HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Thai Police Officers Arrested on Murder Charges
Pubdate: Tue, 25 Feb 2003
Source: Scotsman (UK)
Copyright: The Scotsman Publications Ltd 2003


THREE Thai police officers who gunned down a nine-year-old boy as part
of a controversial drugs crackdown that has left more than 500 dead
were arrested on murder charges yesterday.

In a war on drugs championed by Thailand's political leadership, but
now under heavy fire from human rights groups, a pregnant woman was
also shot to death.

The boy was killed by three police officers who posed as drug buyers
during an operation in central Bangkok on Sunday night, said police
spokesman Pongsaphat Phongcharoen.

The men had arrested a suspected trafficker who sold them more than
3,000 methamphetamine pills, the seizure of which has been a central
focus of the crack-down. The man's wife sped away in a car with their
nine-year-old son.

Three officers opened fire, killing the boy while his mother fled on

Mr Pongsaphat said the three officers involved had been arrested on
charges of murder. They denied the charges.

The prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's no-holds-barred campaign to
root out drugs, from Thailand within three months, launched with great
fanfare on 1 February, has seen about 500 people killed.

Bullet-ridden bodies have turned up daily, with drug suspects shot to
death by masked gunmen. The Thai police have admitted causing only a
handful of the deaths, insisting almost all the killings were by drug
gangsters trying to silence possible informers.

A police spokesman said yesterday said only 22 of the dead were killed
by police, acting in self-defence.

A poll published yesterday showed 70 per cent of Thai people were
satisfied with the government's tough measures - although about half
appear to believe that police were tacitly connected with the string
of executions.

On Sunday alone, at least 18 more drug-related killings were recorded,
including a woman in central Ayutthaya province who was eight months
pregnant. Police said they believe she was the victim of a gangland

Thailand's human rights commission said yesterday the war was
threatening innocent people and urged an immediate policy review.
"This is clearly a violation of human rights of innocent people," said
the rights commissioner, Surasee Kosolnavin. "Law enforcement officers
are supposed to provide safety to innocent people, not to threaten
their lives."

Mr Surasee said his office had been flooded by complaints from accused
drug traffickers told their lives would be in danger if they did not
report to local officials.

"We have asked the prime minister to investigate whether anti-drugs
officers are exerting their power under the law and to say what
criteria they have used to put people on their blacklists."

Amnesty International Thailand has already expressed its concern.
Thailand director Srirak Plipat said the use of extra-judicial force
to kill a suspect was a human rights violation if it was not used in

Despite the outrage, the government has vowed to step up its
anti-drugs operations to rid the country of methamphetamines by May.

Police say Thailand annually consumes around one billion
methamphetamine pills. The stimulant, which Thais call "ya ba" (crazy
medicine) and is related to the drug known as "ice", is produced in
secluded factories in the Golden Triangle region, where the borders of
Thailand, Myanmar and Laos, meet.

"If the number of methamphetamine dealers has not been decreased in
three months, or just slightly decreased, or the public think my
performance is not satisfactory, I am ready to quit," the Thai
interior minister, Wan Muhamad Noor Matha, said yesterday.

The minister threatened provincial governors with the sack last week
if they failed to arrest at least 25 per cent of the listed suspects
on their patch by May. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake