Kids as young as nine smoke cannabis on Pattaya Beach, sparking outrage
Two children were photographed in Thailand smoking pot from a bamboo bong on Pattaya Beach, reigniting debate over the country’s controversial decision to decriminalise the drug.
The photos were posted to Facebook on Nov 26 by Kirdtiwat Matrong, who told news site The Thaiger that he struck up a conversation with the boys and discovered they were only nine and 10 years old.
He said an unidentified 25-year-old man was also with them, chopping cannabis and handing it over to the boys to smoke, The Pattaya News reported.
When Kirdtiwat warned the children against the use of drugs, one of the boys reportedly replied: "I'm not scared of you. My dad is a soldier."
Sharing pictures of the encounter online, Kirdtiwat wrote: "I understand that now ganja (cannabis) is free, but shouldn’t we have boundaries? Don’t ignore it. I pity these children. These kids (have) a long future ahead of them."
Many social media users criticised the lack of parental and police supervision that have allowed young children to smoke weed so openly.
Others blamed it on the accessibility of the drug, which can be easily bought from vans and street vendors after Thailand decriminalised cannabis nationwide in June, making it the first country in Asia and third in the world to drop cannabis from its list of narcotics.
However, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 20 to sell or use the drug.
Some people condemned Thailand's Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who was the main proponent behind cannabis liberalisation.
One online user wrote: "I don’t want to live here anymore. Whoever proposed the marijuana policy must take responsibility for society."
Another commented: "Send this to Anutin to show what he accomplished."
Responding to the viral images, Mr Anutin said on Dec 3 that he believes the pictures were staged to discredit the Bhumjaithai Party that he leads and its policy to decriminalise cannabis, Thai PBS World reported.
He also questioned how a nine-year-old boy could afford to buy the pipe and weed.