Pubdate: Fri, 17 Dec 2010
Source: Bangkok Post (Thailand)
Copyright: The Post Publishing Public Co., Ltd. 2010


A government plan to launch a fresh crackdown on drugs is raising
concerns among human rights advocates who fear a repeat of the
mistakes which characterised the Thaksin Shinawatra administration's
war on drugs.

It is believed up to 2,600 people were killed, many in suspicious
circumstances, during the 2003 campaign launched by Thaksin.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban yesterday called a meeting of
the National Narcotics Board to discuss the operational details of a
new campaign aimed at curbing drug use and drug-related crime. Mr
Suthep chairs the board.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is scheduled to launch the year-long
campaign next month.

The new drug crackdown will focus on border provinces such as Chiang
Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son in the North and Pattani, Yala and
Narathiwat in the South.

Authorities will also intensify their efforts in 175 districts, mostly
in the central provinces, where the drug trade and use are rampant, Mr
Suthep said.

The new campaign comes in the wake of the killing of a 12-year-old
boy, Phokin Deephiu, in a Dec 4 drive-by shooting in Ayutthaya,
believed to have been carried out by suspected drug dealers Charnchai
and Noppon Prasongsil. Charnchai, alias "Joke Paikiew", was killed in
a shoot-out with police on Saturday night, while his younger brother,
Noppon, or "Jib Paikiew", was apprehended early Tuesday.

Human rights advocates who monitored the Thaksin government's war on
drugs have voiced concerns over the planned new nationwide campaign.

"The government should learn from the Thaksin government's war on
drugs in which about 2,600 drug suspects were killed," said Angkhana
Neelaphaijit, chairwoman of the Working Group on Justice and Peace.

Ms Angkhana urged the public to monitor the new campaign very closely
to ensure it abided by the law in dealing with drug suspects.

National Human Rights Commission member Niran Pithakwatchara said the
government should focus on reducing demand for drugs rather than

The use of violence against drug suspects was not the right solution
to the problem, Dr Niran said.

"We are afraid some authorities might misinterpret the anti-drug
campaign to exert their power over innocent civilians," the rights
commissioner said.

Mr Suthep yesterday dismissed the concerns, offering an assurance that
his campaign would be different from Thaksin's drug war.

"This government will follow the law strictly in drug suppression
operations," the deputy prime minister said.

"We don't support killing [of drugs suspects]. Why do we have to kill

Mr Suthep said he would explain the government's new scheme to senior
police, military officers and drug enforcement officers at a meeting
on Tuesday. .

The secretary-general of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board,
Sureeprapha Traives, said the new campaign would focus on "quality
rather than quantity".

The agency would not set targets for the arrest of drug dealers and
users or the seizure of drugs, she said.

The ONCB, the Anti-Money Laundering Office and the Customs Department
would work closely to detect and confiscate suspicious assets acquired
from the drug trade, she said.

Ms Sureeprapha said the situation was severe and there was a constant
influx of drugs across the border from neighbouring countries. Many
people who have been impoverished by the recent floods have turned to
drug trafficking to make a living.

The director-general of the Corrections Department, Chartchai
Sutthiklom, said the number of prisoners on drug charges had risen by
between 10,000 and 20,000 a month since the beginning of the year and
their numbers were rising steadily.

Col Charnchai Em-on, chief of staff of the army Surasakmontri task
force based in Udon Thani, said the amount of drugs smuggled through
the upper northeastern provinces had soared.

Smugglers had changed their routes after authorities had taken tough
action against dealers in the North, he said. 
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