Pubdate: Fri, 07 Nov 2003
Source: Vanguard (Nigeria)
Copyright: 2003 Vanguard.


BANGKOK -- THE Thai government appears to have condoned the killings
of more than 2,000 suspected drug dealers as a way to win its war on
drugs, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

It said Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's government had failed to
bring anyone to justice for the killings, despite its promises to
investigate the deaths of 2,245 people, most of them killed by
"unknown assailants" during a bloody 90-day campaign. Thaksin has
consistently denied police were guilty of extrajudicial killings. His
government says 2,194 of the deaths were the result of drug
traffickers killing one another. The rest were killed in shootouts
with police.

"The government has failed to initiate independent, impartial,
effective and prompt investigations into these killings," the group
said in a 30-page report on alleged rights abuses in the Southeast
Asian country.

"The Thai government appeared to condone killing of drug suspects by
unknown assailants as one method of fighting the drugs war," it said.

"The lack of political will has been exacerbated by the weak criminal
justice system in Thailand, which is open to corruption, undermined by
undue delays and a lack of investigative skills on the part of law
enforcement officials," the report said.

Tapping into voter discontent over the country's worsening drug
problem, Thaksin swept to power in 2001 elections promising to
crackdown on drug peddlers. Thaksin, a former policeman, wants the
country drug free by December 5 as a birthday gift to King Bhumibol

Rights groups say most of the deaths were extrajudicial killings by
police and security forces, in some cases under pressure to clear
so-called blacklists of suspected drug dealers and users in their areas.

Police used the lists, usually drawn up by local officials, to summon
people for questioning. In some cases cited by Amnesty, suspects were
killed soon after returing home from a police station.

Amnesty said that on February 20, Somjit Kuanyuyen learned she was on
a blacklist and reported to her local police station in Ban Lam
District. After signing a paper and being told by police she was safe,
Somjit returned home.

"Four unidentified men in a one-tonne pickup truck with darkened
windows drove up to her house and shot her seven times in front of her
seven-year-old granddaughter and her seven-months pregnant daughter,"
Amnesty said.

Police questioned a relative of Somjit, but Amnesty said a thorough
investigation was still pending.

Somchai Homlaor, a member of the Law Society of Thailand which has
investigated 18 unsolved killings so far, said most witnesses or
relatives were too frightened to file a complaint.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin