Drug reform group to launch report in Bangkok
The Global Commission on Drug Policy has chosen Thailand as the venue to unveil its annual report on drugs thanks to the late King's commitment to solving narcotics problems and the current government's shift in drug policy.
In his opening address Wednesday at the launch of the commission's sixth annual report called "Advancing Drug Policy Reform: A New Approach to Decriminalisation", Privy Council member Gen Paiboon Koomchaya said Thailand has been chosen for its efforts to better address the drug problem.
Gen Paiboon, a former justice minister and an advocate of the drug policy change, said the current government's approach to the narcotics problem has gained wide recognition.
According to Gen Paiboon, the policy change was triggered by lack of success in the war on drugs.
"Thailand has encouraged Asean to draft a new 10-year strategy to better address the drug situation with a focus on how to live with drugs when we can't achieve a drug-free society," he said. He also said the report reflects what the Thai government has been trying to do.
The report mainly calls for an end to capital punishment for all drug-related cases and an end to all penalties -- both civil and criminal -- for people who have drugs for personal use on the basis that millions of them pose no harm to others.
"Suppression, prevention and rehabilitation will remain, but we need to decriminalise drugs. We have introduced legal provisions that allow for appropriate punishment to be handed down," he told the forum.
According to Gen Paiboon, the country's drug policy has changed significantly but society may not have been made aware of it.
This includes ongoing processes for legalisation of marijuana for use in certain industries and decriminalisation of drugs, he said.
He said the decriminalisation of drugs is part of harm reduction efforts.
He said he believes society needs to be assured about how the new policy would be implemented to effectively address the drug situation.
Ruth Dreifuss, chairwoman of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, said prohibition of drugs has done little to reduce drug abuse.
During 2006-2013 the number of drug users rose by 20% while the number of drug users who died during detention was estimated at 200,000 annually, she said. As a result, more and more countries are considering other steps to help drug users, she said. She insisted it is necessary to refrain from incarcerating drug users because drug use is not a serious offence.
Justice permanent secretary Charnchao Chaiyanukij said Thailand's drug policy focuses on preventive rehabilitation, making drug rehabilitation accessible to everyone, and implementation of alternatives to incarceration. However, he said there is a lot to be done, especially raising public awareness about the need to decriminalise drugs.
"Most of the work we've done deals with reviews of drug-related laws and making a new comprehensive narcotics law. It is being examined by the Council of State," he said. He said a crucial element of the proposed legislation is it lets the court use more discretion when ruling on narcotics-related cases.