#trending: Photos of kids as young as 9 smoking cannabis on Pattaya Beach spark outrage
- Photographs of nine-year-old and 10-year-old boys smoking pot openly along Pattaya beach in Thailand have gone viral, sparking outrage online
- Many social media users blamed it on the drug's accessibility after Thailand decriminalised the sale of cannabis in June
- People also faulted the country's health minister, who has come out to claim that the pictures were staged to discredit his political party
CHON BURI, THAILAND — Furore over the decriminalisation of the use of cannabis in Thailand was reignited recently after photographs of young children smoking pot from a bamboo bong on Pattaya Beach went viral on social media.
The photos were posted to Facebook on Nov 26 by a 35-year-old who goes by the user name of "Kirdtiwat Matrong". He encountered the three boys while he was on his way to watch a fireworks display in Pattaya.
Digital news site The Thaiger reported that Kirdtiwat thought the children were just playing at first, but realised two of them were smoking marijuana as he approached the group.
Striking up a conversation with the boys, Kirdtiwat discovered that they were only nine and 10 years old.
He stated that an unidentified 25-year-old man was also with the group, 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."
The concerned citizen later reported the matter to the authorities, saying it was damaging to both the children’s health, as well as the country’s tourism industry.
Sharing pictures of the encounter online with the hashtag #HasOurCountryGoneTooFar?, 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 allowed the 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 in the country.
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."
Someone remarked: "This is medical marijuana for you. It ruins society."
HEALTH MINISTER RESPONDS
Responding to the viral images, Mr Anutin said last Saturday (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.
Various Thai media reported that the 10-year-old boy involved was escorted back to a childcare centre in Chon Buri province last Friday by the police in Pattaya and a social worker.
The boy, whose parents are separated, had been placed in the centre some time ago by his grandmother, in the hope that it could help correct his behaviour. However, he managed to escape and joined other street children in Pattaya.