HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Nine-Year-Old Dies As Thai Drug Sweep Claims 901
Pubdate: Wed, 26 Feb 2003
Source: Independent  (UK)
Copyright: 2003 Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.
Author: Jan McGirk


The death in a hail of police bullets of the nine-year-old son of a 
suspected drug dealer has put Thailand's government on the defensive over a 
crackdown on the illegal methamphetamine trade.

The campaign has has resulted in 901 deaths of suspected drug dealers over 
the past three weeks across Thailand. A one-year-old baby was killed 
yesterday during a drug-related shooting in southern Songkhla province that 
left his mother seriously wounded.

In Chiang Mai, near the Burmese border, an army officer was killed, the 
first law enforcer to die during the intensive blitz against drug 
traffickers since 1 February.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who vowed to break up Thailand's 
burgeoning speed trade by the end of April, has demanded officials arrest 
at least 46,000 of the traffickers named on his blacklist. But he has 
denied a shoot-to-kill policy underlies the scheme.

Some 50 suspected speed dealers have been violently killed ever day for the 
past month, the Interior Ministry says. The minister, Wan Muhamad Nor 
Matha, warned that dealers "might vanish without trace". Police statistics 
scaled back the official death count to 484 victims, and officials say just 
22 were killed by police in self-defence. The rest of these deaths are 
blamed on drug gangs silencing possible informants. Bodies are found shot 
execution-style, each clutching a weapon in one hand and a bag of pink Yaba 
pills (methamphetamines) in the other.

The Prime Minister seemed upset by the details of the killing of the 
nine-year-old. "Officers are not authorised to simply kill people," Mr 
Thaksin said. "I will hold a meeting with senior officers to send a clear 
signal that whoever makes a mistake won't be protected."

Chakkapan Srisa-ard, nicknamed "Fluke", was sitting in the back of his 
parents' car on Sunday night while his father allegedly delivered 6,000 
pills to an informant and was handcuffed by police at a fruit market. As 
his mother tried to speed away in a hail of gunfire, two bullets struck the 
boy. The police say the car's tinted windows prevented them from seeing the 
child. They are charged with manslaughter.

The mother, Pornwipa Kerdrungurang, fled and did not attend her son's 
funeral. She is still missing. The police department sent a spokesman to 
lay a large wreath at the Buddhist service.

A recent university poll showed 92 per cent approval of Mr Thaksin's tough 
drugs policy. Yet 70 per cent feared they might be set up or killed by 
police or drug gangs.

Some police operations seem increasingly bizarre as they go after suspects 
believed to be major traffickers. Police confiscated 10,000 crocodiles from 
the farm of a suspected speed syndicate head in central Thailand. on orders 
from the Anti-Money Laundering Office yesterday. One official said: "We 
regard these crocodiles as the product of money laundering from the drug 

In other raids, authorities seized $9.4m (UKP6m) worth of assets from 
suspected dealers  mostly gold, gems, and cash, but including 40 deer, 320 
ostriches, 130 head of cattle and dozens of wild boars.

The Thai government has threatened to sack provincial governors who do not 
meet arrest quotas. Their three million Yaba addicts include children. An 
estimated one billion pills are consumed each year.
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