Custom Search

Feb 20, 2008

Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group (TTAG) Press Release

Paisan Suwannawong, TTAG +66-81-824-5434
Karyn Kaplan, TTAG +66-81-866-1238

Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group (TTAG) Press Release – February 14, 2008

Within days of his appointment earlier this month, Thailand’s Interior Minister, Chalerm Yubamrung, reinstated a war on drugs. Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group (TTAG) is concerned that those responsible for past human rights violations committed in the name of drug control have not been held accountable, nor have steps been taken to ensure oversight, professionalism, and accountability in drug suppression efforts. Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently provided unpublished data from the previous government’s investigation into the 2003 war on drugs, which found that 2,819 people were killed in 2,559 murder cases between February and April in 2003. Of those killed, more than half had no relation to drug dealing or had no apparent reason for their deaths. No concrete action has been taken to redress these wrongs, or to prevent their occurrence in the future.

The government’s rash drug war announcement has not been accompanied by appropriate mechanisms in place to guard against history repeating itself. Apart from prosecuting perpetrators of past drug war-related crimes, the Thai government must immediately hold public consultations to discuss the impact, including human, social, political, and health costs, of the Thai drug war approach, and develop policies and laws that uphold human rights, not undermine them. Wholesale repression of the type experienced in 2003 will again result in thousands of inappropriate arrests, deaths, and the disruption of HIV prevention and other services.

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej must urgently renounce the drug war and all human rights violations that have taken place in its context. Drug suppression efforts need to take place with full respect for due process of law and human rights standards. In addition, Prime Minister Samak should encourage his government to work with civil society organizations including people who use drugs to develop a humane approach to the country’s drug problem, for example through the promulgation of a national harm reduction policy supporting comprehensive harm reduction services integrated into existing health and social policies and programs and the immediate cessation of military-style compulsory drug “treatment.”

Continued rates of HIV infection among drug users in Thailand, and reports of abuses by law enforcement, demonstrate how much is at stake. Rather than being subjected to indiscriminate suppression, people who use drugs must be supported to be actively and meaningfully involved in leading harm reduction work in Thailand. Efforts to force tens of thousands into prison or drug treatment are ineffective and immoral.

Recommendations from two previous Human Rights Watch (and TTAG) reports still go unheeded. Please review these recommendations, below, and send letters to the Prime Minister and Interior Minister demanding that they SAY NO TO A THAI DRUG WAR and urgently hold past police officers guilty of abuse and criminal offenses accountable. Demand that people who use drugs are treated as human beings by the government and receive appropriate, effective health and harm reduction services that meet them where they are at, and prevent government actors from committing human rights violations, in the name of drug demand and supply reduction and national security.

Harm Reduction Saves Lives! NO MORE THAI DRUG WAR!

Address your letters and faxes to:

His Excellency

Samak Sundaravej

Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand,
Government House,
Pitsanulok Road,
Bangkok 10300 THAILAND

FAX: +66-2-282-5131


Chalerm Yubamrung,

Minister of the Interior

Ministry of the Interior

Asdang Road, Bangkok, 10200 THAILAND

FAX: +66-2-222-8866

    1. RECOMMENDATIONS from: “Not Enough Graves: The War on Drugs, HIV/AIDS, and Violations of Human Rights in Thailand”

To the government of Thailand:

Cease and publicly repudiate any policy of extrajudicial killing of criminal suspects. Royal Thai Police must conduct arrests of criminal suspects using the minimum force necessary, as called for in the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. The Thai government should ensure that the National Human Rights Commission has the necessary resources and authority to fully investigate extrajudicial killings and other serious offenses committed in the context of the war on drugs. The Ministry of Justice should completely and transparently prosecute all drug-related homicides and release statistics on the status of these prosecutions. Additionally, the government should invite the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions to investigate these killings.

Cease the practice of placing drug suspects on “blacklists” or “watchlists.” Publicly recognize that the practice of “blacklisting” has been widely abused by local officials to settle scores with enemies and has created pressures to include innocent people on the lists, many of whom have been killed or wrongfully arrested.

