Southeast Asia: Most Killed in Thailand's 2003 Drug War Not Involved With Drugs, Panel Finds

An estimated 2,500 people were killed during a three-month crackdown on drugs by Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2003. Now, one of a half-dozen panels belatedly investigating the killings has reported that as many as 1,400 of those victims were killed and labeled drug suspects despite having no link to drugs.
bloody Thaksin (courtesy Wikimedia)
"The government drug policy was unclear," said a representative of the Office of Narcotics Control Board during a meeting at the Chao Phya Park Hotel in Bangkok. "Operation staff thus did everything to achieve the goal of reducing the number of drug traffickers. The death toll was highest in February when the policy was first implemented. The number of deaths had lowered in the two following months," the representative said, according to an account in The Nation.

Since Thaksin was overthrown in a coup last year, the interim Thai government has moved forward with a review of his government's drug policy and how it was implemented. A complete assessment is expected by year's end.

During Thaksin's drug war, police attributed many of the killings to drug traffickers who were presumably killing their partners to silence them. But the families of many victims protested that their family members had nothing to do with drugs or the drug trade.

Even as the new government investigates Thaksin's drug war, at least one veteran Thai politician is calling for more of the same. Chalerm Yubamrung, viewed as the number two man in the People Power Party and an avowed aspirant to the interior ministry position, told the Bangkok Post Tuesday he was prepared to follow Thaksin's bloody path.

"Drug suppression needs to be handled seriously, the same way the Thaksin administration did," Chalerm said in a lengthy interview. "Regarding the extra-judicial killings, people misunderstood that authorities killed innocent people. Instead, it could be that people were killed by their peers to cut the leads for authorities to pursue," he argued, parroting the line of police at the time of the killings.

While Chalerm said small-time dealers and users should be treated as patients, there is an urgent need to suppress the drug trade. "Illicit drug suppression cannot be handled gradually," he said. "It needs timeframes and targets, as well as authorities staying alert. But when there are mistakes and doubts, we need to clear the air promptly. It needs to be strictly, urgently and hastily handled with the provision of special task forces."

When asked point-blank if he had any criticisms of Thaksin's drug war, Chalerm couldn't find any. "There were not any failures," he said. "Some people just accused the then government. There was a high number of killings, but no one knew who carried out the activities."

Chalerm would like to be Thailand's future. Let's hope his embrace of Thaksin's bloody drug war means he has a tin ear when it comes to current Thai attitudes toward that sort of drug policy.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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The Nation (Thailand) article. More links.


The Nation (Thailand). November 27, 2007.

Most of those killed in war on drug not involved in drug

Of 2,500 deaths in the government's war on drugs in 2003, a fact-finding panel has found that more than half was not involved in drug at all.

At a brainstorming session, a representative from the Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) Tuesday disclosed that as many as 1,400 people were killed and labelled as drug suspects despite the fact that they had no link to drugs.

"The government drug policy was unclear. Operation staff thus did everything to achieve the goal of reducing the number of drug traffickers. The death toll was highest in February when the policy was first implemented. The number of deaths had lowered in the two following months," the representative said.

Held at the Chao Phya Park Hotel, the session attracted more than 50 judicial officials and academics.

The fact-finding panel worked under the government-appointed committee tasked with analysing the Thaksin Shinawatra-led government's drug policy and its implementation that caused damages to people's lives, property and reputation.

During the war on drug, police attributed many murder victims to silence killings by fellow drug traffickers. However, the families of the victims were demanding justice saying that the victims were not involved in drug trade.

Senior public prosecutor Kunlapon Ponlawan said it was not difficult to investigate extra-judicial killings carried out by police officers as the trigger-pullers usually confessed.

The Nation


For more on the Thai drug-war killings see the related info and links in the drug-war section of this article:

See photos and links here:

Previous DRCNet article. November 23, 2007:
"Southeast Asia: Reports Coming on Thailand's 2003 Drug War Killings."

I suggest DRCNet use shorter URLs. Long URLs can cause text to extend past the right side of the screen sometimes. This can require the reader to scroll back and forth horizontally for each line of text. Especially for laptops. Also for 17-inch monitors if the URL is long enough, or when larger font sizes are used in the browser.


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