Drug policy in Thailand has relied heavily on law enforcement-based approaches. Qualitative reports indicate that police in Thailand have resorted to planting drugs on suspected drug users to extort money or provide grounds for arrest. The present study sought to describe the prevalence and factors associated with this form of evidence planting by police among injection drug users (IDU) in Bangkok.
Multivariate logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with evidence planting of drugs by police among a community-based sample of IDU in Bangkok. We also examined the prevalence and average amount of money paid by IDU to police in order to avoid arrest.
252 IDU were recruited between July and August, 2008, among whom 66 (26.2%) were female and the median age was 36.5 years. In total, 122 (48.4%) participants reported having drugs planted on them by police. In multivariate analyses, this form of evidence planting was positively associated with midazolam use (Adjusted Odds Ratio [AOR] = 2.84; 95% Confidence Interval [CI]: 1.58 - 5.11), recent non-fatal overdose (AOR = 2.56; 95%CI: 1.40 - 4.66), syringe lending (AOR = 2.08; 95%CI: 1.19 - 3.66), and forced drug treatment (AOR = 1.88; 95%CI: 1.05 - 3.36). Among those who reported having drugs planted on them, 59 (48.3%) paid police a bribe in order to avoid arrest.
A high proportion of community-recruited IDU participating in this study reported having drugs planted on them by police. Drug planting was found to be associated with numerous risk factors including syringe sharing and participation in government-run drug treatment programs. Immediate action should be taken to address this form of abuse of power reportedly used by police.