Pubdate: Fri, 27 Feb 2004
Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Copyright: 2004 Associated Press


BANGKOK (AP)--Thailand's prime minister, a key U.S. ally in the war on 
terror, blasted Washington Friday as a "useless friend" after a U.S. State 
Department report criticized his government's human rights record.

"I am very upset and annoyed by the report," Prime Minister Thaksin 
Shinawatra told reporters, reacting to the State Department's annual report 
on the state of human rights in the world during 2003.

He said U.S. Ambassador Darryl Johnson will be summoned to the Foreign 
Ministry later Friday to hear an official complaint from the government.

In its section on Thailand, the report said the human rights situation in 
Thailand was generally positive last year but the government's record 
worsened on extra-judicial killings and arbitrary arrests.

It cited the killings of drug suspects during confrontations with police 
during a war on drugs ordered by Thaksin between February and April last 
year. News reports and human rights groups said more than 2,000 people were 
killed in what they described as summary executions.

"A report that takes its information from the media is unacceptable to me," 
Thaksin said.

"What kind of friends are they? They are friends who damage the reputation 
of their friends every year. What would they do if Thailand issued the same 
report annually? These kind of friends are useless friends," he said.

Thaksin won personal praise from U.S. President George W. Bush last year 
after Thai police arrested a top terrorist suspect, Hambali, in a central 
Thai city. Hambali, an Indonesian, has been described as al-Qaida's 
pointman in the region. He is now being held by the U.S. in an undisclosed 

Thaksin said his government had already explained to the U.S. last year its 
position that the drug deaths were caused by internecine fighting among 
drug barons.

The drug killings caused a huge uproar among local and human rights 
organizations. The U.S. embassy had also officially expressed concern about 
the killings.

The government claims out of a total of 2,598 homicide cases during the 
February-April, 2003 period, there were 1,383 narcotics-related deaths, of 
which just 42 people were shot by police, mostly in self-defense. The rest, 
it says, were killed by drug gang infighting.

However, the State Department report said the Thai government "failed to 
investigate and prosecute vigorously those who committed such abuses, 
contributing to a climate of impunity."

Thaksin didn't comment on the overall tone of the report, which considered 
the general human rights situation in the country as positive.

In a statement late Thursday, the Foreign Ministry said the Thai government 
is "deeply disappointed" with the report, which it said "contains a number 
of factual was the case with the year 2002 and 2001 reports."