Pubdate: Mon, 20 Dec 2010
Source: Bangkok Post (Thailand)
Copyright: The Post Publishing Public Co., Ltd. 2010


Few would argue that the country would be better off without the drug
dealers, big-time and street corner variety alike. It is crucial,
then, that the government proceed carefully on a promised new
crackdown against the men and women corrupting the nation by selling
illicit, harmful drugs.

Ridding the neighbourhoods of drug peddlers is a goal that unites
everyone. But the 2003 travesty of a "war on drugs" still haunts.
Authorities cannot afford another human rights disaster and
effectively combat the odious and harmful drug trade.

Last week, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban held a meeting of
the National Narcotics Board as a prelude to a forceful crackdown on
drug dealers. By all accounts, the board and Mr Suthep planned
carefully. The public announcement revealed three target provinces
apiece in the far North and deep South, and 175 districts in the
Central region.

Each of these clusters has unique problems. The bulk of dangerous
drugs are smuggled into Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son from
Burma. Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat are familiar as the centre of
militant attacks against the country, but gangs in the deep South are
highly active in the drug trade, both locally and across the border to
Malaysia. In Bangkok and other Central provinces, drug peddlers
subvert young people and workers alike with a mix of methamphetamines
from Burma and other drugs of various kinds.

In 2003, the Thaksin Shinawatra government embarked on an anti-drug
crackdown that almost immediately horrified the country with its
scope. Officials including Thaksin thumbed their noses at any idea of
justice. Human rights officials and concerned citizens now estimate
that around 2,500 Thais were killed in the most cavalier and uncaring
manner. Thaksin and others waved away concern for the extra-judicial
killings. When proof emerged that some of the victims had nothing to
do with drug selling, it was dismissed as unfortunate collateral damage.

It is regrettable that some concerned groups and citizens are using
the 2003 example to question any new crackdown on drug peddlers. The
way to prevent abuse of authority by anti-drug police and agents is
not to stop them. It is to insist on proper oversight by police and
government alike. It is misguided to oppose the coming anti-drug
operation. It deserves everyone's support - and a careful watch to
ensure there is no repeat of the extra-judicial killings.

Events of the last few weeks have showed the depths to which some drug
peddlers can fall. At least three suspected dealers in Ayutthaya
province have been accused of heinous crimes beyond their drug
dealing. The drive-by shootings and casual murder of 12-year-old
Phokin Deephiu shocked the country as the story of the three men
emerged. In a perfect world, all three should have been imprisoned
long ago for their drug dealing. The life of a boy would have been

Mr Suthep and his security forces need to assure the country that the
drug crackdown will be scrupulously legal. Tough action, harsh
prosecution and legal imprisonment should follow in all appropriate
cases uncovered. Attempts to stop the drug dealing must not be hobbled
by concern of human rights abuses. At the same time, full measures
must be installed to be certain there are no such abuses in the
campaign to stamp out drug peddlers.  
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