The New War on Drugs: ASEAN Style
Image Credit: Damien @Flickr (Flickr)

The New War on Drugs: ASEAN Style


The pledge by ASEAN leaders to intensify campaigns to create a drug-free ASEAN by 2015 is increasingly out of step with international trends which, according to the recent findings of The Global Commission on Drug Policy, increasingly favor drug policy reforms like decriminalization and treating addiction as a public health issue.

Dr. Michel Kazatchkine, a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy told a Bangkok forum that the war on drugs is a failure. Citing the commission’s recent report, Kazatchkine said, “We recommend immediate major reforms of the global prohibition regime to halt the spread of HIV infection…” and other health problems.

Many countries around the world seem to agree. In Latin America, for instance, many governments have declared that the war on drugs has failed and are instead searching for a new, more common sense approach to the problem.

In Argentina and Mexico the possession of small quantities of certain drugs has recently been decriminalized. This followed Brazil partially decriminalizing drugs through a series of laws in the middle part of last decade.

Similarly, a majority of voters in the U.S. states of Colorado and Washington recently approved referendums legalizing the personal use of marijuana (marijuana is still illegal under federal statutes, which technically takes precedence over state laws). Many other states have legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, while others, like New York State, are considering decriminalization. Meanwhile, many European countries– including the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain have also decriminalized drugs

Doing so has often proved remarkably successful, resulting in lower HIV rates and even, in some cases, a decline in drug usage. For example, a 2009 CATO Institute study of Portugal’s decision to decriminalize drugs in 2001 concluded: “In virtually every category of any significance, Portugal, since decriminalization, has outperformed the vast majority of other states that continue to adhere to a criminalization regime.”

ASEAN stands in stark contrast to these examples as member nations are clinging to tough anti-drug laws that champion aggressive law enforcement measures and the detention of 300,000 drug users and sex-workers outside the normal court system in compulsory rehabilitation centers.

Most shockingly, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Singapore still impose the death penalty for narcotic offenses. In some cases, narcotic crimes require mandatory death sentences. Not surprisingly, many drug-addicts are afraid to seek treatment for fear of being jailed… or worse.

Nor does change appear to be imminent. In Thailand last year the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (sister of ousted PM Thaksin) declared  a new “war on drugs” in the name of a “zero tolerance” policy.  Gen. Adul Saengsingkaew deputy national police chief was quoted by the Bangkok Post as stating, “The war on drugs now is going much better than it was under the previous government. Actually, it is even better than under the Thaksin Shinawatra administration which initiated this policy in 2001.”

The fact that the police chief cited Thaksin’s harsh crackdown on drugs in 2002 that led to as many as 2,700 deaths as a benchmark of success, is emblematic of the issue. Amnesty International and other human rights groups condemned the policy that encouraged this spate of extra-judicial killings, and undermined basic legal principles of bringing  suspects before a court.

Thai police statistics show that arrests for drug related charges have risen by 14% this year, while drug-related prosecutions have increased by 8%. Already drug offenders constitute 65% of Thailand’s incarcerated population. With prisons overflowing in the country, it’s unsustainable to continue increasing the number of imprisoned drug offenders.

December 21, 2012 at 19:30

US successful?
BIG John has it right.   The private sector benefited from the war b building more private
prisons.    Banks pay huge fines  to the government when caught laundering money. But there are no
criminal charges? Just like the Libor Scandal "Banksters" are the problem.  
Watch RT America Max Keiser

December 9, 2012 at 17:03

Your an idiot and seems to me your a racist….

December 6, 2012 at 13:59

Dubiaku, You failed to get the Sarcasam in BigJohns Post

December 3, 2012 at 12:14

Reading line by line through your tirade looking for a point to jump on for an attack………proved futile. It was just the informality that mildly offended me. Your points are well-taken and sensible. The fact that so many are directly or indirectly employed or making money by other means from the "war on drugs" is the major reason for its longevity. Paying $40,000 per person to lock someone up would buy them all the drugs they could possibly use and a nice apartment to do them in. Deliver them food and they are out of our hair and no longer threats. I don't advocate that, of course, but it is an interesting thought. In other words, letting them go scot-free or offering rehab is less expensive and less a threat to society than sending them to crime school (prison) and never facing the crux of the problem. Drugs are neither a moral failing nor a crime. They are a problem, an illness, a medical issue.

December 2, 2012 at 10:00

Informative journalism, especially to learn Indonesia and Malaysia are now aware of the European option to the "war on drugs".  Thailand stays with the 'war' because the Thai police and the Thai army like such 'wars'.  The corruption and profits involved only increase the more such "wars" are lost.

December 1, 2012 at 22:29

I guess the Dutch policy on drugs can work in every corner of the world. The point of view on drugs is the same all over the world, for some is a business for other is a repellent for problems

December 1, 2012 at 06:04

In America, drugs are closely tied in with racism. People get thrown in prison under the "guise" of a lost drug war, when, in reality, it's about putting minorities away in prison for a few years. Not only does this destroy their families, but it also lays waste to their prospective futures. It's most apparent when you study the data and see that there are more people in prison for marijuana and crack (minority drugs) than there are for cocaine, heroin, or meth (white people drugs). Furthermore, there is an imbalance in sentence length with regards to these drugs. The drug war was never about eliminating drugs. It was about putting minorities behind bars because white people fear them.

[...] ASEAN Economy, Science & Human Developments and News The New War on Drugs: ASEAN Style November 30, 2012 By Tom Fawthrop ASEAN nations are stepping up their fight against illegal drugs [...]

December 1, 2012 at 03:05

There is no forgiveness for drug traders. They need to stay in Prison for the rest of their life.

November 30, 2012 at 11:19

Keep trying, you can do it!  Here in the United States we've been wildly successful at making drugs go away.  I think it was back in 1986 that our government proclaimed we'd be drug free by 1995. We didn't quite make it by then, in fact drug use went way up, but we set other target dates and man did we pack our prisons. We're number one! (Of course, we're America!) We have more people in prison now than any other nation in the world, even China, and they several times as many people as we do! Aren't we awesome?  We've doubled our incarceration rates several times in the last few decades.  Business was booming for those who build prisons. We even have big corporate prison systems now so the more people we lock up the more shareholders make. Is that not super awesome, or what!  You guys totally need to do the same thing. I think we're completely drug free now, or are drug use rates a whole lot higher than they were back when we first pledged in 1986 to be drug free by 1995? Who cares? We're awesome! We're America! Be like us! Crank up your drug wars! Maybe you guys could even execute more people per capita than Iran for drugs, because you guys don't have as many bleeding heart liberals than us.  Iran has no drug problems, or wait, do they have pretty much the worst heroin/opium problem in the Middle East or even the world? Oh well, they're awesome! You guys could be like America and Iran, Iran-ica or something! That would be awesome! Good luck, Asian dudes. You can do it!  

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