Newsbrief: Thailand to Launch New Drug War This Month, Shrugs off US Human Rights Criticism 3/5/04

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Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is at it again. It was only last December that he declared "victory" in his version of the war on drugs, after a year-long campaign that left more than 2,500 people killed, most probably by Thai police, according to Thai and international human rights groups. But according to Associated Press and Reuters reports, Thaksin used his weekly radio address to the nation Saturday to announce a fresh offensive, aimed at Bangkok and other urban centers, where critics say last year's crusade has failed to dampen demand.

Thaksin's new call to arms came just days after the US State Department issued its annual human rights, noting that Thailand's record had "worsened with regard to extra-judicial killings' and arbitrary arrests." The Thai government has claimed that only 42 out of more than 2,500 killings between February and April of last year were done by police. The government's official position is that more than 1,300 killings it called drug-related were caused by fighting among drug gangs. But according to the State Department report, police were involved in some killing and the Thai government "failed to investigate and prosecute vigorously those who committed such abuses, contributing to a climate of impunity."

The Unites States is "a useless friend," Thaksin angrily retorted. "I am very upset and annoyed by the report," he told reporters. "What kind of friends are they? They are friends who damage the reputation of their friends every year. What would they do if Thailand issued the same report annually? These kinds of friends are useless friends," he said.

The looming crackdown will target methamphetamine pills known as ya-ba (crazy medicine) manufactured by factories controlled by the United Wa States Army across the border in neighboring Myanmar and imported by the millions annually.

Visit http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2003/ to read the State Department's annual human rights report online.

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