Despite criminalisation, torturous forced labour camps, capital punishment, and state sanctioned murder of people who use drugs, the movement of people who use drugs in Asia remains strong and resilient. Watch the new episode of our series telling the oral history of the movement of people who use drugs in Asian countries!
It would take several episodes to cover all the amazing work done by user activists in Asian countries in the last few decades, working hard for access to treatment and an end to the criminalisation and stigmatisation of people who use drugs.
Asia is one of the regions of the world where people who use drugs are treated the harshest. There are still several countries implementing the death penalty for drug trafficking, including Singapore, China, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Despite the calls by international agencies to shut them down, there are still hundreds of thousands of people forced into so-called “compulsory drug treatment centres,” which are essentially concentration camps, where people are held without a trial, tortured, starved, and forced to work for private companies. In Indonesia, if you don’t report that your relative or loved one is a drug user, you face criminal charges yourself. In the Philippines, 30 thousand people were murdered by police squads and vigilantes after president Duterte called on people to kill drug users. Similar happened in Thailand in the early ‘00s, when more than 3000 people were murdered by police.
In this environment, even the existence of drug user groups is a miraculous and heroic achievement. Two of our episode’s interviewees, Anand Chabungbam and Bikas Gurung, work at the Asian Network of People who Use Drugs. Their work focuses on supporting user groups, and they have managed to call attention to the human rights violations that people who use drugs face, and to advocate for their rights at the national, regional, and international level. In India, Simon W. Beddoe with his colleagues at the Indian Harm Reduction Association and other groups, managed to scale up harm reduction services. In Indonesia, Edo Agustian with his former organisation PKNI entered into a dialogue with the government and (among other things) made hepatitis C treatment much more widely available for people who use drugs.
Starting on Monday, 6th of July 2020, we publish one episode per week for 10 weeks. The episodes follow the timeline of the development of the movement of people who use drugs from Amsterdam to Afghanistan and globally.
The production of the series has been a great adventure. We conducted 34 video interviews in 20 countries around the world. 8 interviews were filmed by the Rights Reporter Foundation, the rest by members of our Drugreporter Video Advocacy Network, video activists, and freelance videographers worldwide.
The documentary series is part of the online conference “HIV 2020: Community Reclaiming the Global Response” which runs from July through October of 2020.
An alliance of global key population-led networks, networks of people living with HIV, treatment activists, and our supporters, has formed to organize an alternative international community-led online event.
The HIV2020 alliance has decided to organize the community-led event to provide an alternative for individuals who cannot or will participate in the AIDS2020 virtual conference. Its goal is to offer new opportunities to reaffirm the leading role communities play in the global HIV response.
To view each new episode every Monday, beginning today, visit this page.
This project was made possible by the financial support of the Bridging the Gaps Programme. This unique programme addresses the common challenges faced by sex workers, people who use drugs and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in terms of human rights violations and accessing much-needed HIV and health services. Go to www.hivgaps.org for more information.
Special thanks goes to Tonny van Montfoort, EuroNPUD representative on the INPUD Board, for driving this oral history project forward and setting out the creative vision.
István Gábor Takács