Pubdate: Tue, 18 Feb 2003
Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Copyright: 2003 Associated Press
Bookmark: (Thailand)


BANGKOK (AP)--Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said Tuesday he
had transferred several police officials, including two senior
officers, for obstructing investigations in the country's ongoing war
on drugs.

More than 300 suspects have been killed in the three-month crackdown
launched on Feb. 1 aimed at wiping out Thailand's vast illicit drug

While police blame the deaths mostly on gang warfare, human rights
advocates fear officers may be following a "shoot-to-kill" policy.
Tuesday, seven more suspects were reported shot dead. Police said the
victims were killed in gang-related attacks intended to silence
potential informants.

Thaksin told reporters that two police sub-colonels and several
noncommissioned officers will be moved to "inactive posts."

He said he would delay a move proposed by the Interior Ministry to
punish hundreds of officials suspected of blocking investigators and
20 local governors for failing to take action in the campaign.

"I will give them a chance for 10 more days because some of them seem
to be able to correct" the problem, Thaksin said, as he departed
Bangkok for an official visit to China.

Tuesday, the Interior Ministry submitted to the Cabinet a list of 710
government officials suspected of being involved in the drug trade and
requested permission to take action against them.

Among those listed were 209 police officers, 42 military officers, 233
village leaders, 124 sub-district administrators, 58 Education
Ministry officials and 14 Health Ministry officials.

In Thaksin's absence, acting Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh is
expected to decide at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday to postpone the
decision by a week, according to a government spokesman.

In the latest drug-related violence, three suspects were shot dead in
Nakhon Sri Thammarat, 590 kilometers (365 miles) south of Bangkok, and
another four were shot in northern Mae Sot, a town on the Myanmar border.

Police made no arrests in either case, but said the seven victims were
killed in gang-related attacks intended to silence potential informants.

Including the killings Monday, the death toll has reached 326 since
the campaign began more than two weeks ago, according to police
figures. But Thaksin said last week that the toll had risen to 350.

Police say 15 of the suspects were killed by police in self-defense
while the rest were victims of gang warfare.

The Public Health Ministry has estimated that more than 3 million
people are addicted to drugs, mostly methamphetamines.
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