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At the opening ceremony of the 14th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm, Chiang Mai, 6-10 April 2003, the participants were confronted with a protest from the Thai Drug User’s Network about the present situation in Thailand. This is what the note stated that was passed out during the action:

The Thai Drug Users’ Network is a group of individuals who use or have used drugs. We have come together to respond to the deplorable health and human rights situation of drug users in our country, and in particular the current climate of fear caused by the extra judicial killing of people allegedly involved with drugs.

The HIV and hepatitis epidemics in our community are out of control, yet the public health response has been negligible. Many of our friends have died because of a lack of information about health, or the denial of care and treatment. We are rejected by our families and friends and discriminated against in the legal system – society treats us as criminals, not human beings. The lack of accurate information about drugs in the media and elsewhere leads to severe misunderstanding among the public and ultimately to debilitating stigmatisation. We reject the idea that our lives are worthless and that drug users are disposable.

We believe in the power of the people, and are committed to putting our energy and experience together to start to address the needs of our community, and to push the government and non-government agencies to confront the barriers to equal rights for the drug users.

Today we demand the government to:
1. Immediately stop the killing. Repeal laws and policies that allow people to be murdered with impunity. Conduct investigations into all prior deaths under the government’s “War Against Drugs”.
2. Immediately ensure the involvement of drug users (active and former) in the development of all policies and programs that affect our lives.
3. Conduct public education campaigns, which promote a positive awareness about the realities of drug use and desist from using a “Just Say No” approach.
4. Create a supportive social, political and legal environment for the implementation of and access to a range of quality harm reduction programs to address the diverse needs of drug users, including the provision of clean needles.
5. Repeal mandatory HIV testing and compulsory drug treatment laws. Drug users must have access to voluntary HIV counselling and testing services and be supported to enter drug treatment at will.
6. Cover the cost of drug treatment, including substitution, antiretroviral, and other relevant therapies, under our national health plan.
7. Remove discriminatory policy and practice, which currently prohibits antiretroviral therapy.
8. Provide health and social services that are gender-sensitive and incorporate the needs of the family and community as well as the individual.

Thai Drug Users’ Network April 6, 2003 Chiang Mai

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