Thai PM Srettha vows crackdown on cannabis trade, labelling it as a massive threat to the kingdom. Calls for the return of jail time. Exclusive interview details on France 24 as Mr Srettha gives key insights into his role as Prime Minister and his government’s plans.

In a revealing interview with France 24 aired in the last few days, the Thai Prime Minister spoke in English. In a wide-ranging to and fro with the international French news channel’s correspondent in Bangkok, Matt Hunt, the Prime Minister gave a revealing insight into his views on the future of cannabis in Thailand and an exchange with French President Emmanuel Macron over the real danger posed to world peace by Russia. During the interview, Mr Srettha made it clear that Thailand will stamp out the current freewheeling liberal atmosphere at street level regarding the sale and consumption of cannabis or marijuana. Through a number of emphatic statements, Mr Srettha described the trade as highly damaging to the country and certainly not a positive for the kingdom’s economy at all. He also appeared to countenance the return of prison sentences for those in the trade.

Prime Minister Srettha’s interview with France 24’s Bangkok correspondent, Matt Hunt, was broadcast this week. It was previously recorded in Chiang Mai. In it, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, in a slow, measured and humble voice, opened up to the interviewer. It was a frank exchange. He made his negative views on Cannabis crystal clear but also demonstrated the importance of meeting world leaders. The PM additionally highlighted Thailand’s key role as a mediator between the superpowers in Asia amid roiling tensions.

Thai PM Srettha Thavisin strongly criticised the current status of cannabis in the kingdom. It came in an interview broadcast in the last few days on a French international news channel. The prime minister gave the interview in English.

Indeed, the PM went further and described the current cannabis regime as a danger to the country.

The interview was recorded last week in Chiang Mai. The interviewer was France 24’s Matt Hunt. The PM certainly did not pull any punches. 

France 24 interviewer taken aback by the PM’s answer. He wanted to know what the implications for the ‘massive business of legal marijuana in Thailand’ were

At length, he was questioned by Mr Hunt about the proposed new law being drafted by the Ministry of Public Health. Mr Hunt asked if this would impact the ‘massive business of legal marijuana in Thailand.’ 

‘I don’t think there’s a massive business at the moment. I think the massive result from legalising it is going to be a negative massive repercussion to the people of Thailand,’ Mr Strettha countered.

Previously in the interview, Mr Srettha additionally described the current marijuana situation as a negative for Thailand’s economy.

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In 2022, Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, then Minister of Public Health, removed marijuana as a scheduled illegal narcotic. Overnight, the drug could not be properly policed in Thailand.

Mr Anutin is currently the Minister of the Interior in Mr Srettha’s government.

Free, liberalised marijuana unleashed by previous Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul, now Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior

Since then, there has been a marijuana free-for-all with thousands of shops and cafés throughout Thailand retailing the drug.

At the same time, clinical studies in Thailand, Europe and the United States have shown negative health side effects of cannabis. These have been in respect of both mental and physical health among regular users.

Certainly, this is the firm opinion of thousands of medics in Thailand. Since 2022, they have rushed to protest the government’s liberalisation of the drug.

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Cannabis was effectively legalised in 2022 in Thailand. It came as a complete shock to the medical community and besides, the police force.

Minister of Public Health promises recreational marijuana use will no longer be tolerated. It certainly will not be allowed to be retailed for that purpose

The current health minister, Dr Cholnan Srikaew, has vowed to recriminalize recreational marijuana. Dr Cholnan is a Pheu Thai minister and the former leader of the party.

Mr Hunt had asked the prime minister about the proposed new law currently being perfected by Dr Cholnan.

In brief, the new provision will make recreational use of cannabis illegal again. The plan is to require evidence or medical certification of a clinical need. 

Thereafter, there will still be other limits or conditions. Undoubtedly, what is being proposed will remove neon cannabis signs and cafés from Thailand’s thoroughfares.

Firstly, Mr Hunt asked Mr Srettha about the economic implications.

‘Cannabis was surprisingly legalised in 2022 in Thailand. The health minister has pledged to recriminalize recreational marijuana. It’s a huge business today, though. So how do you plan to do that without harming the economy?’

In response, the Prime Minister suggested that cannabis was an economic impediment to Thailand. He strongly endorsed the new proposed law.

‘Harming the economy is a strong word. I don’t think it would harm the economy because by legalising cannabis, I think that’s very harmful to the economy. The health ministry is on the right track in doing that.’

Prime Minister Srettha suggests a plan to bring back prison time for abuse of cannabis depending on the quantity involved and after a transition period

Mr Srettha also confirmed that he still supported prison time for some people involved with the cannabis trade. 

However, he suggested that it would depend on the amount. Similarly, he also suggested a transitory period to a new cannabis regime where recreational use is strictly prohibited

‘Depending on the law, you know, the amount and the transition period from being illegal, legal and then illegal again,’ he replied. This was when asked if people should be jailed for using or possessing the drug.

Srettha revealed he had an eye-opening exchange with President Macron during a visit to Paris this month about the threat posed by Russia’s Vladimir Putin

Another key takeaway from the interview was Mr Strettha’s account of a frank talk with French President Emmanuel Macron. This took place at the Élysée Palace in Paris on Monday, March 11th. 

The French President told Mr Srettha that, undoubtedly, Russian President Vladimir Putin represented a grave threat to Europe and world peace.

