Thai drug laws and practices: disproportionate punishment against women minor drug offenders

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Nutthanuch Mekara


This article discusses the impact of disproportionate punishment under Thai drug laws which has been imposed on women minor drug offenders. In Thailand where considers a drug crime as the most serious crime, women drug offenders have been likely to receive harsh and high sentences: long imprisonment or even death penalty, notwithstanding their low-level and limited role in drug crime. This consequently contributes to mass incarceration of minor drug offenders in Thai women’s prisons. 

This article begins with male partners as a pathway of women to crime in order to show women’s minor role in drug crime. Then, it will demonstrate the punishment of the drug-related offences under the Thai Narcotics Act B.E. 2522 (1979) (amended in 2017). This article will discuss how punishment under THA NA and its implementation can contribute to disproportionate punishment against women minor drug offenders and that contribute to the overcrowding in Thai women’s prisons. By comparing with the sentencing guideline in the other jurisdictions, it argues the Thai punitive legislations and practices which are basically a ‘one size fits all’ framework can impose disproportionate punishment on women minor drug offenders. The punitive legislations often apply harsh punishment to these women solely depending on amount of drug seizure regardless of their role. Since women in the lesser role more tend to plead not guilty, this article argues the conviction seems to result from women’s failure to prove their innocence.

However, this article does not challenge the Thai drug policy but rather the concerns of some women who should be considered as victims in drug crime to be treated fairer or more proportionate and consistent sentence by the Thai criminal justice system. In order to justify the claim for reform of sentencing practice for minor drug-related offence in the Thai criminal justice, although an exact comparison of the drug cases is limited, this article compares the drug cases decided in countries which apply non-prosecution or non-punishment norms in attempting to either decriminalise or depenalise minor drug offences and ensure fairer punishment of vulnerable women minor drug offenders.



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How to Cite
Mekara, N. (2020). Thai drug laws and practices: disproportionate punishment against women minor drug offenders. Journal of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Arts, 1(1), 12–40. Retrieved from