Bangkok - The Thaksin government has launched a new round of the “War of Drugs” – sparking fears that it may lead to another round of extra-judicial killings and tarnish Thailand’s international standing on human rights.
“As long as I am still the Prime Minister, I will not allow narcotic drugs to return,” Mr Thaksin Shinawatra said on April 11 at the launch of the three-month campaign at the police headquarters.
The Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) has set a target for Thailand to be free of illegal drug production by the end of this year.
Mr Thaksin said his third drug war will focus on major smugglers along the borders with Cambodia and Laos, the areas to which the drugs were sent from the Thai-Burmese border, and on small dealers peddling in bars and clubs.
The first war on drugs in 2003 resulted in the killings of over 2,500 drug suspects. Thai police claimed traffickers were killing each other to sever any links to themselves. But local and foreign human rights organisations accused the authorities of waging a secret campaign of summary execution of drug suspects.
They alleged that many innocent people were killed on the basis of hearsay.
Many countries, such as the United States, also strongly criticised the drugs war and called on the Thaksin government to explain the high death toll. Mr Thaksin, however, remained unfazed by the criticisms and launched a second war in October last year. But his government did not release any statistics this time.
Human rights activists have expressed concern over Round 3, saying that the government has yet to answer questions over extra-judicial killings stemming from the second crackdown.
* PM launches new round in war on drugs (The Nation, April 12)
* Thaksin launches War on Drugs III (Bangkok Post, April 12)