I completed a BA in History at the University of York in 2014, before making the perilous journey from North to West Yorkshire in order to undertake an MA in International Relations here at Leeds.
Prior to starting my undergraduate degree, I volunteered in Thailand for a year as an English teacher. Whilst living there I witnessed the vibrancy and intrigue of the 2011 Thai General Election, which kindled my interest in Southeast Asian politics. During my time at York, I worked for the Amnesty International Student Action Network as a regional coordinator and chair of the University group.
I was awarded the fee scholarship for my MA and currently receive the Leeds Anniversary Research Scholarship for my PhD studies.
To many, scholars and policymakers alike, the debate surrounding ‘the war on drugs’ is a closed book. Despite the billions of dollars channelled into illegal narcotics enforcement, little headway has been made in restricting the size of markets or undermining the power of criminal organisations. Last year, the London School of Economics released a collaborative report which suggested that the world had entered the ‘Post-War on drugs era’, partly as a result of the then upcoming UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) held in April on the issue. Although the outcome document of the conference fell short of explicitly condemning punitive approaches to drugs, the LSE report argues that it would represent the ‘global endpoint in a failed and counterproductive strategy’.
There is a risk of over-simplification in arguing that the war on drugs is over however, as the ‘vernacular of security services’ continues to be invoked by many over the ‘idiom of public health’ in many parts of the world. Excepting some countries in South and Central America, Southeast Asia is perhaps the foremost region where hard-line security-led rhetoric has found violent expression within the last fifteen years. Specifically, Thailand and more recently the Philippines, have both witnessed particularly violent ‘wars on drugs’, where the use of extrajudicial force to eliminate dealers (and in many cases also drug users) has been sanctioned, and even actively orchestrated by the state.
My research attempts to address how and why elites in certain Southeast Asian countries have sustained the ‘war on drugs’ to legitimize violence, despite international norms moving away from such approaches. In addition, the thesis will use critical methods to explore how drug policy reform can be read as a form of emancipatory politics which challenges security agendas that result in violence.