Muslims Cannot Drink Alcohol. However Drugs Are A-Okay
Using everything from cow dung fumes to Coca-Cola mixed with mosquito coil ash, teenagers in southern Thailand are intent on getting high at any cost. Methamphetamines are also readily available, with "yaaba", as it is known, sold in primary schools for 25 baht a tablet in the south. "The yaaba epidemic is the most serious problem in the southern communities," said Dr Srisompob Jitpiromsri, a political scientist at a southern Thailand university. Dr Srisompob interviewed 150 prisoners jailed for drug crimes, both consumers and traders, to determine how the recent epidemic had developed. "At first, it was just for fun," the prisoners told him. "Muslims cannot drink alcohol, they have to avoid it. But when you use codeine and kratom and mix it with Coke and get 'drunk', this is not a sin."Dr Srisompob said local leaders knew about the drug problem but were unable to stop it. Some claim 25 to 30 per cent of teenagers in the villages of Thailand's three southern provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat are using yaaba. Others put the number even higher. The inexpensive kratom leaf, from a native plant, is fuelling the current epidemic, Dr Srisompob said. Traditionally it was used by rubber tappers to give them energy; children now boil the kratom leaves to mix with Coca-Cola and sometimes codeine. "At first, I thought Coke is a really popular drink here," said Abdulrahman Abdulsamad, headmaster of an Islamic school in Bajo, Narathiwat. Then he realised. Teenagers also used ash from mosquito coils as a mixer. Putting fresh cow dung in a plastic bag and inhaling the fumes was another way to get high, he said. "I talk about it a lot with the students," Mr Abdulrahman said. "Even between classes I preach about it, the students get bored with me." Hama Mayuni, a social worker in Narathiwat, said drug use was rampant, even in primary schools."With the unemployment people started to take drugs," said Mr Hama. "Even in the private Islamic schools." He said premium yaaba sold for 300 baht a tablet but in primary schools low-grade tablets sold for 25 baht. "If you don't have yaaba you use mosquito coils," he said. Mr Hama accused local police of involvement in the drugs trade. "How can you stop it when the police are involved?" he said. "It's better to keep silent. If I talk about it, I will be in danger." In his research, Dr Srisompob looked for connections between drug users and the insurgent activities. He found no direct link, but suggested drug takers aged 15 to 24 were likely to be unemployed, have low self-esteem and dislike Thai officials.