Sunday, July 21, 2024

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HomeVolume 28Decriminalisation on our doorstep

Decriminalisation on our doorstep


I’ve visited Thailand from Alice Springs on many occasions over the last half century.

I have come to enjoy this land of elephants, tigers, muay-thai and excellent food.

In 2015 I stayed for several months to have my teeth improved, it was coined dental tourism in the media. Dental tourism, sex tourism, inexpensive accomodation, sand and surf where the main ingredients of the Thai tourist trade, then last year the Thai government decriminalised cannabis.

A plethora of cannabis boutiques began shooting up like mushrooms after a heavy downpour. In shopping malls, popular tourist localities and mobile vendors working the well worn promenades day and night.

The Thai police and government are much happier with the situation, making much more money from licences (for vendors) and tax, much more than they ever received from busting harmless people.

Now the money they spent on cannabis seizure goes towards the illegal methamphetamine trade that is the biggest drug problem in the Kingdom.

My friend Nidder who is a tattoo artist by trade has opened a cannabis and tattoo bar in Hua Hin.

I say bar even though his top shelf has no single malts, just top grade weed.

He does sell beer and other alcohol but he doesn’t encourage it, as he says people get nasty when they get drunk but no-one is aggressive when they are stoned. He quotes Bob Marley: “Herb is the healing of a nation, alcohol is the destruction.”

Nidder’s partner Dada makes many varied drinks containing cannabis and other healthy herbs, one doesn’t have to smoke to get stoned.

This is the way of a Buddhist country, there is very little theft and no vandalism as I found out when I saw a wall with a row of empty beer bottles stuck to the top.

Not one bottle had been broken in the five years they had been there. I asked the locals how was this possible they told me: “We have very little theft and no vandalism because we have nasty gaols with bad food and regular beatings everybody scared.” What a powerful deterrent, I thought.

Thailand is a modern country with all the trappings of well developed countries.

The Thais are a very happy and generous people. You are welcomed with open arms and it’s not just because you are spending money. Seeing that you enjoy being in their country gives them great pride and happiness.

It is a country of great diversity and honourable people, in Asia, on our doorstep.

PHOTO at top: Beer bottles not smashed.


  1. You forgot to mention the gun violence, the road toll. The violence against women.
    I lived, and worked legally, there for 12 years. It is a great country. But not the Utopia you spread in this article.
    Living somewhere for many years gives you a much better understanding of that area.
    This article does not talk about culture. The resentment of the Lanna people and Issan people against the Thai people.
    The amount of people killed due to political activism based on class differences. Just ask the red shirts.
    Although we have problems in Alice they are no where near those of Phitsonaluk. A provincial town in central northern Thailand.
    Hua Hin is a rich tourist area. It is designed for tourists. It is not typical Thailand. Really bad choice to make a point about vandalism. It is known as the place where the late King would holiday so it holds a special place in Thai people’s hearts.

  2. “We have very little theft and no vandalism because we have nasty gaols with bad food and regular beatings everybody scared.” What a powerful deterrent, I thought.
    Yep, that generlly works.

  3. Dont get fooled about the deterant ability of cruel goals. If there is inequality, injustice and the active supression of one group by another you will get crime no matter how bad the goals are, or even if there is a death penalty.

  4. We should not be looking at the Thai model for civil society as a point of inspiration for how we run things in Australia.
    Not only does Thailand “have nasty gaols with bad food and regular beatings,” it also has death squads to hunt down dissidents at home and abroad, draconian lese-majeste laws that are used arbitrarily to arrest people for crimes as small as sharing anti-royal Facebook posts, and a racially tiered society where indigenous “hill tribe” people are restricted to living within the military controlled border zones of the country.
    Thailand has frequently turned to violence in the past to control “undesirable” people in society. The “beloved” past king for example signed the order for the Thammasat massacre, that led to anywhere up to 500+ people dead.
    During the Thaksin years the war on drugs involved the government extermination of at least 2,500 people in the name of public order, and more recently, in 2010, the red shirt protest was put down using bullets, and the exiled leaders of the protest in the years since keep turning up dead in barrels along the Mekong.
    I remember the curfews in the city I was in in 2010, and hearing the gun battles as the government did their thing. The safety of Thai streets has as much to do with government oppression as it does Buddhist ideology. This is not admirable, and is something Australia should avoid emulating at all costs.
    I’m all for legalising marijuana in this country, but the Thai model is not the one we should be following. The government lifted restrictions almost overnight in the Kingdom, leading to a poorly regulated free for all which they are now struggling to rein in again.
    I agree Thailand is a beautiful country with many lovely people in it, but it is no utopia, and certainly not somewhere we should be looking to for guidance.
    I notice all the comments on here are quite critical of your take on Thai society, in fact the previous version of this comment by me was rather vitriolic because I was quite enraged to see such a flippant comment about the power of deterrence a dysfunctional gaol system gives.
    If your opinion piece was written in Thailand you wouldn’t even get these critical replies, because readers like me would be afraid of being arrested for lese-majeste.
    In fact I am still not willing to critique the Thai government online with my name listed, as I frequently work in the country and even foreigners have ended up in Thai gaol for lese-majeste matters.

    [The towns I stayed at are tourist towns as is Alice Springs except that with the social decline, vandalism and theft we aren’t getting many tourists passing through and businesses are closing down which is bringing the town to its knees.
    A deterrent like they have in Thailand would serve us well. I don’t know if “Anti-junta” is from Alice Springs or not. If they have lived here for 50 years like I have and seen the changes they would know that something different needs to be done than we have at this time.
    Dave Oakes, Reporter.]


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