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Thailand, Weed and Banking (1)

The decision by Thailand to permit, indeed encourage, the cultivation and use of cannabis (within constraints) puts it at odds with all of its neighbours and all other members of ASEAN. And it raises serious concerns for banks, et al.

Thailand is a founder member of the Asia Pacific Group but is not a member of the Financial Action Task Force. In the Asia Pacific Group’s Follow-Up Report to its mutual evaluation of Thailand (2021) Thailand’s rating was improved in relation to seven of the 40 Recommendations.

However, Thailand remains ″in enhanced follow-up.″ A further follow-up was due on 1 February 2022.

What this means, in summary, is that Thailand is not regarded as being of major concern for its legal and regulatory systems but there are some aspects that raise its risk profile.

It follows, then, that banks and commercial concerns dealing with financial institutions and businesses in Thailand should already be alert to the possibility of increased risk awareness requirements.

Thailand has for decades been at the centre of South East Asia’s Golden Triangle, originally an area at the convergence of Thailand, Loas and Myanmar (Burma) where the Ruak and Mekong rivers meet but over time widened to include deeper into the three countries and, sometimes, the entire countries. The principle cause for concern has, historically, been that the North-East of Myanmar is the second largest opium producing area (after Afghanistan) and that means it is a vital source of supply to the heroin trade. There is also opium production in Laos but to a much smaller extent. Both of those countries have restrictive border controls for both people and goods and have relatively limited connectivity by both air and sea. But they both have impossible to police land borders with Thailand, in the middle, which is far more welcoming to travellers and is a much, much larger trading nation.

Thailand also has its own, much smaller, opium production.

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Nigel Morris-Co...