at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Hard Hitting Reports on Conflict/Health in SE Asia

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Transnational Institute, an organization devoted to the distribution of research by scholar activists, have recently published several hard hitting research papers on social problems in Southeast Asia related to sexual health, drug abuse, and political conflict.

HIV/AIDS among men who have sex with men and transgender populations in South-East Asia
Published by the WHO
Same-sex behaviour is identified in all societies. However, in the South-East Asia Region, the majority of men who have sex with men andtransgender persons are highly stigmatized and discriminated against. There are an estimated 4-5 million men who have sex with men; among the transgender population, the number is less clear. Many of them are involved in high risk sexual behaviours that put them at risk for HIV infection, resulting in a high and increasing HIV prevalence in several countries of the Region. Control of HIV infections among these populations is thus an urgent public health priority. This report provides information on the status of the epidemic among these populations in the South-East Asia Region. It highlights the need for improved advocacy efforts and a greater national response to save the lives of these populations who are at risk for HIV infection.

WHO link |  download here


Burma’s New Government: Prospects for Governance and Peace in Ethnic States
Transnational Institute
This paper takes an initial look at what the prospects are in this area, two months after the new government took office. Of course, any analysis at this early stage can only be tentative, but there have already been a number of sufficiently important developments – the first sessions of the legislatures, the appointment of standing committees, and the appointment of local governments – to make such an analysis worthwhile. Two key areas will be assessed: firstly, the composition and functioning of the new governance structures, particularly the decentralized legislative and executive institutions, and the impact that these could have on the governance of ethnic minority areas; and secondly, the status of the ceasefires and ongoing insurgencies, and the prospects for peace.

Transnational Institute |  download here


Kratom in Thailand: Decriminalisation and Community Control?
Transnational Institute
by Pascal Tanguay
Kratom is an integral part of Thai culture and has neglible harmful effects. Community level control and education are recommended for the best path to harm reduction. In early 2010, the Thai Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) developed a policy proposal to review different aspects of the criminal justice process in relation to drug cases. The possibility of decriminalising the indigenous psychoactive plant, kratom, was included in the ONCB’s proposal for consideration by the Ministry of Justice. This briefing paper provides an overview of issues related to kratom legislation and policy in Thailand as well as a set of conclusions and recommendations to contribute to a reassessment of the current ban on kratom in Thailand and the region. Kratom has been traditionally chewed by people in Thailand, especially on the southern peninsula, as well as in other countries in Southeast Asia. In southern Thailand, traditional kratom use is not perceived as ‘drug use’ and does not lead to stigmatisation or discrimination of users. Kratom is generally part of a way of life in the south, closely embedded in traditions and customs such as local ceremonies, traditional cultural performances and teashops, as well as in agricultural and manual labor in the context of rubber plantations and seafaring. People from the southern provinces, especially in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat provinces, are predominantly Muslim and are prohibited from drinking alcohol based on the dictates of Islamic beliefs. With strict controls on alcohol, kratom is an alternative substitute, not specifically prohibited by the clergy, but regulated by the state.

Transnational Institute |  download here


On the Frontline of Northeast India: Evaluating a Decade of Harm Reduction in Manipur and Nagaland
Transnational Institute
Conflict and underdevelopment in Northeast India have contributed to drug consumption and production, and are hampering access to treatment, care and support for drug users. Northeast India is a region with serious drug use problems. This briefing examines the drug-related problems and evaluates the policy responses in Nagaland and Manipur,  two sparsely populated states in that region, bordering Burma. These states have the highest prevalence of injecting drug users (IDUs) in India. Unsafe practices, especially needle sharing among IDUs, have been the main drivers of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the region. By the end of the 1990s, Manipur had become the “AIDS capital of India”, and also Nagaland is suffering a high incidence of HIV among injecting drug users. Northeast India is an isolated and mountainous area, home to a wide range of different ethnic groups, each with its own distinct culture, traditions and language. Many of these ethnic groups are in conflict with the Indian government, demanding more autonomy or independence. Several ethnic movements are in armed struggle, pressing for their political demands. There has also been communal violence between villages of different ethnic groups.

Transnational Institute |  download here