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BANGKOK: In the run up to Loy Krathong festival every year, there are a host of predictable stories in the Thai press about teens who choose to lose their virginity during the romantic, full moon celebration. Other common reports involve rampant price gouging on candles and other materials needed to make krathongs as the special day draws near.

This year, another seasonal vice was brought to light when a young couple was found to be selling a “special krathong”. What made the baskets so special was not their ornate decoration or quality craftsmanship, but the fact that they were stuffed full of ganja (marijuana).

Police held a press conference on November 13 to announce the arrest of 22-year-old Anucha “Pong” Chompheung and his girlfriend Sungrachani “Nan” Chaiset, 21.

In front of reporters, Mr Anucha admitted that the previous evening he had set up a stall selling krathong for people to float down Khlong Saen Saep, a narrow canal running though the heart of the capital that is probably Thailand’s dirtiest waterway.

Yesterday [November 12], which was Loy Krathong, I wanted to get rid of the last of the ganja that I had, so I decided to try a new marketing method. I hid bags of ganja in krathongs then set up a stall by the side of the canal and sold them for 200 baht each. My customers quickly found out what was happening and came to order ‘special krathongs,'” Mr Anucha said.

Unfortunately for Mr Anucha and his girlfriend, his customers were not the only ones to get word of the scheme. Phayathai police also heard about the new method of drug dealing. Later that night, police came to the couple’s home in Makkasan district with a search warrant. In the house, they found 133 bags of ganja with a combined weight of 930 grams and 56 ya bah (methamphetamine) pills.

Under questioning, Mr Anucha said that he had previously worked parking cars at an underground casino. After the casino was shut down, he lost his job and didn’t have any money to look after his wife and Miss Sungrachani’s three-year-old son.

Then a friend in Bangkok’s Klong Toey said that he could sell him ganja in bulk for just 14,000 baht a kilogram, so he decided to buy some and then sell small bags of it to local youths for 200 baht each, making a profit of 2,000-3,000 baht on each lot.

As for his girlfriend, she would order ya bah from another contact for 180 baht a pill and sell it on for 250 baht a pill. All the money went on living expenses and looking after their son, Mr Anucha told police.

Police charged Mr Anucha with possession of cannabis with intent to sell and Miss Sungrachan with the more serious charge of possession of ya bah with intent to sell.