The Thai government executed three drug traffickers in Bangkok on April 24, but according to activists in northeast Thailand, local police are not waiting on the approval of the courts to summarily execute people they believe are drug dealers. Thai officials last week declared Kalasin province in the northeast "drug free," but the feat was accomplished by a campaign of death squad murders, said members of two local human rights groups, the Kalasin Network and the People's Rights and Freedom Association.
According to reports in the Bangkok Post, local activists said at least two drug dealers in each of the province's 3,000 had been executed, their bodies sometimes left to rot in the streets. Anti-drug villagers organized by Thai authorities would mark the homes of death squad targets by placing sandalwood flowers -- used in cremations -- at their doors, the Post reported.
Angkhana Songsilp of the Kalasin Network told the Post the campaign wasn't limited to drug dealers. "Many addicts and dealers" were killed, she said. The situation in the province was "very tense," Songsilp added.
Pairoj Polapetch, the director of the People's Rights and Freedom Association told the Post that the extra-judicial executions were no way to deal with the drug problem. "We must not pander to the desire for street justice," he said.
Although Thai officials denied that the killings occurred, they appear to be an open secret in Kalasin. Phuan Wewikwan, headman of Som Sa-ard village, said the surrounding area was now drug free after three drug dealers were killed last year. Similarly, Son Sanghhathad of Na Rud Sim village told the Post local drug problems had lessened since police killed two dealers nearby. But villagers are now wary of revenge attacks, they said. "What we want now are guns for villagers who must man the checkpoints at night," said Wewikwan. "The volunteers are afraid of danger without arms," he said.
Villagers are manning checkpoints as part of the Thai government's efforts to enlist local populations in an anti-drug network that gathers intelligence for Thai anti-drug police. The scheme, now in its third year, has grown to include 200,000 people in Kalasin. Information gathered by this government-organized network aided police and Thai military units in a series of offensives aimed at drug traders and users, the Post reported.
Northeast Thailand sits astride major smuggling routes from Burma, where rebel groups such as the United Wa States Army produce methamphetamines and heroin. According to Thai government officials, some 100,000 people were involved in the drug trade in the northeast and as many as 300,000 were drug users. But in ceremonies last week declaring Kalasin province drug-free, Thai authorities said the province now had no drug dealers and only a thousand or so users, and vowed to extend the campaign to other provinces.
But the Kalasin Network's Songsilp called the claim "propaganda" by the government. She told the Post the operation had only displaced the trade and drug users to neighboring provinces. Many users moved from fear of arrest after police announced an imminent crackdown, she said. The Kalasin Network treated addicts in facilities in the province, but many had fled.
As for the three executed drug traffickers in Bangkok, hill tribesmen from the northeast who had been caught with 560,000 tablets of "crazy medicine," the Thai term for methamphetamine, in December, 1997, they were shot in the head at Bang Kwang Maximum Security Prison after being given a final meal and Buddhist prayers. They were Jai Songoh, age 38, Kulchanok Intesaraj, age 24, and Netnoi Sangkad, age 36.
Global human rights watchdogs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both professed ignorance of the situation to DRCNet this week.