CHIANG MAI, 18 October 2011 (IRIN) – Thailand’s new government has unveiled plans for an ambitious crackdown on drugs, with an emphasis on rehabilitation and compassion.
Officially announced on 3 October, the policy includes placing some 400,000 drug addicts in rehabilitation programmes within the year, as well as arresting some 10,000 known dealers.
But while the planned focus on rehabilitation is seen as a step forward in a country where nearly 3,000 people were killed during the 2003 controversial war on drugs, human rights groups and activists remain sceptical.
“An ambitious and worrying target has been set to ‘rehabilitate’ 400,000 drug users within one year,” says Human Rights Watch (HRW) spokesman Sunnai Pasuk.
“Concerns remain about the potential arbitrary arrests and detention of drug users in compulsory drug ‘rehabilitation’ centres, mostly run by the military and Interior Ministry, where ‘treatment’ is based on military-style physical exercise, with little medical assistance for drug withdrawal symptoms,” he added.
HRW is not alone in its concern.
“We need to ensure that in working with the government that full respect for human rights is maintained and that the treatment provided to drug users is voluntary, evidence-based and rights-based,” Gary Lewis, regional representative for East Asia and the Pacific in the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said.
In 2010, more than 80 percent of all persons who received drug treatment in specialized treatment facilities and correctional institutions reported methamphetamine pills as the primary drug of use.
Thailand is one of the few countries in the region that provides specialized treatment for amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) usage, according to the UNODC’s 2011 Global ATS Assessment.
That is due, in large part, to the alarming increase in drug seizures in the region in recent years. UNODC reports that the number of methamphetamine pills seized in South-East Asia leaped from 32 million in 2008 to 133 million in 2010, with Thailand remaining one of the largest markets.
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