Mon, Sep 19, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Ministry ups target for urine drug tests

NEW RULES The Ministry of the Interior has decided to act on the growing problem of drug abuse among the public and has widened its net to catch stubborn perpetrators

STAFF WRITER

Because of the gravity of substance abuse and crime in society, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) has recently decided to widen its target for public urine tests for substance abuse.

After the draft plan is approved by the Cabinet this week and put into effect on Oct. 1, an estimated 14,000 alternative services personnel and 3,000 to 4,000 students will be required to provide urine samples for testing every year.

Also, after the recent riot by Thai laborers in Kaohsiung, the government has raised its human-rights awareness and lifted a regulation that required all foreign laborers to be screened for substance abuse through urine sampling.

Recently, there have been reports saying that amphetamine and other drug-abuse incidents have increased in alternative service personnel, which serves to substantiate public suspicions about the efficiency of military personnel management.

The MOI's National Conscription Administration has agreed to regulate all alternative service personnel in accordance with the Ministry of National Defense's provisions, which require taking urine samples from specific population groups. In this way, all alternative service personnel recruits and other people who have violated or have been suspected of violating the law will be regulated by the new provision and tested by random sampling.

According to the MOI, the number of alternative service personnel has reached 14,000 this year and the figure is expected to increase to 15,000 next year. Because of the large number of alternative military service personnel, and concerns that their functions are closely related to the nation's everyday life, there is definitely a need for the government to show its concern through action.

The issue of expanding the number of subjects to be tested via urine samples was discussed in a meeting of Cabinet-level agencies. The meeting reached the conclusion to test the urine of all recruited alternative military service personnel and students.

Currently, the regulation concerning students demands only that elementary and junior high school students who return to school after dropping out and those who previously tested positive for drugs be tested. Students who have completed a year of juvenile detention are also required to submit urine samples for testing before their release.

After careful consideration, the Ministry of Justice decided to increase the amount of students for urine sampling by including all dropouts and students returning to senior high school and below. Another decision was to include all students who have violated statutes related to drug abuse under the government's inspection. In other words, no matter whether a student violates the law by producing, transporting, selling, using or possessing drugs, he or she will be under the government's scrutiny.

The Ministry of Education explained that school dropouts are at a high risk of drug abuse. Furthermore, the Ministry of National Defense replaced the word "soldiers" with "personnel" because the military has gradually increased its clerical staff. By changing the term, the clerical staff will also be subject to the new regulations.

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