Thailand: AIDS Organization Bombed, Forced to Relocate

The St. Camillus Foundation Relief Center, an 18-bed facility in Nonthaburi province which provides counseling and temporary shelter to people living with HIV, has been forced to relocate after several demonstrations by local residents and two violent attacks.

The center, which opened in 1993, became the focus of protests last spring when local villagers became aware that the center's residents were HIV-positive. On May 21, a bomb exploded in front of the center, causing damage to nearby buildings and cars. In the wake of the bombing, the center stopped providing housing but continued to provide counseling and other services.

Although the government's national AIDS prevention plan for 1995-96 emphasizes support for work carried out by community-based organizations and non-governmental organizations to establish services within communities affected by HIV, provincial government officials have shown little support for the center's efforts to remain within the community. The Provincial AIDS Committee, headed by provincial governor Sucharit Patchimnandha and comprised of police and public health officials, concluded after the bombing that the Center should be relocated. Rather than investigating the attacks, police warned them that further violence would occur if the center refused to move.

The Thai NGO [non-governmental organization] Coalition on AIDS, which includes forty-eight member organizations, released a statement on June 7 calling on the police to follow up on their investigation of the bombing and urging the Provincial AIDS Committee to promote better understanding between villagers and the center through education about HIV and AIDS. However, no action was taken by provincial authorities, and on August 25 an unidentified gunman fired several shots from an assault rifle into the facility.

Having failed to obtain from the police any assurances of protection against future harassment, the center has accepted a fifteen-year lease in another location which has been offered to them by provincial authorities.

The Relief Center has requested that respectfully worded letters be sent expressing concern that the center was forced to move, and urging that it be given the full support of local authorities in carrying out its work in its new location. Letters should emphasize the following points:

  • The United Nations Commission on Human Rights has urged Member States to include in their AIDS programs measures to combat social stigmatization, discrimination and violence directed against persons with HIV/AIDS, and to take necessary steps to develop the supportive social environment necessary for the effective prevention and care of AIDS.
  • Community-based organizations and non-governmental organizations providing services for people living with HIV must be provided full protection of the law. Nonthaburi police should take all possible action to investigate the attacks on the Relief Center, and should ensure the center of prompt attention to any further harassment.
  • Relocating HIV/AIDS service organizations outside of hostile communities is not a long-term solution and goes against the aims articulated in the national AIDS prevention plan. Provincial authorities should work with the Relief Center and other such organizations to promote awareness and reduce prejudice among local residents.

Send letters to:

Ministry of Public Health
attn: Khun Sumport Sriwong, Permanent Secretary
Tiwanon Rd.
Amphoe Muang
Nonthaburi 11000
Thailand
Khun Sucharit Patchimnandha
Nonthaburi Governor
Nonthaburi Government Hall
Rattanatibet Rd., Amphur Muang
Nonthaburi 11000
Thailand
Khun Pramuan Rujchaseri
Deputy Permanent Undersecretary
Ministry of the Interior
Asadang Rd., Amphur Phranakorn
Bangkok 10200
Thailand