Cease arbitrary arrests and other due process violations by Royal Thai Police.Cease all practices of false arrest, planting of narcotics on drug suspects, and use of threats or physical force to coerce confessions of drug activity. Cease arresting drug suspects on the sole basis of a known history of drug use. Conduct independent and impartial investigations of any allegations of these activities, and appropriately discipline, discharge, or prosecute officers found to be complicit. Repeal any policy that encourages law enforcement officers to stop or arrest suspected drug users in order to meet predetermined targets for drug treatment enrollment.

Take concrete steps to reduce drug users’ fear of seeking health services.Immediately and publicly declare that drug users seeking health services will not be penalized or forced into drug treatment based solely on their self-identification as drug users. Conduct an independent, publicly issued evaluation of the impact of the war on drugs on the health-seeking behavior of drug users, including their access to sterile syringes and other HIV prevention services. Provide basic training to all police officers on referring known drug users to treatment, HIV prevention and other health services. Cease any interference with efforts by nongovernmental organizations to reach out to drug users who have gone into hiding during the war on drugs.

Increase harm reduction services for drug users. Develop a clear national harm reduction policy with the consultation of high-level officials within the Ministry of Public Health, the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, and the Prime Minister’s Office. Establish syringe exchange, methadone maintenance, and other harm reduction programs commensurate with HIV prevention programs for other risk populations such as sex workers and men who have sex with men. Include harm reduction services in proposals for HIV prevention funding from international donors and funding agencies. Evaluate the existence of any legal barriers to harm reduction services, such as the use of syringe possession as sufficient evidence to arrest drug suspects, and eliminate these legal barriers.

Urgently establish HIV prevention services in all detention facilities. Provide information about HIV transmission to all prisoners, pre-trial detainees, and patients in compulsory drug treatment centers. Ensure that all prison personnel receive training on HIV prevention. Establish and evaluate pilot projects for the distribution of condoms and sterile syringes in detention facilities, based on best practices from other jurisdictions. Ensure that all detainees receive relevant information on HIV transmission prior to discharge. Promptly investigate any allegation of prison guards receiving bribes to smuggle narcotics or drug paraphernalia into prisons, and discipline guards accordingly.

To the United Nations and all international donors to Thailand:

Promptly and clearly denounce human rights violations in Thailand’s war on drugs. The United Nations has the regional headquarters of its drugs and crime office in Bangkok, and the United States provides anti-narcotics training to the Thai police. Both should forcefully and publicly declare that they oppose the methods being used in Thailand’s war on drugs, in addition to conducting ongoing monitoring of human rights violations. If the extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations are not fully and independently investigated, each should consider redirecting programs from Thai government agencies to nongovernmental organizations.

Take steps to mitigate the HIV/AIDS impact of Thai drug policy. Relevant United Nations officials and offices—such as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Health, the U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB)—should commission an independent evaluation of the health impact of Thailand’s war on drugs, conducted by individuals with expertise in HIV/AIDS epidemiology, drug demand reduction, and harm reduction. Donors to HIV/AIDS programs in Thailand should call for an independent evaluation of the health impact of Thailand’s war on drugs, call for basic human rights improvements including transparent investigations of alleged extrajudicial executions of drug suspects, and include human rights requirements in any financial assistance they provide directly to the Thai government.

    1. RECOMMENDATIONS from: “Deadly Denial: Barriers to HIV/AIDS Treatment for People Who Use Drugs in Thailand”


To the government of Thailand

Increase harm reduction services for drug users:

Develop a clear national harm reduction policy, consistent with international standards, in consultation with high-level officials from the Ministry of Public Health, the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Justice, the National Police Office, the Prime Minister’s office, Thai and regional non-governmental HIV/AIDS and harm reduction organizations, relevant United Nations officials and offices (such as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)), the U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) and people who use drugs

Establish and integrate needle and syringe exchange, methadone maintenance therapy, and other evidence-based harm reduction interventions into the existing Continuum of Care Centers in Thailand.

Ensure that drug users have access to harm reduction services, including methadone and sterile syringes, and that cost or fees are not a barrier to such access. This would be consistent with the constitutional provision that all persons shall be protected “against dangerous infectious diseases” “free of charge and in a timely fashion.”

Establish clear, time-bound targets for extending the provision of low-threshold harm reduction services to all parts of the country.

Take concrete steps to reduce drug users’ fear of seeking health services:

Immediately and publicly declare that drug users seeking health services will not be penalized or forced into drug treatment based solely on their identification as drug users, and amend relevant laws and policies to ensure prompt compliance with this policy.

