the UWSA. The pass was allowed to open despite the fact
that contractor and workers would be paid with drug money. The UWSA has learnt from
the mistake of Khun Sa by building up economic relationship with the Thai businessmen.
This would be a wall to protect the illicit drug trafficking as the Thai businessmen would
pressure Thai government to keep the checkpoints open. This was the case in 1998 when
Thai government ordered to close the main checkpoints as the tension in this area
increased. But only few weeks, these checkpoints had been reopen again with the
complaints of the local businessmen.
Currently, more than 1,000 Thai nationals are working in several construction
projects, such as schools, hospitals, roads and a medium-sized dam, in Mong Yawn city
of Shan State. The Mong Yawn city is only 20 kilometres from the Thai border. The city
is a UWSA controlled area. It has been argued that construction of these infrastructure is
financed by profits from the illicit drug trafficking. The headquarters of the UWSA are in
Panghsang on the Burmese-Chinese border. After signing a cease-fire agreement with the
Burmese military junta, the UWSA has in the past decade extended its drug operations
southward to the Thai-Burma border.
A road linking to the town to the UWSA’s major stronghold in Panghsang on the
Burma-China border is progressing. At the same time a loop from Mong Hsat, some 70
kilometers from Mong yawn, to the commercial town of Tachilek, the city next to ThaiBurmese border, is expected to complete recently. The entire route from Mong Yawn to
Panghsang is about 500 kilometers. Once completed, the route is expected to enhance the
UWSA’s grip to the region. On the sub-contractor building a UWSA-financed road said
he likes dealing with them because there is no bureaucratic red tape. “They will pay you
on the spot upon completing each kilometre with cash” (Nation, 5/9/1999). A road
construction project financed by both the junta and the UWSA will link Chiang Mai’s
Mae Ai district to Mong Yawn and Mong Hsat, some 90 kilometers in side Burma’s Shan
State. A loop linking Mong Hsat to the popular border town of Tachilek opposite Chiang
Rai’s Mae Sai district is also on the way (Nation 24/3/1999).
Millions of methamphetamine tablets produced by the UWSA flood into Thailand
and the money is channeled out of the country through the very route that the drugs
entered. In 1996, about US$600 million in unexplained foreign inflow was discovered in
Burma’s shabby economy. Much of this came from drug money made possible by the
tactical alliance between the numerous narcotic groups and the military government in
Rangoon (Nation, 5/9/1999).
The studies of the joint cooperation against illicit drugs in the Mekong countries
led by Pornpimon Trichote (1998)6, specialist on Burma, suggest that unilateral efforts by
individual countries have failed to curb the annual output of opium and its derivative
heroin. At the same time, drug producers have made use of easy availability and legal
loopholes in some regional countries to acquire chemical precursors used to produce new
drugs like amphetamine type stimulant. Moreover, economic growth in recent years had
brought the improved transport infrastructure that had facilitated the rise in trafficking.
Therefore, the new approach to combat the narcotics trafficking should be implemented
from the bottom-up instead of the previous top-down perspective. The new approach
must integrate political, economic, social, culture, legal and historical factors into the
equation when formulating their anti-drug policy.
III. Illicit drug trafficking
Drug trafficking between countries
Nearly 80 per cent of methamphetamine and most of heroin sold in Thailand are
produced in the Golden Triangle. The products are smuggled into Thailand across a long
Thai-Burmese border of 1,800 kilometers, covering 7 provinces in the North of Thailand:
Tak, Mae Hongson, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Phayao, Nan and Uttaradit. There are
hundreds of hill-tribe villages along the Thai-Burmese and Thai-Laotian borders.
Several tens of factories for heroin and methamphetamine production have been
located along the Thai-Burmese border and Thai-Laotian border (Figure 1). To avoid the
suspension of illicit drug supply, narcotics producers have built several small size
factories. If any factory is found by the suppression authority, other factories would
supply the illicit drug instead. The owning groups can be roughly separated into 4 main
groups. The Wa group is the largest and most influential among these heroin and
Pornpimon Trichote, Wacharin Yongsiri, Suparak Kanchanakhundee and Songrit Ponengern. 1998. The Studies of the Joint Cooperation against Narcotics in Thailand, Laos,
Burma, China, Cambodia and Vietnam. Submitted to The Office of Narcotics Control
methamphetamine producers, supplying nearly 60 per cent of total production. A number
of Wa leaders have been convicted by the US court on charge of drug trafficking.
The second group is a group from the Burmese district of Kokang, referred to as
the Kokang Democracy United Army (KDUA), This group is relatively new to
methamphetamine manufacturing and trade. The KDUA has been a long-time producer
of heroin. High profits from amphetamine production relative to heroin production, have
encouraged them to increase their concentration on amphetamine production. Originally,
the KDUA operates from the northern part of Shan State, close to the Burmese-Chinese
border. In recent times, some of the independent forces move southward close to Thai
border to protect the amphetamine trafficking business.
Another important group has risen from the remnants of the former Khun Sa
group. This group of about 4,000 men formerly of the MTA, make up the third largest
tribal amphetamine supplier. Although the Burmese government claimed that 15,000
men of Khun Sa gave up the fight following their leader, in fact, some of Khun Sa’s men
spilt into groups. Some carried on drug business along the Burmese-Thai border, mostly
in the areas opposite Chiang Rai’s Mae Fah Luang district, as well as in Mae Hong Son
The fourth much smaller group among these hill tribe producers of amphetamines,
composing approximately 1,000 armed men, is from the Communist Party of Burma. The
group is known as the Eastern Shan State Army (ESSA). Besides, there are several small
groups of hill tribes and Chinese, such as Haw (Chinese), Palong, Pa-o, Arakan and
Muser. However the size and number of factories owned by above mentioned groups
varied from large and modern production plants to medium and small scale plants.
Apart from the high returns of the narcotics business, there are still other
conditions that made this area as a large narcotic supply for neighbouring countries and
the third countries might be explained clearly by Pornpimon Trichote et al. (1998)
conclusion that:
“Myanmar has an ideal climate for opium cultivation, and the civil war in
Shan State creates a power vacuum which encourages growth in the
lucrative narcotics trade. China supplies the necessary chemicals for
processing and refining narcotics, and also provides trafficking routes.
Laos also produces opium, and because of their strategic location as a
land-link, serves as a transit route for drug” (Pornpimon Trichote et al.
1998: Abstract).
According to the ONCB7, authorities have identified several villages on either side
of the borders, whether they have located in Thailand, Laos and Burma, served as storage
areas for traffickers. Officials have accused these hill tribes involved in the illicit drug
trafficking. Large amount of illicit drugs were carried and then kept in the storage that
might be hundreds of ground holes in the forest near the villages to hide from the eye’s of
the officials (Figure 2-3). The illicit drugs would then be transported to the wholesalers
in the city and then again be transported to other provinces for selling to retailers and then
consumers in the country. Aside from storage, the villages also serve as meeting points
From interview several authorities from Office of Narcotic Board.
for selling, buying and delivery of illegal drugs. Such villages are usually located near at
least one other village on the opposite side of the border. Both villages have regular
contacts, bound by blood or marriage, and common interests. The main important is that
they could communicate in their own language. The narcotics trade goes on almost every
day in border villages; people from different places meet and talk drug business. The
ONCB officials found that tribesmen earn between 1-3 baht for each methamphetamine
tablet they transport across the border into a Thai village, depending on the current degree
of suppression.
Authorities have identified almost 157 border villages that serve as stopovers,
storage areas, trading areas, or meeting areas in the illicit drug industry. Of these, about
100 villages are located in Thailand, 42 are in Burma and 15 are in Laos. However, the
narcotics suppression is very difficult, as the officials do not fight with the person but
rather the network of organization that involved almost the whole families in the villages
which may be classified as drug dealer, drug runner and drug supporter.
Moreover, the hill tribes have constructed the network between the villages. For
example, on June 2, 1998 Thai narcotic suppression police officers raided a Lisor hill
tribe village in Chiang Mai. They found 2,000 tablets of methamphetamine and 10
million baht in cash. A number of weapons were also found. However, they have rarely
found a large amount of illicit drugs (Bangkok Post, September 12, 1999:6). This might
be that the illicit drug might be hidden somewhere in the jungle that surrounded the
village or it was shipped out of the village just before the raid. However, nobody was
arrested in the village which was known to have close connections with the Wa group.
The story of this village was published in the Bangkok Post, September,12 1999, page 6.
“The village lies ten kilometres away from a Wa production base in
the Burmese area, where armed Wa soldiers are said to patrol regularly.
The Lisor village also had seven permanent quests who, villagers say,
were ‘village’s representatives of the Wa.’ However, the ONCB report
identifies these representatives as ‘Wa or Thai or other tribal race.’ These
informants, working either for the Wa drug ring or the United Wa state
Army, keep an eye on the drug cache, make deals with buyers, collect
money and make contacts outside the villages. Authorities found evidence
that these Wa representatives deposit drug money at banks in Mae Ai as
well as in Chiang Mai’s Fang district. Authorities also found the ya baa
tablets are sold in a minimum of one tua (one lot), comprising 100,000
tablets. The small Lisor village has been hosting transactions that average
a million tablets a month.”
High profits from the drug business have given traffickers the power to spend on
luxury goods and bribe officials. Usually, the high-ranking drug traffickers bribe some
officers for the Thai identification card. From this evidence of being Thai, they could buy
land, house, car and etc.
Officials said that more cooperation from residents of border villages was needed
in the efforts to curb the smuggling of drugs, particularly methamphetamine pills. He
said most villagers had refused to cooperate with officials for fear of retaliation from drug
Besides police suppression of drug dealers and users could not effectively tackle
the root of the problem. It really needs the cooperation from Burmese authorities in
providing a long-term solution to the problem. The distance along Thai-Burmese border
is approximately 1,800 kilometres. Traffickers could infiltrate through any location along
the border. There are approximately 5 permanent checkpoints, 2 temporary checkpoints,
and 70 trading points, for a total of 77 traditional crossing points which are allowed to
open for the movement of people and goods, including logs.
A number of previous drug arrests in the area suggested that many of the people
hired by the Wa to smuggle drugs into Thailand were hired mainly from Lisor and Mhong
ethnicities. Both ethnicities set up their communities along the Thai-Burmese border.
The Lisor ethnicity was employed mainly as drug runners while the Mhong group has
tried to create a trade network connecting to the famous rehabilitation center in Saraburi
province, “Tham Krabok”, a place where hundreds of Mhong have come to rehabilitate
themselves from heroin addiction. However, this place, later, has been accused as the
center for Hmong to organize the narcotic trade. The number of arrested Mhong both in
the North and Bangkok has increased.
Violence has increased in the areas along the border. For example, on 11th of
April 1999, there were two gunfights between drug smugglers and authorities. First, Thai
soldiers had a brief gunfight with three armed soldiers who crossed from Burma into
Thailand near Fang district of Chiang Mai. One of the armed intruders, who was shot
dead in the gun battle, was an ethnic Wa. Second, only one hour after the first case, one
Thai police officer and two ethnic Lahu men were shot dead during the 30-minute
gunfight between drug smugglers and authorities in Vieng Pa Pao district of Chiang Rai.
The surviving culprits from the two incidents fled back over the Burmese border. Ten
days before these two shoot-outs, nine Thai villagers, who were believed to be drug
dealers, were killed by the troops of the UWSA in Fang district (Nation, 12/4/99).
Moreover, on 7th of June 1999, the shootout between about 70 members of the
Thai military and an unspecified number of armed drug traffickers went on for nearly an
hour. During the incident, seven suspected methamphetamine traffickers were shot dead.
The police officers were able to seize 1.5 million methamphetamine tablets, two
automatic rifles and two grenades. Thai suppression authorities have imposed a curfew
from 8 PM to dawn on five districts along the Thai-Burmese border after the gunfight
(Nation, 8/6/1999).
As the illicit drug business requires armed guards, the drug trafficking business is
always also involves in illicit arm smuggling. For example, on the 8th of September
1999, police officials seized two surface-to-air missiles and arrested two men for
allegedly trying to sell the weapons to the ethnic Wa army. The missiles were bought
from Cambodian soldiers in a border town near the Thai-Cambodian border. The two
men had paid 150,000 baht for each missile and were planning to sell them to the UWSA
for 600,000 baht each (Nation, 9/9/1999).
Figure 1 Heroin and Amphetamines Factories Along the Border
Source: Bangkok Post, September 12, 1999, page 6.
Figure 2 Drug Trafficking Routes
Source: Bangkok Post, September 12, 1999, page 6.
Figure 3 Drug Hot Spots
Source: Bangkok Post, September 12, 1999, page 6.
Figure 4 Drug Trafficking Routes Outside and Inside Thailand
Source: Bangkok Post, January 10, 1999
Trafficking routes within the country
One high-ranking member of the suppression police pointed out that “Drugs
dealers no longer drive pick-up trucks but rather expensive sedans”. The problem occurs,
as the police are reluctant to question or search people driving expensive sedans. Drug
traffickers utilize all kind of transportation, ranging from road, air and water. The most
common routes are road transport which the drug runners use private cars, both the pickup and expensive cars, public transport and trucks. In the past twenty years, Thailand has
paid much attention to develop infrastructure. Every province has been connected by the
new road. This factor has helped the drug runner to utilize the good condition of road for
drug trafficking (Figure 4).
In the past few years, the trafficker used the direct road from North to South.
After the suppression police has set up several checkpoints along the main road.
Traffickers have turned to employ other connecting routes. For example, the main
northern route from the border town of Tachilek in Burma to Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai,
Phayao, and Lampang, and Bangkok has been diverted into the northeastern provinces.
However, recently the drugs were found at the domestic airport. Trafficker are
very quick to change their tactics. Sometimes the drugs were hidden inside buffalo and
cow carcasses or inside fruits and vegetables transported to Bangkok. This makes it hard
for the police to search without destroying the commodities. In this way, the police must
rely on intelligence information. If the police make the mistakes for inspecting
agricultural products but find nothing, they have to pay for the compensation by their own
Some traffickers even pretended to move house and hide the drugs among the
furniture. In this circumstance, it is hard and take time to search. For the private car, the
drugs would be hidden in loudspeakers, car tyres, under the seat or in the backrest. Some
of them keep changing license plates.
However, there were new alternatives Developed recently, that is, the big dealers
bought the pure methamphetamines powder from the northern border and rent the vacant
house nearby Bangkok to make the tablet. By this way, the big dealers can supply the
large amount of methamphetamine with lower risk of suppression. Recently, the police
found the methamphetamine factories, located in the provinces next to Bangkok or in the
district border of Bangkok. These factories could produce millions of methamphetamine
A new way of ATS trafficking is to trade recipes for producing the amphetamines
and methamphetamines through the Internet, namely e-commerce. The ingredients and
recipes for illicit drug production are sold at the website. The website is operated by a
company set up with a UK license in 1995. The company claims it gives people
information about how to produce their own medicines. The company has a branch office
in Bangkok. Wirot Sumyai, Director of Narcotics Control Division in the Food and Drug
Administration, said websites where narcotics recipes are sold have become a serious
problem in the US, where secondary school students can produce their own drugs by
paying US$70 for a recipe through the Internet. This kind of production has been named
as Kitchen illicit drug or home-lab. The methamphetamine group has more than 186
different structural recipes. Among this group, the most favorites among users are those
called 2-CB and 2-CD by dealers and sometimes called “nexus”. The drugs’ structural
recipes and their synthesizing methods have been written as simply as cook books and are
being sold in the black market in countries such as Taiwan and Germany, said Viroj
Sumyai (Nation, 24/6/99).
IV. Illicit drug markets in Bangkok:
A Case Study of Klong Toey Slum
In general, the highest concentration of drug addicts are found in densely
populated communities, schools, and entertainment areas. When studying the supply
side, of these the densely populated community can give us the most complete picture of
the organization of dealers, persons working in the area and consumers. In Bangkok there
are approximately 1200 communities and half of these are slum dwellings. In this study
we choose to concentrate on the Klong Toey community. The Klong Toey community is
claimed to be a distribution centre for both the retail and wholesale sale of illicit drugs.
The Klong Toey community also serves as a source of supply for small dealers outside
the community.
The Klong Toey area has a long history of drug sales with the full circle diversity
starting from the production, the consumption and distribution. The drugs sale process
involves enormous number of child laborers. There are many groups of child labourers of
all sexes and ages, and the level of severity is also diverse. The children have various
status and roles in all aspects of the illegal business. The drug problem in child labour
constantly becomes more serious. Illicit drug sales are connected to many parties,
especially community leaders, local politicians, police and imprisoned parents. Due to
the long history of illicit drug markets in the community, it may be said that the
organizational structure of sale has been most extensively developed here. For this reason
the Klong Toey community served as the prototype community that brings the
techniques, the methods and the system of drug sale process to other communities.
Physical condition
Klong Toey Community is the biggest community in Thailand and it consists of
44 sub-communities in the territory of the Klong Toey District Office covering an area of
approximately 800 rai with about 110,000 dwellers or 21,500 families8. Of this area,
about half is a dense community with 70,000 dwellers. Almost all the dwellers in the
Klong Toey dense community migrated from rural areas to seek jobs and work as
labourers in Bangkok. Legally, this densely populated area belongs to the Port Authority
of Thailand.
Situation of illicit drugs in the community
Although an attempt to suppress and the movement to resist the illicit drug trade in
the community are in the high level, the illicit drug markets are still continuously
expanding. This is because the Mafia group has developed several branches to make the
strong organization. According to the studies by Sompong Chitradab, confirming by an
interview of some NGOs, the drug sale organization is greater than expected. The profits
from illicit drug has led to the establishment of the Mafia group to power in the
community. They can form the group of people to fight against the resisting groups and
can mobilize the mob whenever they need to express their power. The people living in
the community is, therefore separated into three groups, the group that supports the illicit
drug Mafia, the group that resist the widespread of illicit drug in the community and the
third which does not involve in the first two groups. The Mafia group has the connection
with the authority and also the politicians both at the national and local level. To gain
vote from the people living in the community, the politician has to, in some degree,
compromise with the Mafia group. For the local politicians, some politicians has a
connection with the Mafia group explicitly. Many called these local politicians as the
representative of the Mafia group.
In several cases the Mafia group use violence against the resisting group. One
interesting example is the case of the removal of the local police station chief in August
1999. On August 9, 1999, the group of 250 adults and children, led by Prateep
Ungsongtham-Hata9 rallied in front of the police headquarter to protest against the
transfer of the police station chief of Klong Toey who had received the reshuffle order to
move out from the station. The rally group claimed the reshuffle order was unfair, adding
the officer had done a great job in curbing drugs. The group argued that the reshuffle was
politically motivated. The group also gave information that the transferred officer had
effectively reduced the drug problem in the community. This has been confirmed with
the fact that 1,261 drug cases were brought to the court in 1998, compared with 702 cases
in 1997 before the arrival of this officer (Bangkok Post 10 August 1999).
Before the rally of this group, there was another rally group of people living in
Klong Toey slum to demand the transfer of this official, saying that he has failed to
alleviate crime and drug problems. In March 1997, some Klong Toey dwellers submitted
a complaint to a Prime Minister’s aide against Prateep Ungsongtham-Hata. The group
expressed that for the past year the group had problems with Prateep over her statements
to the press regarding narcotics trafficking in the slum community. They also accused
Sompong Chitradub, Rapid Assessment of the Child Labour in the production and
trafficking of drugs in Thailand, December 1999.
Prateep Ungsongtham-Hata is a famous NGO who has been working in the Klong Toey
community for nearly 30 years and set up the Duang Prateep foundation that aims to
develop and solve the social problems in the community.
that the police station chief (in 1997) had tended to take sides with Prateep whenever
there was some conflict between the two rival slum groups (Nation).
History of the illicit drug market
Being the very old community for laborer and the poor, Klong Toey slum has a
history of narcotics abuse. The beginning of the drugs was natural substance such as
marijuana and opium. Then it moved to heroin, namely among the users as “cap”.
Currently, the methamphetamine is widespread in the community, especially for the new
generation. However, heroin is still spreading among the older generation over the age of
3310. To quote:
“Currently, most of the spreading drugs are the amphetamines. The youth who
use these drugs are between the ages of 14 and 25. All the communities in Klong
Toey have the drugs, which are the amphetamines, for sale. The average ratio of the
small drugs retailers in each community is not lower than 8 retailers/community. It is
estimated that each day 25,000 amphetamine tablets are sold by the retailers. Klong
Toey is also the big agent that delivers the drugs to other locations in Bangkok. At
present, it can be considered that the spread of the drugs in the Klong Toey area as
very serious in the comparison with the drugs spread during the past 13 years. But
one good thing is that there are fewer drugs addicts in the area. Mostly, the drugs are
sold to the people outside or to the group of people who rent the lodging and work in
that area”11.
Sompong Chitradab, therefore, concluded that Klong Toey is drug selling area.
Most consumers and buyers are the people outside the community. On the contrary,
Prateep Ungsongtham-Hata, who also runs the rehabilitation centre, located in the South
of Thailand, though that the problem of amphetamine users among the youth living in the
slum Klong Toey has increased continuously.
Market strategy
The are three important market strategies. First, the sale is divided in to areas or
selling lines. About 5 big agents in 5 areas bring the drugs in for sale and deliver them to
their selling staffs and small retailers in the community to sell further by using the old
channel of illicit drug. Most of the drugs are not kept in the area but outside. Second, It
has been found that the most new retailers come from the users. The way to expand the
market, dealers will persuade their own customers to be the seller. This can be done from
sale in large amount with the big discount. When customers bought them they could not
consume the whole lot by themselves. So they will try to sell to new customers. This
methodology is the same as the direct marketing in the normal product market, namely
multilevel marketing (MLM). Finally, the most common developed strategy in recent
years was to use children as couriers. Several articles have been published in the
newspapers about ‘Children become drug pushers at an early age’. The in-depth
interviews of several cases of drug addicts and dealers confirm this fact. To quote:
Sompong Chitradub, Rapid Assessment of the Child Labour in the production and
trafficking of drugs in Thailand, December 1999.
‘Tee became a peddler of amphetamine pills when he was eight years old. Born to a
poor family in the slums of Klong Toey, Tee, now 11, first became involved in
pushing drugs at the persuasion of his peers in the slum. His parents also made a
living from selling speed pills…..When he turned eight, his father was arrested and
jailed for drug dealing. Soon his mother followed on similar charges. He was left in
the care of his grandmother, who was too old to look after him. It was then that he
plunged deeper into the illicit drug trade. Tee said he often escaped from his
grandmother and spent a week or more at the house of the drug dealer who was wellknown in his neighbourhood….The boy was arrested early this year while delivering
drugs to a customer. Police found him carrying seven amphetamine pills’ (Bangkok
Post, 23 August 1999).
Being the children in the family that their parents involved in the illicit drug trade
make it easy for them to enter into the market. Several cases began with drug addict and
then were persuaded to work with a drug dealer. Usually, the drug dealers want to use
children as drug pusher as by this way the police may ignore or if the children were
arrested they would not jailed but would be sent to a detention centre.
Involvement with other illegal activities
Several cases who turned to be drug dealers were formally in other illegal
activities. According to Prateep Ungsongtham-Hata, the gambling dens provided the
gamblers the liquid mixed with amphetamine to play a long hour in the dens. In some
cases, the gamblers were forced to join the drug trade as being owing the loan shark
V. Legislation and Law Enforcement
For a drug problem to develop into an epidemic, there are a number of
determining factors:
1. How to control and reduce the supply. This question, of course, depend on
availability of enough legislation and how effective of law enforcement.
2. How to control and reduce the demand. This question has been raised after
the failure of the measures on the supply side. The officials has come to new
approach to tackle the problem, that is to immunize the society and to create a
stronger community.
On the supply side, law enforcement is weak. This has been confirmed by the fact
that the profits from illicit drug has been used to pay off the officials and politicians to
protect them. The following examples gave the clear picture of the corruption cases
arising in the narcotics trafficking
1. There are several occasions that indicated the corruption problem in the
suppression process. One of the good example was Li Yun-chung case. Li,
who was later sent to the United States on charges of smuggling 486
kilogrammes of heroin into the US in 1991, was arrested in Thailand. Li was
granted bail on February 7, 1997 by Criminal Court Deputy Chief Justice
Somchai Udomwong despite a long-standing court practice against it. Li had
quickly fled across the border into Shan State. Li was sent back to Thailand
by the Burmese junta on May 17 upon the official request of Thai police. The
criminal Court Deputy chief justice was investigated under the rumours that Li
had paid a 30 million baht bribe to obtain the bail.
2. Wei Hsuey-kang, an ethnic Chinese, is in charge of three UWSA battalions
along the Thai border. Wei has been on the run from the Thai police since
1990 after he jumped bail and returned to Burma. He was arrested on
November 23, 1988, for alleged possession and trafficking of 680 kilograms
of heroin. Thai police had seized the drugs in s fishing boat off Chumphon
coast on October 20, 1987. The origin of the drug was traced to him. The
Eastern Court of the United States has indicted him on drug-trafficking
charges and the government has put a US$2 million price tag on his head.
Wei has managed to set up 10 major methamphetamine networks inside the
Kingdom (Nation, 6/8/1999).
3. One of the ten of Wei’s network was headed by Surachai Nguerntongfoo,
known as “Bung Ron”, who is believed to be staying with Wei and his men in
Mong Yawn. Surachai had managed to escape from Thai police during a drug
raid on his residence in October 1998 in Minburi district on Bangkok’s
outskirts. It is estimated that about four million methamphetamine tablets are
imported by Surachai into the country on a monthly basis. With the existence
of nine other networks, the total amount of methamphetamine tablets entering
Thailand in recent years could have reached 40 million a month said Pol Col
Suchart Theeraswat of the Bangkok Metropolitan Police which is investigating
the case (Nation, 6/8/1999). Until now, the Thai police still cannot arrest
Surachai. And the case has not been open to the public what was going on
during Surachai’s arrestment. There was a rumor that some officials called
him before the police arrived at his home. Besides, the escape way of
Surachai was conducted and accompanied by the people in uniform.
From the drug dealer’s point of view, the best situation in which to prosper is one
where the risk of prosecution is low, profits high and the market widespread
It has been under argument whether it creates or reduces the problem when the
government has restored to scare tactics, creating a belief in the minds of the general
public that addiction to any drug is similar to heroin addiction
Control of ATS and their precursors can be summarized with the following laws:
Narcotic Drugs Act 1979
Initially, Narcotic Drugs Act 1979 is aimed to control opiates however ATS and
its precursors were later added. The Act has been amended several time to keep control
over the change in the ATS market situation12. Under this act, ATS are classified as
At present, there are 33 precursors under control. Among these controlled precursors,
10 of them are precursor of ATS production. They are: ephedrine, chloroephedrine,
pseudoephedrine, phenylpropanolamine, isosafrole, 3,4-methylendioxyphenyl-2propanone, 1-phenyl-2-propanone, phenylacetic acid, piperonal and safrole. Besides,
more 8 essential chemicals are also placed under national control strategies. They are
acetyle chloride, chloroform, ethylidine diacetate, glacial acetic acid, phosphorus
trichloride, phosphorus pentachloride, thionyl chloride and caffeine.
schedule-I narcotics which is strictly prohibited for medical use. All precursor chemicals
of ATS except ephedrine, pseudoephedrine and phenylpropanolamine are classified as
schedule-IV narcotics which handlers must obtain licenses to handle it. Such licenses are
classified according to the kind of handling, such as possession for industrial use,
possession for scientific use, etc. The license is granted by the Food and Drug
Administration of the Public Health Ministry. Besides, import, export and distribution of
schedule-IV narcotics by private enterprises are prohibited. It must done of behalf of the
Food and Drug Administration. Utilization of the schedule-IV narcotics is regulated
under the quota system. Therefore, the Narcotics Drugs Act 1979 represents the major
legislation in relation to narcotics control in Thailand. This Act is very extensive
covering all aspects of offences. The highest penalty under such law is death for
schedule-I narcotics trafficking offence.
Psychotropic Substances Act 1975
The Psychotropic Substances Act 1975 is aimed to control the import, possession,
sale and use of psychotropic substances. The term “Psychotropic Substances” refers to
any substance specified in the Psychotropic Substances List and includes any mixture,
preparation, solution or natural substance containing such substance. The type of
psychotropic substances under this law include substances used for industry and
medicine. The handlers of psychotropic substances other than medical practitioners and
pharmacist must obtain licenses. The strength of this Act is to prevent diversion of
precursor chemicals and illegal production of ATS in Thailand.
Administrative Organization
In Thailand, drug law enforcement is undertaken by many agencies in accordance
with the laws creating those agencies. These agencies are the Office of National Police
under Office of the Prime Minister, Custom Department under the Ministry of Finance,
the Bureau of Posts under the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Office of
Narcotics Control Board under Office of the Prime Minister, and the Food and Drug
Administration under the Ministry of Public Health.
National Drug Control Policy
In 1997, Thailand implemented the 5th Narcotics Control Plan covering a period of
5 years (1997-2001) aiming to minimize the demand and supply sides of drug problems.
The 3 main issues of Narcotics Control Plan are composed of (1) creating negative
attitude against ATS in the public and improving the capability of communities in
preventing and solving ATS problems; (2) developing a complete treatment and
rehabilitation program for ATS addicts with emphasis on quality service and participation
from families and communities; and (3) improving the legal and justice systems and
procedures to efficiently and continuously intercept producers and dealers of ATS and
related chemicals.
