Pol Sen Sgt Maj Thanawat Choosom’s tragic death at 7.33 on Saturday morning at the PTT gasoline station on the Chaweng Lake road appears to be yet another waste of human life due to the continuing battle Thailand is waging with the ‘crazy drug” Yaba.
Pol Sen Sgt Maj Thanawat Choosom and his colleague Pol Sgt Maj Pornthep Pongsanuwat were called to the PTT station when Kosit Chaipet, 25, apparently under the influence on drugs, went berserk on the forecourt, threatening the pump attendants with a knife. The two officers tried to restrain the man who stabbed Pol Sen Sgt Maj Thanawat in the abdomen with a knife,grabbed his pistol, and shot him dead with three shots to the head. The man then fled to his home. During his attempt to capture the man at his home Pol Sgt Maj Pornthep suffered a stab wound to his chest and was rushed to hospital.
Reinforcements arrived to arrest the man who has been detained and charged with murder. As he was bundled into the back of a pickup truck he was seen wai-ing his father and uncle asking for forgiveness.
Yaba has been responsible for many needless deaths and violent behavior in Thailand. This ‘crazy drug’ was originally named “Ya Ma” meaning horse medicine. It was designed for horses in Burmese Shan provinces to give them strength when pulling carts up steep hills.
In India Yaba is called “bhul bhuliya” and in Indonesia and the Philippines it is called shabu. Here in Thailand it is sometimes referred to as “chocalee” as the pill leaves a sweet taste in the mouth.
The drug is typically produced in pill form, although there are many different versions. The pills are roughly 6mm in diameter, red, orange or green and can easily pass of as sweets when being transported. Most pills are smoked on the aluminum foil found in cigarette packets through a straw, although simply swallowing the pill is also common. When Yaba is ingested in this way the effects can last up to sixteen hours, where as smoking the drug only intoxicates the user for one to three hours and the effect is far less intense.
The strength of the drug varies depending on the strength of its active ingredient Caffine and Methamphetamine and users may have difficulty sleeping for up to twenty four hours after the effects of the drug wear off.
The demographic that tend to use Yaba are working males between sixteen and forty years of age, although it is widespread among both female and male prostitutes in Thailand and Cambodia.
The largest producer of methamphetamine in the world is Myanmar, which is where the majority of the drug found in Thailand is made, particularly in the Golden Triangle.
The drug, which was often sold at gasoline stations to Thai long distance lorry drivers, was outlawed by the Thai Government in 1970, after many horrific accidents were caused by truckers using the drug to stay awake. Widespread use was also curtailed after deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatras 2003 campaign to eliminate drug trafficking in Thailand and use of the drug by lorry and bus drivers is far less common than it was in the 80’s.
The Government crackdown has had a huge effect on the price of Yaba that once could be obtained for as little as ten baht a pill. But even at its current price, of between two hundred and fifty to four hundred and fifty baht a pill, it is still popular among party goers.
Methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug and users often need five to ten pills a day to satisfy their addiction. The effects of the drug include irritability, anxiety, paranoia, confusion, aggression, tremors and insomnia. The drug can trigger violent behavior and psychiatric disorders have been associated with its use.
This short 2009 documentary highlights the Yaba crisis in South East Asia
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