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Thursday, 8 February, 2001, 14:39 GMT
Thai students in grip of 'crazy drug'
Soldiers on border
The army has been chasing drug runners on the Burma border
By Simon Ingram in Bangkok

Education authorities in Thailand have reported an alarming increase in drug-related offences among schoolchildren, some as young as 10 years old.

A report by the National Primary Education Commission (NPEC) said in 1999, there were more than 660,000 cases of drug-related offences by students - either as users, pushers or addicts.

Tip of the iceberg: A Bangkok police haul of methamphetamine
Tip of the iceberg: A Bangkok police haul of methamphetamine
More than 80,000 of these cases involved primary school children.

The NPEC described the figures as extremely alarming - especially as they come during concerted efforts to reverse the trend.

Officials for the United Nations Drug Control Programme say the figures underline the failure of authorities to control the spread of a popular form of amphetamine, known locally as "Ya Ba" - or crazy drug.

Security issue

The Ya Ba phenomenon has been described as Thailand's number one national security issue and the NPEC's report explains why.

Random urine tests are performed on Thai students
Random urine tests are performed on Thai students
It confirms that a cheap form of amphetamine being produced in industrial quantities in Thailand and across the border in Burma is taking a stranglehold on the young people of this country.

It also says that efforts to halt its spread are failing.

Of particular alarm to the authorities is the large number of offences among children below the age of 12.

In numerous cases, students sell Ya Ba pills to their classmates in order to pay for their own habit.

Staying up all night

A drug which first gained popularity in the 1980's among long distance lorry drivers and sex workers has clear appeal for the young.

An ethnic Burmese settlement where it is believed illegal drugs are manufactured
An ethnic Burmese settlement where it is believed illegal drugs are manufactured
Students say it let them stay up all night, either to study for exams or to enjoy the western-style social life that has become popular among middle-class youth.

But the rapidly growing populations in juvenile detention centres are stark testimony of Ya Ba's potential hazards.

While urine testing programmes in schools and other measures seem incapable of halting demand for the drug, equally the army has found it impossible to choke-off the flood Ya Ba pills being smuggled into the country from Burma.

The government has put pressure on Rangoon to cooperate, so far to little avail.

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See also:

13 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Thailand battles drug factories menace
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Thai jail swap investigated
24 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Thailand blames Burma for drugs rise
21 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Thais shut down online pharmacies
19 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Counting the cost of crime
30 Jul 99 | Asia-Pacific
Thais shoot to kill
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UN concerned over drugs in Asia
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