Protect the Rights of Drug Users

“PROTECT THE RIGHTS OF DRUG USERS”

The Thai Drug Users' Network (TDN), a group of active and former drug users who have organised in response to the deplorable health and human rights situation of drug users in Thailand, held a press conference today at the 14th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm (ICRDRH) in Vhinag Mai, Thailand, to demand an immediate end to the murderous policies promoted by the Prime Minister's office under the rubric of fighting a war on drugs.

The Network also calls on the government to respect and protect the human rights of drug users and their families through the repeal of discriminatory laws and policies, which have allowed for the denial of quality health care and treatment for this population. This must include access to substitution therapy, and antiretroviral therapy for HIV positive users, to be covered under Thailand's universal health care plan, for those who choose it.

"The government needs to immediately implement a full range of harm reduction programs, particularly needle exchange, to address the HIV/AIDS and hepatitis crisis exploding in our community," said Wassawut Yimchaen, a Thai drug user activist from Alden House. "We also need a legal environment which allows us to participate actively in relevant decision-making and program implementation." Pop, a young drug user from Bangkok, said, "If society was presented with realistic information about drugs, I doubt the government could get away with its repressive campaign to treat drug users as criminals. The media needs to present a more balanced message about drug use."

Australian drug user activists at the conference vehemently oppose the extra-judicial killings intended to wipe out the use of illicit drugs in Thai society, but in fact result in the murder of innocent people in the Thai community. "On May 14th we will help coordinate an international day of action initiated by TDN to oppose these atrocities," said Gary Meyerhoff, representing the Australian Injecting & Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL), a peak organisation representing all drug user groups in Australia. "Leaders of all countries with draconian drug policies that severely impact on the poorest people on our communities around the world need to be brought to an international criminal court to answer for their actions."

"We will also mobilise to move the location of the next International AIDS conference from Bangkok, if the government fails to respond to our demands," said Paisan Tan-ud of the Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group and a member of the Thai Drug Users' Network. "We call on the international community, particularly relevant intergovernmental agencies such as UNAIDS and UNODC, to take immediate action."