Acknowledging the severity of ATS problems and their long term effects which
undermine stability and economic development of the country, the government,
considering the ATS control the leading domestic issues, proclaimed the Office of the
Prime Minister’s Order No. 141/B.E. 2541 (1998) on Narcotics Drugs Prevention and
Suppression Policy, under the strategy of state-civil alliance against ATS, with the
objectives for the sudden control of the widespread of ATS and the reduction of ATS
problems by specific on the close cooperation and the unity of each concern sector in
fighting against ATS.
According to Prime Ministry’s Order No.141/B.E.2541 (1998), there are two main
plans of actions. The first operation plan emphasizes on the sudden reduction of ATS
problems in the 4 main target areas and groups comprising the communities with
extensive ATS problems, transit areas along Thai border, all academic institutions at
secondary, vocational and university levels, laborers in public transportation companies
and fishery industries. According to this plan communities and educational institutes are
to accumulate pressure against ATS related to misbehaviors. The addicts are to be treated
as patients, while collaborative operation is to destroy the ATS production, trafficking
networks and intercept ATS smuggling into the country. The second operation plan
specifies on prevention and intervention of ATS problems with the permanent
cooperation from communities aiming to build the strength, effectiveness and capacity of
people organization to be leaders for conducting activities and projects to prevent and
solve ATS problems in communities by themselves.
Chapter 2 Demand13
Heroin first appeared in the illicit drug market in Thailand in 1959 soon after the
laws against opium addicts were enforced. In the first episode of heroin use, drug users
used 3-6% pure heroin No. 3. The method of ingestion was smoking. It is thought that
the heroin No. 3 being consumed in Bangkok during the 1958-1962 period was imported
from Hong Kong by a Chinese network. This episode lasted only a few years and heroin
became less popular, until higher quality heroin No. 4 became widely available in the late
1960s [McCoy, 1972; Laosunthorn, 1993; NCSWT, 1994; PDP, 1998; Visuthimach,
1998; Sumyai, 1999]. In the late 1990s, after almost 40 years of being the number one
illegal drug on the black market, heroin was replaced by a synthetic drug, amphetamine.
Truck drivers, agricultural workers, prostitutes and daily workers in Thailand had
been familiar with amphetamine for decades. Although few people realize it,
amphetamine appeared on the market in the early 1960s, almost at the same time as
heroin [Visuthimach, 1998]. The street price of amphetamine in 1965 when its use was
first recorded officially was only 6-12 baht a tablet [Poshyachinda and Pittayanond,
1985]. Amphetamine was known as the “speed pill,” and served users by letting them
work longer hours. From many users’ point of view, the “speed pill” is comparable and is
a substitute for other high energy beverages with a high caffeine content. Since it was
thought that amphetamine would only be used by truck drivers and daily workers,
enforcement officers ignored amphetamines and used their resources entirely on heroin
and marijuana suppression as well as drug related crimes. Meanwhile amphetamine
slowly grew in popularity without much notice.
The recognition of the amphetamines problem began in the mid-1990s when
policy makers finally recognized they had a problem on their hands. The legal penalty for
amphetamine use, possession, and sale was increased to the same level as for heroin in
1996 and a national agenda against amphetamine use was formulated in 1998.
Until recently, the arguments against ongoing drug policies, or at least the
preventive actions, are obvious: amphetamine is always talked about as no different than
heroin, and drug addiction is misguided to the particular problem of the poor: it happens
in slums in the class of the violently disputed families.
The notorious image of an amphetamine users is that of maniac, assault, and
violent criminal. Interviews with many young addicts about their reasons to use
amphetamine suggest something different. In fact, amphetamine is a social drug. A
number of amphetamine abusers inhale the pills before drinking, motorbike racing at
night, playing snooker, dancing in pubs and discotheques, or even playing sports. All
activities are associated with groups. They are addicted to the smell and flavor of the pills
and will be happier to perform any activity when they get “high”. Normally, most of us
can not distinguish amphetamine abusers from ordinary people. In contrast, heroin addicts
The term “amphetamine” used throughout this chapter refers to Methamphetamine.
are easily noticed by their physical characteristics. The heroin addicts are quite isolated
from the society. Especially, heroin is seldom developed with activities described in
Many people think that drug abuse is not their problem. The perception that
narcotics are used only by people in slums and there mainly by those with poor or
separated families. It is de facto apparent that the amphetamine abuse is outbreak to every
community regardless of the poor or the wealthy. Many seizures of drugs occupied at the
condominiums and apartments in the residential area as well as villages in the suburb. To
the turn of the century, drug abuse is no longer the problem of the poor.
This paper contains 4 parts. Part 1 introduces the outlook of the drugs situation,
policy implementations by relevant authorities, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation
policies, and the investigation of the sources of problems. Part 2 covers the interpretation
of the “Illegal Drug Market” survey, and part 3 is the analysis of the regression models on
drugs in association with price and income. Part 4 is the conclusion of the findings.
Part I. The Outlook of the Drug Situation in Bangkok
1. Drug Usage
Drug users have long been started with marijuana before taking heroin. In recent
years, however, marijuana has become less correlated with heroin as the first
experimental drug. It turns out that new drug dependents commenced their experiment
more directly to heroin as their first trial. Comparing with amphetamine usage, about half
of heroin users starts their addiction with some other drugs prior to taking heroin, whilst
three-fourth of Amphetamine dependents demand amphetamine because of what it is.
Heroin serves as the next substance when users have already experienced with drug,
whereas amphetamine is chosen for the curiosity of users who want to find out about it.
The difference motive in the use of each drug implies the different means of designing
prevention programs for the two. The motives for heroin use come mainly from social
and economic problem, but the common reasons for stimulant use are for recreation and
enhancing work performance such as night work and hard labor. More recently, however,
the ways of use among adolescents expanded to cover the sex strengthening and obesity
2. Extent and Pattern of Drug Abuse
The number of drug dependents declined during 1995-1997 and was up again in
The total number of drug users in Bangkok area is difficult to estimate. The
largest group of drug dependents systematically recorded is the treatment client group.
The annual statistics on the total drug dependence treatment population from the
Department of Medical Services, Minister of Public Health, indicated that the total
number of drug dependents in Bangkok fluctuated during 1994-1998, recording 27,958
persons in 1994, highest at 31,441 in 1995, declining to 23,376 in 1997 and jumping up to
25,764 persons in 1998 [DMS/MPH and DDRC/IHR, 1994-1998]. (Figure 2.1) New
cases constitute about 20% of the treatment clients and its proportion consistently
declines from the peak at 31.0% in 1995 to 21.7% in 1998. The return of increasing
number in 1998 may reflect the outcome of the economic crisis in Thailand since 1997
and requires more investigation.
The statistics from the Corrections Department at the end of October 1999 show
that the number of prisoners charged with violation of narcotic control laws accounts of
52.67% of the total prisoners in the country. The number of drug-related offenders
amounts to 68.82% of the total prisoners in Bangkok area in 1999, in comparison to
60.61% in 1996. Heroin offenders declined 8.5% during 1996-1997, but the figures
slightly increased thereafter.14 (Figure 2.2)
Figure 2.1 : Past Month Users of Heroin, Marijuana, and Amphetamine
Number of Users
Figure 2.2: Imprisonment of Drug Offenders
in Bangkok Area
Number of 6000
Persons 4000
The turning point happened during 1995-1996 when that Khun Sa, the key
controller of the illicit production and trafficking, surrendered to the government of
Myanmar. It caused a supply shortage and a sharp heroin price increase [ONCB, 1996].
On the demand side, the addicts adjusted toward more combined drug use, and also, the
expansion of amphetamine abuse. On the supply side, the drug sellers evaded police
arrestment by finding some other tactics in transporting, hiding, and selling channels. A
faulty subsequent outcome is the introduction of young children into the drug trade in
recent years.
Follow a price rise in 1996, there have been significant adaptations in the behavior
of heroin dependents. Some have either switched to use more amphetamine or applied
other kinds of drug. The number of alternated users starts climbing and may pose
difficulty for treatment process. (Figure 2.3) The more-than-one-drug data for heroinreentry cases rose from about 8% in 1996 to 10% in 1998. Also, a spike up of average
spending on drug per day and the higher consumption frequency per day were eminent
among reentry amphetamine cases who are former heroin users in 1996. Somehow, the
data on the Statistical Reports from the department of Health Services, Ministry of Health
understated the number of alternated use of drug addicts. The actual number of alternated
drug users is very much higher than it was reported. A survey was conducted to check the
The number of heroin offenders in the prisons in the Bangkok District and vicinity rises
7.1% between 1997 and 1998, and rises 8.3% between 1998 and September 1999.
dissertation. One half of heroin users in the sample apply heroin in combination with
other drugs and about 10 percent of amphetamine users do similarly.
In contrary with the pattern of heroin use, as high as 95% of the amphetamine dependents
over the past 4 years use only a single drug. (Figure 2.4) Amphetamine users do not mix
amphetamine with other drugs. However, the limitation from the data set of the statistical
report from MPH/IHRCU is that the pattern of drug use does not clearly represent the
behavioral relations with cigarette, alcohol, and other recreation activities.
Figure 2.4: Pattern of Amphetamine Use
Figure 2.3: Pattern of Heroin Use
Number of Persons (in thousands)
Number of Persons (in thousands)
Heroin Only
Heroin and Marijuana
Amphetamine Only
Amphetamine and Marijuana
Heroin and Amphetamine
Heroin and Others
Amphetamine and Heroin
Amphetamine and Inhalants
3. Characteristics of the Drug Dependence Population
More than 90 percent of drug dependents are male. The majority of heroin
dependents fall between 20-24 years of age. More than half of amphetamine
dependents belong to the age group of 14-19 years old. In 1998, of all dependents, 81
percent use heroin and 17 percent used amphetamine.
The male dominates more than 92% of all drug dependents throughout the last 5
years. For heroin, age on admission shows increasing trend and is highest in the age
group 20-24 years old. For amphetamine dependents, almost 60% of whom are between
15-19 years old. In 1998, the principal type of drug most commonly used during the last
30 days before admission was heroin, 80.9%, followed by amphetamines, 17.0%.
The percentage of student group among new case heroin users gradually declined
over the past 4 years. Instead, amphetamine became more popular among this group.
However, while the percentage of unemployed among new case heroin dependence group
remained stable except for 1998, the proportion of unemployment on the amphetamine
users was off and on during the past 4 years. (Figure 2.5 and 2.6) In Bangkok, students
constituted 38.8 and 42.1% of the new stimulants users in 1997 and 1998 respectively.
However, it should be noted that by ways of keeping the records, the number of student
group among new amphetamine users reports demonstrates both cases of occasional use
and dependence [PDP, 1998].
Figure 2.5 : Percentage of Student and the
Unemployed Among New Case Heroin Users
Figure 2.6 : Percentage of Student and the
Unemployed Among New Case Amphetamine Users
Temporary Job
Permanent Job
Temporary Job
Permanent Job
4. Modes of Intake
Injection is most prevalent among heroin users. The oral intake for amphetamine
has been changed almost entirely toward smoking.
The route of administration of drug varied depending on which type of drug.
Injecting is most prevalence among heroin users and smoking is most common among
amphetamine users. The prevalence of injecting heroin has increased during the last 5
years, from 52.2% in 1994 to 69.0 % in 1998. (Figure 2.7) The heroin user normally
administers the drug 2-3 times per day. The data reported that the frequency of using
drugs for new cases has declined.
Figure 2.8: Mode of Intake - Amphetamine,
new cases
Figure 2.7: Mode of Intake - Heroin,
new cases
The heroin price escalation in 1996 has also impacted the applying habit of the
heroin users. Some changed from smoking to intravenous injecting while some use them
with other drugs. A striking change happened with the amphetamine users as well. In
1996, the proportion of oral intake dropped substantially from the preceding year. (Figure
2.8) About one-fourth of new cases of amphetamine dependents took amphetamine by
eating in 1995. For a year later, the figure of oral intake declined to only 5%.
It is reported that heroin is bought or sold in 3 most common measuring units:
“tua” or tube (50 mg), “fa” (200-250 mg), and “bic” (1 g). For amphetamine, it is shipped
in 200 tablets per package covering with plastic tape. The retailers will divide it into the
5-10 tablets and put it into a straw. They can sell the whole straw or cut it off for retail
sales. The best selling amphetamine is in the orange color with WY trademark on it.15
5. Trends
Amphetamine use is on the rise and heroin is on the decline.
Through the 1990s, the total users of heroin as reported in the annual statistics on
the total drug dependence treatment population remained stable at the high level until the
last 4 years. Beginning in 1996, the trend of decrease population size occurred with the
replacement by amphetamine abuse [PDP, 1998]. The total heroin treatment population
from 45 drug dependence treatment units distributed over the Bangkok area showed the
peak of 30,167 cases in 1995, then dramatically dropped to 24,463 and 20,092 cases in
1996 and 1997 respectively. (Figure 2.1) In addition, the proportion of new cases heroin
users that used to dominate more than 90 % in prior years dropped dramatically after
WY is the trademark for amphetamine from the United Red Wa Republic in Shan
independent state of Myanma.
1995. In 1998, new heroin dependents entering the treatment were declined to only 50%.
(Figure 2.9)
Figure 2.9: Percentage of New Case Classified by Type
of Principle Drug Used During the Last 30 Days
The factors contributing to such trends include shortage of heroin supply in 1996,
a higher profit margin for amphetamine trading, fads among adolescent group, and
driving force from economic crisis since 1997.
The rapid expansion of amphetamine users was evidenced in Thailand country
report [DDRC/IHR, 1998]:
“Methamphetamine abuse in Thailand increase because some heroin abusers change
their behavior by higher involving with methamphetamine trade or abuse of these 2
kinds of drugs simultaneously. This occurrence has several support factors, for
example, the increase of the demand, the higher profit from methamphetamine
producing and trading”
6. Drug Use by Youth Group
Drug abuse among high school and college students nationwide has more than
doubled in the last five years.
The Office of Narcotics Control Board reports that drug abuse among high school
and college students nationwide has more than doubled during 1994-1998, rising from
71,666 in 1994 to 199,000 cases in 1998 [Bangkok Post, 17 May 1999; the Nation, 10
April 1999]. A recent estimate by ONCB asserts more serious situation. In 1999 alone,
the number of 463,184 students was reported. An estimated 12.4% of students used drugs
or were associated with drugs in 1999 comparing to only 1.4% in 1998.16 The major
change falls on a huge increase of the number of users from schools under the General
Education Department. Its proportion increases from 26.1% of drug users in 1998 to
47.1% in 1999. The major drugs being abused are amphetamine, marijuana, and inhalants
A study summarizes the factors contributing to the wide spread of drugs among
students on the larger number of drug producers of whom students are the target,
unemployment, dysfunctional families, poverty, weakness of education system, and
feeble role of teachers, educational institutions, and communities [Berger and Glind,
1999]. Another study states that 72.4% of the children sell amphetamine for money to
buy expensive things, and have money to buy drugs. Young female participates in the
drug dealing in a short period before ending up with child prostitutes [Chitradub, 1999].
Drug sellers will deal with only those they know, leaving the task of searching for
customers to amateur young addicts. Some young dealers sell drugs to their friends
on credit as well as advancing their friends money if they do not have enough. Next,
the profit figures from drug trade urge more and more students get into this
The youngsters start their drug experiment primarily due to their curiosity and
friend’s persuasion. Once became addicted, they were later persuaded to join the trade.
In Klong Toey condensed communities, the young addicts were usually assigned
to wait for drug purchasers, they are normally given 10-20 pills for sales on each round,
and either earn 10 baht per each tablet sold or receive drugs in return instead. For the
starters, they will get 5 tablets of drug at a time, one tablet is kept whilst the rest is sold
and the money is returned to drug dealers. Their main targets are taxi drivers and
motorcyclists from both inside and outside areas, and the place where they capture the
customers most is at the main entrance where they can spot people who come ins and outs
or at the playground of the community.17
Because of the rapid increase in the number of people dealing with drugs, drug
sellers look for a new target and expand their market to educational institutions. Many
students had become drug dealers at school, some to boost their income and others simply
to satisfy their own drug need. The drug trafficking locations include toilets, classrooms,
school lawns, gas stations and hotels.
An 18-year old Mathayom 5 (grade 10) student reported that he first tried
amphetamine five years ago in a school toilet by the urging of his seniors. Similarly, he
later turned to urge other students to satisfy his growing drug need. The money earned for
A recent survey on “Drug Use Survey among Students in Thailand” was conducted by
the Office of Narcotics Control Board. The survey was done during July-August 1999 to
the students from elementary school level 6 to undergraduate level. The sample size is
36,337 cases. The number of drug-related students results in 663,290 persons, including
285,866 users, 143,607 ever-use persons, 80,819 dependents, 56,499 sellers, 50,442 both
dependents and sellers, and 46,057 users and sellers.
The story of Satit, a 13 years old boy from Klong Toey, who was arrested at the
beginning of the year 1999, was reported in Bangkok Post, 23 August 1999.
a retailer from selling speed pills to customers in his neighborhood is around 600-800
baht a day. This easy money enables him to smoke up to 15 pills a day [Bangkok Post, 17
May 1999].
The main dealer’s trick of the trade is to have a child addicted to the drug first,
then easily turn him into a dealer. The dealers often provide the young prospects with free
drugs at the early stages of addiction. After a while, they begin to charge the young
addicts money.
More seriously, Police General Pracha Promnok, chief of the National Police
Office, noted that some amphetamine sellers aimed their target at children in Bangkok
Kindergartens. They approached children and persuaded them to drink beverages mixed
with amphetamines [Bangkok Post, 12 March 1999]. The benefits of using school
children to sell drugs are two folds. Having young addicts as drug pushers not only
expands new market in schools, but also evades the strong enforcement of the police.
According to the study of Chitradub (1999), the justice process on the young has the
loopholes that allow the drug dealers make exploitation of it. The law penalty for the
young is light; the children below the age of 18 will be released with warning and the
children between 18 and 20 years old will receive only one-third or half of the penalty of
the adults. As a result, the young drug delivers are arrested and released all the time
[Chitradub, 1999].
Amphetamine and gambling emerge in every step of these children’s activities
from meeting at snooker tables, convening at playgrounds, playing sports, to racing
motorcycles at night. Amphetamine enables users to play cards for several consecutive
days without feeling sleepy. Besides, gambling also has a role with drugs in a way that it
becomes a source of making money to buy drugs.
One crucial aspect of relationship between drugs and gambling is that drug dealers
use gambling as a way to find drug pushers. Influential narcotic dealers in Klong Toey
slum also operate gambling dens in the community. When the losers are unable to pay
their gambling debts, they will be forced to mortgage their shacks to the drug dealers.
Borrowers are sometimes forced to pay daily interest on gambling loans by giving their
children to deliver drugs to customers of the dealers. The children will be taken at the
first time to see the customers or their houses before being put on the delivery job. Often,
they wait for the customers to come and pick up the drugs directly from them.
Ones who refuse to allow their children to work as couriers are beaten and forced
to leave their homes immediately after the mortgage contract expires. The police can do
nothing because of highly influence power of the drug dealers. They normally have very
closed connection with local politicians and some high-ranking and some local
policemen. More often that seriously enforced police station chiefs were transferred
following the order of high influential people in the area. Indeed, Pol Lt-Gen Komkrit
Patpongpanich, chief of the Narcotics Suppression Bureau, admitted that the fight against
drugs at Klong Toey failed because local police were involved [Bangkok Post, 15 August
7. Social Safeguards
7.1 Traditional Influences and Indigenous Safeguards
In the past, juveniles were controlled by their parents, teachers and religious
teaching in the community like the 3 legs of a stool until they reached adulthood.
Cultural changes have brought imbalance to this chair.
Cultural changes following from the urbanization of a large city like Bangkok
have brought changes to the children’s rearing system. Parents devote too little time for
their children. What follow is that the young tend to follow actions of their friends more
than they believe what parent taught. Besides, the problem of stresses in the urbanized
society leads to more divorces. More and more children react negatively to the social
norms by doing what people tell them not to do.
The globalization has brought benefits to international trade and imported growth,
but it can also bring social crisis from one place to another. In fact, the neo-cultural
changes can be seen by style of dressing, the western style thinking among the youth.
Many adopted fads have been imitating by the children in the fast expanding economy.
As the conditions being, the western culture has its own charm, but the copying of
western cultures must be adopted with prudent. The imported fashions among the
youngsters are not limited to only their outer appearance, but the smoking fad and others.
In the western countries, children under some specified age can not purchase cigarettes
and are prohibited from alcohol. The entertaining places are closed at a specific time. The
opposite is that children in Thailand can buy cigarettes any time, they can access to
alcohol quite easy, and the night entertainment are frequently found close late than the
specific time. Besides, the western youngster is taught to grow with oneself. They have to
work to earn money for their study and to stand with their own legs. They must grow up
with self-discipline. With different environments of rearing children, the adoption of the
western-style cultures builds Thai children with confuse mixture; adopting everything
calling fads but no teach of self-discipline and no guidance of what is good or bad. To
keep children away from drugs, one can not strict with what we are calling them “bads”,
but loose at what we are accepting them “goods”.
7.1.1 Family:
The parent is the children’s great defense against drug abuse and acts as a strong
pusher to get children to find treatment.
Parent plays important roles not only in preventing their children from drug, but
also serving as a strong motivator in bringing them around to treatment. A finding from
the survey in part 2 demonstrates that family coercion accounts of 34% behind the
decision of amphetamine dependents to attend the treatment centers in 1998 and the trend
of this force is rather optimistic.
7.1.2 Teacher:
Teacher, a long-time indigenous safeguard against drugs, has loosened its venerable
ground when some teachers themselves sell drug to their children.
With rush working and competitive living, teachers have no exception in this
cultural change. They can’t resist the every move by their neighbors, money become
more important than any other thing. When speed pill trade is very profitable, it is no
doubt that even some teachers sell the drug to their students. Further, one may blame the
politicians that put less emphasis to education. They ranked Ministry of Education as the
second or third grade ministry. Schools at the fundamental level could only recruit at
most medium quality new teachers. Majority of creamy students chose not to be teachers.
The quality of teachers has weakened continuously. Money is widespread in admitting
students into the colleges. The posts report more often to the news of teachers raping their
own students. Ultimately, the teacher image has been aggravated by these actions of some
immoral teachers or unethical persons.
7.1.3 Religious:
Religious institutions served as a source of moral teaching to the community. They
can be leaders of their community in fighting against drug traders, but the guard is
weakened by the declining beliefs in religious teaching.
To most of the Thais, the Buddhist temple is not only a religious institution, it is
an all-purpose sanctuary for people when they need education, counseling, temporary
shelter and even the mental cure. Some treatment centers for drug addiction even locate in
the temple area. The benefit is not merely for convenient, but for mental purpose. The
traditional belief for Buddhists to abstain from alcoholic beverages when entering the
temple is still recognized and is expected to cover the abstention from other narcotics
drugs as well. The role of religious is faded away from the youth group in recently
however. The young children believe that the temples are the places for the elderly to go.
7.1.4 Education:
The existing educational system is ineffective in guarding children from narcotic use.
The general education system has failed to fight against the widespread of
narcotics. The efficacy of education as an indigenous measure is loosened as it is
confirmed by the increasing number of new drug dependents among the tenth grade
students and higher in the past 5 years. A picture of a randomly selected student can
compare the change, students violate more to the school rules and show less respect to
their teachers. Education system now teaches only knowledge but does not encourage
moral and self-esteem to them. Furthermore, a competing environment in the current
education system has driven many to live with less sympathy. The winners can take all in
the society. At the other end, those who can not adapt themselves to the competing
environments become anxious persons and are likely to turn to drugs or to commit
suicide. With this cripple society, many children grew up without self-discipline, many
have no self-confidence, and the mature age is postponed.
7.1.5 School:
School directors oppose the coordination with other parts of the community.
The joint programs with several departments to fight against drugs can gain only
temporary support from the school directors. Drug-free zone, sporting field, and
prevention campaigns are selectively and occasionally enforced. Urine-test measurement
is applied to all students once a year and is named a successfully suppression of narcotics.
The refusal of cooperation with nearby temple and community of school administrators is
derived from the idea that they will loose the control over the power and budget of their
7.1.6 Community:
The fight of the community against drug sellers does not receive enough support.
Some community leaders themselves are big traders.
In a large city with more than 10 millions population like Bangkok, the common
problem to its residents are the increasing crime rate, the rush and competing society, and
isolated neighborhood. Many immigrants from the rural area to find jobs in the city led to
rapid expansion of the city in the last 2 decades. In 1999, more than 1,000 communities
are registered with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration. With crowded people from
unknown background, criminal awareness, and the surrounding stresses have contributed
to the non-communal living. Each family in the community cares little to its neighbor
matter. As a result, community leader and the neighbors, once used to be a safeguard
against outside harm, are less effective in helping control narcotic problem in a
community. It is not unusual that why the plague of drug addiction has infected to
different groups very rapidly.
The spreading out of amphetamine first migrated from specific groups such as
daily workers and night-working people in slum communities to the new communities
that emerge follow the expansion of the previous locations. For example, some
governments in the past had tried to move communities like Klong Toey to other several
areas, so the previous addicts brought narcotics to the new communities as well. The
process of spreading went from the preexisting groups to the children in its playground,
from one to his friends, and from community to schools nearby. Then, its span is not
limited to only a single community. There are cross-community extensions as a result of
the distribution network of drug by the sellers, the changing marketplaces to evade the
police, the new supplying places when a heavy enforcement happens.
A community leader can make a radical change by gathering their members to be
an informal community policing when police officers are shortage or at the time of no
hope in the local police. Some strong packed communities were successful in curbing the
drug abuse. Nevertheless, some communities made even worse when the community
leaders are big drug traders. Among other things, it is said that politicians both local and
national level are dependent to the community leaders in collecting votes at the time of
election. If the community leaders are involved with drugs, the politicians will be
reluctant to make any action and the police will have to be idle.
7.2 New Indigenous Controls:
The convention of some 200 from 1013 communities has been formulated in the last
2 years. Tools were created to curb the number of drug addicts. In some Muslim
communities, strict rules are exercised to penalize drug addicts by isolating them
from the communities.
New initiatives on drug prevention found on the community level. The heart of
success is put on the bottom or operational level. The approach to combat drug abuse in
the community must receive supports by the community members. The success will
depend on the member feeling of community belonging. Under the new community
control system, every plan must initiate by the community members during the weekly
meeting. The system aims not to expect much to eliminate drug abuse completely, but to
prevent new users to emerge. Weak communities are able to ask for support from peers in
the successful communities. In the early days of the pilot communities, every move is
done without help from the government.
The new invention on drug preventing strategies by the community is divided into
6 stages. First, convince members in the community to support the activities from antidrug programs. Second, make the community immune from drug by setting up night
security guards, launching drug use survey, and setting community rules. Third, plan for
continuous programs. Pushers for new and systematic programs are regularly trained by
academic supporters from the educational institutions. Fourth, coordinate with the police
and balance each other effort. Fifth, cross checking among communities. Sixth, build antidrug network.
Some communities adopt sanction measures to the drug addicts. Specifically to
some religious communities, stronger religious rules are collectively reinforced to the
members of the society. The drug addicts will be banned from important religious rituals.
Another attempt emerges from the temple side. Some drug prevention initiatives are
recently settled by some temples in the center of the communities in trying to attract more
youth participation. The programs are initiated, managed, and implemented by the monks.
The programs are expected to teach moral and isolate the homeless and problem children
from drug experiment.
Since people lack confidence in law enforcement officers, the effort of the private
sector to defend themselves from drug abuse seems like the way out.
Corruption at the police station has been acclaimed by the public for a long time.
A survey conducted by Sompong Chitradub (1999) found that the role of police in solving
drug problem makes the situation worse. Sixty-six point seven percent of the observations
in his survey state that the police’s role towards the problem does not help or even make
more of it. The mentioned measures include setting the check-point, arrest and release the
accused, the sellers are on the loose, and the police inform the sellers in advance when
police from the central unit will arrive [Chitradub, 1999]. Without confidence to the law
enforcement officers, the effort of the private sector to defend themselves from drug
abuse seems like the way out. An anti-drug initiative was settled through a radio station
on the first of August 1999. Its main task is the action as the information center to collect
drug information from the public. The function of the initiative is hoped to alert the police
spirit and to seclude drug dealers from the communities. With helping from 3 major
public hospitals, a 24-hour advice from hospital experts is readily accessible when the
drug abusers need treatment information. The radio station is sponsored by the Bangkok
Metropolitan Administration and gains supports by some community leaders. Leaders
from several areas both become members and report the drug-trading events in the
community to the station. Half of the 5,000 members are actively participating during the
first 3 months of the operation. Every record from the listeners’ voice will be distributed
to seven governmental drug suppression agencies. The control after drug information was
disseminated has been performed by the senders. They will wait for the raid from the
police in the indicated area and reenter the messages for the results to the station.
A very effort has sent to obstruct the will of the anti-drug medium. Several
telephone calls were for threatening the safety of the radio administration. Some fraud
calls were sent by the drug gangs to make skeptic to the credit of other messages. To
investigators, they disbelief in this stand for fear that the opponents will be alerted before
the police officers get enough evidence to grab them. The radio supporters argue,
however, that they have no choice because they do not trust the police after several claims
were conveyed to the police stations.
Another argument falls into the structure of the local district authorities. The
success of the radio station is dependent on serious attention from local public authorities.
Current supports from any relevant parties such as the police, the governor, and the head
of municipals are reluctantly provided. Unless the ruling power is restructured, the
decisions will be made by topping-down authorities who have little understanding of the
problem. A well-planned measure to combat drug abuse will face with inflexibility from
the bureaucratic system and inevitably fail soon after its implementation. The main
impediment is that the community members are not so collective to win the policy
direction. The hope is expected only after the realignment of the new decentralized
structure of the local authority is done successfully. The stronger community is expected
to follow the decentralized power and the anti-drug measures will be pushed
wholeheartedly from every part of it.
