Thailand Weekly Vol. 15

Thailand news and stories delivered free to your inbox every Sunday 🇹🇭

Well, it was a big week in the Thai news cycle. Really progressive stories on a few fronts. Weed is now legal. A historical new alcohol brewing act was passed. A artificial reef project is showing promising signs. The China-Laos-Thailand railway initiative is exceeding expectations. It was one of those weeks that reminded me how fast certain things can change over here. I’ve always felt that the ground often moves beneath my feet feet in Thailand. Things can literally change in the span of months, as opposed to years. It’s one of my favourite aspects of living in Asia.

Thailand Officially Decriminalizes Marijuana

The de-listing of cannabis and hemp from the Government’s list of Category 5 narcotics took effect on Thursday following official publication in the Royal Gazette. More than 150,000 people have now registered to cultivate the plant with Thailand’s FDA, and 16 tonnes of it it will be returned to offenders it was confiscated from prior to legalization. The country also released 3071 inmates on the day of decriminalization that were serving time for cannabis-related offences. The Department of Agriculture is also ready to giveaway up to 1 million plants between now and December to those that apply through an online application portal. It’s worth noting that people must still get permission before mixing extracts that have more than 0.2% THC.

Pol Gen Roy Ingkapai Ingkapairote said that police won’t arrest anyone who consumes cannabis at home, but can still face charges if smoking it in public areas. The goal of decriminalization is not to promote the use of marijuana and hemp products for recreational purposes, but instead promote it as a medical treatment for both Thais and Foreigners.

The Dispensary by Taratera in Bangkok welcomed walk-in customers this past Friday to purchase different strains of the plant. On Taratera’s counter and the shelves behind it sit jars of different buds ranging from 400 THB to 800 THB depending on the quality. The largest jar in this location is filled with an indica strain that is popular for treating chronic pain.

Our Take

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This is one of the smartest moves that Thailand could have made in this space. Given that its now the only Country in Asia where the plant is de-criminalized, there will be all sorts of opportunity for local and international entrepreneurs to build out businesses and provide real value to both Thais and Foreigners. The fact that they won’t have to compete with China is also unheard of. What other Country has the unique combination of low-labour costs and official decriminalization? I did some research into this and found that Uruguay is in a similar position, but there is a grand total of ZERO other Countries in Asia with this unique combination. Thailand is sitting on a gold mine and I can’t wait to see the wide-variety of cannabis-related businesses that will now pop up around the country.

Rig-To-Reef Utopia In The Gulf Of Thailand

Thailand’s Department of National Resources and Environment recently announcedthat things are tracking nicely as part of their plan to utilize decommissioned oil rigs to create a new diving destination just north of Koh Pha Ngan in the Gulf of Thailand. The rigs are being converted into artificial reefs to improve the marine environment, attract divers, and support the fishing industry. The project is being spearheaded by Chulalongkorn University, Chevron, and the Marine & Coastal Resources Department. Since the initiative began in April 2019, the density of fish has more than doubled from 97 to 215 per SQM and the variety of species in the area has jumped from 15 to 47.

Our Take

There’s nothing that I don’t like about this story. It’s a classic example of private and public sectors working together to achieve a goal that’s win-win across the board. Local tourism operators benefit, marine life benefits, and those that work in the fishing industry benefit. It’s been impressive to see the amount of environment-oriented initiatives that Thailand has pushed forward since the start of the year. They’ve banned all single-use plastic in National Parks, are closing tourist-heavy nature attractions like Maya Bay for recovery time, have outlined a plan to tackle Bangkok’s air pollution, and are making a rush to become a regional leader in the EV space. This rig-to-reef project is just another initiative that warrants being added to this growing list.

Thailand Travel Tip

There’s a lot of different travel insurance companies out there and often times it’s a pain to find the right one. Especially the past two years. I get all sorts of emails about this topic from those of you that watch our videos over on Retired Working for You or Best Of Thailand, so I decided to include the company I use in this week’s edition of Thailand Weekly.

SafetyWing is a global travel insurance company that provides awesome coverage for anyone that lives abroad, but their rates and coverage make it ideal for those vacationing in Thailand as well. The big advantage here is that their coverage includes COVID related costs. Signing up takes a couple minutes and is super straightforward. Can’t recommend these guys enough. Especially while we’re still living in a world that involves Thai Passes and proof of insurance.

China-Laos-Thailand Railway Construction Exceeding Expectations

The 1035 KM China-Laos Railway, which opened at the end of 2021 is now being extended into Thailand and will connect Vientiane to Bangkok. The Thai portion of the route is expected to be fully operational by 2026. Former Thai Deputy PM Pinit Jarusombat stated that the extension into the Kingdom has exceeded expectations thus far, and will eventually provide a number of investment, business, and travel opportunities. So far, the route has delivered over 4 million tonnes of goods and handled 3.2 million passenger trips.

“It totally exceeded expectations. The Sino-Thai railway is currently under construction and Thailand expects it to be progressively operational over the next few years. Once it is completed, a transportation corridor through all three countries will significantly increase the speed of movement of people and goods between Southeast Asia and China” says Jarusombat.

Our Take

From a pure mobility perspective, I love this play. I’ve often thought how awesome it would be if the Indochinese Peninsula (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Myanmar) was connected by sophisticated, high-speed rail in the same way that Europe is. Imagine being able to go to the newly opened Bang Sue Station in Bangkok and then take a 3.5-hour train ride to Hanoi City Centre. It’d be amazing. There’s close to 250 million people that live in this region and it’s one of the fastest economic growth centres in the world. The interesting part of this whole mega project is the fact that I predict it will actually happen. Unlike in North America where large scale initiatives like this often take decades longer than planned and are billions of dollars over budget, such as the California High-Speed Rail Project, the Chinese are the best in the world when it comes to building high-speed rail and they have a vested interest in seeing this through. That’s where some concern on my end starts to flare up.

The construction of this is all part of China’s Belt and Road initiative that seeks to connect Asia, Africa, and Europe to mainland China through strategic land and maritime networks. One of the most common attributes of this multi-trillion dollar, 50+ year initiative is that these mega projects are often majority-funded by Chinese Bank loans and built by Chinese construction companies. I’m not sure what the financial breakdown of the Thai portion of this railway looks like, but the Laos portion is 70% Chinese-owned. If countries cannot pay back their loans on these massive megaprojects, China takes full control of the infrastructure as part of multi-decade lease agreements. This has already happened in places like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Monetengro, and Laos is close to defaulting on other Chinese-built infrastructure. As I said, I have no idea what the ownership and funding breakdown looks like on the Thai portion of this high-speed railway, but I wouldn’t be surprised China ends up controlling some Thai-based infrastructure that they’re involved in.

Only In Thailand 🇹🇭

Don’t buy multi-coloured Axolotl’s? What a strange headline that is. The animal has become a popular household pet here in Thailand and recently, these colourful amphibians have been spotted for sale in popular markets such as Chatuchak in Bangkok. Experts are begging people not to by them as they die after just 1-week because of the components used to change their colour.

Press Worthy 🔥

    Your Cart
    Your cart is empty