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‘Obviously, the hottest topic was Ukraine and Russia. Just before I met with him, he made a bold statement regarding ground troops, things like that. So I said, hey, Mr President, it’s really causing some noises. I mean to think that you are going to take an aggressive role. He smiled and he said he believed that Putin would not stop. That’s what he said. But I did not agree with that. I think he wouldn’t dare move forward to invade another nation. But obviously, I’m not there. We’re not part of the conflict. Thailand is far removed and we are a neutral country.’ 

PM tells France 24 the previous government tended to neglect the country’s economy. His government has identified an urgent need to boost investment

In the exclusive interview with the France 24 news channel, Prime Minister Settha Thavisin discussed various pressing issues facing Thailand. Consequently, the topics ranged from economic policies to political stability.

The Prime Minister underscored the urgency of stimulating the economy as a top priority for his government’s agenda. He expressed concerns about the economic neglect he perceived in the previous administration’s approach.

However, he was somewhat coy in saying this.

‘In my view, the economic agenda has been, I’ll be careful when I say this, neglected a little bit. Okay, so during the formation of the government we, the team felt that the most important thing during the first couple of months of my administration. We should focus on the economic stimulus package. Together with setting up the long-term plan, like getting in foreign investment from various countries.’

In short, the importance of long-term planning. At length, Mr Srettha emphasised the need for investment promotion. In particular, from key global players such as the United States and China.

Closer ties to be forged with France with a visit of top business leaders led by the French President in May. France is one of Thailand’s oldest allies

During that official visit to France earlier in March, Mr Srettha engaged in wide-ranging discussions with President Emmanuel Macron.

In short, they emphasised the longstanding trade relationship between Thailand and France.

Unquestionably, the biggest upshot was President Macron’s support for Thai passport holders to be given free visa access to the European Union’s Schengen zone.

‘We talked a lot about, obviously, we talked about the relationship between Thailand and France of over 300 years. One of our longest trading partners. He supported the Schengen Free, when Thais go to a European nation, no visa,’ Mr Srettha explained  

He revealed plans for a forthcoming visit to France in May. This will be aimed at facilitating meetings between Thai and French business leaders to explore investment opportunities.

Srettha says he must be careful to learn from previous governments and did not hold back on acknowledging the ongoing danger in Thailand of a coup d’état

Regarding concerns over political instability and potential coups, Mr Srettha adopted a pragmatic stance. Certainly, Mr Hunt reminded the PM of the kingdom’s propensity for coup d’états.

He told Mr Hunt that efforts to move Thailand towards full and rooted democracy would extend beyond one election. He said it was a process.

‘But again, the process, the changing process, cannot be done within one election. Like how many coups do we have?’ he asked the interviewer.

Mr Hunt replied: ‘Since 1932, Thailand has had 12 coups and 20 constitutions. Several former prime ministers were overthrown by the army. Are you worried that there could be another coup or that you could be overthrown?

‘I can’t worry about a thing that I have no control over, you know, because I think I’m focusing on what I have control of. All right. Of course, I learned from some people or mistakes by the previous governments. But my goal is very clearly to make the life of Thai people better.’

Mr Srettha’s focus in discussing Myanmar was on the humanitarian needs of refugees. He did not expand on the broader terms of what is already a civil war

On the humanitarian front, Srettha affirmed Thailand’s willingness to provide assistance to Myanmar.

He also underlined the need to address existing immigrant populations within Thailand. 

In addition, he explained Thailand’s unique position in relation to its Western neighbour.

‘Because of our near full employment status, unemployment in Thailand has been less than 1%. There are a lot of workers coming from Cambodia and Myanmar already. We have a 2,000-kilometre borderline with Myanmar.’ 

Notwithstanding this, Mr Strettha said he hoped that a civil war could be prevented.

However, at this time, most independent analysts now agree that not only is Myanmar or Burma engaged in a bloody civil war but that the military junta there is losing its grip on the administration of the country.

Indeed, it is increasingly likely that it will not win this struggle and will be overthrown. 

Thai government still engages with the reviled junta regime despite losing its grip on power to the National Unity Government, which claims legitimacy

In truth, the junta is facing an army of both experienced militias and large swathes of the civilian population. Many normal people have taken up arms to fight tyranny after the February 2021 coup d’état.

Previously, Bangkok has been accused of propping up the junta regime.

Thailand’s new government and Minister of Foreign Affairs Parnpree Bahiddha-Nu-Kara have been more hands-off. However, it certainly has not supported the National Unity Government which claims to be the legitimate government of Burma.

These claims are based on the fact that its components include MPs and elected representatives returned in the November 2020 General Election.

This poll, a damning defeat for a military-backed party, triggered the coup months later.

Outgoing Foreign Minister defends his two days of regional dialogue with Myanmar held in Pattaya

Indeed, the government in Bangkok still engages with the reviled junta regime in Nay Pyi Taw, the artificial Myanmar capital.

Prime Minister highlights Thailand’s role as a mediator

The PM, speaking in a cautious but relaxed style, disclosed discussions with key geopolitical players. 

These included discreet talks in Bangkok between US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Mr Srettha also touched on Thailand’s role in mediating conflicts and preventing political escalation.

The Prime Minister has not been afraid to comment on the danger posed to Asia by escalating tensions between the United States and China.

On a recent trip to Japan, he appeared not afraid to grasp that nettle. In particular the dispute over Taiwan and the South China Sea.

Srettha warns of military conflict over rising South China Sea disputes with Beijing including Taiwan

Mr Srettha described the recent dialogue between the two superpower representatives facilitated by the kingdom as initially ‘hush hush’. In short, it highlighted Thailand’s key role as an international mediator.

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