8. Responses to Legal Controls
The underlying reasons to unsatisfactory responses of drug users on legal controls
are numerous. Sensibly understandable, drug traders on various levels have their
rationales to react those ways.
8.1 Drug Dealers:
Dealers of the mad pills bribe the police on a monthly basis for doing this business.
The in-depth interviews with the drug sellers reveal the truth that they sometimes
saw the big dealers they purchased drug with receive drugs from the police. The
connection with the police makes them free from arrestment. Checking with the seizure
statistics from the police department, there was no report of the seizure of big traders of
amphetamine. Only small retailers and drug buyers were arrested. The drug dealers
realize that they have been partnership with the enforcement officers so that they react
fearlessly to the strong penalty of the legal controls.
8.2 Drug Retailers:
Drug offenders respond neutrally to the law enforcer’s activities. The police have to
use amphetamine as bait for the arrest of drug dealers. They will hide some of the
drug seized from arrests. By making a deal with drug offenders to report only a
small amount of the drug seized to lessen the penalty on drug use, the enforcement
officers can have the pills to be used as bait. Both can benefit through this
arrangement. The alleviation of the charge from drug seller to drug user is very
common. Consequently, drug offenders expect only mild penalties and react
negatively to legal controls.
Under the presently limited conditions, namely, strong enforcement to only buyers
and small sellers, but relax enforcement to big dealers, the virtue of the law has
weakened. Further, some police officers involve in drug selling. The data from the radio
station which handles the illegal drug issue specified that all police districts in Bangkok
area that were reported were accused for some police officers taking part in drug selling
in a variety of patterns. Among several, most frequent reports were that the police officers
themselves are drug distributors, insider informers to drug traders, and inaction to the
announcers.18 Besides, some policemen arrested drug buyers and made a deal with them
to become their channels of selling drug before getting released from the police station,
otherwise, they would be fully or even overly charged for a drug dealer. For them, the
amount of confiscated drugs would be partially reported to make the charge lessen, and
be returned to the market via these channels. Consequently, the drug dealers do not fear
of penalty from drug selling.19
8.3 Drug Abusers:
Under the current narcotic control law, children under 18 years of age face light
penalties in the court and will not be sent to prisons. They can get out soon after
their arrest. Often, the parent is called to the police station and bribes the police to
bring their children back home. Therefore it makes sense that young people get
involved with drug abuse even though they know about the penalty.
9. Social Cost of Drugs
We encounter the difficulty in collecting cost statistics on the imprisonment of
drug offenders and on the major public hospitals. The collection of data from private
hospital and some famous non-governmental treatment centers is more difficult. They
rejected our data request to protect their client secrecy. Statistics on the cost of
imprisonment of drug offenders from the Correction Department can be traced only two
years backward because no record was kept in the department in prior years. Several
pieces of information such as the treatment budget are only rough estimation because the
ways of report were done in total sum. The data from the Ministry of Public Health on the
details of allocating costs for treatment and rehabilitation of drug dependents are also
prepared in similar fashion, making it indistinguishable from many other diseases.
The clues database of the radio station FM 99.5 MHz, “Women Wave Saves Metro”
started gathering data since August 1999. From October to December 1999, there are 76
out of 87 police stations in Bangkok are contaminated with the drug-involving policemen.
The story of a young boy caught by a police was reported in the Nation on 22 August
1999. The boy said that he carried 200 tablets of speed pills when he was caught by the
police, but the police only charged him with the possession of 30 tablets because they
wanted to use the rest as baits. The 15-year old boy is one of the ya-ma dealers in a
temple school in a remote part of Bangkok. After 3-year experiencing with drugs, he was
caught by a police, prosecuted for the possession of 30 tablets of amphetamines, and
expelled from school. He has been released on bail and his case is during investigation.
9.1 Treatment and Rehabilitation
The annual costs of treatment and rehabilitation of drug users in Bangkok are
estimated based on the unit cost of some representative treatment centers. Thanyarak
Hospital is selected to be the representative for public hospital because it is a special
hospital for drug dependents so that the calculation of the unit cost of treatment is made
possible. In addition, drug clients in Thanyarak Hospital represent so much as 72% of
total drug dependents in public hospitals in 1994 and remain significant share in later
years. The estimate is about 8,200 baht per person in 1998. The calculated annual costs
are allocated so that they can represent those in the Bangkok Metropolis only. The unit
cost for public health centers provided by the health department, Bangkok Metropolitan
Administration is the annual budget for treatment and rehabilitation of drug dependents
divided by the total number of clients in that year. It costs 830 baht per client in 1998.
The New Life Project is a rehabilitation center operated by the Duang Prateep
Foundation, whose expenditures are raised by donations, foreign funds, and in part from
government subsidy. It provides treatment for young drug addicts who cite in Bangkok
and vicinity by the “natural cure approach” in Chumporn and Karnchanaburi province.
The cost per person is 45,500 baht per year in 1998. Applying the unit cost of Thanyarak
hospital to that of private hospitals and assuming that the unit cost of patients in the
private clinics is indifferent to that of a public health center, the estimates of annual cost
of treatment and rehabilitation in Bangkok Metropolitan area ranged from baht 66.9
million in 1995 to baht 108.8 million in 1998.
9.2 Imprisonment of Drug Offenders
Only 2 years of cost statistics for prisoners are recorded systematically in the
Correction department. The 1998 cost data showed some 100 million baht devoted to the
imprisonment of drug offenders. Its expenditure was slightly more than the yearly cost of
treatment and rehabilitation for patients in Bangkok Metropolis. Major spending was
mostly allocated to the administrative work although initiative programs called
“community-based approach” were formulated.
Figure 2.10: Public Spending on Drug Controls in
Bangkok, 1998
Treatment and
The public spending on drug for Bangkok area is divided into 3 categories. Most were
spent on corrective facilities while prevention programs comprised only 2% of drug
controlling costs. (Figure 2.10) The suppression budget is excluded from the figure
because the measurement of suppression budget on the city level is impracticable.
10. Drug Policy
10.1 Drug Prevention Policy
The focus on the drug prevention policy has received serious attention since the Office of
the Prime Minister’s order of 141/2541 was put into effect in 1998:
“In order to control the problem and reduce the widespread of narcotics drugs, cooperation and unity
from every sector of the society are required. The communities and educational institutes are to
accumulate pressure against narcotic drugs related to misbehaviors. The addicts are to be treated as
patients, while collaborative operations are to destroy the narcotic drugs production networks,
trafficking and intercept drug smuggling into the country. 20
The drug prevention budgets from either the Office of Narcotic Control Board or the
Ministry of Interior are spent at the national level and no specific campaign for the
Bangkok area. A high level officer at the ONCB admitted that the youth anti-drug media
campaigns are actually aimed to prevent no more new youth entering in the narcotic
cycle. The prevention campaigns for Bangkok Metropolitan area are made possible
recently by the BMA, but the budget is only a tiny share and allocated irregularly
comparing to the total expenditure.
Major preventive activities and projects can be categorized into 4 groups; youth
anti-drug campaigns, drug-free zone or community-based approach, extensive
advertisements, and sports against drugs.
In 1998, the work on drug prevention in the government policy presented to the
congress can be summarized as follows [Sumyai, 2000]:
Coordination to create complete circle of drug prevention work among youth groups both in-school and
out-of-school youth, community and workplace group.
Campaigning realization on drug problem, drug knowledge and danger of drug to every target groups
by continuing using every media.
Coordinating and monitoring sport ground anti-drug project by using clear strategy and long-term plan.
Closely coordinating with government, non-government and people organization who work in
treatment and rehabilitation, on treatment work and data collection.
Supporting setting up treatment centers and following up the work of the centers according to the
Narcotics Addict Rehabilitation Act B.E.2534 (1991)
Significant preventive actions that followed the government policy above can be
categorized into 4 areas.
First, bring forward the movie stars or famous singers as a prototype for
youngsters not to involve with drugs and extensive public advertisement against drugs.
The outstanding movie and TV stars and singers with good behavior will be awarded
every year.
See “Narcotic Drugs Prevention and Suppression Policy,” Office of the Prime
Minister’s Order No. 141/B.E.2541 (1998), (
Second, establish community network on drug control. The program was designed
to create awareness of the community to oppose drug abuse and had encouraged
communities to create drug-free zone.
Third, joint cooperation with many agencies on various projects targeting to the
youth group. For instance, the Teacher Training Course on Counseling Techniques
Project aims to screen drug addicts among the children and send them for treatment. The
White School Project which requires coordination between schools and communities
emphasizes on the free from drugs among the youth in schools.
Fourth, provide sport playgrounds to encourage youths to stay away from drugs.
The anti-drug messages include publications, pamphlets, posters, exhibition kits,
cutouts, advertisements, radio and TV materials. They comprise mostly information on
the lethal image of narcotics drugs. The messages can not discourage the abuse of drugs
because they do not reveal the actual view of each drug, which are the root causes behind
the use of it, to the public. A summary view of the prevention policies from relevant
authorities has been made in the study of Chitradub (1999). The government policies on
drug prevention programs were done intermittently without coordination and were
emphasis on the campaign for giving knowledge, the production of the media for
academic seminar, and the arrests of small offenders.
Initiatives to establish the community network on drug control are numerous. The
police department has issued the new order to all local police stations in Bangkok to
cooperate with the community. Meanwhile, a policy toward close relationship between
law enforcement agencies, teachers and students’ parent is set up. One approach was tried
by the project encouraging cooperation between schools and law enforcement officers.
Each of 117 public secondary schools and 23 vocational training schools will form a
committee against drug abuse in its school. The committee comprises parents, teachers,
officers from drug rehabilitation centers, and law enforcement officers. The 10-man
committee is expected to complete drug education courses arranged for all school
administrative and teaching staff. Staff will be educated different approaches to the drug
problem, applicable to each of five groups of students: drugs-free, beginners, addicts,
students who had undergone therapy, and dealers.
Some locations were selected by the police to allow volunteers to go on patrols in
the community and search suspected vehicles at police checkpoints in the area on
Saturdays. The community participation is said to be satisfactory in helping the police
curb the drug problem in their community.
On the surface, the practices are going on the right direction and the supporting
tasks are discerned. The order requires at least one law enforcement officer to regularly
join the meeting with community leaders, school teachers, and parent representatives.21
Unfortunately however, the coordination is given with reluctant from the police side
because there is not enough manpower to implement the order. A top-level officer in
charged with crime suppression in the city admitted that he disagrees with the policy to
See “The action plan to deal with narcotics in schools of the police officers,”
simultaneously require every station to set up such a meeting. The operation could be
done only step by step, from stations that are already avail with the enough persons and
expand it later. The main obstacle to this policy is the shortage of the workforce even to
handle the existing day-to-day operation.
The projects that require coordination among government agencies became slowly
progressive. Many divisions involve in drug prevention policies without coordination.
The annual preparation of budget has been done separately by each department. Little
cooperation is performed among divisions of police enforcement, between the police
department and the correction department, between the treatment authorities and the
police ranging from operation officers to the high-level rankings. Several anti-drug
campaigns have failed after the implementation. An example is the drug war program
initiated by the Ministry of Education. Many school administrations and teachers
exaggerated the drug abuse situation at their schools in order to get additional funding for
anti-drug activities. Conversely, some schools were reluctant to reveal the true number of
student addicts in their schools for fearing that their image would be ruined and the
school administrators’ advancement will not be considered for the year’s promotion
season. It is a fact that at one time the policy from the Ministry of Education rewarded
drug-free schools as successful in combating with drug abuse. As a consequence, many
schools concealed their true number of drug addicts and reports no students in their
school involve with any kind of drug.
One measure that is designed and is applied universally to fight against drugs is to
provide sporting area near the communities for the youth. The policy did generate the
problem as well. The provided fields, in turn, are not only unsuccessful in reducing the
spreading of drug abuse, but also become the meeting points for drug buy and sell, and
10.2 Treatment and Rehabilitation
The notion of treatment and rehabilitation policy is intended to assist clients to
“re-enter” society with the assistance of family cushion. It provides basic principles such
as self-esteem and confidence back to the addicts [NCSWT, 1994]. Current drug
treatment measures are classified into 3 systems. First, voluntary system that allows drug
addicts to freely choose any treatment center from both public and private sector.
Secondly, correctional system that enforces drug addicts who found guilty with drug
charges and imprisoned to enter the treatment process. Lastly, the compulsory system
under the Drug Addict Rehabilitation Act 1991 that permits the conduct of urine test to
the suspect in drug abuse and delivers the drug addict to take a treatment program.
Under the voluntary system, drug addicts from Bangkok choose to enter one of
five types of treatment and rehabilitation centers: the BMA health centers, private clinics,
private hospitals, public hospitals, and non-profit organizations where provide the
facilities. The number of treatment service centers in Bangkok reported to the Treatment
Division, Office of the Narcotics Control Board in 1998 was 45 centers, but the treatment
was mostly administered by the detoxification approach. Treatment based on the
rehabilitation approach was not common and is still far from sufficient for the number of
drug addicts.
The BMA Health Centers:
The health centers only provide the treatment process for their clients and are
located in the communities. Clients to these facilities are mostly heroin users. A small
space limits the facility to offer full process of the treatment. The solution from Klong
Toey slum is that the community set up areas for the drug addicts in the rehabilitation
Private Hospitals:
Children from the well-to-do families are normally sent to private hospitals
because they keep every client record in secret. A large number of people are sensitive to
the disclosure of drug addiction of their children to the society. The clients in these
hospitals are both heroin and amphetamine users.
Private Clinics:
Clinics serve as alternative resources of drug when users can not find heroin. Most
clinics are in the ruinous conditions. Some clinics install the steel bar on the door to
prevent the robbery of drug.
Public Hospitals:
The most famous public hospital offering treatment for drug addicts is Thanyarak
Hospital. The hospital locates in Pratum Thani province, about 30 kilometers from
Bangkok. It provides all the 4 stage of treatment: Pre-admission, detoxification,
rehabilitation, and aftercare. The total length of stay in the program is 1 year and 8
Unlike Thanyarak hospital, other public hospitals treat drug clients differently.
The mode of treatment is poorly understood by many clinicians. One hospital mixes drug
clients with the mental-disordered clients. Heroin users and young amphetamine abusers
are treated indifferently. A 14-year old boy told that he was experiencing amphetamine
for less than 2-3 months before his parent caught up and sent him there. He has to spend
his life in the hospital with other heavy heroin addicts for a year long. A mistaken belief
of universal treatment to all drug abusers happens at the center of Bangkok. In reverse,
the young experimenters may develop themselves to multiple drug users from the more
experience peers. The mistakes in the process are primarily due to the stigma associated
with psychotropic therapies. Most treatment units are well practiced only the use of
pharmacotherapies, like methadone, to treat opiate addiction in the detoxification process.
However, behavioral therapies will remain the principal treatment approach to most
dependence problems.
Most non-government organizations providing the treatment and rehabilitation
facilities focus on the rehabilitation process. Some take the clients to the rural area, using
the natural environment as medicine to cure the mental problems of the clients. The
clients are taught self-discipline and vocational training programs. Unfortunately, only a
couple facilities emerge.
The Treatment Process
The current treatment of drug addicts is carried out in four stages as follows:
a. Pre-admission Stage
This stage prepares patients to agree upon conditions of treatment on the full process.
Drug addicts must be willing and accepting all conditions before commencement of
treatment. The patient’s personal background, family history, socialization,
personality structure and psychological development are collected. This phase lasts
seven days.
b. Detoxification
Methadone is used for heroin detoxification treatment. At this stage, the patient is
given a physical examination and intake interview. The patient’s social background,
drug use, and treatment history are evaluated in order to determine the heroin usage.
The mental rehabilitation by psychotherapy such as group therapy, group discussion,
and family therapy are accompanying. This stage contains at most 45 days.
c. Rehabilitation
The patient is aimed to improve body strength, adapt the attitudes, and implant
vocational skills to find employment. The process takes 180 days.
d. Aftercare
This stage is regarded as a continuation of the rehabilitation process within the
community after the patient is released from the treatment center. The activities
include home visits, scheduled meetings, and postcard or mail questionnaire.
Aftercare has a duration of one year.
The national policy on treatment and rehabilitation is difficult to apply in the
The Prime Minister’s Office issued Order No.141/B.E.2541, a measure to
encourage addicts to get away from drugs trade and seek rehabilitation in 1997.
According to the order, drug addicts who register for treatment are classified as patients
and with hope that a larger number of drug users will seek a cure. This policy expects the
drug addicts to cut off dependency and return to society.
The policy purports the treatment and rehabilitation to be available appropriately
and suitably to the patients. It is undoubtedly inapplicable when comparing the existing
hospital beds capacity with the current abusers. Only one public and only a couple
treatment centers with a capacity of 3,000 patients a year is equipped with full process of
treatment and rehabilitation. Furthermore, the Narcotics Addict Rehabilitation Act B.E.
2534 (1991) obliges drug abusers to undergo the whole course of a treatment program.
Under this act, the offenders charged with drug consumption or possession will be
identified whether or not he or she is a drug addict. If the offender is found to be a drug
addict, he or she must stay in a rehabilitation center for a period of 6 months to 3 years
[NCSWT, 1994]. The mandatory treatment will not reduce the relapsing rates because
the underlying causes of addiction are not yet removed. Convincingly enough, the
national treatment policy was not aware of the possibility of the corrective facilities to
handle the problem and hence is far from success.
10.3 The Correction Policy
The Correction Department:
Drug-related offenders in Bangkok will be sent to one 1 of 5 prisons classified by the
length of sentences and gender. The central policy requires all narcotic abusers take the
community-based healing programs provided by the prisons. Drug abusers under 18 years
old will be sent to non-prison corrective facilities and have to enter the treatment centers
before returning to the society.
Policy makers are confusing with legal measurement to declare war on drug.
Several practices have been made to lessen clear directions to fight against crime. One
proposal on the best method for executing convicts between lethal injection and firing by
the Correction Department has shown the contrasting policies with the nation agenda.
Another manner is to redeem the death penalty to most prisoners in special occasions to
show the sympathy of the royal comes to support the conflict. The fact that the narcotic
traders are exempted from the sympathy whereas the narcotic abusers are included can
work as a stronger incentive for drug traders to better coordinate with the police in
turning themselves into drug users when they get caught. In normal practice, the
department sets up a standard in ranking the prisoners into six differing types according to
prisoner conduct during the imprisonment. The mechanism to reward good-conduct
prisoners automatically and equally applies by reducing the length of their stay in prison.
Part II. The Illicit Drug Market Survey:
A. Sampling Framework
The probability sample survey can not be adopted in this survey because the
sampling frame from the total population is not feasible. The largest group of drug
dependents systematically recorded is the treatment client group, but normally the group
of heroin dependents takes the services while other more significant drug addicts such as
amphetamine and marijuana addicts rarely do so. Recently however, some drug addicts
have continuously been sent by the order of the court to full-cycle treatment centers for
treatment after arrestment. A number of amphetamine dependents have consistently
shown in the hospital statistics in the last couple years. Under this situation, to receive
enough samples distributed to all kinds of drug use, the most possible research
methodology is to set the sampling frame as judgmental sampling.
Following this type of sampling, more extensive samples are selected from the
treatment centers with the full 4-stages of treatment cycle and thus are considered to be
most representative of the population as a whole. In the treatment population statistics,
the distribution of treatment clients does not represent the true pattern of the total
population. More samples are selected from the public hospitals and private organizations
to gather enough clients who are amphetamine addicted. Less are taken from the private
clinical centers because only heroin data will be obtained from there.
Some biases in this survey are generated. First, the survey may represent more of
the poor than the rich. Most of the rich take treatment at private hospitals, but the
hospitals refuse any cooperation on interviews from their clients. Second, as the selection
of the sampling units from listed treatment centers is limited by the availability of drug
addicts in the centers, too small number of drug dependents makes the sampling not
feasible. As a result, the sample treatment centers have to be specific to only large enough
centers, leading to bias toward the large treatment centers. However, the assumption that
the samples taken from large or small centers are indifferent makes effects of the bias
The total observations of 177 cases were selected from 8 treatment centers where
we can obtain the cases from Bangkok. The result of sampling frame described above is
shown as follow: 10 cases, or 5.6%, are chosen from private clinics, 36 cases, or 20.3%,
are drawn from non-governmental treatment and rehabilitation facilities, and 131 cases,
or 74.0%, come from public hospitals.
Private Clinics
Public Hospitals
Treatment Center
Taveesak Clinic
Dr. Pichit Clinic
Wang Tong Lang Clinic
Duang Prateep Foundation
Communita Incontro, Pratum Thani
Taksin Hospital
Phra Mongkutklao Hospital
Thanyarak Hospital
Sample Size
B. Survey Methodology
The survey was carried out by asking the drug dependence treatment clients at the
selected centers during October 7 – November 3, 1999 to answer the questions on drug
purchase and pattern of drug use, their personal data, and attitudes toward drugs. Then,
the questionnaires were filled out by our interviewers. A careful gathering of relevant
information were handled by 4 research assistants and reconfirmation of data was done by
further interviews if it was needed. A total of 177 cases, 167 males and 10 females, were
obtained. Amphetamine users constitute 108 cases, or 61.0%, whilst heroin users
recorded 97 cases, or 54.8%.
The results from the sampling technique show that the observations are distributed
vastly to the majority of Bangkok’s official local jurisdictions. Thirty-four districts out of
the total forty-five local districts, or 75%, have some representatives in the sampling. The
3 most frequent response districts are Klong Toei, Bang Kho Laem, and Phayathai
respectively. The resulting distribution also shares the same characteristics to the city
police’s seizure data in the month of October of 1999.
For the estimation of income, price, and cross-price elasticity, we separate the data
into two sets: heroin users and amphetamine users. There are 75 cases of amphetamine
users and 60 cases of heroin users with complete data on current price, amount of
consumption of drug per day, their income per day, and other relevant information,
however. Therefore, except for the calculation of elasticities, which 75 cases for
amphetamine and 60 cases for heroin are available, we have the total sample size of 177
cases, 108 cases for amphetamine users, and 97 cases for heroin users. Additionally, 36 of
177 cases are acquainted with both amphetamine and heroin, which were counted both to
amphetamine and heroin users.
In addition to the 177 cases obtained from the questionnaires, in-depth interview
was also carried out on 13 cases: 3 heroin users, 8 amphetamine retailers, and 2
amphetamine users at the Klong Prem prison, Communita Introtro at Phatum Thani, and
the New Life Project under the Duang Prateep Foundation at Lamae, Chumporn.
C. Results from the survey
Table 1: The Characteristics of the Sample
1.1 Sex, Level of Highest Education, Age and Occupation
N = 177
N = 177
N = 177
Primary School
14.7% 14-17 years 19.2%
Female 5.6%
Secondary School 33.9% 18-20 years 24.9%
High School
15.3% 21-25 years 28.8%
Vocational School 30.5% 26-30 years 10.2%
Bachelor Degree
5.6% 31-40 years 14.1%
GT 40 years 2.8%
N = 177
1. Students
2. Unemployed 36.2%
3. Office Workers 2.3%
4. Service
5. Wage Labor
6. Work for
7. Self-employed 10.7%
8. Illegal Work
9. Others
10. No Response 2.1%
1.2 Relationship Between Wealth and Lack of Warmth
Class of Family
Type of Drug Use
N = 177
Overall (N = 177)
Wealthy (>50,000 baht /month)
(30,001-50,000 baht/month) 12.4%
Average (10,001-30,000 baht/month) 45.8%
(<10,000 baht/month)
Heroin & Marijuana
Heroin & Amphetamine
Warmth Family (N = 71)
Marijuana & Amphetamine
Wealthy (>50,000 baht /month)
Amphetamine & Inhalants
(30,001-50,000 baht/month) 16.9%
Marijuana, Amphetamine & Inhalants 2.3%
Average (10,001-30,000 baht/month) 49.3%
Heroin, Marijuana & Amphetamine 7.9%
(<10,000 baht/month)
All of the Four Drugs
More than 90 percent of drug users are male and only a small share are female users.
Roughly 70 percent of the sample are students, unemployed, or working illegally. Most of
the drug dependents in the sample fall between average to poor family.
Table 2: Availability of Drugs in the Market
Level of Availability
N = 106
Widely Available
Moderately Available 32.1%
Low Available
N = 64
N = 123
Although the police officers try to seize the supply of amphetamine in the market, the
bought and sold of amphetamine is prevalence. The 89.4% of respondents in the survey
informed that amphetamine was an easy-to-buy drug. Such a highly available
amphetamine can guarantee no shortage of the drug to its users. Marijuana is the second
most prevalence drug in the street. Lastly, heroin is still available among specific groups
of drug addicts.
Table 3: Examination of Controlling Measures
3.1: Acknowledgement of Bad Consequences and Penalty From Drug Use
(N = 177)
Before you first experimented drug, do you know the effect of drug to 75.1%
your health?
Do you know the legal penalty from drug use?
Do you understand and pay attention to the bad consequences from 68.4%
drug use?
Most drug abusers realize the adverse consequences and legal penalty from drug use. But,
they do care little about it. Two main reasons for their disregarding of unhealthy
consequences from using drug are pervasive of drug use among friends, and heavy drug
trade in the community surroundings.
3.2: Ways to Learn About Drugs
Mass Media
Public Agencies
3.3: Ways to Know the Penalty
Mass Media
Public Agencies
(N = 177)
(N = 177)
Most effective ways to send drug information messages are mass media, schools, and
friends. Governmental media are ineffective in communicating with people.
Among several means of learning about drugs, the 3 most effective channels from
which drug users are able to get drug information are media, schools, and friends
consecutively. Similarly, the same channels also provide knowledge about the penalty
from involving with narcotics. Family and government agencies, however, incorporate
very little role in providing drug information to the drug participants.
An evident can justify the effectiveness of the drug prevention programs no matter
how the drug users obtained information. Very high percentage of drug users from the
survey, 94.4%, responded that they had heard of the legal penalty from drug use, but
18.1% of whom actually knew the legal penalty from drug use after they got caught by
the police and had been sent to jail. Furthermore, the drug information campaigns by
several government agencies that provided information to sensitive groups in the past was
ranked 5 or 6 by the drug users in respect of frequency of hearing about drug.
3.4: Response to the Legal Penalty From Drug Use
After you know the penalty from drug use, are you trying to quit using
3.5: Effort of the Police Enforcement
During the past year, how do the police officers
put effort in controlling drugs?
3.6: Response to the Police Enforcement
Type of Drug
Heroin (N = 97)
Amphetamine (N = 108)
3.7: Age and Irrational Reaction
Consume More
N = 26
N = 58
14-17 years 50.0% 14-17 years
18-20 years 23.1% 18-20 years
21-25 years 19.2% 21-25 years
26-30 years
3.8% 26-30 years
31-40 years
3.8% 31-40 years
GT 40 years 0.0% GT 40 years
(N = 177)
(N = 177)
Consume Less
Consume Less
N = 92
14-17 years 12.0%
18-20 years 18.5%
21-25 years 34.8%
26-30 years 12.0%
31-40 years 19.6%
GT 40 years 3.3%
Three main reasons for ignoring legal penalty derive from taking part in drug business of
some local enforcement officers, the poverty, and irrational offense to the rules and
regulations among adolescents. The drug controlling from the police department has
shown ineffective.
Eighty one point four percent of drug users report that the police put more efforts
in enforcement, but only 52.3% duly responds by consuming less. Moreover, even though
they knew the legal penalty from drug use even from the police, almost half of the
samples continue consuming it.
A peculiar pattern can be seen from the responses of the drug users about the
effect of legal controls, as high as 39.4% of drug users whose age is below 18 tries to
resist the act of the police by consuming more narcotics. The pattern is much stronger for
amphetamine users than for heroin users.
Table 4: Image of Each Drug
4.1: Which drug has the most effect to your health?
Amphetamine Users
(N = 108)
Heroin Users
(N = 97)
4.2: Which drug is the easiest one to addict?
Amphetamine Users
(N = 108)
Heroin Users
(N = 97)
Amphetamine users do not view amphetamine as harmful as heroin. More than 70 percent
believes that amphetamine is not easily addicted. Many abusers do not believe they are
addicted to it.
Amphetamine users view amphetamine as less harmful than heroin, but only half
of them views heroin an easiest drug to addict. The result shows that amphetamine users
only acknowledge that heroin is a bad thing, but do not really know about it. The danger
is that amphetamine users perceive heroin as harm, but they do not seriously believe that
heroin is easily addicted unless they do try it. More interestingly, only 28.7% of
amphetamine users think that amphetamine is the easiest addicted drug whereas 74.2% of
heroin users think heroin is the easiest one. The result convinces us to believe that most
amphetamine users do not think they are addicted to amphetamine.
An in-depth interview with retail sellers of amphetamine in prison confirms the
previously mentioned point. They revealed their perception of amphetamines that they
were initially amphetamine users and later found ways to afford drug purchase by
becoming sellers themselves. They did not believe the drugs were addictive since they felt
no physical addiction. Only if the drugs were sometimes amalgamated with some other
dangerous substances did cause health hazard. Anyhow, they did believe they could stop
it anytime.
Another interview with clients having rehabilitating in the New Life Project, a
treatment and rehabilitation center in Chumporn, reveals that the use of drugs is merely a
fad. They think drugs help them have more fun. They can make them happy, enthusiastic,
and able to ride motorcycles with their friends all night long.
