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>> More than a decade after Thailand declared a war on drugs, the country is admitting defeat. Supplies at a record level, and prisons are overflowing with offenders.>> The world is losing the war on drugs, it's not just Thailand, our world has lost the war against drugs.>> Reuters was given a rare look at conditions inside one of the country's many overcrowded prisons.
>> I'm Amy Sawitta Lefevre inside Bangkok's high security Klong Prem prison. Thailand has one of the largest prison populations in the world. Nearly 70% of inmates are in here for drug offences. Thailand's Justice Minister says he has no immediate plans to reduce the prison population in the country, but he does want to tackle methamphetamines, known in Thailand as crazy drug or Yaba.
That comes, as the United Nations says, the regional trend for methamphetamine is on the rise, including abuse and trade.>> This tiny cell sleeps five people, precisely the sort of problem that the Justice Minister wants to solve, and he's got an idea of how to do it. He wants to downgrade meth from a category one substance, like heroin, reducing jail time for possession or dealing.
But even he admits that Thailand, which carries the death penalty for some drug offenses, isn't ready for that to happen. Here at Klong Prem more than 6,000 prisoners are in for 15 years to life, and resources are severely stretched.>> Imprisonment is seen as a cure for every social ill, and this leads to far more overcrowding than there should be.
>> For now though even petty users continue to be thrown behind bars at an alarming rate. The number of inmates jailed for drugs has nearly doubled in the past ten years, pushing rapidly towards what the UN calls a full-on crisis.