Malgré des saisies en augmentation, les politiques antidrogue sévères de l’Asie restent en décalage par rapport à celles du reste du monde.

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“FOR the first few days,” explains Aki, a young man who helps run a drug rehabilitation centre on the outskirts of Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, in northern Myanmar, “some of them try to run away. So we have to keep them like this.” A young man, naked except for a tattered pair of shorts, lies prone on a filthy mattress, one leg locked in a wooden device resembling medieval stocks. He sweats and shakes, like many suffering heroin withdrawal. Dozens of other men mill around the clinic: a dimly lit, mattress-lined, hangar-like building reeking of sweat and foul breath. Beyond the back door is a much smaller, concrete-floored room with a wooden bath, a squat toilet and, next to it, a tiny padlocked cell crammed with four painfully skinny men: they, too, had tried to escape.

The men receive no medication; treatment consists solely of herbal baths and Bible study (many Kachin are Baptist). For the first 15 days of their three-month stay, they receive no counselling because, as Aki explains: “They never tell the truth, because they are addicts.” Aki’s boss, the Reverend Hsaw Lang Kaw Ye, takes an equally dim view of his region’s many opium farmers: he is part of a citizens’ group that cuts down their crop. Asked if he provides the farmers with any compensation, he scoffs: “We don’t give them anything. We just destroy opium fields.”

This attitude is typical of drug policy in much of Asia: needlessly severe and probably ineffective. According to Harm Reduction International, a pressure group, at least 33 countries have capital punishment on the books for drug offences, but only seven are known to have executed drug dealers since 2010. Five are in Asia (the other two are Iran and Saudi Arabia).

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