4.3: Reasons to Use Drugs
Heroin Users
Use Heroin
Stress Relieve
Longer Work
Group Belonging
Fun/In Fashion
(N = 97)
(N = 36)
Amphetamine Users
Use Heroin
(N = 36)
(N = 108)
Drug abusers take heroin for relieving their stress, but use amphetamine for more various
purposes including the “in” thing.
Most heroin users from the survey take heroin for stress alleviation, 77.3%. In
contrast, the main purposes of using amphetamine for longer work, stress relief, group
belonging, for fun and courage are 38.0%, 30.6%, 7.4%, 7.4% and 6.5% respectively.
Moreover, 52.8% of heroin users who experience with amphetamine use it to lengthen
their working hours while only 38.0% of amphetamine users take amphetamine for the
same reason. Thus, it is logical enough to say that the reasons behind the use of each
narcotic in recent years are different. Heroin users, on one hand, uses drug to relieve their
tension, on the other hand, amphetamine users take drug for various reasons including
recreation purposes.
Table 5: Incentives of Drug Use
5.1: Percentage of the samples who indicate their high to highest effect to the factor
Heroin Users
Amphetamine Users
(N = 97)
(N = 108)
Felt Ignored by Parent
Drug Messages From Media
Persuasion by Friends
Night Entertainment
The strong influential factors leading to drug experiment are friends and cigarettes.
Unemployment, night entertainment, family problem, and drug messages channeled
through mass media can somehow motivate people to use drugs.
In the survey we asked the samples to indicate several stimulants that affected
their decision to take drug at the first time. For each question, 5 choices were given for
them to select: no effect, little effect, moderate effect, high effect, and very high effect.
Some noteworthy results are that relatively high influences for experimenting drugs are
friends, cigarettes, and being unemployed. A significant finding that should be
mentioned here is that drug publicity by media has an adverse effect. It could stimulate
somebody to experiment drugs. The field data from Chitradub (1999) also confirm this
point. A young seller in his survey accepts that one reason behind the use of amphetamine
for his group is because it is fashion if they can do like what they see in TV commercials.
Table 6: Substitutes and Complements
6.1: Substitution of Heroin and Amphetamine
Substituted by
(N = 97)
No Substitute
Sleeping pills
(N = 108)
Substitutes for Heroin:
The most accessible substitute for heroin at present is amphetamine. The study
also found some other substitutes like methadone, opium and sleeping pills.
The best substitute for heroin is amphetamine. Alternative sources in case that
heroin is not available include methadone, opium and sleeping pills. This could be
attributable to the prevalence of amphetamine in the market. Also, amphetamine is more
preferable to methadone because the latter must be obtained from the licensed clinical
centers only.
Substitutes for Amphetamine:
No major substitute for amphetamine is reported. The explanation lays on the so
wide availability of it. Amphetamine users can alternatively switch to tobacco or
marijuana, but this is not true for heroin. Some even use inhalants or alcohol as
Almost half of amphetamine users report no substitute for amphetamine. One may
read from this result that amphetamine makes people addicted. But, the interpretation of
this result may be misleading. Because no one ever experiences shortage of amphetamine,
there is no need to find any substitute.
Cigarette and marijuana but heroin play an important role as substitutes for
amphetamine. A point of concern is that some may even take inhalants or alcoholic
beverage as substitutes for amphetamine. The findings make clear to the border of heroin
and amphetamine, but make less distinct of the border of amphetamine and other familiar
substances like cigarette, inhalants, and alcoholic beverages.
6.2: Complementary of Heroin and Amphetamine
Pattern of Use
(N = 97)
Use Alone
Use with Heroin
Use with Marijuana
Use with Amphetamine
Use with Cigarette
Use with Sleeping Pills
(N = 108)
Complements with Heroin:
More alternated use of heroin is reported. Less than half use only one drug. The
second drug can be marijuana, amphetamine, sleeping pills, and cigarettes.
Complements with Amphetamine:
Most amphetamine abusers use only one drug. One-fifth uses it with cigarette.
Table 7: Participation of Drug Trade
7.1: Drug User, Drug Seller, Age and Type of Drug
Form of Participation
Drug User
User & Seller
N = 177
N = 116
N = 61
- Drug Engagement
14-17 years 12.9%
14-17 years 31.1%
18-20 years 18.1%
18-20 years 37.7%
User & Seller 34.5%
21-25 years 37.9%
21-25 years 11.5%
26-30 years 10.3%
26-30 years 9.8%
- Sources of Income
31-40 years 18.1%
31-40 years 6.6%
31.6% GT 40 years 2.6%
GT 40 years 3.3%
Relatives &
Work &Parents 10.7%
Illegal Jobs
Type of Drug
Heroin (N = 97)
- User
- User & Seller 27.8%
Amphetamine (N = 108)
- User
- User & Seller 46.3%
7.2: The Length of Time to Become Drug Seller or Other Illegal Jobs
Time To Become The Length of Time to Age of
Drug Seller
Begin Illegal Jobs
Illegal Operators
N = 61
N = 49
N = 49
LT 1 year
3.3% LT 1 year
14-17 years
1-3 years
42.6% 1-3 years
18-20 years
3-5 years
27.9% 3-5 years
21-25 years
GT 5 years
26.2% GT 5 years
26-30 years
31-40 years
The young groups participate more in the drug selling than adult addicts. Some end up
with other illegal activities. Drug users enter into illegal activities after they involve with
drugs more than a year.
7.3: Price, Average Intake, Expenditure, and Income
Drug User
Drug User & Seller
N = 116
N = 61
- Amphetamine (N = 58)
- Amphetamine (N = 50)
Average Income
328.2 baht
Average Income
773.2 baht
Per Day
Per Day
Average Expenditure
Average Expenditure
on Drugs Per Day
316.6 baht
on Drugs Per Day
563.5 baht
Average Intake Per Day 2.75 tablets Average Intake Per Day
6.51 tablets
Average Price
78.4 baht
Average Price
60.37 baht
- Heroin (N = 70)
Average Income
402.6 baht
Per Day
Average Expenditure
on Drugs Per Day
699.3 baht
Average Intake Per Day 3.80 tubes
Average Price
128.0 baht
- Heroin (N = 27)
Average Income
1031.6 baht
Per Day
Average Expenditure
on Drugs Per Day
989.6 baht
Average Intake Per Day 5.30 tubes
Average Price
110.7 baht
Table 8: Lack of Warmth as a Stimulant to Drug Abuse
8.1 Youth Under the Age of 18 and Family Structure
Family Structure
Less Than 18 Years Total Dependents
N = 33
N = 175
Live in Warmth Family
Live in Disputed Family
At Least One Died
Do not Live With Parents
8.2 Characteristics of Drug Users Living With Parents
Live With Parent
Less Than 18 Years
Total Dependents
N = 17
N = 80
Disputed Family
Drug Selling
Illegal Jobs
Currently a Student
8.3 Type of Drugs among Warmth Family Group
Under 18 years old
N = 14
N = 71
Amphetamine 85.7%
One half of the young addicts have something in common such as parent divorced or
separated, being orphan, moving out, living with parents who usually or severely dispute.
The other half of the children under the age of 18 in the sample live with their parents and
42.4% are living in family without or merely little quarrel. This infers that the problem of
drug addiction occurs in part because they are spoilt by their parents. Three quarters of
the children living with parents are still in school, but nearly half of them involve in some
kind of illegal activities as well as drug selling. Almost all of these children addict to
The problem of illicit drugs is not specific to unloved children. The results from
the survey show that 40.1% of total dependents live with parent and have no family
problem. Some of them come from middle class or even wealthy family. As described by
an example from a non-government treatment center in Ratchaburi, the Rebirth
Therapeutic Community Center takes care of 350 young men from the age of 13 to early
20s. Most of them are from middle class and upper class families in Bangkok. Most
young people were sent to the center by their parents and drugs they had used were
amphetamines and designer drugs. Their problem is not because of unloved by family,
but over-indulged. Often, they are the only child, spoilt and lack of self-discipline.
Common characteristics are that they are dependent on friends, weak self-esteem and
confidence [Bangkok Post, 18 May 1999].
Table 9: School Drop Out, Unemployment, and Drug Use
9.1 School Drop Out as a Catalyst for Drug Use
Experiment Drug Experiment Drug
While Studying
After School Drop
Resignation (N = 34) 76.5%
Discharged (N =15) 93.3%
Graduation (N = 84) 67.9%
(N = 40) Total
(N = 173) 79.2%
About one quarter of drug abusers experimented drug after school drop, while threequarters were familiar with it during school. Twenty-three point one percent of the
samples either resigned or were discharged from schools due to drug addiction.
9.2 Characteristics of Unemployed Drug Users as a Catalyst for Drug Use
Drug Experiment For Unemployed Group
N = 173
N = 61
Resignation 19.7%
Use Drug Before School Drop
And Currently Unemployed
Graduation 48.6%
Use Drug After School Drop
And Currently Unemployed
Unemployed 35.8%
One-fourth of drug abusers got out of school, unemployed, and then, are addicted to
Table 10: Incentives and Disincentives to Treatment Facilities
10.1 Pushers for Treatment and Factors for Returning to Use Drug
Reasons for Treatment
Reasons for Return
Children Under 18 years (N=34)
1. Do For Family
2. Parent Coercion
3. Self-intention
4. Poor Health
5. Others
Total Drug Dependents (N=174)
1. Self-intention
2. Do For Family
3. Parent Coercion
4. Poor Health
5. Others
Conditions of Treatment (N=177)
- New Cases
- Re Entry
Reasons for Return (N=124)
1. Do not Want to Quit/ 34.7%
Can Not Quit
2. Return to an Old
3. Unemployment
4. Family Problem
5. Others
N = 177
1. Isolation From 54.2%
Previous Friends
2. Return to the 32.2%
Old Place
3. Move to a New 11.3%
The Parent is the most influential factor for the youth to seek out help from the
treatment center. Drug addicts can not quit using drug because they return to their former
environment and because they are not serious about getting away from drugs.
The persons interviewed in this survey are drug dependents who sought treatment
at one of the treatment centers in Bangkok. Their opinions may not be representative of
other dependents who have no interest in seeking treatment. However, for those who did
enter, it is interesting to see what some of their incentives and disincentives were for
doing so.
Out of the total of 177 dependents, 47 persons or 26.6% are the first-time
treatment. The 46.6% of the total are influenced by their parent to seek for treatment and
the number is higher, 61.8%, for children under 18 years old.
Among the clients who return to use drug, 34.7% of those do not want to quit or
are not able to quit. The same proportion can not quit drug because they must return to an
old environment. Some of them, 12.1%, return to narcotics due to family problem and
14.5% due to unemployment.
The intention of drug dependents once they entered the treatment center for help,
however, has shown strong desire to quit. That is, 65.5% intends to move away from their
usual life by either discard previous friends who addict to drug or move to some other
place. Nevertheless, a still high proportion, 32.2% have no choice and have to return to
the old environment.
10.2 Impediments to Find Treatment
Children Under 18 Years Old
N = 34
Have No Money
Poor Treatment
Afraid of Treatment
Afraid of Being Arrested by Police 11.8%
Treatment Can Not Help
Do Not Want to Quit
Total Drug Dependents
N = 164
Disincentives not to seek for treatment include lack of strong intention, afraid of
treatment, treatment expenses, and poor treatment by the center. The information from the
survey indicates that police can be a disincentive for drug addicts not to seek out for help
because drug abusers fear that they may be arrested at the treatment centers.
The main disincentive not to seek for treatment is derived from the reason that
they themselves do not want to take treatment, 46.3%. The second reason is afraid of
treatment, 13.4%. Having not enough money accounts for 10.4% and poor treatment from
treatment centers makes up of 9.8%. Some clients indicate that they are afraid of being
arrested by the police if they show up at the treatment centers. A small percent, 2.4%, do
not believe that they can get out from drug by the treatment centers. Other disincentives
include fear that parents will know or being refused by parents, know no where to go,
viewing that they are not addicted to drug, self-quitting, and desperation.
The evidence from the survey indicates that police can be a disincentive to seek
out for treatment of drug users. In fact, the anti-drug policies have created conflicts for
policy implementation. For instance, the provision in the Criminal Code and the Prime
Minister’s Office order have conflicts in that the Criminal Code holds that addicts are
criminals and must be treated as such while the PM’s Office order views addicts as
clients. Often, it turns out that addicts registering for treatment find themselves arrested
by the police. It is no question that the provision in the Criminal Code in which addicts
are deemed criminals deters many from seeking treatment.
Part III. The Regression Models
In this part, two questions are addressed in order to explain the responsive
behaviors from each kind of drug users to the effect of price and income.
1. How do heroin and amphetamine users react to each price and income change and are
there any cross-relationship in the pair of drugs? This question is done by the
estimation of price, income, and cross-price elasticity on drugs in question.
2. Do drug users who experience only one drug react similarly or differently to those
who are familiar with more than one drug? Do drug users who gain money by selling
amphetamine behave different than those who do not when one price changes? The
two questions are clarified by applying dummy variables on pattern of drug use and
the user status into each drug equation.
1. Estimation of Price, Income and Cross-price Elasticity of Demand
Two approaches have been attempted to estimate price elasticities for illicit drugs
over the last 2 decades. One is the “participation” price elasticity that tries to investigate
the relationship between the change in the number of drug abusers and the price changes.
Another is the “use” price elasticity that relates the change in the volume of drug
consumed and the price changes.
More recent works on price elasticity believe the price elasticity for heroin more
elastic than previously thought. The results of “participation” price elasticity from various
works ranged between –0.80 and –1.0, and the “use” price elasticity for heroin could be
as high as –1.8 [UNDCP, 1996].
Due to the structure of data obtained, the estimates of the own price and income
elasticity can be done with the full set of 60 heroin observations, but the cross-price
elasticity between heroin and amphetamine has to be computed from sub-group that
contains only users who take both heroin and amphetamine. The relationships between
the quantity demanded for heroin per day and a number of explanatory variables were
examined by adding relevant variable to each model, and the models used are the
Model A: All heroin users
Q1 = a1 + a2 lnP1 + a3 I
Model B: Combination of heroin and amphetamine
Q1 = b1 + b2 lnP1 + b3P3 + b4 I
Q1 = Units purchase (tubes) of heroin per day (1 tube contains 50mg)
ln P1 = log of price of heroin per tube
P3 = Price of amphetamine
I = Income per day
Model A
Model B
Note: * the estimated coefficient of the variable is insignificant
** the estimated coefficient of the variable is significant at 10% level
Amphetamine (YA-BA):
From 75 observations of amphetamine users that provide necessary data to
estimate income and price elasticity, the full data set is tested by the following double-log
relation between demand for amphetamine and independent variables: price of
amphetamine and income per day. The estimation of the relationship between the pair of
amphetamine and heroin is specific to only the 2-drugs users and is performed by adding
price of heroin to the former equation.
The model for amphetamine consumption:
Model 1: All amphetamine users
ln Q3 = a1 + a2 ln P3 + a3 lnI
Model 2: Combination of amphetamine and heroin
ln Q3 = b1 + b2 ln P3 + b3 lnP1 + b4 lnI
lnQ3 = log of quantity purchased of amphetamine per day (tablets)
ln P3 = log of price of amphetamine per tablet
ln P1 = log of price of heroin
ln I = log of income per day
Model 1
Model 2
a,h (with heroin)
Note: * the estimated coefficient of the variable is insignificant
Summary of the Findings of Elasticities
Cross-Price (with heroin price)
Cross-Price (with amphetamine price)
With an attempt to estimate the “use” price elasticity from Bangkok drug addicts, we
obtain the price elasticity for heroin somewhat lower than predicted. Our study of price
elasticity is –0.96 for heroin and –1.38 for amphetamine. With the lower price elasticity
for heroin, it is more comfortable to say that heroin is more of an addicted drug than is
amphetamine. The income elasticity for amphetamine is a bit more elastic than heroin,
but both drugs are still inelastic and classified as necessity goods. We find that the
estimated coefficients of one drug with respect to price of the other drug are insignificant
and conclude that there is no relationship between heroin and amphetamine on its
responsiveness to the other price change.
The cross-elasticity that relation marijuana quantity with respect to heroin or
amphetamine price can not be estimated due to too small samples of marijuana users.
Though they are not quantifiable, the expected elasticity between marijuana quantity and
heroin price should be small. In the short run, a hard drug group tends to be more difficult
to switch to alternative lighter drugs because of its addiction whereas light drug users
should be more eager to find stronger drugs as substitutes. Information from drug users in
the survey indicates the low substitution by marijuana. Only 3.1% of heroin users switch
to marijuana when heroin price increases, and 9.3% of amphetamine users report
marijuana as a substitute. In the long run, all kinds of illicit drugs including some licit
drugs become potential for taking interchangeably until the users acquire strong intention
to terminate it.
One should realize that drug abuse pattern presently becomes more complex. One
kind of drug can serve as complementary to another drug at one time and can be a
substitute for the same kind at a different time. Many drug addicts we talked with
indicated that they could find substitutes for illegal drugs from all kinds in time of
shortage. They also took in several drugs complimentarily for stronger feeling and for
lasting longer. The finding that the cross-price elasticity between heroin and amphetamine
is insignificant illustrates the nature of heroin users in both directions. Since the crossprice elasticity in the survey must be obtained from persons who take in both drugs, the
fact reveals that the specific group who use both drugs are mostly the heavy users of
heroin and are likely to behave that way.
Experience with heroin sharp price increase in Thailand in 1996, however, depicts
another different story. As a consequence of price skyrocket of heroin, more heroin users
switched to other drugs including amphetamines. Such behavior suggests the sign of
cross-price elasticity between heroin and amphetamine to be positive. Our study on crossprice elasticity between heroin and amphetamine, by contrast, were not found to be
statistically significant. The reasons appear to be that most heroin users nowadays, who
are only heavy users, use amphetamine temporarily only in the case of heroin supply
shortage. They do not view amphetamine as perfect substitute for heroin. Similarly,
amphetamine users view their use of amphetamine as different purposes than heroin and
do not substitute heroin for amphetamine if such amphetamine shortage occurs.
In addition, that a number of heroin addicts switched to amphetamine and other
tranquilizers in 1996 is an exception. The zero cross-price elasticity between the two
drugs explains that a small change in one price will have no effect to the other drug
consumption, but that year incurred an enormous change in heroin price and must be
explained differently. Because the effects of either drugs are transmitted to the same
receptor in the central nervous system of the users, the abruptly termination of drugs will
take some time for the users to return to normal. During that period, the users will face
with one or more types of withdrawal symptoms ranging from anxiety to strong agony
from drug abstention and many of them return to continue dependence on their drugs.
When facing shortage, the addicts will find whatever drugs enabling them to withstand
the withdrawal symptoms. With long enough period of shortage, the users will be
adaptable to the new drugs and will be completely addict to it. All this does suggest that
anti-drug policies on the supply side incur very little chance to overcome the drug
Economists call a change in drug consumption of only 2-3% as responsive to a
10% change in income is low elasticity. The interpretation of low income elasticity of
both drugs is that drug addicts will put every effort to find money to purchase drugs.
Illegal drug is a necessity good in a sense that the utility the addicts obtain from using
drug is so numerous. The “use” value from drugs is higher than the “exchange” value.
Explicitly, heroin is important to its users because heroin makes them addict. One who
addicts to it will have withdrawal symptoms during the first week of drug termination.
Medicinal drugs like amphetamines do not generate withdrawal symptoms if one tries to
quit. The high “use” value of the amphetamine to its users happens because they are
receiving high utility from it and do not want to quit. The result does not suggest that they
have no sensitive to income changes at all. In fact, when the price of heroin rose sharply
in 1996, the income effect from the large enough price increase could bring a large
number of heroin addicts to use less of it or turn to something else.
2. Testing the Existence of The Pattern of Drug Use on Price Elasticity
To test the hypothesis that how strong the quantity consumed of heroin depends
on heroin price and income per day, we estimate the demand equation with the linear-log
function of the following model with some dummies. Further investigation to the pattern
of heroin use and the effect of drug dealership also puts into the model. The data are
cross-section over the 60 samples.
Q1 = 1 + 2lnP1 + 3I + 4D1lnP1 + 5D2lnP1 + 6D3lnP1 + 7D4lnP1
= Unit purchases (tubes) of heroin per day
LnP1 = log of heroin price per tube
= income per day of heroin users
D1lnP1 = 1 if the users use heroin and amphetamine
D2lnP1 = 1 if the users use heroin and marijuana
D3lnP1 = 1 if the users use heroin, amphetamine and marijuana
D4lnP1 = 1 if the users reports him/herself as both user and seller of drug
Applying the OLS procedure, the estimated model is given by
Q1 =
30.260 – 5.531 lnP1 + 0.003 I – 0.319 D1lnP1 + 0.766 D2lnP1
- 0.318 D3lnP1 + 0.302 D4lnP1
R2 = 0.240
n = 60
The estimates of own price and income elasticity for the use-one-drug group in the
model using mean price, mean quantity consumed, and mean income are –0.97 and 0.24
The t-statistics for all dummy variables are insignificant, therefore this suggests no
difference in own price elasticity among heroin users with varying combination of drug
use. In addition, both groups of drug users and drug retailers respond similarly to heroin
price changes.
A drug dependence who abstains from taking drugs abruptly will suffer from the
effect of detoxification and withdrawal symptoms, thus no perfect alternate for heroin is
available no matter how many drugs they are using. The field data reveal the above
findings in that many heroin addicts enter into amphetamine trade in order to gain money
to buy heroin. Therefore, it should incur not much different response to heroin price
changes on the two groups of drug buyers and drug retailers.
Amphetamine (YA-BA):
Similar dummies are added to the basic amphetamine equation to test the
existence of different price elasticities on different patterns of drug use as well as the
importance of being involved in drug selling and the elasticities. The model specification
is given by the following equation:
lnQ3 = 1 + 2 lnP3 + 3 lnI + 4 D1lnP3 + 5 D2lnP3 + 6 D3lnP3 + 7 D4lnP3
= log of quantity consumed of amphetamine (tablets) per day
= log of price of amphetamine per tablet
= log of income per day of amphetamine users
= 1 if the users use amphetamine and heroin
= 1 if the users use amphetamine and marijuana
= 1 if the users use amphetamine, heroin and marijuana
= 1 if the users report him/herself as both user and seller of drug
The result is as follow, with t-statistics in parentheses:
lnQ3 = 4.633 – 1.193 lnP3 + 0.224 lnI – 0.122 D1lnP3 – 0.021 D2lnP3
+ 0.077 D3lnP3 + 0.140 D4lnP3
R2 = 0.470
n = 75
From the model, the estimated coefficients of lnP3, lnI, and D4lnP3 are significant
at 5% level, and the coefficient of D1lnP2 is significant at 10% level. The estimated ownprice elasticity for the use-one-drug group in the model is –1.19 and income elasticity is
0.22. The strong t-statistic for D4lnP3 variable makes clear that the own-price elasticity
among amphetamine users is different than that of amphetamine sellers. Furthermore,
there is a tendency that amphetamine users who use drug with heroin will be more
responsive to amphetamine price changes than general amphetamine users.
Because those who use both amphetamine and heroin usually begin with heroin as
their first drug of choice and use amphetamine as a temporary substitute when heroin is
not available, the higher price elasticity from the group of addicts who use both drugs
signifies this fact. When price of amphetamine decreases, combined-drug users consume
more of amphetamine noticeably. On the contrary, pure amphetamine users are not yet
familiar with other drugs. They have fewer substitutes for amphetamine and react quite
less responsively as a result.
Amphetamine abusers who get involved with the drug-selling cycle earn money
easily and enough for drug purchase. Consequently, they are already consuming more of
it and receiving a cheaper price. Hence, it is not surprising to have lower price elasticity
for amphetamine to this group than another who has to find money other ways.
Estimated Own-Price Elasticity for differing groups of amphetamine users
Combination of Drug Use
User Only
Both User and Seller
Use amphetamine alone
Use amphetamine with heroin
Chapter 3 Market Clearing Mechanisms
The objective of this part of the study is to investigate the markets for illegal
drugs. Actually there are many different markets for drugs. First of all, there are markets
for different illegal drugs. The market for amphetamines may or may not be related to the
market for heroin. Secondly, each level of the supply chain for each drug is a separate
market. The wholesale market is different from the retail market, which is different from
the producer level. At each level a price needs to be determined, returns for the
participants need to be sufficient for their involvement, a unique market structure will
develop, and the potential for intervention by drug control agencies will be different.
Thirdly, even for each drug at a given level of the supply chain there may be different
markets if the customers differ. For example, the retail market for amphetamines sold to
school children may be very different, and may respond to very different incentives than
the retail market for amphetamines sold to truck drivers. Certainly the purpose of this
study is not so much completeness in covering every possible market in detail, but is
rather to give an overview of the significant markets and issues and drug situation in
Thailand. For that reason, some markets will be covered in much more detail than others.
Prices come from the complementary forces of supply and demand. This section
will discuss prices of illegal drugs and their determinants. Hopefully studying this issue
will give us some clues about the best way to address the serious drug problem that
confronts Bangkok as well as other parts of the world.
Although this is a study about drug use in Bangkok, the problem of drug abuse is
actually much broader. Illegal drug use is a regional problem, not just a Thai problem,
and certainly not just a city-wide problem. Burma is thought to be the second largest
grower of opium in the world after Afghanistan, with Laos in third place. Burma and
China are thought to be the two biggest producers of illicit amphetamines in the world 22.
With neighbors such as these, and given Thailand’s access to world travel routes,
Bangkok is a natural transit point for the export of illegal drugs to the world market. It is
estimated that a good share of the drugs seized is Thailand are destined for export.
Widespread drug use is also not confined to Bangkok. In recent polls ranking the
number of drug addicts by region Bangkok came in either second or third out of the five
Thai regions. Thailand’s neighbors are also trying to control their drug problems.
Therefore, although this study will focus on the situation in Bangkok, it will be necessary
to refer to a broader geographical area on a number of occasions. This is especially true
for issues of organizational structure, and price.
International Narcotic Control Board, Annual Report 1999 (as reported in the Nation,
February 24, 1999)
Thai Drug Use
The most serious drug problem in Bangkok is amphetamines
(methamphetamines). Use is widespread and growing quickly. Drug use is mostly
among the young, and perhaps 30 percent of amphetamines tablets are sold in schools.
Other at-risk groups include slum dwellers and the unemployed. None of these groups
have any money, which begs the question “How is drug use financed?” Originally
amphetamines were used mainly by truck drivers trying to stay awake, and laborers
(including farmers) who needed to work long hours. These groups continue to use
Opium is indigenous to the area, and has long been used by hill tribe groups in
rituals and as a form of relaxation. The use of the refined form, heroin, has been a longstanding problem in Thailand. Although there are still many addicts, in recent years the
use of heroin has showed some decline. However, there is new evidence that suggests
that the use of heroin may be on the rebound. (The rebound may be due to cheap prices
relative to amphetamines in the last year.) The use of heroin is of special concern because
of its extremely addictive nature, the risk of Aids from contaminated needles, and its
relatively serious effect on personal health. For our study, opium is important mostly as a
precursor for heroin.
The use of ecstasy, along with several other “luxury” drugs, is popular among the
rich and fashionable. Ecstasy is a social drug and is often used in groups. These drugs
are beyond the reach of most of the population, but are used to put an edge on nightlife by
the disco, partying, crowd. For the most part, Ecstasy is imported from Europe. Use in
Thailand is mostly limited to big cities such as Bangkok and Chiangmai.
The use of marijuana in Thailand seems to be widespread in that many people
have tried it, but on the other hand, stories suggest that that there are not many people
who use it all the time. Sometimes it is used as a “starter” drug, since it is easy to use.
Use may be more prevalent in the northeast where it is grown. Marijuana is also
produced for export and commands a high premium in the United States. Only some of
the marijuana produced is exported directly from Thailand.
The use of solvents and glue is also a problem, especially by the very young. It is
a cheap starter drug, which is widely available to primary school children. Because it is
legal for purposes other than inhaling, there is no organized structure for its sale or
distribution, and prices are determined by demand and supply for its licit use.
Amphetamines are in the public eye – if this report were written for Thailand it
would be nearly all about amphetamines. That is because the use of amphetamines is
thought to be growing at perhaps 50 percent a year, while the use of other drugs is
constant or in decline. Thailand certainly faces a problem with amphetamines.
Amphetamine seizures in Thailand amounted to 20 percent of the world total in 1998.23
International Narcotic Control Board, Annual Report 1999 (as reported in the Nation,
February 24, 1999)
Introduction to Market Structure
There are many reasons to be interested in the structure of drug markets. Market
structure is likely to have an effect on price, on quantity, on violence, on corruption, and
finally on what we can do to control the drug market. In some ways drug markets will act
similar to legitimate firms, in some ways they will not. Sometimes we wish drug firms
would act less like legitimate firms!
Market structure affects price but probably less so than in a licit market.
With a legitimate firm, market structure is one of the most significant
determinants of price. A monopoly can often charge a much higher price than a firm
engaged in a market that is perfectly competitive. With drugs, risk and availability (after
supression efforts) probably play a much greater role. Nevertheless, we will see that
market structure will still have a significant effect on price, with higher markups for less
competitive stages in the supply chain The effect of market structure on price is
especially noticeable at the retail level, where the number of sellers in a local market
varies widely.
To reduce drug use we want high prices for consumers and low prices for producers.
Generally consumers buy more the lower the price, and producers produce more
as price rises. It is where the supply and demand curves meet that actual production
occurs. For some goods with negative externalities that are thought to cause harm to
society, we want to create a wedge between the supply and demand curve to decrease use.
For a legal market, this is easily accomplished by a tax, such as is applied to cigarettes
and alcohol.
