In comparison with the United States, Thailand currently has far more tolerant policies with regard to illicit drug use and prostitution.

Drug use and commercial sex will exist, no matter how much they are penalized; their criminalization only leads to greater violence, exploitation, and corruption (as was seen in the United States during the prohibition of alcohol). Likewise, the so-called “War on Drugs,” which the US has escalated worldwide, has created a tsunami of violence, turf warfare, arms smuggling, extortion, corruption, and human-rights violations. In Mexico alone, where over 200,000 drug related murders have taken place since 2006, the nation is close to becoming a failed state. Meanwhile the United States has by far the world’s largest per-capita prison population. With 5% of the world’s people, the US has 25% of the world’s prisoners. Over half are incarcerated for drug-related crimes. Most are non-violent drug users and petty street dealers—many of whom peddle drugs because they are from racial minorities who have a hard time getting decent jobs, to feed their families.

Thailand, in contrast, focuses on treatment and prevention rather than on punishment. It offers habituated drug users free needle exchange, and free testing and treatment of HIV-AIDS, as well as education and rehabilitation. Likewise Thailand’s current practice of working with people who sell sex is to help them do it more safely rather than harshly punishing them and thus driving them underground. Such policies with regard to drugs and sex-work are not only kinder, but are more effective in reducing crime and promoting health.

Protecting National Boundaries

Another area where the contrast between Thailand and the United States is most striking is in their respective treatment of people who come into their nation from neighboring countries looking for work. This is especially so now under US President Donald Trump’s xenophobic, racist stand on migrants.

Not only does Thailand make entry across its borders relatively simple and friendly, but it offers free medical treatment—including of HIV-AIDS—even to non-legal migrants. In contrast, President Trump is determined to build a huge trillion-dollar wall to prevent the Mexican and Central American neighbors of the United States from coming in. And as for those who are already in the US without papers—heaven help them!

Thailand’s “good neighbor” policy is not only far more humane, but also more pragmatic. By providing basic social service to all immigrants, including free testing and treatment of HIV-AIDS, the disease can be much more effectively brought under control. A society will be much healthier when everyone—including outsiders and minorities—are treated equally and fairly—and where there is universal health coverage for all.