Source: New Zealand Herald

New Zealand born Taylor Laird, 17, has spent two terrible nights in a Thai prison for carrying drugs he did not know were illegal.

On a trip away to celebrate graduating high school with 10 other friends, Taylor was on a motorbike taxi on his way home after a night out. The taxi was pulled over and Taylor was found with a packet of Diazepam pills which he was shocked to learn, were illegal.

Under Thailand’s Psychotropic Substances Act 1974, possession of a “schedule IV” drug such as diazepam is illegal without a prescription. The maximum penalty is one year’s imprisonment, with a fine of 20,000 baht ($800). But drugs such as Diazepam and Alprazolam are available at some pharmacies in tourist spots.

A Phuket Public Health Office source said the department allowed small amounts of the drugs to be sold. “It is illegal to possess these drugs without a prescription, but in Phuket we’re not very strict as this is a tourist destination” he said. “we grant permission to the pharmacies to sell the drugs”.

“I was told by people you could get Valium if you wanted to go to sleep and it was legal to buy it,” Taylor said. “Then they took me to the cop lock-up which was like a living hell.”

The first 24 hours behind bars Taylor sat cramped and alone in a windowless “shoebox” cell. For the second he was moved to a juvenile jail where he forced himself to stay awake – too scared to sleep as the only foreigner. “They were trying to get me to go to sleep which was pretty much what I wanted to do,” Taylor told NZ Herald, “They could have ripped me apart and probably would have if I’d stayed there any longer.”

Taylor is still stranded in the country, waiting to be called to court. His parents have spent about $10,000 on flights and accommodation to support him.

This is a good example of why WORLDWISE believe it is important to make sure you have any medication you plan on travelling with prescribed and accompanied by a medical certificate before you leave.

WORLDWISE also suggest exercising caution when purchasing ‘over the counter’ drugs in third world countries, particularly as many of these drugs have been known to be fraudulent.