A coalition of international and Thai health and human rights organisations have voiced their fears that the Thai government’s planned round up of people it suspects are using drugs will trample on human rights and potentially rekindle widespread abuses of vulnerable people. The organisations responded to an official announcement that the Ministry of the Interior intends to force thousands of people suspected of using drugs into detention centres and keep their names on official registries for future monitoring.

In a letter to the Thai government, the organisations wrote, “These plans for mass detention and forced treatment raise considerable human rights concerns, especially given Thailand’s history of nationwide punitive and ineffective anti-drug campaigns…there is no way for the Government to implement a campaign to forcibly ‘treat’ tens of thousands of people who use drugs without widespread human rights abuses taking place.”

“This crackdown flies in the face of Thailand’s 2002 policy, which states that people who use drugs should be treated as patients, not criminals. There is nothing therapeutic about rounding up thousands of drug users and forcing them into military boot camps that fail to provide appropriate services and support,” said Paisan Suwannawong, Executive Director of Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group (TTAG) and co-founder of the Thai Drug Users’ Network (TDN).

The initiative is particularly worrying in light of the government’s disastrous 2003 “war on drugs,” which led to tens of thousands of people being forced into drug detention centres. “We are profoundly concerned that these centres may be run by public security forces such as the police or paramilitary civil-defence organisations” said Karyn Kaplan, TTAG’s Policy Director. “It is dangerous and extremely disheartening given recent progress made in the country on injecting drug use and HIV. This can only serve to undermine those efforts in the long term. The immediate concern, however is for the safety and wellbeing of those targeted”

The organisations urged the government to focus its resources and attention on the implementation of the national harm reduction strategy, adopted in late 2010, in particular the development of evidence based and effective models of drug dependence treatment.

For more information, please contact:

London: Damon Barrett, Senior Human Rights Analyst, International Harm Reduction Association. damon.barrett@ihra.net, 0044 (0)7933 730 640
Bangkok: Paisan Suwannawong, ED, Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group (TTAG) and Karyn Kaplan, Policy Director, TTAG: +917-674-0881