For an illegal market, we have to rely on less direct means. One possible
approach is to increase the cost of production. We do this by 1) controlling drug
precursors, 2) increasing the risk of seizure, 3) increasing the cost of distribution due to
the need for secrecy and direct selling, 4) increasing labor costs due to risk premiums, etc.
But there is a limit to this approach. Increasing returns to labor ensures that there is
always a sufficient supply of labor, and the high risk, high return combination self selects
for participants who have a low aversion to risk, and perhaps have little to lose by
What is the optimal market structure for illegal drugs?
What market structure would we prefer for drug traffickers? There are four key
issues: price, quantity, corruption, and violence. The argument is often made that in the
presence of a negative externality, a monopoly may be preferable in social welfare terms
to perfect competition. The argument goes that a monopoly produces a lower quantity
and charges a higher price, discouraging consumption. However, a monopoly is very
profitable and has income distribution effects, which in the case of drugs, involves
redistributing income from what is often the poorest class in the society, to rich drug
lords. Worse than this, the drug lords often have interests that run strongly counter to the
society at large, and they can use this drug money to finance corruption at all levels of
Violence and market structure
Oligopoly market structure
An oligopoly may be the worse situation because it encourages the use of
violence. With several financially strong competitors each collecting abnormal profits,
there is the means and the motive for a good fight. This is especially true since with an
illegal industry, competitors do not have recourse to the legal system. If you add to this
participants who generally do not have a lot of risk aversion, and who live in a tough
world of cops and robbers, you are asking for trouble.
Perfectly competitive market structure
With perfect competition each sellers feels she cannot affect the cost of the
product. Likewise, price will not be affected if another seller sells less. Therefore there
is no reason to eliminate or discourage other sellers. Certainly in the real world each
seller has a certain degree of monopoly profit associated with geographical area, so
perfect competition will not completely hold. Also each competitor does not have many
resources since he or she has to sell almost at cost. Violence takes money just like any
Monopolistic market structure
A monopoly does not have any competitors so has little need for violence. To the
extent that competitors attempt to enter, the monopoly will need to act with violence to
discourage them. This is especially true if the barrier to entering is violence.
Nevertheless although violence may be cruel, it will also be rare. This is probably the
case at the producer level, where much production is overseen by the United Wa State
The greatest amount of violence can be expected when there are several powerful
factions who are competing for market share. In an oligopoly, firms make substantial
profits, giving them the resources to fight back. They also are in a great battle for market
share. Furthermore price will go up substantially if another firm exits.
If drug firms have high profits they can exert strong negative forces on the
economy, including corruption, politically co-opting the government, and funding other
illicit activities, and compromising the legal order. This is the problem in Columbia
where the drug industry is very centralized. This can occur in any case in which the seller
has substantial market power and can charge a substantial profit, such as with an
oligopoly or a monopoly.
In sum,
Table 3.1 Characteristics of different market structures
Quantity of Price of
Source: Hypothesized by the author!
Response based on market structure
Finally, our response to the drug problem must change substantially depending on
the market structure. If the drug market is competitive, participants are not making much
more than their opportunity cost (next best alternative). Our best strategy is to make
those next best alternatives a little better, to persuade participants to switch out of the
illegal trade. In the case of oligopolies or a monopoly, participants make far above their
opportunity costs, and it will be impossible to change their behavior. In this case we must
depend on enforcement, which will further increase the incentive for drug lords to use
corruption. In other words, our best response leads to their worst response.
Price and Price Fluctuations
Price Theory
We hypothesis that price is a factor of both supply (precursors, labor costs, risk
premium, profit margin), and of demand (own price, price of substitute, consumer
preferences, risk to user, income.) We further hypothesis that participants at each level of
the channel for illegal drugs must receive sufficient compensation to make the business
profitable relative to opportunity costs and risks. That means that the return to both
capital (money tied up in drugs) and labor (profit relative to outside job) must make the
job worthwhile. Note that the improvement in outside alternatives can reduce the interest
in this profession at any level.
Chart of Retail Prices Over Time
Selling drugs is a surreptitious activity that requires a fair amount of secrecy and a
certain degree of trust. For that reason, most drugs are sold using direct sales through a
great array of agents. The price at which drugs are sold varies a great deal. The retail
drug market is marked by imperfect information. Because of the risk involved, few
buyers will shop around for drugs, instead using the one seller they know. Furthermore,
sellers may demand higher prices from people they don’t know as well, or from those
who they think do not know the price of drugs. Finally the drug user can buy either at the
retail level, or go to a small wholesaler, which again will affect the reported retail price.
For these reasons, the reported retail price of drugs varies widely.
In the below table, a range of prices is reported based on data from a number of
different sources. If a particular price is thought to be stronger than other reported prices,
it is printed in bold type. Overall, the price of drugs has not varied that much over the last
4 years, though prices before that time may have been a bit lower.
Table 3.2: Retail Price of Illegal Drugs in Bangkok over the Last Six Years, in Baht
One tablet (.07 gram)
Heroin, #4,
1 straw (.05 gram)
Marijuana, One
small bag, (.5 gram)
One tablet
100- 120300
Sources: Compiled by the author from a various sources.24
Table 3.3: Retail Price of Illegal Drugs in Bangkok over the Last Six Years, in Dollars
One tablet (.07 gram)
Heroin, #4,
1 straw (.05 gram)
small bag, (.5 gram)
One tablet
Exchange rates 1994-1996: 1 US dollar = 25 baht, 1997: 1 US dollar = 31 baht, 1998: 1
US dollar = 41 baht, 1999: 1 US dollar = 38 baht
Note: We would caution the reader that due to the currency crisis of 1997 and currency fluctuations
thereafter, that the dollar price of illegal drugs are a very inaccurate predictor of drug use in Thailand.
Clearly it is the domestic (baht) price that will influence buying and selling behavior of illegal drugs in
Bangkok. Salaries and prices have been fairly stable in baht terms, but would appear to fluctuate wildly in
dollar terms. Therefore it is urged that dollar prices be used only for comparing relative drug price levels
between countries, not comparisons between years.
Price of a Few Other Drugs
Besides the above drugs, in 1999 pure grade cocaine was available for 4000 baht
($105) per gram, and second grade cocaine cost 3000 baht ($79 baht). Ketamine was
available for about 500 baht ($13.15) a pack. Up until early in 1999, many people
produced ketamine themselves by heating a bottle of ketava ketava in the microwave (250
baht or $6.60 a bottle) which could make two packs of ketamine. However, ketara ketara
has now also been made illegal.
Chart of Wholesale Prices Over Time
Wholesale prices show a similar pattern to retail prices, suggesting that there is
not much market power at the retail level. If the retail level had market power they would
try to maintain price when the wholesale price dropped. With many suppliers we did not
expect much market power at the retail level. There is some evidence that the price
Some sources of drug price information include: 1) Survey data of this research team,
2) ONCB data, 3) World Drug Report 2000, 4) “Higher social circles”, Bangkok Post,
February 14, 1999, 5) “Sharp increase in price of heroin,” Bangkok Post August 8, 1996,
6) “Confessions of a young yaa baa addict,” Bangkok Post, March 16, 1997, 7) Guns,
Girls, Gambling, Marijuana: Thailand’s Illegal Economy and Public Policy (1998), by
Pasuk Phongpaichit, Sungsidh Piriyarangsan, and Nualnoi Treerat
margins have been falling from the wholesale to the retail level in the last year due to
increased competition.
Table 3.4: Wholesale Price of Illegal Drugs in Bangkok over the Last Six Years, in
Pack of 200 tablets
Heroin, #4,
700 grams
One kg.
Source: ONCB
Table 3.5: Wholesale Price of Illegal Drugs in Bangkok over the Last Six Years, in
Methamphetamines 120160200419293211Pack of 200 tablets 180
Heroin, #4,
4,000600080009,7006,1007,900700 grams
60160160977366One kg.
Source: ONCB, Exchange rates 1994-1996 1:25, 1997 1:31, 1998 1:41, 1999 1:38
Chart of Prices From Producer to Retailer
Table 3.6: Price of Illegal Drugs at Different Stages in the Supply Chain, in Baht
1 tablet
Heroin, #4,
.05 gram
1 tablet
100 -120
Source: Various sources, compiled by the author.
Evidence About Price Changes at Production or Wholesale Level
The cost of amphetamines is thought to vary in response to consumer preferences,
quantity of production, competition between retailers, enforcement efforts, and income.
Assuming that Raw Opium is the primary precursor, and is required in a ratio of 10 kg
of raw opium for 1 kg of heroin, and based on a price for raw opium of 10,000 baht/kg.
Then we assume that this is 40 percent the cost of production as per Amphetamine-Type
Stimulants: A Global Review (1996), United Nations International Drug Control
Programme, page 84.
This is an estimated cost at the Thai border – mass production in Europe is likely
substantially cheaper. “Heavy drug traffic,” Bangkok Post, January 10, 1999
Precursors probably do not play much of a role.
Probably the biggest influence on the price of amphetamines has simply been
supply increases due to high profit margins, and demand increases do to changes in
underlying preferences. The demand for amphetamines has grown quickly over the last
five years. At first prices rose, the drug was in short supply, and as law enforcement
officers turned their attention to this drug. Initially (1994-1996), production was in the
central region of Thailand in or near Bangkok. This was near the final demand and with
easy access to precursors. As enforcement picked up, it became more difficult and more
risky to produce drugs locally, production moved outside the country. At the same time,
heroin producers in Burma were discovering that it was much more profitable and easier
to produce amphetamines than heroin. Furthermore, they could use their entire
distribution chain just as is. The price of amphetamines reached a high point in 1997 and
has since been falling. It is likely that this trend will continue. Over the last five years
demand has grown enormously fueled partially by a fad in secondary schools, the
perception (probably rightly) that at least in small doses amphetamines are not
particularly dangerous, and possibly fueled by the government’s own anti-drug
This increase was exaggerated by the recession which increased the number of
sellers (pushers), and the number of unemployed which make up a big part of demand.
The recession probably also helped to reduce price as buyers had less disposable income.
The net result of this was that the price of amphetamines did not change that much,
although there is evidence that the price is coming down a bit, especially at the retail
level. Much of the growth in supply was matched by the growth in demand. This is not
likely to continue despite the fears of drug enforcement agents.
The most costly ingredient in amphetamine is ephedrine. The precursor cost of a
gram of amphetamine is about 30 cents US without ephedrine, or $2.00 US dollars with
ephedrine28. Given that each amphetamine pill contains about .025 - .03 grams of
amphetamine, that would put production cost per tablet with amphetamine at 5-6 cents
(about 2 baht) Other estimates state that the production cost of an amphetamine tablet
with ephedrine is about 3-5 baht (8-13 cents). Ephedrine is a legal (licit) drug in many
countries and is readily available. Generally it is imported into Burma from China, as
China is one of the biggest producers of ephedrine in the world. Recently ephedrine has
also been imported from India as well. The active ingredient in ephedrine is also
available from locally grown plants, and this locally produced ephedrine is currently
being substituted in some cases. Other ingredients in methamphetamine tablets include
caffeine, imported from Thailand, and flour, locally available.
It is quite cheap and reasonably easy to produce methamphetamines, so there is
little reason to think that the price is influenced by the availability of any of these raw
materials. Machines used to press the pills are usually imported illegally from Thailand,
but there doesn’t seem to be any problem in obtaining them. Some of them are quick
Please note our demand survey that showed that drug use increased with enforcement
efforts for young 16-18 year olds. For all older users use decreased with enforcement
Amphetamine-Type Stimulants: A Global Review (1996), United Nations International
Drug Control Programme, Based on average price in the United States between 19911994 using licit sources, page 84.
small and difficult to track. Previous studies have found that compared to other drugs, the
manufacture of methamphetamine is particularly profitable, since the value of raw
materials is so low compared to plant-based drugs such as heroin.29
The price of heroin has varied due to the fortunes of key drug lords, its price
relative to amphetamines, user preferences, the success of the opium harvest, and the
degree of supression by the police. Use of heroin showed a slight declining trend over
this decade, up until 1998 when prices that were low relative to amphetamines led to a
brief resurgence in the use of heroin.30
The most dramatic change in the price of heroin occurred in January 1996, with
the surrender of Khun Sa, the drug lord who controlled much of the production of heroin
in the golden triangle to the north of Thailand for many years. It was estimated that 90
percent of heroin production at that time was under his direct control. Heroin which had
been selling for 150,000-200,000 a kilo ($6000-$8000) in the north, shot up to 300,000
to 400,00 a kilo ($12000-$16000) from March to May (Bangkok prices would be about
50,000 baht ($2000 higher) while groups in Burma fought over control of the heroin
money machine. The end result, which has proved to be stable, is the division of Khun
Sa’s operations among four different groups. By September 1996, the price had settled at
200,000-250000 baht in the north, with steady supplies. In the interim a serious shortage
existed, which brought hardship to as many as 300,000 heroin addicts who could no
longer afford the drug. Some addicts entered treatment at this time, others switched to
amphetamines because of cheaper prices. Incidentally, this may have contributed to the
mainstream acceptance of amphetamines. It was at about this time that amphetamine use
changed from mostly long distance truck drivers to the general population.
Does the supply of opium determine the price of heroin in Thailand? The
Narcotics Control Board keeps track of the area planted in opium each year. Figures for
the last 5 years are in the table below.
Table 3.7: Opium Production in Thailand, in Kilograms
Opium Cultivation
Production (Rai)
Eradicated (Rai)
Average Yield (Kg/Rai)
Total Production (Kg)
Potential Heroin (Kg)
Source: Opium Cultivation and Eradication Report for Thailand: 1997-1998, ONCB
Note: 1 rai = 1,600 square meters, 1 hectare = 10,000 square meters
Note that the season for opium is in the winter, so that production spans two
calendar years. Actually the growing season for opium is only about 3.25 months. Since
the harvest is at the very end of the first year, or at the beginning of the second year, all
opium produced will be used in the second year listed. In recent years the growing
Amphetamine-Type Stimulants: A Global Review (1996), United Nations International
Drug Control Programme, page 84. The raw materials for plant-based drugs is typically
40-50 percent of the price producers receive.
The Nation, December 22, 1998, and the Thailand Narcotics Annual Report, 19981999, ONCB
season for opium has been expanded to allow for multiple harvests, but all drugs will still
be used in the second of the years listed above.
The problem with the above figures is that domestically grown opium (2-9 tons)
makes up only a tiny part of production in the region. A better estimate is the amount of
opium grown in the entire golden triangle area. Thai officials and the US state
department estimate that opium grown in the Golden Triangle in 1997 was a whopping
1,829 tons (enough for 180 tons of heroin) and in 1998 it was 1,437 tons (enough for
about 144 tons of heroin). The decrease was due to bad weather associated with El Nino.
Table 3.8: Opium Production in the Entire Golden Triangle Region, in Kilograms
Opium Cultivation
Production (Hectares)
Total Production (Kg)
Potential Heroin (Kg)
Source: Opium Cultivation and Eradication Report for Thailand: 1997-1998, ONCB
Considering that the supply of opium was down significantly in 1998, it is strange
that the price of heroin was also low that year. One possible explanation is that local
demand has little effect on the price of heroin, and world supply and demand was such
that the price could decrease. 1998 did happen to be a good year for opium production in
Thailand, but since heroin is now produced in border regions outside of Thailand, it
makes little sense that domestic opium supply affects domestic prices. At least some of
the small amount of opium produced in Thailand is used directly, and is never converted
to heroin. Although Thailand denies heroin is still produced within its borders, it remains
one of the world’s main transit routes for the drug, so a lot of the drug is coming through
the country at any given time. 31
Drug seizures, inaccurate as they may be, might also give us a hint of how much
of the drug was passing through Thailand. The table below does not suggest that
anything unusual was happening with heroin in 1998. It does suggest that amphetamines
circulating in the country have increased substantially.
Table 3.9: Drug Seizures in Thailand from 1994 to 1998
Drug Seizures
Heroin, #4
Source: ONCB, 1998-1999 Annual Report
Of these seizures, a considerable amount was seized in an attempt to export to a
third country. It is estimated that 60 percent of heroin that passes through Thailand is for
export, while most amphetamines are for domestic use. Much marijuana is for export,
while trade in ecstasy is all inbound.
“Bumper opium harvest predicted,” The Nation, May 28th, 1998
(There is evidence that amphetamines are not regularly exported. In Thailand, and
in Burma amphetamines are used in tablet form, while methamphetamines that are used in
East Asia, the Philippines, and North America are in crystallized or “ice” form. There are
have been zero seizures of tablets in these regions or passing through China.)
Finally, money spent on controlling illegal drugs has increased steadily over the
last five or six years, although the way that money is spent may have changed somewhat.
In 1996 and before, the focus was clearly on heroin. Since that time the focus has clearly
shifted to amphetamines. It is likely that the funds available to fight traffic in heroin have
not changed much over this time period. In sum, it is not clear why prices for heroin fell
in 1998, but it is hypothesized that it had to do with forces outside the region.
Other Drugs
The price of marijuana may actually have been dropping slightly over the last five
years. The cultivation of marijuana in northeastern highlands has mostly succumbed to
intense enforcement. A combination of aerial photographs and ground patrols has been a
successful combination in fighting marijuana here. This shows up in seizure statistics. In
1998, only 48 tons of marijuana were eradicated compared to 1,098 tons in 1987. Much
marijuana is still produced in neighboring countries, especially Laos and Cambodia.
However, local demand for marijuana has not been great. Much of the marijuana grown
is for export, and recently drug distributors have preferred routes other than Thailand
because of strict enforcement, and because of the bulky nature of the product, which
makes it difficult to ship out by air, unlike heroin. Water transport is not as dependent on
a central hub as is air transport, so sea routes out of less regulated countries can be found.
Thai marijuana fetches a very good price in the United States.
The markup on Ecstasy and Cocaine is very high, perhaps three times its cost
overseas. Mostly it is brought to Thailand in small batches, and is sold only to those the
wealthy carrier already knows. Although the markup on these drugs is very high, the
quantities are quite low, so that this is mostly not a way to amass great wealth, at least not
yet. As production from Burma increases, the very high profit margins for ecstasy may
make it a big money earner.
The price of ecstasy has historically depended very much on the extent of drug
suppression efforts. When the drug first came out, little attention was paid to it, and it
was reasonably cheap, at about 300 baht a tablet ($12). Later, especially during 1998,
suppression efforts were very strong and the price of ecstasy went as high as 1500 baht
($39) a tablet. Now the price has dropped back down to 800-1000 baht.($21-$26)32 If
Burmese production picks up, the price will likely drop dramatically. The cost of
production at the border is currently about 90 baht a tablet, and is likely to get cheaper.
This leaves a lot of room for profits even with reduced prices, and prices will have to
come down to increase demand. Although the demand for ecstasy is quite high because it
is perceived as a high class novelty, it currently is priced too high to reach most of the
Ecstasy and cocaine are replacements for other drugs that were used at high class
parties in the 1980s. Previously wealthy people used heroin and marijuana instead.
Actually marijuana is still often found at rave parties.
“Higher Social Circles”, Bangkok Post, February 14, 1999
Price of Drugs Relative to Some Common Measures
Price levels in different countries differ significantly. It is useful to give a sense
of the opportunity costs of a drug addict when drugs are purchased. To help give a sense
of the cost of drugs relative to other goods, we can compare the cost of a single dose of a
drug to some basic goods. As discussed above, a single tablet of amphetamine would
typically cost 80 - 100 baht retail ($2.11-$2.63). Alternately the drug addict could buy a:
Basic Starch: The basic starch in Thailand is rice. A plate of rice in Thailand costs about
5 baht (13 cents). A typical meal would cost 15 – 20 baht (39 – 53 cents) which would
include rice and something to put on top of it.
Commonly Consumed Alcoholic Beverage: A typical alcoholic beverage would be Thai
whiskey, a locally made hard alcohol (40 percent alcohol by volume). A typical unit
would be 250 ml at a cost of about 70 baht ($1.84).
Commonly Purchased Footwear: A typical cheap pair of footwear might cost about 100
baht ($2.63). Of course footwear can vary in cost from the cheapest flip-flops at about 39
baht ($1.03 to a real pair of (locally made) shoes at about 500 baht ($13.16).
Price Fluctuations Due to Enforcement
It is difficult to measure the entire resources devoted to Narcotics Control, since as
many as 60 government organizations are responsible for Narcotics control. In addition
many Non-governmental organizations, communities, schools and businesses are
involved in the drug control process. Finally aid is given from outside the country for this
purpose. In general it can be said that drugs are perceived as a serious problem, and that
the effort used to control them is steadily increasing. It has been estimated that in 1999
more than 1 billion baht ($26 million) was set aside to control the use of illegal drugs33.
It is thought that the purity of both amphetamines and heroin has increased in the
last 5 years or so. In the case of amphetamines the change occurred when production
shifted from Thailand to Burma. Amphetamines were mostly produced in Thailand in the
1994-1996 period, and thereafter produced in Burma. The reason for the increase in the
purity of heroin is uncertain, but it has always been rather high relative to many other
parts of the world.
”Drug war hooked on wrong tactics,” The Nation, June 26, 1999
Table 3.10: Dosage and Purity of Drugs 1999
Net Weight of
Unit Price
One tablet
Heroin, #4,
One Straw
One small packet
.07 gram
25-30 %
.018-.021 gram
80 Baht
Price per gram
of pure drug in
US Dollars
.04-.05 gram
80 %
.032-.04 gram
120 Baht
.5 gram
100 %
.5 gram
50 Baht
Source: Based on an exchange rate of 38 Baht:1 dollar, prices as of 1999, purity as
reported in an interview with the Director of the Narcotics Control Division, Food and
Drug Organization of Thailand. Note that Heroin is sold in a much purer form in
Thailand than in the West. Much of the cutting that occurs with heroin happens after the
drug leaves Thailand. This is rumored to have caused overdoses among visiting
foreigners who mistakenly took too much of the drug.
Table 3.11: Dosage and Purity of Drugs 1996
Net Weight
Unit Price
One tablet
Heroin, #4,
One Straw
One small packet
.07-.1 gram
10-20 %
.007 - .02 gram
80 Baht
Price per gram of
pure drug in US
$107 -$129
.03-.05 gram
70 %
.021-.035 gram
100 Baht
$48 -$57
.5 gram
100 %
.5 gram
40 Baht
Source: based on an exchange rate of 25 Baht:1 dollar, prices as of 1996, purity as
measured in a 1995-1996 survey34, and other sources35, and as reported in the
forthcoming World Drug Report 2000.
It is not easy to state the purity of something for which there is no quality control,
there are many small producers, and there is no centralized collection agency. The
biggest protection for the quality of amphetamines is that it is just not that expensive to
use the standard level of ingredients. Also as the production of amphetamines becomes
more centralized, purity will also become more stable. In general it is believed that there
is less variety in purity, and especially in weight relative to a few years ago.
Amphetamines are in tablet form, but Heroin is a powder and can be cut by
anyone who comes into contact with it. Cocaine and Ecstasy come from outside the
country, and from many different sources.
Currently, an average mix of ingredients in an amphetamine tablet would include
15-25 mg amphetamine, 5-10 mg of caffeine and the rest powder, to a total of about 70
“A series of street drug study 1995-1996,” Information System Development Division,
internal document, ONCB
Another source of purity information was “Drug Situation and Demand Reduction
Activities in Thailand,” a report by The National Council on Social Welfare of Thailand,
mg36. Other reports give the total weight as closer to 100 mg, but with similar
proportions. In comparison, a cup of coffee contains about 60 mg of caffeine, meaning
that caffeine is not a significant part of the high that users experience.
Prior to the movement of most production to Burma, a typical mix of ingredients
in an amphetamine tablet was 6-10 mg of methamphetamine, 6-10 mg of ephedrine, and 5
mg of caffeine. Supposedly, the reason for the ephedrine, a methamphetamine precursor,
in the tablets was because the chemical process to change the ephedrine to
methamphetamine is very smelly, and to do a thorough job of processing the ephedrine
with the high level of suppression in Thailand was not possible. Therefore some
ephedrine was always left unconverted. When production shifted to Burma, more
complete processing of the ephedrine was possible, and with the same precursors,
producers were able to get a better drug. It is not thought that the price changed
significantly with the improvement of quality. It should also be noted that the method of
ingesting the drug changed at about the same time, from eating to smoking. This resulted
in a faster, stronger high that was perceived as an improvement in the strength of the
In the view of most users, amphetamines have gotten stronger in recent years
relative to the price. They are probably accurate in this judgement.
“There are many brands and colours of yaa baa [amphetamine]pills. There are
pills for smoking, and there are pills for swallowing. There are weak pills and there are
strong pills.”37 This quotation comes from a long-time amphetamine addict whose
opinion is echoed in many other interviews.
In general, people believe the orange colored amphetamine pills are the strongest,
but it seems hard to maintain this. Property rights are weak when it comes to brands and
colors of drugs, and there are many producers. Prices are also about the same for all
colors and brands, and chemical tests have not found them to differ in a systematic way.
There are many border factories that produce drugs of many different colors. One law
enforcement officer thought that producers regularly changed colors to avoid detection.
From an economists point of view, different colors for different uses might be part
of a marketing plan to segment the market. However, it is not clear that the drug market
is that well organized. Finally, as mentioned in previous sections, amphetamines in
Thailand sometimes come in different scents and flavors (presumably to help attract one
of their biggest markets, children) and colors may simply be signals of different flavors.
There is a single brand of heroin used in Southeast Asia, called the “Lion on
Earth” brand. Shipped in this form, the heroin is presumably pure. However, most
heroin sold at the retail level has probably been cut to some extent. From a 1996 survey38
this was thought to be 70 percent, while a more recent estimate put the purity at 80
Director of Narcotics Division, Food and Drug Organization, Interview January, 2000
“Confessions of a young yaa baa addict,” Bangkok Post, March 16, 1997
“A series of street drug study 1995-1996,” Information System Development Division,
internal document, ONCB
percent. However, the cutting, (or mixing in of other ingredients), takes place on an
individual basis so that the purity of heroin sold at the retail level can vary widely.
Other Drugs
Ecstasy, cocaine and ketamine come in tablet form in small batches from Europe
or the United States, and is probably not adulterated beyond whatever happens there.
Drugs can sell for three times their cost in the States.39 Marijuana is sold pure, or
occasionally is turned into resin for export.
Organizational Competition
Basic Theory
To adequately discuss the industrial organization of the illegal drug industry we
will need to travel far from Bangkok to the torturous jungles on the Burmese frontier.
Only going back all the way through the supply chain can we examine the chain of
control, profits and physical possession that will help us in our search for the weak links
that make suppression possible.
With illegal activities there is a tradeoff in terms of optimal scale. Small scale
allows escape from detection, large scale gives power and influence. It is the
intermediate scale that may be the most dangerous, when influence is not enough to
protect you, but scale of operations is big enough to draw attention to yourself.
The most dangerous actions associated with illegal drugs are those that involve
handling the drug. Handling drugs is risky because the transfer of drugs is commonly
thought to be the one sure proof of involvement. Penalties for involvement in the drug
trade are very high. The greatest danger to a participant in the drug chain comes from the
police (or potentially the military or other drug suppression agency). This danger is not
only the physical danger of being intercepted with drugs in hand, it is also the significant
financial risk of losing your capital investment. These two sources of risk will be avoided
if sufficient resources are available.
Does every link of the supply chain make a lot of money? No, the retail level, and
lower wholesale sale levels may make good profits, but not enough to make the
participants wealthy. But what we can say with a fair degree of certainty is this:
Any participant in the drug supply chain who makes sufficient profits will seek out
and obtain two services:
1) Someone to physically handle the drugs.
2) Some sort of protection from inside the police force.
What does this tell us? First of all, it is likely that the physical transfer of drugs
will be separated from the ownership of the drug. Therefore, when we draw the supply
chain we need to differentiate between the physical supply chain and the ownership
supply chain. The people captured at the upper end of the supply chain are likely to be
employees of the real owners.
“Higher Social Circles”, Bangkok Post, February 14, 1999
There is likely to be some sort of pre-existing tie between the drug owner and his
employees. Hiring others to handle the drug will protect the owner from prosecution, but
will not protect him from the financial risk of losing the drug. Besides the risk of honest
interception, there is always the risk that the employee will cheat the owner. The owner
protects himself from this eventuality by some ties (family ties, racial ties, etc.) or by
intimidation. If the level of the owner is high enough, these ties will likely operate
through a middleman so that the middleman has close ties to the owner and to the
employees, but no direct link between the two exists.
Secondly, there will likely be regular contact between the police and the drug
agents. There are three services the police can offer the drug agent:
1) The police can give information about future police actions,
2) The police can “Look the other way” or ignore illegal activities, and
3) The police or politicians or judges can allow the drug agent to “escape” if he is
These three services are ranked in terms of risk, and therefore probable reward for
the police. It is very difficult to track the transfer of information, and giving an
occasional warning is probably almost impossible to spot. Nevertheless, the police
should be very careful about the internal flow of information, and if a police action fails,
it should be recorded who was aware of the action beforehand. Looking the other way is
more obvious, but police can always fall back on the excuse that they are inept, busy etc.
In other words, it may be bad for their reputations, but it is not likely to send them to jail.
Finally letting a prisoner “escape”, (even if it involves them paying a large face-saving
amount of bail), can ruin the career of a judge or policeman, so it needs a lot of
compensation. Probably only the most profitable drug lords can afford this sort of
Amphetamines and Heroin
The supply network for amphetamines and heroin is essentially the same, since
most amphetamine production is currently by producers who used to produce heroin and
then switched because of the superior profitability of amphetamines. Therefore these two
drugs will be considered together, except in a few cases where it is necessary to
differentiate them.
