According to the survey conducted in March 2013 by Prince of Songkla University, Pattani Campus, 70 percent of the respondents in the three southern border provinces said that the drug problem came first among the issues they wanted the Government to tackle for them most. Coming second was the unemployment problem, at 49 percent, followed by unrest, at 30 percent, and poverty, at 26 percent.
Based on the results of this survey, drug use topped the list of ''most serious problems'' in the eyes of local villagers. It ranked above the unrest situation, which has continued since January 2004. Some officials draw links between drug trafficking and violent incidents. They quoted statistics that only 20 percent of the incidents in the deep South are caused by perpetrators of violence and around 80 percent are other crimes.
Acts of violence are believed to contribute to the rapid spread of narcotics, making the drug problem in the southern border provinces more severe than in other parts of the country. Youths continue to be the main target of the drug trade.
Aware of the drug issue, the Fourth Army Area Command’s Internal Security Operations Command, Forward, sees the need to step up the anti-drug campaign. The Government’s policy on drugs seeks to crack down on narcotic drugs and penalize producers, dealers, influential persons, and wrongdoers. Drug addicts will be regarded as patients who should receive treatment, so that they will once again be productive members of society.
According to the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, the drug problem in the southern border provinces has become critical, with the spread of narcotics from a red-veined leaf, called krathom (Mitragyna speciosa), strong cough medicine, amphetamines, and marijuana. Many youths aged 14 and over who stay out of the education system have experienced narcotics and are at great risk of being victimized and used by trouble-makers who incite unrest in the area.
Since the spread of drugs is linked to acts of violence, the Fourth Army Area Command’s Internal Security Operations Command, Forward, has worked with the Office of the Narcotics Control Board in addressing the issue since 2007. They came up with a project called “Jalannanbaru,” aimed at salvaging young people from addiction and putting them back onto a proper path in life. The project is not a drug treatment program, but a training and awareness course to enable youth to be aware of the dangers of drugs. It is intended to turn them away from the hazards and instill in them a better purpose in life, with religious principles as the tools. Trainees are urged to set up their clubs in communities to watch out for drugs and spread their knowledge further.
A report from the Fourth Army Area Command’s Internal Security Operations Command, Forward, shows that most people in the three southern border provinces are satisfied with the anti-drug program, which has proved an effective way to prevent young people from the drug menace. More than 20,000 youths have so far participated in this program, and 4,000 religious leaders have joined the authorities in the anti-drug efforts.
The Fourth Army Area Command’s Internal Security Operations Command, Forward, is determined to proceed with its plan to fight the drug issue, in an effort to create lasting peace in the deep South of Thailand.