Provide basic training to police on HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment, and the importance of harm reduction in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Take active steps to address drug users’ distrust of public health services. This should include concrete measures to ensure that information about patient drug use provided in the course of medical care is not shared with law enforcement officials and to establish and sustain active cooperation with harm reduction programs and outreach workers.

Train healthcare providers in the appropriate care and treatment of people who use drugs. This should include human rights training to reduce stigma and discrimination against people who use drugs.

Take concrete steps to ensure drug users’ rights to information:

Ensure that drug users, healthcare providers, and law enforcement officers have complete, accurate information about ART, HIV/AIDS, and harm reduction services, and information about drug users’ rights to these services.

Ensure that drug users can obtain ART, harm reduction, and other HIV/AIDS information and services without fear of punishment or discrimination.

Expand and enhance the scope of and support for ART, harm reduction, and other HIV/AIDS information and services including voluntary HIV testing and counseling for people in prison and other places of detention.

Provide information and training to healthcare providers about basic principles and practices of providing antiretroviral treatment to injection drug users, including about adherence support; drug-drug interactions; and co-infection, such as with tuberculosis and hepatitis C.

Provide information and training to drug users about HIV/AIDS-related services, including ART, drug interactions, tuberculosis, and hepatitis C.

Provide support for peer outreach and education workers, including as counselors for HIV testing, ART adherence support, and harm reduction.

Establish and strengthen communication among relevant ministries (including the Ministry of Public Health, the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Justice, the National Police Office, and the Prime Minister’s office).

Address structural barriers to care:

Adopt and disseminate a clear national policy to ensure coordination of basic services for drug users (HIV/AIDS services, harm reduction, drug treatment, psychosocial support) and ensure that such services are coordinated between those provided in the community and in custodial settings.

Develop effective referral systems between HIV, drug treatment, and other relevant services to link community and custodial settings.

Ensure that people who use drugs enjoy an equal right to receive public health and welfare services, and protection against disease. The Thai constitution provides that there should be guaranteed access to public health and social welfare services.

To the government of the United States

Lift the ban on U.S. funding for syringe exchange program services.

Officially recognize the importance of harm reduction in preventing HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, and encourage and support international efforts to implement harm reduction interventions, including measures to ensure access to sterile syringes.

To the United Nations and International Donors to Thailand

  • Relevant United Nations agencies (including UNAIDS, WHO, UNODC, the U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia, and the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health) and international donors to Thailand should take steps to ensure that Thailand promptly and immediately adopt concrete measures to address drug users’ fear of seeking health services, and that Thailand promptly and immediately meet its public commitments to ensure harm reduction, ART, and other HIV/AIDS services for drug users.

    1. ARTICLE: Thailand to revive controversial war on drugs

Reuters, Feb 7, 2008

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's new government will revive a controversial war on drugs in which more than 2,500 alleged dealers were killed, Interior Minister Chalerm Yubamrung said on Thursday.

"Narcotics must be lessened in 90 days, although they can't be wiped out," said Chalerm, a former police captain whose son was acquitted of charges of killing a policeman in a bar for lack of evidence.

The fight against drugs was one of his top three priorities and he would spend time along the border with Myanmar, the source of most drugs now entering Thailand, seeking to defeat trafficking networks, Chalerm told reporters.

The war on drugs launched by ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2003 was praised by many rural Thais whose villages were rife with drugs but fiercely attacked by rights activists for giving police a "licence to kill".

A military-appointed government, set up after the generals ousted Thaksin in a bloodless 2006 coup, investigated Thaksin's war and called it a "crime against humanity", but failed to link Thaksin to extrajudicial killings. Mogelijk ondersteunt de browser de weergave van deze afbeelding niet.

Thaksin, now living in exile in Hong Kong, won a second landslide election victory two years after the war on drug was launched, largely on the back of support in the countryside.

At the time, Thailand, once a major supplier of heroin from the Golden Triangle where it meets Myanmar and Laos, was awash with methamphetamines made across the border in the former Burma.

The war on drugs cut supply and pushed up prices for a while, but business returned to normal after the campaign petered out, anti-drug agencies say.



Blog Directory - Blogged