Figure 3.1 People Supported by the Amphetamine Drug Industry
Drug Location
Physical Control
Producers of Precursors
Drug Lords
Burmese Factory
Employees at Factory
Drug Lords
On Foot or Car
Drug Runners
Military Escorts
Drug Lords
Border Town
In Ground
Sales Representative
Drug Storage
Car or Pickup
Hired Transporter/
Drug Lords/
Border Wholesaler
Drug Lords/
Large Wholesaler
Rented House
Drop Location
Medium Wholesaler Rented Apartment
Medium Wholesaler
Drop Location
Small Wholesaler
Small Wholesaler
In Home, or Hidden
Small Wholesaler
Hidden, or On person
On person
In addition it is hypothesized that police or military are involved as informants, or
are paid to look the other way, through all the more profitable levels of the drug supply
chain. This would include the production through large wholesaler levels and probably
medium wholesalers as well.
Alternative Pathways
At several stages there are thought to be multiple pathways. In border towns
drugs may be sold either by an agent of a Burmese drug lord, or by a local wholesaler
acting on his own behalf.
Drugs transported to Bangkok are probably carried by either hired help (hired by either
Burmese drug lords or by large wholesalers in Bangkok), and also by independent
operators who sell the drug to wholesalers in Bangkok. Finally medium sized
wholesalers in Bangkok may buy drugs either through a large wholesaler, or directly from
those who transport drugs from the north.
Production of the amphetamines used in Thailand takes place mostly in northeast
Burma, near the Thai border. Much of this production takes place in the Burmese part of
the golden triangle to the north of Thailand. This area has long been famous for the
production of heroin. Over the last five years, many drug producers in the area have
switched to producing amphetamines because it is cheaper and easier to producer, sells
for about the same price, and therefore is much more profitable. There are still a number
of heroin factories in the area however.
The Burmese part of the Golden Triangle was controlled by Khun Sa until his
surrender in 1996, and now is controlled most prominently by the United Wa State Army
due to a cease-fire agreement with the Burmese government. Within the Wa there are
four big drug producers, each with a number of small factories. These four groups each
have their own geographical area of control. The biggest producers are the Wei brothers
of the Red Wa. Other big producers include Ar-toh who owns 10-15 factories, Chao
Surai, a former Burmese eastern army commander and associate of Khun Sa, and Arjuka,
who used to work for Ar-toh, but left to set up his own operations.
The fact that Khun Sa was quickly replaced by other drug lords suggests that the
arrest of a drug lord will generally have only very short term effects on the supply of the
drug. When Khun Sa left the business, the means of production were still all in place. To
replace the management was really quite a simple step. Actually the means of production
are also fairly simple and easy to replicate; it is the distribution network and human
capital that might be difficult to replicate. Therefore, seeking the capture of the biggest
drug pins will probably have little effect on illegal drug supply. Khun Sa, by the way, is
living a carefully watched, but luxurious, life in Rangoon.
The golden triangle area is fairly militarized, with some producers controlling
their own small well-equipped armies. Because of a agreement with the Burmese
government, there is not a lot of government control. Besides the armies of the big
producers there are also several gangs that specialize in extortion of existing producers
and traffickers. There are also mercenaries from China for hire to help guard drug
caravans. Despite the military presence, there does not seem to be a lot of aggression
between the competing producers. Different groups control different regional areas in the
golden triangle, in an arrangement that has been stable for four or five years now.
Production of amphetamines is not limited to big warlords; there are a number of
small producers and traffickers belonging to other tribes. Production of amphetamines is
also not limited to Burma. It is quite easy to produce amphetamines, and a number of
independent operators certainly exist, including inside of Thailand, and in Laos. Four or
five years ago a lot of production of amphetamines occurred in the central region of
Thailand. It was mainly diligent enforcement that drove amphetamine production outside
of the country.
Factories have moved from larger scale to smaller scale, temporary facilities.
Smaller scale factories are much easier to disguise and move. They require less startup
cost, and therefore have made the production level more competitive. For big producers,
small factories minimize their losses if they are destroyed by government troops, so all
producers have incentives to reduce size.
It is estimated that 80 percent of amphetamines enter Thailand from Burma, while
the other 20 percent comes from Laos. Generally the Laos route is much less organized
and professional.40
For the most part, methamphetamines are no longer produced inside of Thailand,
although an occasional producer surely slips through. (A recent raid revealed a stash of
5,000,000 domestically produced methamphetamines in Bangkok.) This is similar to the
case for the other drugs. Thailand has a fairly aggressive drug control program, while
many of its neighbors operate with much less control. In a regional meeting in the spring
of 1999 between Laos, Thailand and Burma, the representative from Burma emphasized
that all major seizures of amphetamines in Burma had been made in the northern Shan
province, which is controlled by the United Wa State Army.
Border Runners
Evidence from the border suggests that many of those transporting drugs belong to
a variety of hill tribes, indigenous to the area. Although many different hill tribes are
involved in the transportation of drugs, it is thought that the Hmong may play a
particularly significant role in organizing the trade because of their superior
organizational ability. Amphetamines and Heroin are transported by foot and sometimes
by car along the mountainous terrain on the Thai-Burmese border. Some drugs are
transported in specially engineered cars. Groups on foot are usually escorted or consist of
heavily armed militants. One disturbing fact is that attacks on border patrols and armed
confrontations have tended to be well organized and thought out, suggesting a
sophisticated army network consistent with hired mercenaries or members of the United
Wa State Army. It does not fit well with the concept of unorganized hill tribe runners.
As is true for all links in the supply chain, drugs usually change hands by being hidden by
one party, and picked up by another. Drugs are stored in many hill tribe villages, often in
the ground.41
Border Towns
Drugs in border towns are owned either by drug lords from Burma, or by local
wholesalers who buy from them. The drugs are hidden, often in the ground, but
sometimes in warehouses, until an agent of the drug lord or the local wholesaler makes a
sale. They are then transferred to the buyer through a drop location. Members of hill
”War on drug traffickers stepped up in Loei,” The Nation, August 12, 1999
Bangkok Post, January 12, 2000, “Illicit drug consumption doubles,” The Nation,
December 22, 1998
tribes are often involved as runners, custodians of hidden drugs, and go-betweens in this
It is not clear that all drugs change ownership in border towns. In particular it has
been noted that many Burmese have been arrested in the process of transporting drugs
south, suggesting that some drugs may not change ownership until they reach the
wholesaler in Bangkok (or in many other cities in Thailand).
Drug towns are alive with the drug trade. In a small town are found couriers,
wholesalers, visiting buyers, and police trying to suppress the trade.
It is fairly easy to buy drugs in large quantities in the north of the country.
Evidence suggests that drugs are transported by many different individuals acting either
independently on their own behalf, or as hired agents on the behalf of different agents in
Bangkok, or even in Burma. The distance from the border to Bangkok is about 700
Evidence for drugs being transported directly by Burmese drug lords includes one
story in which a pair of drug transporters claimed that they were hired to pick up drugs at
a factory in Burma and deliver them directly to Bangkok, in exchange for about 3 baht a
In other cases drugs may be bought by Thai wholesalers who hire transporters to
get the drugs to Bangkok. These are probably the bigger, better organized wholesalers in
Then there are many independent operators who buy drugs in border towns and
sell them again in Bangkok. This sort of trade requires agents to have sufficient capital or
credit, but is probably fairly profitable and quite risky.
Finally there are traffickers from other countries who buy drugs in border towns,
transport them to Bangkok, then take them to another country via the airport. Besides the
central location of Thailand and the good international connections, traffickers are
thought to like Thailand because Thai authorities tend to be more lenient in punishment,
as opposed to Malaysia and Singapore where drug dealers face death automatically.42
In all there are probably many separate routes and transporters to Bangkok,
employing many different methods of concealing drugs. Therefore this step of the supply
chain is quite competitive, with prices mostly reflecting the risks to safety and capital
inherent in moving drugs. Thai police estimate that there are about 5,000 drug laden
trucks on the roads in Thailand each day.
Large Wholesalers
It is thought that there are several large drug wholesalers in Bangkok, with
turnovers from 100,000 tablets a week to perhaps as many as 100,000 tablets a day.
Large wholesalers might typically sell drugs in units of 5-10,000 tablets to medium
wholesalers. They probably have a sophisticated supply network from the north with
“Gov’t beefs up ONCB to curb drug abuse,” The Nation, September 10, 1998
shipments at least weekly or bi-weekly. These large scale operators are well established
with powerful connections in the police and politics, and are very difficult to capture.
Evidence suggests that large wholesalers are geographically separated from each
other43, so are not involved in direct competition. There are also many independent
operators bringing drugs from the north, so that a medium wholesaler will potentially
have a number of sources of supply. (In spite of having many choices, the wholesaler
will likely be loyal to a single supplier, unless the price of the outsider is quite different).
This competition acts as a force to keep price down. At this time, the distribution of
amphetamines and heroin is quite decentralized, and competition from independent
operators from the north keep the prices for large wholesalers in check.
At present there are no reports of violence between the operations of large
wholesalers, or on the part of large wholesalers against independents. It is thought that
the low level of conflict is partly the result of a rapidly expanding market, in which it is
better to expand to new customers, then fight over existing ones. If this trend changes it
will be quite unfortunate for Bangkok.
Medium Wholesalers
Medium wholesalers might have a weekly turnover of 10,000 tablets. They will
typically sell drugs in units of 200 tablets to a variety of small wholesalers, and will
probably not do much, if any, retail trade. They will probably buy a weekly supply from
either a large wholesaler, or from an independent operator bringing drugs from the north.
They will do much of their own business, including handling drugs themselves, but will
make wide use of drop locations, will likely have several helpers to at least deliver drugs,
and will have places to store drugs outside of their home, perhaps in a rented apartment.
They probably have some connections to the police on a local level, and may pay them
off to look the other way.
Drug lords thrive on legal gaps.44 Adult drug traffickers often avoid risking the
death penalty by hiring children to deliver or sell drugs. The number of children arrested
on drug-related charges has skyrocketed since the government imposed the death penalty
for amphetamine users and traders in 1996. Children as young as five are hired to sell or
distribute the drug for 50-100 baht ($1.33-2.67 ) a job. Children under seven are not
subject to penalty for any crime in Thailand.
Small Wholesalers
Small wholesalers might have a weekly turnover of 1,000 tablets or more. They
sell tablets to retailers in units of less than a pack (200 tablets) as per the need of the
retailer. Selling amphetamines in units of 10 tablets seems common. Small wholesalers
also are involved directly in the retail trade. A serious drug user (not a seller) will likely
buy directly from the small wholesaler in units of ten or twenty because the price will be
better. Small wholesalers will also sell individual tablets, but at a higher price.
Retailers are often drug addicts who sell drugs to support their habit. They might
typically sell 50 tablets a day, but this will vary quite a bit. Certainly new kids selling
In particular, in Nontaburi, Khlong Toei, and Samut Prakhan
“Drug lords thrive on legal gaps,” The Nation, August 31, 1998
drugs might just sell 10-20 a day, while those who are well established could sell quite a
lot more.
Competition at this level is quite intense with some markets, such as schools,
having a great number of sellers. In those markets, prices are kept on the low end of the
retail price range. Other markets with fewer sellers will support a higher retail price.
There is a lot of price discrimination in the drug market. Retailers may sell to regular
customers at cheaper prices. They may sell at different prices in different locations.
Since secrecy is so important, they can even sell to each customer at a different price.
This is often reflected in higher prices for customers who the seller thinks do not know
the market price.
Because drugs are sold using direct sales, which implies a personal relationship,
and because secrecy is important to the buyer, each seller is likely to have some regular
loyal customers. This keeps the market from becoming concentrated in the hands of only
a few agents. Competition at this level is based on personality.
It should be noted that the need for secrecy is what makes direct selling so
ubiquitous in the market for illegal drugs. This acts as a force towards keeping the
market dispersed, with many sellers raising costs, and therefore prices to retail customers.
Credit Modalities
Credit may be extended at nearly every level of the drug supply chain. Usually
newcomers need to prepare enough cash for the initial purchase(s). Once the supplier
from the level above begins to trust the customer, credit may be extended. Two
exceptions are: 1) At the border, where foreign suppliers and independent traffickers are
in contact, transactions seem always to be done in cash. 2) At the lowest retail levels,
where traffickers use children as agents, credit may be extended from the very start. At
all other levels, it is desirable to sell drugs in large volume and as quickly as possible to
shorten carrying time/ risk to the seller, so their are significant incentives to provide
At the retail level, the use of children as runners and pushers is greatly aided by
extending credit, since these youngsters do not have access to startup money. Credit may
also be extended to other newcomers to the retail drug trade as an incentive. Initially, the
new seller who does not enough money to invest, will work as a sales representative.
Usually the commission will be twenty per cent of the drug sale volume. (So the
representative can receive twenty percent of the tablets free and sell them for his own
account, or use them.) This process continues until the new dealer accumulates enough
money to buy drugs independently, or has a large volume of sales under his control. At
this stage he will work independently and a regular credit arrangement can be made.
Credit is also provided between different wholesaler levels, and when the drugs are first
delivered to Bangkok. Credit terms that require payment after one week are prevalent
among medium and small wholesalers, with a similar waiting period - only the
investment will be in cash – thereafter they are eligible for credit.
Other Drugs
Mostly ecstasy and cocaine is brought to Thailand in small batches by people
travelling overseas. It is then sold only to friends in a closed circle, which makes it very
hard to track once it is across the border. Nevertheless, it is available to a limited extent
on the open market, and this is likely to increase, as Burmese production of ecstasy
increases in coming years.
There is a lot of interest in Burma in producing ecstasy for the Thai market. Some
ecstasy is already being produced, and that is likely to increase significantly in coming
years. Burmese producers are also considering the production of other high class and
designer drugs.45 Presumably the organizational structure and distribution for these new
drugs will be the same as for amphetamines and heroin.
High class drugs are sold in high class districts such as Silom, Sukhumvit and
Ratchadapidsek, and sold particularly at clubs which is the main venue for their use.
Sellers are seldom arrested since they come from high class families with lots of
connections, and if they are arrested they may be able to get off. They do not perceive
themselves to be criminals.
The most famous drug case of 1998 involved a German who was reputed to be
involved in drug smuggling, including these high class drugs from Europe. In his case he
used a luxury yacht to transport the drug. Most other imports are thought to be in small
batches. This seems to be an example of small scale is better since it draws less attention
to itself. The German was eventually forbidden to enter Thailand. In general, Thailand
has been reasonably successful at expelling drug lords, but not successful in punishing
Barriers to Entry
Current Situation
Generally Thailand is not a very violent country. Elections are accompanied by
little or no violence. Bangkok has few areas where it is not safe for a man or even a
woman to walk at night. Even then, the risk would be more of robbery than threats to
one’s life. (One exception is a tradition of assassination of competing businessmen!)
Therefore it bears watching how the expansion of drug markets will bring violence into
the Thai culture.
Although drug related arrests are growing very rapidly, violence associated with
drugs is still very limited. Nevertheless it does occasionally occur. The recession has
also made conditions worse for everyone, and has led to more crime, but interestingly
most of it is from drug possession charges. It is estimated that crime increased by 20
percent due to the recession, at the same time that police budget had to be reduced.
Nevertheless, the incidence of robbery and larceny is low and has not incurred.
As reported in the demand section of this report, drug-related incarcerations in
Thailand make up a large share of the total, with arrests related to illegal drugs
representing about 53 percent of all those currently in Thai jails, and 69 percent of those
in jail in Bangkok.. Most of these arrests are for possession or selling, not for any violent
ONCB, 1998-99 Annual report, “Heavy drug traffic,” Bangkok Post, January 10, 1999
Reasons for Violence
We can hypothesize that drug-related violence occurs most often for the following
Violence between rival suppliers
If the industrial organization is such that there are a few powerful competitors at
some level of the supply chain it is likely that violence will ensue. There is little evidence
of this sort of violence in Thailand.
Violence between different levels of the supply chain
There are informal contracts between different levels of the drug supply chain.
Those contracts mostly concern issues such as financing and delivery. Because of the
illicit nature of the business, contracts cannot be drawn up formally. Agents also do not
have recourse to the legal system to settle disputes. For this reason, if a conflict arises,
often it may be solved through violence.
The potential for violence is particularly acute when credit is extended. Credit
may be necessary if the selling agents do not have the money to buy the drug they are
supposed to sell, so instead sell the drug on commission. If something happens to the
drug, there may be a disagreement over who should incur the risk and loss. This conflict
is exacerbated by the fact that the supplier can never be sure whether the seller is cheating
on him. If cheating is suspected, violence may be used to forestall such behavior among
other sellers.
There are a few stories reporting this sort of violence. One story in the
Thai press tells of a man who had his ear cut off when he was not able to pay 6000 baht
($150) for amphetamine drugs he was selling on commission to construction workers. He
was caught while selling the drugs so he could not pay back his debt.
In 1999 there were at least three separate killings involving Chinese gangs.47 In
one case three Hong Kong men were killed in a field near the airport. In another case,
two Chinese and three Thais were arrested for the slaying of a Macao man. These cases
were thought to be related to drugs, and to the fact that Thailand is a major transit country
for heroin smuggling.
Violence to obtain money to buy drugs
Drug addicts need a lot of money to buy drugs every day. A dose of amphetamine
or heroin costs about 100 baht, about half of what an honest worker would make in a day.
Often serious addicts may consume as much as 10 or more doses in a day. Furthermore,
most drug addicts do not have a regular job, since the most common status of drug addicts
are as students or the unemployed. Selling drugs is one way out of this dilemma, stealing
is another. Generally armed robbery is quite rare in Bangkok and Thailand, but petty
theft is a possibility.
One article reports the story is of a 14 year-old boy who was addicted to solvents,
and “stole everything in sight” to support his habit, and eventually was charged with
“Drugs gang amputates man’s ear,” The Nation, March 3, 1998
”Police step up war on foreign gangs,” The Nation, November 26, 1999
killing a college student.48 This example does not seem to be a usual case, as it is quite
possible this boy had mental illness. Also solvents are quite cheap compared to illegal
drugs, so the story doesn’t hold together very well.
Although it seems quite plausible that robbery could be used to support a drug
lifestyle, it does not often seem to be the case in this country.
Violence as a result of using drugs (Crazed behavior)
The most common reports of violence related to drugs in Thai newspapers refer to
crazed behavior by addicts under the influence of a drug. This goes along with the Thai
name for the drug, Yaa Baa, which means “crazy drug”. In January of 1999 a “drugcrazed’ man held hostage and then killed a two year old after smoking three amphetamine
tablets and drinking half a bottle of liquor. He said he experienced hallucinations and
paranoid feelings.
In December of 1999, another “drug-crazed” man got into the parliament building
and ran to a group of newspaper reporters, screaming that he and some friends were
involved in a gigantic domestic amphetamine production ring. When police followed up
on his report they found 5,000,000 amphetamine tablets in his house along with lots of
drug making equipment. This individual was reported as being “apparently on drugs,”
but given the gang he was in with, may have been trying to get adequate police protection
by becoming a media sensation.
Another form of reported but unintentional violence is the report of traffic
accidents attributed to overuse of amphetamines by truck drivers. The argument goes that
truck drivers use amphetamines to increase the number of hours they can drive. They
then fall asleep at the wheel, resulting in terrible traffic accidents. There is a peculiar
logic to this argument, since the amphetamines are used to keep the driver awake. One
might as well blame coffee for traffic accidents, or extol the virtues of warm milk in
preventing them. It seems to make more sense to more fully regulate the hours truck
drivers can work. Nevertheless it is commonly believed that amphetamines are a source
of traffic accidents, and the government uses this as a reason for suppressing them.
(Incidentally, official police records do not indicate a relationship between traffic
accidents and amphetamines.)
Violence by Police
In late 1996 and early 1997 a number of extra-judicial killings occurred (perhaps
as many as 15) involving suspected amphetamine producers. In the most infamous case,
six supposed traffickers were shot to death after having been captured and handcuffed!
There was a public outcry at the time, and since that time this behavior has not been
repeated. About that time the production of amphetamines moved to Burma, and
fortunately the violence went with it.
Border Regions
It should be emphasized that although very little drug related violence is reported
in Bangkok, drug-related violence in border regions is an extremely serious problem.
Attacks occur when police confront drug runners trying to cross the border, or when
villagers stumble on drug operations by accident. This violence stems in part from the
“Disturbing questions raised by ‘the boy’,” The Nation, December 30, 1998
level of violence existing in Burmese border regions where hill tribe groups have been in
armed combat with the Burmese government for many years. This provides a supply of
very highly trained militants who can provide armed escorts to drug convoys across the
border. There are also reports of mercenaries hired from China who defend drug
convoys. The problem has become very serious for the Thai police, with many casualties
in organized attacks and ambushes. They have called in the military to help, and are now
putting together a special force to counterattack these well armed militias in what they are
now referring to as a “war”.
It is thought that wholesalers protect their territory though connections to the
police. In exchange for bribes to high level officials at the police office, the police
essentially give them sole rights over a territory. If another wholesaler tries to move in on
that territory, the first dealer investigates, then reports the facts to the police, who then
arrest the new dealer for possession or selling. Interesting this de facto “licensing” of a
territory may reduce violence stemming from competition between wholesalers,
benefiting almost all parties. Police have less work, wholesalers do not have to arm
themselves, and civilians do not have to endure violent behavior.
At the highest levels, drug wholesalers are almost immune from prosecution. In
1998, the police tried to arrest one reputedly influential dealer. The police surrounded a
house used by this person. After a shootout with police, in which several police were
wounded by gunfire and hand grenades, and one of the drug dealers was killed, the police
entered the house to discover that the key dealer and two other associates had managed to
escape. The other three were arrested, and after a thorough search of the house, 758,000
amphetamine pills were found under the cage of several bears in the basement (to hide the
scent from sniffer dogs), and 1.3 million baht ($35,000), and records of trafficking
activity, contacts, and other business transactions were found in a safe. The house also
contained military weapons. The case was treated as the big bust of the year by the press,
but a few days later all three suspects were released “for lack of evidence.” It was
claimed that the one gang member who was killed was the one who had done all the
The influential individual, who is still at large, was thought to control an
amphetamines syndicate worth 500 million baht ($13.3 million). As the investigation
proceeded he was found to have “friendships” with many police officers. Several
influential police officials were found to be driving luxury cars such as Mercedes that the
individual had “lent” to them. It is alleged that military helicopters were used to transport
drugs for this syndicate, with the drugs packed in 200-liter oil drums, dumped in strategic
places during army training missions.49
Although higher level drug traffickers are thought to be nearly free from the risk
of prosecution, small wholesalers and retailers are more frequently caught. Nevertheless
small wholesalers frequently also pay for police protection. The going rate seems to be
about 5,000 baht ($130) a month. Of this amount, the local police officer will pass a
percentage on to his superiors.
“Drug suspect wants to surrender,” The Nation, October 22 and “Top officials linked to
drug ring,” The Nation, October 29, 1998
Another common form of corruption, is the agreement between the police and the
suspect to reduce the number of tablets claimed to have been found on the suspect. In this
way the suspect will get a lighter sentence, and the police will get tablets to either sell, or
use as bait in other operations.50 A bribe may be required for this reduction in charges to
occur. In one interview, we were told that the convict might have been allowed to go free
if he had paid 20,000 baht.
Wages and Labor Supply
The following section will focus on amphetamines, which is the dominant drug at
this time and will be indicative of profits of participants in each drug market.
Unemployment and the Market for Drugs
Thailand is currently emerging from a recession. Before the recession
unemployment was very low at around 2 and a half percent. The recession threw many
people out of work and many of them are still in that state. That is because employment
is a lagging indicator – meaning that unemployment will be highest near the end of a
recession. Unemployment is probably still only about 5 percent, making it much less of a
problem than in many other countries in the world, but it is still a problem. All sorts of
marginal forms of employment have had to absorb a significant increase in participants.
Complaints are commonly heard by taxi drivers, food vendors, etc., of excess
competition, and the story is the same with drug sellers. There are stories that there are
many more drug sellers now then there were a few years ago. The recession also had
effects on the demand side of the market, but they are less clear cut. On the one hand,
the recession increased the unemployed, one of the core user groups. On the other hand,
it decreased disposable income, reducing demand, and putting downward pressure on
prices. The net effect seems to have been to put downward pressure on prices, with drugs
in the poorest areas (i.e. greatest number of sellers, and least disposable income) may sell
for as low as 50 baht a tablet.
Profit Margins for Participants in the Drug Market
. The following table gives average markups between each level of the supply
chain for each drug, and is based on the information in section 3.2.
Table 3.12: Price in Baht per Tablet of Methamphetamine
1 tablet
Wholesale, e.g.
200 pills
e.g. 10 pills
Source: Various sources, compiled by the author/
”Classrooms turned into drug dens,” The Nation, August 22, 1999; NAP doubts fair
play in drug case,” The Nation, August 6, 1999
Table 3.13: Profit in Baht for Some Drug Supply Participants per Tablet of
1 tablet
Transport to
10-20- 3040-50
Source: Various sources, compiled by the author/
Volume for Participants in the Drug Market
Wages or returns for people in the drug market depend on two factors, profit
margins and volume. From section 3.6.2 we can estimate the markup in drug prices at
each level, but we need volume levels to translate these figures into total profits or wages.
Alternately we can look at reports of the income or net worth of captured drug
participants and work backward to find volume and profit data.
Table 3.14: Volume Estimates for Some Amphetamine Supply Participants
Transport to Large
10,00010 million 30,000100,000
500,000 -2M /year
/per trip
Sources: Volume and profit margin accounts come from a collection
20-50100 /day
of newspaper articles and personal
Wages for Participants in the Drug Market
Table 3.15: Wages for Participants in the Drug Market
Tablets/ Year
Profit per
10 Million
Salary (B)
80 Million
Yearly Salary
Border Runner
Sales Agents
Border Wholesaler
2 Million
3.6 Million
2 Million
2 Million
3.6 Million
6 Million
Paid Transporter
Independent Transporter
Large Wholesaler
5 Million
38 Million
Medium Wholesaler
Other Expenses
Militia, Police,
Police, Storage
Guards, Police,
Local Police,
Local Police
Small Wholesaler
Source: Compiled from various sources by the author (see the following supporting sections) These are
very rough estimates meant to be indicative rather than authoritative. The volume figures are most suspect.
Some of these sources include: ”Teenagers fall under drug cloud,” The Nation, August
31, 1998; “Drug dealers killing innocence,” Bangkok Post, August 23, 1999; “Classrooms
turned into drug dens,” August 22, 1999
In the Mae Sai area there are about ten factories, which together provide 8 million
amphetamines tablets to Thailand a month. Over the period of a year this is about 100
million tablets, which divided by ten factories makes about ten million tablets per factory
per year. The cost of production is estimated to be about 5 baht per tablet, and the owner
must also pay for a broker, 1 baht a tablet, for drug runners, another 2-3 baht, and for
other loaders, couriers, etc, say another 2 baht. The price in Mae Sai at this time was 18
baht per tablet, leaving about 8 baht per tablet profit for the owner. Eight times ten
million is 80 million baht ($2.1 million) a year per factory. Of course the owner might
still need to pay a military contingent, etc.52
Border Runners/ Military Escorts/ Custodians of Hidden Drugs
Generally border runners are paid about 1-2 baht per tablet to take the drug across
the border. In Mae Sai they were supposedly paid 2-3 baht per tablet, but this may
include other services such as watching over hidden drugs, or delivering them to the drop
zone. We are told that originally drug runners would carry about 10,000 tablets at a time,
which would only be about 1 kg of weight. Payment would be 20-30,000 baht.
Nowadays they carry about 500,000 tablets at a time, about 50 kg, which clearly means
they work in groups of two or three. If there are 3 of them, that would make a payment of
400,000 each ($10,500). In another story, eight armed militants fought with police while
trying to cross the border with 2 million amphetamine tablets. If payment is 1 baht per
tablet, that would make payment per person to be about 250,000 baht ($6,600). If these
groups made 8 trips a year, yearly payment would be 2,000,000 baht ($53,000) a year.
Sales Brokers
Sales brokers arrange for sales from drug lords to Thai agents. Their job is only to
arrange a sale, not delivery. In Mae Sai, on the Burmese border, brokers were paid 1 baht
per tablet provided orders were for at least 10,000 tablets. If we assume that a order
would typically be 30,000-50,000, a typical car load, profit for the broker would be
30,000 to 50,000 baht ($800-1,300) an order. We are also told that 8 million drugs pass
through Mae Sai a month, that there are about twenty such brokers, and that they can be
recognized because they get rich very quickly. If all drugs are sold through brokers, this
would represent 400,000 baht per month per broker, or 3,600,000 baht ($94,000) a year.
Local Wholesaler
Wholesalers can buy drugs from producers for about 12-15 baht a tablet.
Assuming their costs are about two baht a tablet (Warehousing, loading, etc) and they sell
for 18 baht, that would make a profit of about 3 baht per tablet. Again drugs are probably
sold by the car load, or 30,000 to 50,000 tablets, and profit would be 90,000 to 150,000
baht ($2,400-4,000) a load.
Paid Transporter
Paid transporters always travel in pairs, perhaps to keep an eye on each other, or
perhaps one is the seller and the other the driver. Reports suggest that a trip might pay
them 200,000 baht, or 100,000 baht ($2,600) each. That works out to about 2-3 baht per
tablet each. The difference in price on the border and in Bangkok is about 10 baht, of
which half goes to the paid transporters, and the other half to the hiring party. If the paid
transporters make a trip a month they would each make 1.2 million baht ($32,000) a year.
