Drug Law Reform in East and Southeast Asia


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More than anything else, the tragedy has alerted the public of the dangers involved when the police are allowed to operate with impunity. Before the strongman populism of Duterte came along, Thaksin had pledged to stamp out the drug epidemic with a massively popular war on drugs in Thailand in , even though more than half of the over 2, killed were ultimately found to have no links to the drugs trade.

The punitive campaign arguably helps to pave the way for other democratic and political repressions leading up to the national elections slated to be held later this year.


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Like his predecessor, Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith won widespread support when he announced an anti-drug and anti-corruption campaign when he took office in Ricky Gunawan, a human rights lawyer and director of LBH Masyarakat, worries that the Indonesian government has chosen to move forward with extrajudicial killings rather than executions in order to avoid negative international attention, while still maintaining the cover of taking decisive action on drugs in order to appeal to the electorate.

Recent shifts in drug policy approaches in the region may offer some cause for hope, although some of these appear to be minimal amendments made in the face of mounting international pressure for human rights reform, rather than any real, substantive changes in approach. Both Singapore and Malaysia have shifted away from the mandatory death penalty for drug offences, with the latter abolishing it completely while the former amended the law to give judges limited discretion in sentencing where specific criteria are met.

Vietnam removed the death penalty for drug possession and appropriation in In comparison, Myanmar and Thailand are leading the way with meaningful, health-based reforms. Myanmar is moving towards decriminalisation and a rehabilitation and treatment approach following a recent drug policy review, which culminated in a proposal to replace lengthy prison sentences for minor offences with community service. Similarly, Thailand, once notoriously harsh on drugs, is looking to reform its drug laws.

Key points

Aside from legal reforms, Thai officials have identified the need for a more integrated approach to the complex drug problem, which would include social measures to help alleviate the impact of drug use and dependence on communities. The region faces an urgent need for re-evaluation. For now, the situation remains dangerously fraught.

Jails are over-congested and on the verge of collapse in the Philippines, and as the death toll of the war continues to rise amid mounting international denunciation of widespread human rights violations, Duterte has also been pushing for the reinstatement of the death penalty and lowering of the age for criminal liability for drug offences.

ISBN 13: 9780739180372

Until citizens across the region start taking a deeper look into the full impact of the war on drugs on society, such populist-driven, anti-drug rhetoric is unlikely to change, and more lives will continue to be lost. Although Kirsten edited the first draft of this piece, it was handed over to another editor for the final edit. Bryan Allison Apart from Cambodia, Timor-Leste, and the Philippines, the other countries within Southeast Asia all retain the death penalty for drug offences, making a quarter of only about 32 states and territories in the world to do so.

Nithin Coca.

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Nithin Coca is a freelance journalist who focuses on social and economic issues in developing countries, and has specific expertise in Southeast Asia. She also details recent cases occurring in the abovementioned countries. Baldwin and Thomson highlight developments in regard to compulsory treatment in the region, and provide comprehensive and damning arguments as to the inefficacy of compulsory treatment programs.

McKetin and Li arguably deal with the most difficult issue rising in East and Southeast Asia: amphetamine-type substances and other related stimulants.

As is widely known, ATS is undergoing a major boom in the region, and in tandem with prohibition harms associated continue to propagate. The authors detail history of ATS in the region, comorbidities associated with use, efficacy of treatments available currently, and contemporary trends. The book is available for purchase here.

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The War on Drugs in Southeast Asia

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Drug Law Reform in East and Southeast Asia
Drug Law Reform in East and Southeast Asia
Drug Law Reform in East and Southeast Asia
Drug Law Reform in East and Southeast Asia
Drug Law Reform in East and Southeast Asia
Drug Law Reform in East and Southeast Asia
Drug Law Reform in East and Southeast Asia

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