In South East Asia, Thailand is lauded for its success in reversing an HIV epidemic in the 1990s, particularly amongst sex workers. Thailand is also known for its success in significantly reducing opium cultivation, and implementing effective alternative development programmes for opium farmers. However, other aspects of the government’s response to illicit drug markets in Thailand undermine these successes and have been characterised by the exclusion and marginalisation of people who use drugs, which has fuelled on-going epidemics of HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) among this population.
The Thai government’s response to drug use continues to be one of ‘zero-tolerance’, focused on eradicating drug consumption and production with the imposition of harsh punishment for drug-related crimes, ranging from compulsory detention to the death penalty. This response reflects the regional commitment to achieving a ‘drug-free ASEAN by 2015’.
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