”Traffickers speed up inflow of amphetamine,” Bangkok Post, November 9, 1997
Independent Transporter
If the price in a border town is about twenty baht per tablet, and the price in
Bangkok is about thirty baht a tablet, total profit for the independent transporter is 10
times 30,000 to 50,000 or 300,000 to 500,000 ($8,000-13,000) per trip. At a price of 20
baht a tablet, this is a profit margin of 50 percent. If the independent makes a trip a
month, yearly income would be 3.6 million to 6 million ($95,000-158,000) a year.
Large Wholesalers
If large wholesalers handle 100,000 tablets a week, and make a profit of between 5
and 10 baht per tablet, that would make a yearly total of 26 – 52 million ($700,0001,400,000) a year. If they handle 100,000 tablets a day they would make 180 – 350
million ($5 million-10 million) a year before expenses.
Medium Wholesalers
If a medium wholesaler handles 10,000 tablets a week, and makes a profit of from
10 to 20 baht per tablet, weekly profit would be 100,000-200,000 baht ($2,600-5,200). In
an interview we found one medium wholesaler who ran a business with a friend. One of
them would collect the money, and the other would deliver the drug to a drop point.
Selling a little less than 10,000 baht a week, they each made a weekly profit of about
30,000-40,000 baht ($800-1050), which works out to about 1.5 million-2 million baht
($40,000-53,000) per year.
Small Wholesalers
If a small wholesaler handles about 1,000 tablets a week, and makes a profit of
10-20 baht per tablet, weekly profit would be between 10,000 – 20,000 baht. Assuming
average values, we suppose weekly profits are about 15,000 baht ($400), for a yearly total
of about 800,000 baht ($20,000).
If a retailer sells about 300 tablets a week, at a profit of about 20 baht apiece,
weekly profits would be 6,000 baht ($158), or 857 baht ($23) a day. In our survey, we
found a slightly lower number. On average, user/sellers made an average of 773 baht
($20) a day or 5,400 baht ($142) a week or 280,000 baht ($7,400). Of this amount, drug
users spent a total of 564 baht ($15) a day on drugs for personal use. Over a year that
would mean they would net 280,000 baht minus 205,000 baht, or 75,000 baht ($2,000) a
year. This is about the same amount an unskilled worker would make at a real job, but
they have an easier life (until they are caught) and they get to take drugs.
Wages over time
Although it is believed that salaries for participants in the drug trade are linked to
wages in the overall labor market, especially at the lower retail and small wholesaler
levels, there has been little change in wage rates for the labor market as a whole which
would us allow to study this relationship over time. Unemployment has risen since the
1997 recession, and prices of illegal drugs have fallen squeezing margins at the retail
level. This suggests that the drug labor market is linked to the overall labor market in a
usual fashion.
Why Do People Deal Drugs?
The most common route into the business side of the drug market is moving up
from being a user to being a seller to being a wholesaler. The process takes a number of
years, typically 1 to 2 years to become a seller and another 2 or 3 to become a wholesaler,
and most people do not make the leap to wholesaler. Clearly not everyone has their life
together enough and has the business skills to enter the business side of drugs. (After all,
they were likely unemployed before in a country with quite low unemployment.)
Economics are the chief motivation. Drug addicts need a way to finance their
habit. As their habit builds from one or two tablets to the ten or more a long term addict
needs to get high, using drugs becomes prohibitively expensive. Typically a retail level
seller is not looking for a profitable return so much as to support his or her (usually his)
growing habit. Suppose a legal job might pay 150 - 250 baht ($4.00 - $6.57) a day, and
each amphetamine table costs 80 –100 baht ($2.10 – $2.63) . Working full time (10-12
hours) only allows the addict to buy about two pills. Selling drugs is both a high risk, and
therefore high return job, and it gets the addict the drugs he needs. Selling drugs is also a
profession in which the drug addict has some expertise. If you yourself were given ten
amphetamine pills to sell, you would likely not be able to do it. The drug addict has the
marketing intelligence, the legal knowledge (what are the current limits of the law
juristically, logistically, and geographically), and the connections to do his job well.
“Nat” sold amphetamine tablets for 70 baht each, and could keep 20 baht for
himself. Doing this he could make 500 – 800 baht a day and get drugs for himself as
well. This works out to sales of between 25 and 40 pills a day. Sales, he said, depended
on the number of other dealers at the same location, and the kinds of pills he had to sell.53
Other testimonials suggest that sales of from 20 to 50 pills a day are common at
the retail level for a profit of 700 a day assuming the addict does not use any of the profits
for his own habit54. That is a big assumption, and it is more likely that most drug sellers
make very small profits after paying for their drugs.
The next jump to becoming a wholesaler is more difficult because it requires a
capital investment. This step is facilitated by an intermediate step where the seller might
buy a pack of 200 pills a day and resell them 20 at a time to lower level dealers. The
capital required for 200 tablets would not be too impossible, and with a profit of perhaps
10 baht per tablet, could quickly be recouped. It is probably these different levels of
wholesalers that account for the variability in Bangkok wholesale prices. This level is
probably particularly dangerous in terms of getting caught, however, since the seller does
not make enough to hire other people to take on the risk of handling the drug. The dealer
is still handling a lot of drugs personally. Further up the supply chain, dealers probably
seldom handle drugs themselves, relying on hired runners to store and bring the drug
from supplier to customer.
The wholesaler level is much more profitable than the retail level, but it also
requires a significant capital investment. The wholesaler might also buy drugs in the
“Confessions of a young yaa baa addict,” Bangkok Post, March 16, 1997
Our survey results find the average profit of a seller/user to be 780 baht per day, but of
that the seller uses 560 baht on drugs for personal use!
north and transport them, or hire someone to transport them, to Bangkok which requires
at least one car. This is a big leap for an unemployed drug addict from the Bangkok
slums. Therefore it seems likely that recruits into the wholesale level are much more
likely to come from other sources, such as people who have already made money in other
illegal activities such as gambling, people who are familiar with the police, or people who
are associated with the production side. It is also possible that capital might come from
very influential people but it would be very well hidden, and the most we would likely to
see is some inappropriate influence exerted to protect underlings.
Another possibility is that a drug seller might become a drug runner. Typically
drug runners earn a baht or two (2 – 5 cents) per tablet to bring drugs from one place to
another. If the distance or risk is greater, this might be a little higher. Two captured
runners who were hired to bring drugs from a Burmese village to a dealer in Bangkok
were given 200,000 baht ($5,200) to transport 72,000 tablets. This is about 3 baht (7
cents) per tablet, but it is about a one day trip. One problem is that the dealer and supplier
must have a lot of trust in the runner, which means they might often be relatives, or
people who have been close to the family for some time.
Sometimes people get involved in the selling of drugs at the retail level for reasons
other addiction. Many families in the slums get into debt for an outside reason, such as a
sick family member, a gambling debt, housing, or any number of other reasons. Usually
the debt will be to a local loan shark at a high rate of interest. In order to pay off the debt,
the family may take on a high risk, high return activity like selling drugs. There are also
stories of loan sharks who take advantage of their debtors by requiring them to work in
the drug industry in their employ. This may include requiring underage children to act as
drug carriers within the slum. “I don’t think there’s a single family in the areas I visit
which is totally free from debt,” said one social worker55 In another study, only 21
percent of slum dwellers said they were able to make regular payments on their
outstanding debts, while another 55 percent said they could make only occasional
Nongluk Panthong, in ”Breaking out of a vicious circle,” The Nation, October 6, 1999
Conclusions and Policy Recommendations
Supply of Drugs From Outside Bangkok
It is extremely difficult to control the flow of drugs into Thailand and into
Bangkok. Thailand is facing a constant onslaught of illegal amphetamines and heroin,
mostly from Burma. Although efforts to control drug supply should not be abandoned,
further efforts should address the demand side.
Thailand is virtually surrounded by countries which produce illegal drugs, which
are much poorer than itself, and which have many fewer resources to fight illegal drugs.
Thailand shares a land border of 1,800 kilometres with Burma, 1,800 kilometres with
Laos, and another 800 kilometers with Cambodia. Beyond Burma, Yunan Province,
China is only 100 kilometres away.
Surrounding countries produce substantial quantities of illegal drugs. Burma is
the largest producer of illegal amphetamines in South-East Asia, using precursors from
China. Burma and Laos are the second and third largest producers of opium in the world,
after Afghanistan. Cambodia and Laos both produce substantial marijuana crops.
Thai production of opium, amphetamines and marijuana are inconsequential in
world terms. The Office of the Narcotics Control Board, with support from the United
States, and a number of other countries has done a fairly good job of controlling the
production and transport of drugs, precursors and raw materials through Thailand.
Bangkok is gradually losing its traditional role as a hub for the transport of illegal
drugs. Although a significant amount of heroin still comes through Bangkok, transport
through China is increasingly the route of choice. Relatively strict enforcement compared
to its neighbors has reduced the desirability of Bangkok. Drug traffickers have responded
by switching to alternate supply routes through the surrounding countries, especially
China, but also Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. In other words, the effect of increasing
enforcement in one country is to switch to using another country.
It does no good to blame the Burmese government for the inflow of drugs when
the problem is really a lack of control over the producing areas. The best chance of
controlling the drug production is joint cooperation between countries in the region
including Burma, Laos, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Drug suppression
policies are complicated by the political situation in a number of these countries, and
accepted policies need to take into account the political, economic, social, and cultural
situation, rather than being uni-dimensional. If not, much greater problems than the
existing ones may result.
Supply of Drugs Within Bangkok
Although use of amphetamines in Bangkok is very widespread, we can point out
some people and areas that are especially susceptible to drug problems. Centers of heavy
concentration of drug use in Bangkok are generally 1) slum areas, 2) schools, and 3)
entertainment establishments. Some old slum areas, such as the Khlong Toey slum, are
thought to be distribution centers at both the retail and wholesale level for illicit drugs in
surrounding areas.
The Khlong Toey slum is the classic case for the study of illicit drug trafficking at
the community level. This community has developed an extensive network of dealers,
protectors and consumers, and is likely the most developed drug market in Bangkok.
Sellers at the retail level use multi-level marketing, persuading their customers to
be sales representatives. Those sales representatives then recruit their own sales agents,
so that the first seller becomes a wholesaler. This process is thought to continue
gradually growing the size of the selling cluster. New sellers are given the risky job of
recruiting new customers.
The recent recession reduced the price and increased the use of amphetamines in
Thailand. The recession increased the number of people attempting to sell drugs in
Bangkok, just as it increased all other informal forms of earning a living. At the same
time the recession reduced disposable income putting downward pressure on prices.
Initially high profit margins allowed drugs to continue to be supplied at reduced prices.
Finally the recession increased the number of unemployed, which are one of the biggest
groups of users.
There is a tie between drugs and bad debts. Many families get trapped into selling
drugs by trying to pay off bad debts, or as a service to un-paid creditors. Better access to
credit on reasonable terms would help. Also, one of the biggest sources of debt for urban
people is money borrowed for medical expenses when someone gets sick. Cheaper
access to medical services, and a stronger social safety net would help.
There is a problem with young children being used in the drug trade. Current laws
encourage the use of young children in the drug trade by meting out little or no
punishment to children caught with drugs. For this reason children, frequently young
girls, are often used as drug couriers (girls are preferred since police are shy about
searching them.)
Amphetamine is the most available drug in the market. No shortages have
occurred. Marijuana is also easy to find in the marketplace while heroin is prevalent only
among specific groups.
Amphetamines is a social drug that is used by youths before group activities such
as drinking, snooker, motorcycle racing, dancing and sports to increase their pleasure,
their endurance and their feeling of belonging to the group. It is generally smoked,
dissolved in water or sweet drinks, or sometimes eaten.
Amphetamines are used broadly by youth from many walks of life. It is not a
problem of the poor and underprivileged, but can be found in every community in
Bangkok from working class to wealthy.
Although amphetamines were first used by truck drivers and laborers, use has
mostly switched young people in a social context. Actually the use of canned coffee and
high-caffeine drinks may be making inroads into more traditional uses of amphetamines.
The number of heroin abusers is stable but the number of amphetamine users has
been rising drastically. The age of heroin dependents is relatively higher than
amphetamine dependents. There are almost no female addicts.
Lots of heroin dependents started using amphetamines after an increase in the
price of heroin during early 1996. The study found that by trial and error heroin users
adopted amphetamine as an assistant to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms the heroin
shortage, even though the use of amphetamine for this purpose is not yet widely accepted.
While heroin addicts will use amphetamine as a substitute, amphetamine users do
not switch to heroin. This may be due to the availability of each drug in the market place,
the dangerous image of heroin for amphetamine users, and the relatively lower price of
The rapid spread of amphetamines is a result of several factors. The higher profit
margin on amphetamine trade encouraged drug production making the drug cheap and
readily available. The manners of using the drug (smoking, ingesting, dissolving in
water) were familiar to young people making them more inclined to experiment. The
drug had a long history in Thailand among laborers, which proved it to be safe. Modern
marketing techniques by the sellers, including free samples and personal selling
encouraged sales. The drug fits with the Thai personality in that it allows people to work
or play longer, which is valued. The drug is a fashion among high school students, and
that fashion is encouraged by ineffective government advertising which raises awareness
without reducing use.
Amphetamine and heroin users take drugs for different reasons. Heroin addiction
is mostly caused by tension from personal and social problems, but amphetamine use is a
result of curiosity, persuasion by peers, and other neo-social factors. Injection is most
prevalent among heroin users while smoking is most prevalent among amphetamine
Multi-level marketing is employed by drug suppliers. High turnover of sales and
fast cash recovery are major concerns among amphetamine retailers. Credit sales are
widely offered for amateur retailers. The new sellers create new markets through direct
sales in schools and in communities. The trading places in general are snooker (pool)
clubs, motorcycle taxi stands, and gas stations. Frequently used tactics to gain market
share for drug retailers are offering free samples and gambling.
Young addicts are first introduced to narcotics primarily through their curiosity
and friends’ persuasion. Later they gather together in groups, and purchase drugs in large
quantities so as to receive quantity discounts. The larger volume of drugs purchased will
reduce the cost per pill and will also give some room to make profits on further trades. A
convenient way to get the money to buy the next dose is to sell extra tablets. These
young retail participants in the drug trade may fall into various categories: per day
worker, commission salesperson, or independent dealer.
Cigarettes and alcoholic beverages are closely related with amphetamine intake.
On many occasions, amphetamines are taken before or during the happy hours of
entertainment. It is generally hard to distinguish the use of amphetamines from other licit
stimulants such as high-caffeine beverages. This suggests that amphetamines may suffer
from unfair accusations of harmful effects.
Cultural safeguards from drug abuse are steadily eroding. Failures in the
education system, schools, teachers, and lack of religious beliefs all contribute to the
severity of the drug problem. Inhibiting factors preventing drug abuse include parents
and the emerging role of the community.
The nonchalant attitude of the police force is a major reason why the drug trade is
able to flourish. Among other things, lax enforcement of drug laws, the acceptance of
bribes from dealers, silence by local officials, and outright participation in the drug
business all contribute to the severity of the drug situation.
Anti-drug policies have not been effective on the demand side. Major obstacles
include misunderstanding the root causes of drug abuse, ineffective spending of the
limited prevention budget, poor coordination and cooperation among government
agencies, and loopholes in laws, regulations, and legal practices. A policy of treatment
and rehabilitation is emphasized at the national level, but lags in implementation due to
insufficient facilities.
From our survey, the price elasticity of demand for amphetamines is –1.38, and
for heroin it is –0.96. The data shows that drug users adjust their behavior as price
changes. Several effects of increasing drug price include a greater number of users who
use more than one drug and a rise in the use of alternatives.
The study found that the narcotics problem is just one of many social problems
brought on by a modernized and materialistic society. Hence, the national policy to cope
with drug issue should be broadened to cover other measures such as the implementation
of the philosophy of the sufficient economy (produce only what you need), building
community, and restructuring of the education system.
Only large enough amounts of amphetamine can lead to psychosis in users.
Authorities must tell the truth to the public. The dissemination of accurate information on
drugs must be put through more effective media. The problem of amphetamine use is not
the medicine itself, but the factors behind its use. The classification of types of drugs,
usage, and legal penalties must be redefined.
There should be the support for research on the feasibility of using amphetamine
to assist heroin addicts in the detoxification process. (This would require some measure of
drug legalization at least in hospitals.)
The treatment of amphetamine addicts must be separated from heroin addicts. The
treatment and rehabilitation procedures at many public hospitals need modification.
Furthermore, treatment programs that provide vocational skills to the addicts are wasteful
if the addiction is not generated by unemployment and if the addict does not really intend
to quit using drugs. Thus, the implementation of each treatment program must be
considered with care.
The coordination of preventive measures and community projects run by various
government agencies is crucial. The unification of all prevention programs will almost
certainly rejected by controlling bodies. Hence, this should be put into national policy by
the political parties.
The police must be serious in prosecuting and incarcerating police officials found
guilty of drug offenses. Those who are found guilty have to be penalized severely. The
reward system has to be redesigned so that the police officers in charge of narcotics can
be equally rewarded.
The industrial policy of Thailand should emphasize labor productivity growth, and
not seek further low-cost labor industries. The use of labor requiring extreme endurance
should be discouraged. This conceptual change on labor issues has to be pressed urgently
on employers, and the laws on labor usage in the workplace need to be seriously
The relaxation of penalties for drug offenders by the Correction Department is
strongly opposed. The violation of laws is in large part due to little fear of being
Amphetamine and sports often occur together, so the “Sport Against Drugs”
campaign must be clear in its aims and aware of potential dangers. The idea should be to
encourage stronger relationships between children and parents and more frequent joint
activities among members in the community, not using sports itself as a defense against
Market Clearing Mechanisms
Current retail prices of drugs in Thailand in US dollars are: amphetamines - $2.11
a tablet, heroin - $3.16 per 0.05 gram, marijuana - $1.32 per 0.5 gram, and ecstasy $21.00 per tablet.
The price of drugs (both heroin and amphetamines) is mostly determined by labor
costs. Price does not seem to be very sensitive to the cost of precursors, not does it seem
to be seasonal. The price is dependent on the price of labor, since the distribution channel
for drugs is very labor intensive. At each level of the supply chain, wages are set by
going wages in other businesses, then a risk premium is added. The price of drugs would
fall dramatically if drugs were legalized, not so much because of the risk premium, but
because drugs could be carried in normal channels that do not require personal selling.
The purity of Thai drugs varies from that found in other countries. Amphetamines
seem to be weaker, and heroin stronger than in much of the west. Amphetamines are
used in tablets rather than in “ice” form.
At many levels of the supply chain, small scale is found to be beneficial.
Factories have tended to change toward small-scale temporary facilities that result in little
loss if captured. The transport of drugs in many personal cars or through commercial
transport services make it very hard to detect. Retail sales are through innumerable small
sellers, and even the wholesale level is not concentrated. It is thought that ownership of
the means of production, and of the largest distribution networks are held in fewer hands.
Nevertheless, the drug trade in Thailand is not thought to be dominated by a few players.
We hypothesize that any participant in the drug supply chain who makes sufficient
profits will seek out and obtain two services:
1) Someone to physically handle the drugs.
2) Some sort of protection from inside the police force.
Therefore when we talk about the supply chain we distinguish between the
physical supply chain and the ownership supply chain. It usually will not be possible to
capture participants at the higher end of the supply chain “red-handed” since they do not
handle drugs personally. (Money laundering laws might be a better approach to this
Those that handle the drugs must be trusted by owners, due to the great financial
risk they bear when entrusting drugs to others. Therefore it is thought that a strong
relationship in terms of family, clan, or patronage is likely between owners and drug
handlers. This often shows up in higher arrests of Burmese transporters, etc.
The services that police offer to drug traffickers include:
1) The police can give information about future police actions,
2) The police can “Look the other way” or ignore illegal activities, and
3) The police or politicians or judges can allow the drug agent to “escape” if he is
It is thought that these services are easily available in Thailand for the right price.
The second service is very common at lower levels of the drug supply chain, while the
first and third are probably more common at higher levels.
Amphetamines and heroin are both produced by the same people in Burma, and
the same distribution channel is used for both. We attempt to describe every party who
receives money from illegal drugs along the supply chain.
There is little violence associated with drugs in Thailand. What violence exists is
mostly along the border with Burma, far from Bangkok.
Amphetamines are an affordable drug habit. Evidence from our survey suggests
that both users, and user/sellers can earn enough to buy the drugs they use. Therefore
violence or crime to obtain money is not required.
Heroin is relatively more expensive, more addictive, and less affordable. Heroin
addicts who do not sell the drug, must come up with a substantial amount of extra money
a day, possibly through illegal means.
The wholesale and retail drug markets are dispersed, and there does not appear to
be any violence between rival groups.
Most retailers of drugs sell drugs to finance their own drug habit. It is thought
that although there is some upward mobility in the supply chain, higher level members
probably come from other illegal activities rather than working their way up from the
retail level.
There is likely a great deal of corruption associated with the drug trade. Some
police officials and members of the ONCB are working very hard to suppress drugs, but
on the local level in Bangkok, many police officers are likely receiving payoffs to ignore
illegal drugs. Can incentives be redesigned to curb this behavior? Can we offer police
more than the minimal bribes they accept?
We attempt to find indicative wage rates for all members of the supply chain. At
the retail level, profits are very low since most of potential profit is used for buying drugs
for personal use. Many other participants make very large profits for Thailand, though
compared to western salaries they are not astronomical.
We feel that further research is needed about the illegal drug trade, particularly on
the demand side. Even though supply side strategies have been fairly effective at
minimizing production within Thailand’s borders, there seems to be no shortage of any
drug in Bangkok. The way to continue the significant drug problems Thailand still faces
is through the demand side. Unfortunately this is an area about which very little is
Ammar Siamwalla and Chaiyuth Panyasawatsut (1991) “The role of drug smuggling in
the Thai Economy”, prepared for ONCB
Bangkok Post, (1996-1999) various issues, as cited
Berger, H., and Glind, H. (1999), Children in Prostitution, Pornography and Illicit
Activities, discussion paper 2, cited by Chitradub, 1999.
Chitradub, S. (1999), Rapid Assessment of Child Labor in the Production and Trafficking
of Drugs in Thailand, preliminary Paper, Bangkok.
DDRC/IHR (Drug Dependence Research Center, Institute of Health Research,
Chulalongkorn University) (1998), Thailand Country Report, 20th Meeting of ASEAN
Senior Officials on Drug Matters, 19-22 August 1997, cited in Poshyachinda, V., et al.,
DMS/MPH and DDRC/IHR (Department of Medical Services, Ministry of Public Health
and Drug Dependence Research Center, Institute of Health Research), Statistical Report,
Drug Dependence Information System Treatment Population, Bangkok.
International Narcotic Control Board (1999) Annual Report 1999
Laosunthorn, V., et al. (1993), Crime: Illicit Drug Trafficking (Data Base Study, Drug
Trafficking Methods Disclosed by Inmates), Office of Narcotics Control Board, Bangkok.
McCoy, A.W. (1972), The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, (Thai Version, Bangkok,
The Nation, (1996-1999), various issues, as cited
NCSWT (The National Council on Social Welfare of Thailand Under Royal Patronage)
(1994), Drug Situation and Demand Reduction Activities in Thailand, Bangkok.
National Institute of Health (1998) Epidemiologic Trends in Drug Abuse, by Community
Epidemiology Work Group
Office of the Prime Minister (1998) “Narcotic Drugs Prevention and Suppression Policy,”
Order No. 141/B.E.2541, (
ONCB (Office of Narcotics Control Board) (1991-1999), Thailand Narcotics Annual
Report, Bangkok.
ONCB (July-Aug 1999) “Drug Use Survey among Students in Thailand”
ONCB (Office of Narcotics Control Board) (1997-1998), Opium Cultivation and
Eradication Report for Thailand: 1997-1998, Bangkok.
ONCB (Office of Narcotics Control Board) (1996), A Rapid Survey of Impact from
Heroin Price Escalation on Illicit Retail Distribution and the Users, Bangkok.
ONCB (1995-1996) “A series of street drug study 1995-1996,” Information System
Development Division, internal document
Pasuk Phongpaichit, Sungsidh Piriyarangsan, and Nualnoi Treerat (1998) Guns, Girls,
Gambling, Marijuana: Thailand’s Illegal Economy and Public Policy
Pasuk Phongpaichit and Sungsidh Piriyarangsan (1994) Corruption and Democracy in
Pornpimon Trichote, Wacharin Yongsiri, Suparak Kanchanakhundee and Songrit Ponengern. (1998) “The Studies of the Joint Cooperation against Narcotics in Thailand, Laos,
Burma, China, Cambodia and Vietnam,” Submitted to The Office of Narcotics Control
Poshyachinda, V., Danthamrongkul, V., and Perngparn, U. (1998), The Major Changes in
The 1990s Substance Abuse Scenario in Asean Countries, Journal of Psychiatry
Association of Thailand, 43 (2), pp.136-148.
Poshyachinda, V., and Pittayanond, P. (1985), Illegal Amphetamine Market in Thailand,
Institute of Health Research, Chulalongkorn university, Bangkok.
Sumyai, V. (1999), Heroin: the White Devil, Bangkok.
Sumyai, V. (2000), Thailand Country Report on Amphetamine-type Stimulants,
unpublished paper, Bangkok.
UNDCP (1996), Economic and Social Consequences of Drug Abuse and Illicit
Trafficking, TS.6, Vienna, pp. 23-24.
UNIDCP (2000) World Drug Report, Oxford University Press, forthcoming
UNDCP (1999) Global Illicit Drug Trends
UNIDCP (1997) World Drug Report, Oxford University Press
UNIDCP (1996) Amphetamine-Type Stimulants: A Global Review
Vichai Poshyachinda, Vipa Danthamrongkul, and Usaneya Perngparn (2000) “CountryProfile: Thailand” forthcoming in World Drug Report (2000)
Viroj Sumyai (1999 ), Thailand Country Report on Amphetamine – Type Stimulants
Visuthimach, N. (1998), Drug Consumption Behavior: Review, Situation and Factors to
longer live, Department of Medical Services, Ministry of Public Health, Bangkok.
Appendix I “Illegal Drug Markets Project” Questionnaire
General Information
Who is your most respected person, who you might like to be like?
Respective person/Teacher
Others (specify)__________
2. Do you know the effect of drugs to your health?
Do not know
If you know, where do you get this information? (Follow sequence: rank 1 – 3, 1=highest,
Place of study
Mass Media
Public Advertisement
Private Advertisement
Others (specify)__________
3. Do you understand and pay attention to the bad consequences of drugs?
Strongly understand and pay attention to it
Understand and pay attention to it
Ignore it
4. Which drug is most destructive to the body? (Choose only one choice)
Others (specify)__________
5. Which drug is the easiest one to become addicted to? (Choose only one choice)
Others (specify)__________
6. From which mass media you know the information of drug? (Follow sequence: 1=Most, 4=Least)
7. From which mode of public announcement did you get the information of drug?
(Follow sequence: 1=Most, 3=Least)
Radio news
8. Do you know the penalty from drug abuse?
Do not know
If you know, where did you get this information? (Follow sequence: 3 ranks)
Place of study
Mass Media
Announcement of Government Sector
Announcement of Private Sector
Others (specify)__________
9. After you know the penalty for drug user, how do you feel?
Fear / try to quit
Do not fear / still taking it
Fear / do not quit but beware of the police
10. In the past, how did the police enforce to eliminate drug abuse?
Stronger enforce
Weaker enforce
11. How did you react to the police enforcement on drug abuse?
More consume
Less consume
12. Have anyone in your family addicted, or ever addicted?
If you answer Yes, how many? __________ persons
Father addicts to__________
Mother addicts to__________
Elder sister/brother addicts to__________ Younger sister/brother addicted to__________
Others (specify) __________addicted to__________
13. Do you have close friends who are addicted, or have ever been addicted to illegal drugs?
Do not have
If you answer Yes, to which drug? __________ How many of them? __________persons
14. Do you think that drug addiction can be cured?
Maybe or maybe not, depending on the situation
If it depends on the situation, what is the reason?
15. What do you feel most when you are on the drug?
Fun/ Feel Brave/No Be with Able to work Fashionable
Embarrass the group longer
- Heroin
- Marijuana
- Amphetamine
16. Describe how difficult it is to obtain the following drugs
Widely available
Moderately available
Little availability
- Inhalants
Pattern of Drug Use
How do you describe yourself?
Drug user
Drug user and Drug seller
Age when you first tried various drugs
At the age of__________
At the age of__________
At the age of__________
At the age of__________
Others (specify)__________
At the age of__________
How long have you been addicted to drugs?
Less than 1 year
 1 – 3 years
 3 – 5 years
More than 5 years
What is your reason for using drugs the first time? (Choose only one)
Persuasion by friend
Compelled by someone
Nothing to do
Lack of Warmth
Have pressure/Feeling Impasse
Be deceived
Others (specify)__________
How strong an influence was each of the following factors in using drugs for the first time?
None Little Moderate High Very High
1. Lack of Warmth in Family
2. Drug Publicity
3. Friend Persuasion
4. Imitation of Movie Stars/Singer Stars
5. Unemployment
6. Gambling
7. Cigarettes
8. Night Entertainment
How did you obtain your first drug?
Via friend
Bought myself
Free trial
Others (specify)__________
What other things do you use complimentarily when you use drugs?
Use it alone Combination with (i.e. Alcohol, Cigarette, Other drugs)
combine with__________
combine with__________
combine with__________
combine with__________
- Others (specify)__________
Where do you take drugs?_____________________________________________________
Where do you normally purchase drug?
