Pubdate: Fri, 23 May 2014
Source: Nation, The (Thailand)
Copyright: 2014 Nation Multimedia Group
Page: 10 A
Referenced: Ending the Drug Wars (Report of the LSE Expert Group on 
the Economics of Drug Policy):


We Need a New Approach to Stem the Damage Being Done by the Narcotics Trade

At roughly the same time the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime 
released its annual report on the narcotics trade, the London School 
of Economics (LSE), backed by five Nobel Prize-winning economists, 
issued another, calling for a change in mindset on the way the trade 
is handled.

A global "war on drugs" was announced more than two decades ago, but 
to little apparent effect, with the trade even more lucrative and 
widespread now than it was back then. We are no closer to eradicating 
the problem, and that's mainly because the global community is 
fighting the wrong enemy. Governments policies have left the market 
in illicit drugs unregulated and users unprotected.

The LSE's 82-page report suggests that resources be redirected from 
"law enforcement and repressive policies toward proven public health 
policies of harm reduction and treatment".

The report, "Ending the Drug Wars", reveals the economics of current 
policy and shows why it hasn't worked. It looks at various factors 
that add to the cost, such as treatment of HIV/Aids cases that stem 
from drug use.

But for most governments, including Thailand's, tough talk and zero 
tolerance of narcotics continue to dominate the mindset of 
policymakers. This is mainly because they refuse to explore more 
sensible approaches out of fear that voters will view them as weak. 
Nevertheless, the LSE report's findings demonstrate the 
impracticality of prohibitionist policies.

Just about every government that comes into the office declares a 
"war on drugs". A decade ago that of Thaksin Shinawatra kicked off a 
controversial crackdown on dealers that saw nearly 3,000 people 
killed in the space of just three months.

Not only did it fail to achieve its objective, the short-lived and 
controversial policy greatly undermined the country's justice system.

Thaksin, however, had the audacity to call the "war" a victory 
against the narcotics trade.

Thailand's "war" enjoyed widespread support, illustrating the 
weakness of society. Opting for a quick and violent method to 
addressing any social problem is not a sign of strength. If anything, 
it reflected poorly on our society and culture.

Most of the illegal drugs flowing into Thailand are methamphetamines 
and heroin, produced in the Myanmar section of the Golden Triangle, 
where narcotics warlords are brutal and determined.

Myanmar's government has made it clear that other countries' drug 
habits are not its problem, and thus refuses to crack down on the 
warlords' narco-armies.

The situation is complicated by the fact that several of Myanmar's 
armed separatist groups trade in illicit drugs to finance their 
operations. In other words, narcotics and insurgency are inseparable 
in Myanmar. Trying to crack down on one while ignoring the other will 
achieve nothing.

The LSE report should spark serious debate. Civic groups should take 
the lead in this, but government officials and policymakers shouldn't 
wait for public endorsement before acting on the issue.

They need to be reminded that their cowardice has a price, and that 
price is not only the lives of the drug users but the innocent 
bystanders around them. The longer the world waits before ending its 
"war on drugs", the more people will suffer.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom