Thailand’s second war on drugs

The World

Five years ago Thai police conducted a sting operation against a small drug dealer in a market in Bangkok and it seemed like a success after undercover cops arrested the man and confiscated meth pills. The suspect’s wife and son remained in the car during the arrest. What happened next is the subject of a stalled investigation: witnesses say police opened fire on the car killing the suspect’s son. In the first 15 days of the anti-drug operation more than 500 people were killed, even though the program received widespread support. Nightly news showed the fatalities but authorities put an end to the public death tolls when it started to rise too far. This analyst says the campaign came very close to crimes against humanity, and by the time the campaign ended over 2,000 people were dead. Police blamed the deaths on rival drug gangs and this analyst says only 3 cases were properly investigated and even in those cases police didn’t cooperate. A government appointed panel later concluded that more than half of those killed were not involved in drugs. This official says one leaked document is damning against the government’s actions, and that the government authorized order to kill against drug traffickers. The government brushes off the document as a piece of history. It sticks to its version that rival gang wars are to blame and the public seems to be accepting that. The government is assuming this new campaign will receive the same public support. During this publicity launch of the new campaign, there was no mention of the 2003 killings. The Prime Minister absolved the police of wrongdoing in a speech recently. the former Prime Minister was ousted in a coup in 2006 but he’s now back in Thailand and many of his supporters are still in parliament. One supporter heads Thailand’s powerful Interior Ministry and in a recent speech he gave a grave warning to drug traffickers and users in Thailand. This Human Rights Watch official says some drug users who reported to police to avoid prosecution were gunned down on their way home. He says it’s very disturbing that the practice of keeping black lists have come back. the Thai government maintains it will carry out the new anti-drug campaign according to the law, but many doubt it is able or willing to do so.

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