Location (Specify)______________________________ Municipal____________________
How do you obtain drugs from your seller?
At a specified location
At the seller’s place
Delivery by the seller’s children
Direct sale
What drug did you primarily use before the current treatment?
Others (specify)__________
The price of drugs that you buy?
Heroin__________Baht per__________ Amphetamine__________Baht per__________
Marijuana__________Baht per__________
Inhalants__________Baht per__________
Others (specify)__________ __________Baht per__________
The price of drugs compared to last years price
More expensive
Stay the same
If more expensive or cheaper, what is the previous price?
Heroin__________Baht per__________ Amphetamine__________Baht per__________
Marijuana__________Baht per__________
Inhalants__________Baht per__________
Others (specify)____________________Baht per__________
During the past year, how did you change the frequency of drug use?
More Unchanged
(Last year)
__________per day __________per day
__________per day __________per day
__________per day __________per day
__________per day __________per day
Others(specify) 
__________per day __________per day
How do you take various drugs?
Sniff/Inhale Other (specify)
- Heroin
- Marijuana
- Amphetamine
- Others (specify) 
If you cannot find each of these drugs, what other kinds of drug will you switch to?
- Heroin
If it is no availability, switch to __________________________________
- Marijuana
If it is no availability, switch to__________________________________
- Amphetamine If it is no availability, switch to__________________________________
- Inhalants
If it is no availability, switch to__________________________________
- Others (specify)__________ Switch to__________________________________
How many times have you undergone treatment? (including the present time)
More than 5 times
What is your reason for present treatment?
By self-intention
Poor health
Be forced by parents
Do it for family
Be arrested and brought for Treatment
No money to buy drug
Others (specify)__________
In case that you return to take drug after the treatment, what is your reason?
Return to the old surroundings
Family’s problems persists
Unemployment, have nothing to do
Be loathed by the society
Do not want to quit, take the therapy course because need to recuperate
Others (specify)__________
After the present treatment, will you return to the old surroundings? If not, what will you do?
Return to the old surroundings
Change friends/Isolation from addicted friends
Change community/ Move Out
In your opinion, why the addicts do not want to take a treatment?
Have no money
Poor Treatment
Afraid of Treatment
The police will know
Others (specify)__________
How much do you pay for each drug (while you are addicted) per day?
__________ baht per day
Marijuana __________ baht per day
- Amphetamine_________ baht per day
- Inhalants
__________ baht per day
- Others (specify)__________
_________baht per day
What is your source(s) of money to pay for drug?
Legitimate income
Borrow from friends
From parents
From wife/husband
From relatives
From illegal job
From sex service
From both legal and illegal job
Others (specify)__________
During the latest addiction, how much is your income from each source?
Legitimate income __________baht per month
From parents __________baht per month
From illegal job __________baht per (day/month)
Others (specify)__________ __________baht per month
During the past year, did you receive higher income or lower income and how much?
Personal income __________per month
From parents __________per month
From illegal job __________per month
Others (specify)__________ __________per month
Personal Information
Age: __________years
Primary school
Secondary school
High School
Bachelor Degree
Others (specify)__________
Are you currently studying?
Studying in __________
Do not study
If you do not study, what is your occupation?
Service (Beauty, Singer etc.)
Agricultural (specific)__________
Wage labors
Both legal and illegal jobs
Own business
Illegal job
Government employee
Others (specify)__________
The age you finished school is __________ because of
Resignation because _______________
Discharged because _______________
Marital status
Your father’s occupation
Civil servant
Wage labor
Service / skill labor
both legal and illegal job
Illegal job
Others (specify)__________
Your mother’s occupation
Sales worker
Civil servant
Service (Beauty, Singer etc.)
Wage labor
Both legal and illegal jobs
Illegal job
Others (specify)__________
Parents’ income
Wealthy (more than 50,000 baht per month)
Good (30,000-50,000 baht per month)
Average (10,000 – 30,000 baht per month)
Poor (less than 10,000 baht per month)
Parents’ relationship
No Quarrel
Little quarrel
Quarrel as usual
Violently dispute
Do you have stepmother and/or stepfather?
Have step-mother
Have both step-mother and step-father
Have step-father
Who do you live with?
Do your parents live together?
If not, why?
Divorced or separated
Father died
Mother died
Parents died
Others (specify)__________
14. Number of sisters and brothers (including yourself)
 More than 10
15. What best describes your living place?
Condensed Community Low-cost Condominium
House in the Suburb Townhouse
16. Have you ever been incarcerated?
If yes, how many times?_____________time(s)
First____________________________ Punishment _________________________
Second__________________________ Punishment _________________________
Third___________________________ Punishment _________________________
Date of Interview (DD/MM/YY)_________________________
Start________________ Finish_________________
Name of Interviewer__________________________________
Appendix II Narcotics Control Laws
Legal Affairs Division Office of the Narcotics Control Board
Office of the Prime Minister (Thailand)
Emergency Decree on Controlling the use of Volatile Substances B.E. 2533 (1990)
“Volatile Substances” means chemicals or materials as notified by the Minister
of Public Health and Minister of Industry in the Government Gazette. (section 3)
Lists of Volatile Substances under the Notification of Ministry of Public Health
and Ministry of Industry No. 14 (B.E. 2538) specifying names, categories and containing
quantities are the following:
1) 14 chemicals are Toluene, Acetone, Methyl Ethyl Ketone, Isopropylacetone,
Ethyl Acetate, Cellosolve Acetate, Methyl Acetate, n-Butyl Acetate, sec-Butyl Acetate, nButyl Nitrite, iso-Butyl Nitrite, Butyl Cellosolve, Cellosolve and Methyl Cellosolve
2) 5 materials are thinners, lacquers, Synthetic Organic Adhesives, Natural
Organic Adhesives and Blowing Balloon.
Offences and Punishments under the Emergency Decree
Any producer does not provide 
picture, sign or content on container
or package of Volatile Substances for
the purpose of warning the use of
Volatile Substances as prescribed in
the Ministerial Regulation (section
Any importer before selling does not
provide picture, sign or content on
container or package of Volatile
Substances for the purpose of warning
the use of Volatile Substances as
Regulation (section 13)
Imprisonment for a term of 2 years or
a fine of not exceeding 20,000 Baht
or both (section 22)
Imprisonment for a term of 2 years or
a fine of not exceeding 20,000 Baht
or both (section 22)
Imprisonment of not exceeding one
year or a fine of not exceeding 10,000
Bath or both (section 23)
Imprisonment of not exceeding 2
years or a fine of not exceeding
20,000 Bath or both (section 24)
In case of exceeding 17 years old:
imprisonment of not exceeding 2
years or a fine of not exceeding
20,000 Bath or both (section 24)
and/or transferring him to be treated
(section 28). But if such person
imprisonment of not exceeding one
year or a fine of not exceeding 10,000
Bath or both (section 29)
In case of not exceeding 17 years old:
no punishment, but the court shall
give an admonition or transfer him to
be treated. (section 26)
Imprisonment not exceeding 2 years
or a fine not exceeding 20,000 Bath
or both (section 24)
Sale of Volatile Substances without
picture, sign or content which the
producer or importer provides on
container or package. (section 14)
Sale of Volatile Substances to a
person not exceeding 17 years old
except in case of sale by educational
institute for the purpose of education
(section 15)
Seller, provider or giver of Volatile
Substances to a person whom he
knows or should know that such
person is a Volatile Substances addict
(section 16)
Use of Volatile Substances for the
treatment of the bodily and mental
conditions (section 17)
Inducing, instigating or using 
fraudulent of deceitful means to cause
other person to consume Volatile
Substances (section 18)
Impeding or failing to render facilities 
to the competent officials in entering
the producing, importing, selling or
storing place of Volatile Substances
in order to inspect and seize articles
(section 19)
Imprisonment not exceeding 1 month
or a fine not exceeding 1,000 Bath or
both (section 25)
Psychotropic Substances Act B.E. 2518 (1975)
“Psychotropic Substances” means such a psychotropic substance which is
natural or derived from nature, or synthetic as the Minister notifies in the Government
Gazette. (section 4)
This Act was enacted to control the psychotropic substances. The Act was
directory resulted from the Convention of Psychotropic Substances 1971 of which
Thailand is a member. It comprises of 12 chapters and 119 sections, viz. 1) Psychotropic
Substances Board 2) Application for and issue of licenses concerning psychotropic
substances 3) Duties licensee 4) Duties of pharmacist 5) Fake psychotropic substances,
psychotropic substances not being in conformity with standard 6) Registration of
preparation 7) Advertisement 8) Competent official 9) Suspension and revocation of
licenses 10) Special measures of control 11) International trade 12) Penalties
Psychotropic Substances are classified into 4 categories (section 6(1)) according to
the Notification of the Ministry of Public Health
such as Psilocine, Psilocybine and Tetrahydrocannabi Nol.
such as Fenethylline, Secobarbital, Pemoline, Ephedrine,
Pseudoephedrine and Zolpidem.
such as Amobarbital, Buprenorphine and Cyclobarbital
such as Diazepam, Fenproporex and Chlordiazepoxide
Offences and Punishments under the Psychotropic Substances Act B.E. 2518
Schedule I
Possession or 
Possession or 
utilization in
exceeding that
prescribed by
the Minister
deceiving or
another person
to consume
Schedule II
Schedule III
Schedule IV
Imprisonment of 5 – 20 years 
and a fine of 100,000 –
400,000 Bath (section 89)
Imprisonment not exceeding
5 years and a fine not
exceeding 100,000 Bath
(section 90)
Imprisonment not exceeding 5 years and a fine not exceeding
100,000 Bath (section 90)
Imprisonment of 1 – 5 years  Imprisonment not exceeding
and a fine of 20,000 –
one year of a fine not
100,000 Bath (section 106
exceeding 20,000 Bath of
para. 1)
both (section 106 para. 2)
Imprisonment of 5 – 20 years
and a fine of 100,000 –
400,000 Bath (section 106 bis)
Imprisonment of 1 - 5 years
and a fine of 20,000 - 100,000 Bath (section 106
Imprisonment of 2 – 10 years and a fine of 40,000 – 200,000
Bath (section 106 quarter)
Narcotics Act B.E. 2522 (1979)
“Narcotics” means any form of chemicals or substances which, upon being
consumed whether by taking orally, inhaling, smoking, injecting or by whatever means,
causes physiological or mental effect in a significant manner such as need of continual
increase of dosage, having withdrawal symptoms when deprived of the narcotics, strong
physical and mental need of dosage and the health in general being deteriorated, and also
includes plant or parts of plants which are or give product as narcotics or may be used to
produce narcotics and chemicals used for the production of such narcotics as notified by
the Minister in the Government Gazette, but excludes certain formula of household
medicine under the law on drugs which contain narcotic ingredients. (section 4)
In order to be controlled properly, narcotics are classified into 5 categories
because they are of different danger and medicinal purposes.
Lists of narcotics according to the Notification of the Ministry of Public Health
No. 135 (B.E. 2539) are as follows:
Category I
32 dangerous narcotics such as heroine, amphetamine,
methamphetamine, ecstasy and LSD;
Category II 100 ordinary narcotics such as coca leaf, cocaine, codeine,
concentrate of poppy straw, methadone, morphine, medicinal opium and opium;
Category III narcotics which are in the form of medicinal formula and contain
narcotics of Category II as ingredients;
Category IV 15 chemicals used for producing narcotics of Category I or II such
as acetic anhydride, acetyl chloride, ethylidine diacetate, chlorpseudoephedrine,
ergometrine, ergotamine, isosafrole, lysergic acid, piperonal and safrole;
Category V 4 narcotics which are not included in Category I to IV – i.e.
cannabis, kratom plant, poppy plant and magic mushroom.
Offences and Punishments under the Act
Category I
Category II
or 
possession for
the purpose of
Life imprisonment (section
65 para. 1)
For the purpose of disposal:
death penalty (section 65
para. 2)
Pure substances of 20 grams
or more shall be regarded as
commission for the purpose
of disposal (section 15)
Pure substances of not more
imprisonment of 5 years to
life and a fine of 50,000 –
500,000 Bath (section 66
para. 1)
Pure substances of more
than 100 grams: life
penalty (section 66 para. 2)
Imprisonment of 1-10 years
and a fine of 10,000 –
100,000 Bath (section 68)
In case of morphine, opium
or cocaine: imprisonment of
20 years to life and a fine of
200,000 – 500,000 Bath
(section 68)
Imprisonment of 1 – 10
years and a fine of 10,000 –
100,000 Bath (section 69
In case of morphine, opium
substances of more than 100
grams: imprisonment of 3 –
20 years and a fine of
30,000 – 200,000 Bath. But,
if pure substances of more
imprisonment of 5 years to
life and a fine of 50,000 –
500,000 Bath (section 69
para. 3, para. 4)
Category I
Deceit, threat, 
use of violent
another person
for consumption
another person
for consumption
Category II
Pure substances of less than 
20 grams; imprisonment of
1 10 years and a fine of
10,000 – 100,000 Bath
(section 67)
Pure substances of 20 grams
or more shall be regarded as 
commission for the purpose
of disposal (section 15)
Pure substances of not more
imprisonment not exceeding
5 years and a fine not
exceeding 50,000 Bath
(section 69 para. 1)
Pure substances of more
than 100 grams shall be
regarded as commission for
the purpose of disposal
(section 17)
Imprisonment of 6 months – 10 years and a fine of 5,000 –
10,000 Bath (section 91)
Imprisonment of 1 – 10 years and a fine of 10,000 – 100,000
Bath (section 93)
Imprisonment of 1 – 5 years and a fine of 10,000 – 50,000 Bath
(section 93 bis)
Category III
Possession for
the purpose of
Deceit, threat, 
use of violent
another person
for consumption
Category IV
Imprisonment not exceeding 
3 years or a fine not
exceeding 30,000 Bath or
both (section 70)
Imprisonment not exceeding 
1 year of a fine not
exceeding 10,000 Bath or
both (section 71)
Imprisonment of 1 – 10
years and a fine of 10,000 –
100,000 Bath (section 73)
Imprisonment of 1 – 10
years and a fine of 10,000 –
100,000 Bath (section 73)
Imprisonment of 1 – 10
years and a fine of 10,000 –
100,000 Bath (section 74
para. 2)
 Imprisonment not exceeding
5 years and a fine not
exceeding 50,000 Bath
(section 74)
 Quantity of 10 kg. upwards
shall be regarded as
possession for the purpose
of disposal (section 26 para.
Imprisonment of 1 – 10 years and a fine of 10,000 – 100,000
Bath (section 93)
Category V
 imprisonment of 2 –15 years
and a fine of 20,000 –
150,000 Bath (section 75
para. 1)
Possession for  imprisonment of 2 –15 years
the purpose of
and a fine of 20,000 –
150,000 Bath (section 76
para. 2)
 imprisonment not exceeding
5 years and a fine not
exceeding 50,000 Bath
(section 76 para. 1)
Deceit, threat, 
use of violent
another person
for consumption
another person
for consumption
Kratom Plant
 imprisonment not exceeding
2 years and a fine not
exceeding 20,000 Bath
(section 75 para. 2)
 imprisonment not exceeding
2 years and a fine not
exceeding 20,000 Bath
(section 76 para. 4)
 imprisonment not exceeding
1 year or a fine not
exceeding 10,000 Bath or
both (section 76 para. 3)
 quantity of 10 kg. upwards
shall be regarded as
possession for the purpose
of disposal (section26 para.
imprisonment not exceeding  imprisonment not exceeding
1 year and a fine not
1 month or a fine not
exceeding 10,000 Bath
(section 92 para. 1)
(section 92 para. 2)
imprisonment of 1 – 10 years and a fine of 10,000 – 100,000
Bath (section 93)
imprisonment not exceeding one year and a fine not exceeding
10,000 Bath (section 93 bis para. 2)
Narcotics Control Act B.E. 2519 (1976)
The Narcotics Control Act B.E. 2519 (1976) designates the Narcotics Control
Board (N.C.B.) as central authority for preventing and suppressing narcotics in the
country and also prescribes the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) to have
duties in implementing the resolutions of the N.C.B. and perform some other
administrative functions.
The N.C.B. consists of the Prime Minister as Chairman, Minister of Interior,
Minister of Education, Minister of Public Health, Commissioner-General of the Royal
Thai Police, Director-General of the Customs Department, Attorney-General as exofficio-members, and not more than six other members appointed by the Council of
Ministers, and the Secretary-General of the ONCB as member and secretary. (section 5)
Powers and Duties of the NCB are: (section 13)
 to prepare work plans and measures for preventing and suppressing the
offenders under the laws relating to narcotics;
 to control the investigation, inquiry and prosecution of offences under the laws
relating to narcotics;
 to prepare and implement projects as well as to instruct the Government
agencies concerned to disseminate knowledge in narcotics;
 to control, expedite and co-ordinate the performance of duties of the
Government agencies having the powers and duties in respect of the execution
of the laws relating to narcotics;
 to submit recommendations to the Council of Ministers in order that there may
be the improvement in the performance of official affairs or in the work plans
or projects of the Government agencies having the powers and duties in
respect of the execution of the laws relating to narcotics;
 to co-ordinate and supervise the treatment and healing of narcotic addicts;
 to consider and approve the appointment of competent official for the
execution of this Act.
The N.C.B., Secretary-General, Deputy Secretary-General of the ONCB and
competent officials have the following powers: (section 14)
 to enter any dwelling place, premises or conveyance during the day time
between sunlight and sunset in order to search, seize or attach narcotics
unlawfully possessed or arrest any person where there is a reasonable ground
to suspect that he has committed an offences under the law relating to
narcotics. In the case where there is a reasonable ground to suspect, however,
that there are narcotics unlawfully hidden or the person to be arrested is
hidden in such dwelling place or premises together with a reasonable ground
to believe that should actions not be taken immediately, such narcotics would
be removed or the person in hidden would escape, they shall have the power to
enter during the night time after sunset;
 to search any dwelling place, premises or person in the case where there is a
reasonable ground to suspect that there are narcotics unlawfully hidden therein
or thereon, to seize or attach narcotics or any other property which was
obtained owing to the commission of an offence under the laws relating to
narcotics, or which was used or will be used in the commission of an offence
under the laws relating to narcotics, or which may be used as an evidence;
 to arrest any person who has committed an offence under the laws relating to
 to make an inquiry of the alleged offender in an offence under the laws
relating to narcotics;
 to issue a letter of inquiry to or summon any person or the official of any
Government agency to give statements or to submit any account, document or
material for examination or supplementing the consideration.
Act on Measures for the Supression of Offenders in an Offences relating to
Narcotics B.E. 2534 (1991)
This Act provides the following 3 significant measures for the suppression of
offender in an offence relating to narcotics;
1) Offence of Conspiracy to commit and offence to relating to narcotics
Whoever two or more persons, with manifest intention, agree to commit an
offence relating to narcotics, every such person is said to conspire to commit such offence
and if the offence relating to narcotics has actually been committed on account of the
conspiracy, every such conspirator shall be liable to the penalty imposed for such offence.
(section 8)
2) Asset forfeiture
All the instruments, equipment, conveyances, machinery or any other properties
used in the commission of an offence relating to narcotics or used as accessories for
producing the consequence of the commission of an offence or possessed for use in the
commission of and offence shall be forfeited, irrespective of whether or not any person is
convicted by the judgement. (section 30)
The properties forfeited shall devolve on the Narcotics Control Fund established
for the purpose of narcotics control. (section 31)
3) Extension of jurisdiction to adjudicate
Any person who commits an offence relating to narcotics, despite the fact that the
offence is committed outside the Kingdom, shall be punished in the Kingdom, if it
appears that:
(1) the offender or any accomplice is a Thai person or has a place of residence in
Thailand; or
(2) the offender is an alien and intends its consequence to occur within the
Kingdom or the Thai Government is the injured person; or
(3) the offender is an alien and such act is an offence under the law of the State in
the jurisdiction of which the offence is committed, if such offender has appeared in
the Kingdom and has not been extradited under the law on extradition. (section 5)
According to the Act, the authorities are empowered to seize, restrain or confiscate
the proceeds of drugs trafficking as well as to deal with drug conspirators. The
officials can also pursue the drug barons even if the offence is committed outside
Narcotics Addict Rehabilitation Act B.E. 2534 (1991)
The Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act B.E. 2534 is aimed at laying down
measures in compulsory treating the following alleged offender to recover from narcotic
any person who is alleged to consume or have in possession the narcotics
of category I, II or IV in the quantity prescribed in the Ministerial Regulation and
any person who does not appear to be the alleged offender or to be
prosecuted for other offences punishable with imprisonment or to be imprisoned by
judgement of court
The inquiry official shall transfer that person to the rehabilitation centre within
territorial jurisdiction for identifying whether such alleged offender is a narcotic addict or
Upon admission of the alleged offender, the rehabilitation centre shall:
1) make a record of the offender’s identification
2) identify whether the offender is a narcotic addict
3) report the result of 1) and 2) to the sub-committee of the rehabilitation centre
In case where the sub-committee decides that the offender is not a narcotic addict,
the competent official shall transfer him to the inquiry official. But if the sub-committee
decides otherwise, the competent official shall commit him for rehabilitation for a period
of not more than 6 months. The extension of such period may be made many times but
each extension shall not be longer than 6 months and the total periods shall not exceed 3
When the sub-committee decides that he has recovered from narcotic addiction, it
shall be deemed that he is relieved from the alleged offence. But if the result of
rehabilitation is not satisfactory, the competent official shall retransfer him to the inquiry
official for consideration as to whether or not it is expedient to institute the criminal
proceedings against him. In conducting the trials, the Court may impose upon him less
punishment to any extent than that provided by law for such offence.
Money Laundering Control Act B.E. 2542 (1999)
The Money Laundering Control Act B.E. 2542 which has come into force since
the 20 of August B.E. 2542, comprises 7 chapters and 66 sections, viz. 1) General
Provision 2) Reporting and Identification 3) Money Laundering Control Board
4)Business Transaction Committee 5) Office of the Money Laundering Control 6)
Procedures concerning properties and 7) Penalties
Predicate offences under the Act are 1) narcotics offences 2) trafficking of
children and women 3) cheating and fraud to the public 4) misappropriation or cheating
and fraud by commercial banks or financial institutions 5) malfeasance in office or
judicial office 6) extortion or blackmail by criminal organization and 7) customs evasion
Money laundering offence means:
1) to transfer, receive or convert properties derived directly or indirectly from the
predicate offences, with the aim of either concealing or disguising the illicit origin of
the said properties, or aiding any persons involved in the commission of any of those
offences to evade the legal consequences of his action; or
2) to collaborate in concealing or disguising the genuine nature, origin, location,
disposition, movement or ownership of the properties or right there to derived
directly or indirectly from the predicate offences.
The Act requires the financial institutions, land registration offices and some other
professions to report all transactions that are unusual, suspicious or in excess of a given
amount to the Office of the Money Laundering Control.
Organizations responsible for the execution of this Act include 1) Office of the
Money Laundering Control 2) Business Transaction Committee 3) Office of the
Attorney-General and 4) Court
Whoever commits the money laundering offence shall be punished with
imprisonment of 1-10 years and a fine from 20,000 to 200,000 Bath. In case of juristic
person, he shall be punished with a fine from 20,000 to 1,000,000 Bath.
Narcotics Control Laws of Thailand in Summary
“Narcotics” under the Narcotics control Act B.E. 2519 is broader than “narcotics”
under the Narcotics Act B.E. 2522. According to the Narcotics Control Act, “narcotics”
means narcotics under the law on narcotics, psychotropic substances under the law on
psychotropic substances and volatile substances under the law on controlling the use of
volatile substances, whereas the “narcotics” under the Narcotics Act does not include
psychotropic substances and volatile substances which are separately controlled under the
Psychotropic Substances Act B.E. 2518 and Emergency Decree on Controlling the Use of
Volatile Substances B.E. 2533 respectively. Apart from those, some chemicals which can
be used to produce narcotics are also controlled under the Narcotics Act B.E. 2522 and
Commodities Control Act B.E. 2495.
Psychotropic substances
Volatile substances
Chemicals used Narcotics of category IV
produce Controlled commodities
Narcotics Act B.E. 2522
Psychotropic Substances Act B.E.
Emergency Decree on Controlling the
Use of Volatile Substances B.E. 2533
Narcotics Act B.E. 2522
Commodities Control Act B.E. 2495
Groups of Narcotics Control Laws
1) Law designating powers and duties of the competent official to control narcotics:
 Narcotics Control Act B.E. 2519 (1976)
2) Laws on controlling of drugs:
 Narcotics Act B.E. 2522 (1979)
 Psychotropic Substances Act B.E. 2518 (1975)
 Emergency Decree on Controlling the Use of Volatile Substances B.E. 2533
 Commodities Control Act B.E. 2495 (1952)
3) Laws providing special measures
 Act on Measures for the Suppression of Offenders in an Offence relating to
Narcotics B.E. 2534 (1991)
 Narcotics Addict Rehabilitation Act B.E. 2534 (1991)
 Land Transport Act B.E. 2522 (1979)
Road Traffic Act B.E. 2522 (1979)
Act on Authorizing Naval Officer for the Suppression of Some Offences
Committed by Sea (No.4) B.E. 2534 (1991)
Appendix III
Drug-Related Data
Table 2.1-2.10 are prepared from the Statistical Report, Drug Dependence Information System Treatment
Population, Department of Medical Services, Ministry of Public Health (DMS/MPH) and the Institute of
Health Research, Chulalongkorn University (IHRCU), FY 1994-1998.
Table 2.1: Total Users of Each Drug During the Last 30 Days Before Treatment
Unit: Persons
Heroin No. 4
Note:* main drugs include diazepam, opium, and alcohol .
** the sum of all types of drug exceeds the total number because of double counting from duo drug users.
Table 2.2: Drug First Use Among New Heroin Cases
Heroin No. 4
Table 2.3: Drug First Use Among New Amphetamine Cases
Heroin No. 4
Table 2.4: Reason for Present Treatment for Heroin Dependents
N=26082 N=29488
Self Motivator
Family Coercion
Poor Health
No Money to Purchase
Difficult to Purchase
Unit: persons
Unit: persons
Unit: percent
N=19501 N=20611
Table 2.5: Reason for Present Treatment for Amphetamine Dependents
Unit: percent
Self Motivator
Family Coercion
Poor Health
No Money to Purchase
Difficult to Purchase
Table 2.6: Education Status of drug dependents in the treatment centers
Unit: percent
Education Status
N=31032 N=25668 N=23099 N=25351
Never Attended School
Greater than 12
Non-Formal Education
Note: *In 1998, the classification of education status was rearranged into Never attended School, 01-06, 0709, 10-12, and Greater Than 12 to conform with the new obligation of general education system .
Table 2.7: Average Money Spent on Drug Per Day of Drug Dependents
Heroin Users – New Cases
Amphetamine Users – New Cases
Heroin Users – Re Entry
Amphetamine Users – Re Entry
Unit: Baht/Day
Table 2.8: Daily Consumption Frequency Index of Principal Drug Use Per Day
Heroin Users – New Cases
Amphetamine Users – New Cases
Heroin Users – Re Entry
Amphetamine Users – Re Entry
Note: Scale 1 = Habitual Use, Scale 2 = One Time Use, Scale 3 = 2-3 Times,
Scale 4 = More Than 3 Times
Table 2.9: Pattern of Drug Use During the Last 30 Days
Heroin Users – New Cases
- use one drug
- use more than one drug
Amphetamine Users – New Cases
- use one drug
- use more than one drug
Heroin Users – Re Entry
- use one drug
- use more than one drug
Amphetamine Users – Re Entry
- use one drug
- use more than one drug
Table 2.10: Number of Drug Patients in Bangkok Metropolis Reported by the treatment and rehabilitation
Centers Adding the Number from Thanyarak Hospital
Unit: persons
Type of Treatment Center
Public Hospital
Private Hospital
Public Health Center
17,867 14,777
Private Clinic
33,364 28,316
Source: Readjusted from Statistical Report FY 1994-1998.
Table 2.11-2.15 are compiled by author from various sources.
Table 2.11: Comparison of the Unit cost of treatment and rehabilitation on various types of facilities and
unit cost of drug-offender imprisonment
unit: baht/person
Treatment Center/ Prison
Thanyarak Hospital
237,078 140,392
Duang Prateep Foundation
Public Health Center
Table 2.12: Comparison of the annual cost of major treatment and rehabilitation centers
Unit: million baht
Treatment Center/ Prison
Thanyarak Hospital
33.932 31.714
Duang Prateep Foundation
Public Health Center
Table 2.13: Annual cost of treatment and rehabilitation centers (1)
Unit: million baht
Treatment Center
Public Hospital
Private Hospital
Public Health Center
Private Clinic
Note*: The annual cost of treatment and rehabilitation in 1994 is underestimated by the costs of 15 public
health centers and 9 private clinics and in 1997 is overestimated because a new building at Thanyarak
overstated the cost per client in each public hospital.
Table 2.14: Annual Costs of Treatment and Rehabilitation in Bangkok Metropolis (2)
(Units: Unit Cost and Number of Patients in baht, Total Cost in million baht)
Average unit cost of 2,846
Number of Patients
33,364 28,316
Total Cost*
Note: *average unit cost of treatment from public hospital and public health center times total number of
Table 2.15: Social Costs from Drug Addiction in the Bangkok Metropolis
Unit: million baht
and 66.9
Note:*The calculation excludes personal costs of treatment: 1,500-2,000 baht per person
for Thanyarak Hospital, 800 baht for BMA health center, and more than 10,000 baht for
private hospital.