Up in smoke: opium banned Sarit hails the dawning of a new, ‘civilised’ era
A dreamy but ravagingly addictive era came to an end when the government banned opium smoking, which had previously been legal throughout Thailand.
Accompanying the announcement of the ban, more than 8,000 opium pipes were destroyed in a bonfire, which was lit by fire department officials on Pramane Ground (now Sanam Luang).
Most opium dens were immediately shut down, and police inspected the entrances to several well-known sites. ‘The day marks a new era in Thailand’s social history,’ Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat said. ‘From this day, we can proudly claim that we are a civilised people.’
Before the ban, about 90 opium dens legally serviced Bangkok and Thon Buri, and 1,000 more smoke-filled chambers existed elsewhere in Thailand. Many users said they began puffing to numb the aches and pains caused by work, injuries or disease.
‘I believe I would die if I stop,’ said Nguan Yartsawang, 63, reflecting the seductive narcotic’s trap of severe and debilitating addiction.