.يولد جميع الناس أحرارا متساوين في الكرامة والحقوق. وقد وهبوا عقلا وضميرا وعليهم أن يعامل بعضهم بعضا بروح الإخاء‎
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Saturday, May 5, 2007

Thai AIDS activist: U.S. is "devil disguised"

America puts Thailand on a list of copyright violators for its decision, backed by the World Trade Organization, to break patent on three U.S.-made AIDS drugs.

AIDS activists rallied outside the U.S. Embassy on Thursday to protest Washington's decision to place Thailand on a list of copyright violators, calling the Thai government's move to break patents on pricey U.S.-made AIDS drugs a "lifesaver."

"The U.S. government is the devil disguised as a priest . . . they want to please the pharmaceutical companies who only care about maximum profit," said Nimit Tien-udom, director of AIDS Access Foundation. "Where is the concern for the dignity of human lives that the U.S. always preach about?"

"We are here to support the government's decision -- a lifesaver for many people living with AIDS," Nimit said.

Countries on the list are under extra scrutiny and could face trade sanctions if violations worsen.

About 30 protesters chanted and carried placards with slogans such as "Evil USA, stop threatening access to treatment in Thailand." They dispersed peacefully after about two hours.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont insisted Thursday that the government would stand by its decision to break patents on three drugs, including the AIDS drugs Kaletra, produced by Abbott Laboratories, and Efavirenz by Merck. Both are American companies.

"We believe we will be able to explain the decision to the world community," Surayud said.

According to World Trade Organization agreements, governments can issue compulsory licenses allowing the manufacture, import and sale of cheaper generic versions of patented drugs in case of a national public health emergency.

Such actions have been taken by several countries for medicines to treat people with AIDS.

Public Health Minister Mongkol Na Songkhla -- who says the government can only afford to provide the drugs to one-fifth of the 500,000 people living with HIV in Thailand -- is scheduled to travel to the United States this month to explain Thailand's decision to Congress and other public and private agencies.

However, Surayud said the Commerce Ministry would work with U.S. officials to study the issues of piracy and copyright infringement to find a solution.

On Monday, the U.S. government included Thailand among 12 countries on an annual "Priority Watch List" of nations where American companies face particular problems with protection of intellectual property rights.

Washington says Thailand lacked "transparency" in announcing the compulsory licenses because it failed to consult with the drug producers.

Washington has long had problems with piracy and copyright infringement in Thailand, particularly of movies, music, software, books and brand-name fashion wear. Thailand was on the Priority Watch List in 1989-1992 but had been on the less serious "Watch List" for the past 15 years. (Ambika Ahuja, AP)

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