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A woman takes a picture of a cannabis flower to celebrate its legalisation in Thailand earlier this month. Photo: AFP

Bring cannabis to Indonesia and you could face death penalty, Thai embassy tells tourists

  • Thailand became the first Asian nation to decriminalise cannabis earlier this month – but possession still carries heavy penalties elsewhere in the region
  • Bangkok’s embassy in Indonesia warned Thai tourists they could face the death penalty if caught. Malaysia, meanwhile, stepped up inspections at the Thai border
Thai travellers have been warned against bringing cannabis and hemp into Indonesia as they could face the death penalty.
The directive from Thailand’s embassy in Jakarta came weeks after the kingdom made it legal to cultivate and possess the drug.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, the embassy said it “would like to warn Thai people not to carry cannabis, hemp, or products with cannabis or hemp ingredients into Indonesia” – adding that violators could face a fine of at least 1 billion Indonesian rupiah (US$67,350), a prison sentence ranging from five years to life, or the death penalty.

Meanwhile, a Malaysian man returning from a visit to Thailand was fined nearly 10,000 ringgit (US$2,270) after cannabis ingredients were detected in the drinking water he was carrying, local media reported on Monday.

Malaysian authorities have also stepped up inspections at the Thai-Malaysia border in Padangbesar to check for travellers carrying cannabis-related products.

Thailand became the first Asian nation to decriminalise cannabis for medical and industrial use on June 9, when the plant was removed from the narcotics category by the country’s food and drug administration.


Thailand decriminalises selling and growing cannabis

Thailand decriminalises selling and growing cannabis

The move spurred businesses such as cafes and stalls to start openly selling all kinds of cannabis products, but it has also raised concerns about the dangers of unchecked use.

Four people, including two teens, were hospitalised last week after consuming cannabis products, a Bangkok city official said. One of the four, a 51-year-old with an underlying health condition, died of heart failure.

New regulations were later announced banning the smoking of cannabis in public, including in schools, and limiting who can legally buy it. Those excluded include pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and anyone under the age of 20.

Critics say the government rushed to remove criminal penalties on cannabis before it had passed a law to ensure the drug’s use was still regulated.

Thailand’s Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, a leading advocate for the legalisation, defended the government’s decision.

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“We legalised cannabis for medical use and for health,” Anutin said. “Usage beyond this are inappropriate … and we need laws to control it.”

Indonesia has some of the world’s toughest drug laws and has executed foreigners for narcotics offences in the past.

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In 2015, Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran – described as the ringleaders of the “Bali Nine” heroin smuggling gang – were executed by firing squad in the Southeast Asian nation.

Four years ago, eight Taiwanese drug smugglers were sentenced to death by an Indonesian court after being caught with around a tonne of crystal methamphetamine.