Thailand’s Anti-Drug Efforts Hindering Fight Against HIV/AIDS, Advocates Say
Thailand's efforts to fight drug use are hindering HIV/AIDS control programs in the country, some HIV/AIDS and human rights advocates said recently, Thailand's Nation reports. According to a statement released by the groups on Tuesday, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2003 implemented a policy aimed at eradicating drug use that included extrajudicial executions, forced drug rehabilitation, and "blacklisting" of suspected drug users and dealers. "The 2003 war on drugs is notorious for the crimes against humanity perpetuated by Thai authorities," Karyn Kaplan, director of policy and development at the Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group, said. She added that the groups are "horrified that Thailand would relaunch such a disastrous government policy."
The 2003 policy also hindered drug users' access to HIV/AIDS services -- such as treatment, prevention and counseling -- by driving users further into hiding, according to the statement. Kriengkrai Aiemprasert -- an outreach worker at the Ban Mit Sampan Harm Reduction Center in Bangkok, Thailand -- said that the war on drugs will have "disastrous consequences for the fight against AIDS in Thailand, and it will not work as a response to drug use in Thai society." Kriengkrai added that Thailand's prime minister should "end the war on drugs and promote a response to drug use based on evidence and human rights."
According to the statement, a large percentage of drug users in Thailand are HIV-positive. In addition, the statement said that although HIV rates are declining overall in Thailand, rates are not decreasing among vulnerable groups such as drug users or men who have sex with men. TTAG Director Paisan Suwannawong said that instead of an effective response to drug use, the Thai government has "pledged to crack down on drugs" and has told advocates to "expect more murders."
The groups plan to organize demonstrations outside upcoming UNAIDS meetings in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and New York City to call on Thailand to reconsider its war on drugs (Nation, 4/22).