HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html A US State Dept Look at the War on Drugs
Pubdate: Fri, 27 Feb 2004
Source: Nation, The (Thailand)
Copyright: 2004 Nation Multimedia Group


The following is an excerpt from the recently released report by the
US State Department on human rights practices Thailand, particularly
the alleged extra-judicial killings in connection with the anti-drug
campaign last year:

There were no confirmed reports of politically motivated killings by
the government or its agents; however, elements of the Royal Thai
Police continued to use excessive, lethal force against criminal
suspects and committed or were connected to numerous extra-judicial,
arbitrary and unlawful killings. For example, according to the
Interior Ministry, as of February 27, 993 persons had been killed
during confrontations with police in the first two months of the year.
However, NGOs alleged that these government figures underestimated the
true number of persons killed while being apprehended by police.

On February 1, 2003, the prime minister initiated a three-month
war-on-drugs campaign intended to eliminate narcotics from the
country. The Interior minister instructed local authorities to update
"blacklists" of individuals suspected of being involved in illegal
drug trafficking, sale, or use, and the prime minister told the
governors and provincial police that those who failed to eliminate a
prescribed percentage of the names from their blacklists would be
fired. The government threatened retaliation against local officials
who did not produce results.

There were reports that local officials used the blacklists as a means
to settle political differences. According to official figures, there
were 1,386 narcotics-related deaths between February 1 and April 30,
2003. No arrests were made in 1,195 of these cases, which led many
observers to believe police were responsible for most of these deaths.
According to press reports, more than 2,200 alleged drug criminals
were killed during the year, while more than 90,000 suspects were arrested.

Human rights activists accused the government of unleashing a "shoot
to kill" policy and condoning the killings of suspected drug dealers.
The government in turn claimed that many of the killings resulted from
dealers fighting each other. Many of those killed were civilians. For
example, in February, police shot and killed a nine-year-old boy in
the back seat of a car driven by his mother following the arrest of
his father on drug trafficking charges. The three police involved in
the shooting were arrested for intentional murder; however, the court
ruled that the killing was accidental and justified. In response to
criticism from national and international NGOs and other foreign
governments, the government created several official committees to
investigate the killings; by year's end, security force involvement
had been acknowledged in 55 deaths during the February to April period.

Of these, 39 were forwarded to prosecutors for submission to the
courts, and the other 16 remained under investigation. The UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) requested that a special envoy
visit the country; however, the government refused the visit.

In August, several separatists were reportedly killed by police in the
country's southern provinces. In the past, when the government
investigated extra-judicial killings, it prosecuted few of the accused
police or military officers. Senior prosecutors and NGO legal
associations claimed that most cases against police or military
officers accused of extra-judicial killings eventually were dismissed
because regulations outlined in the Criminal Code require public
prosecutors to rely exclusively upon the recommendations of the police
when determining whether to bring a case for criminal

The resulting routine exoneration of police officers contributed to a
climate of impunity that persisted in preventing any major change in
police behaviour. It also discouraged relatives of victims from
pressing for prosecution. Procedures for investigating suspicious
deaths, including deaths occurring in police custody, required among
other things, that the prosecutor, a forensic pathologist, and a local
administrator participate in the investigation and that family members
have legal representation at the inquests. However, these procedures
often were not followed. Families rarely took advantage of a provision
in the law that allows them to bring personal lawsuits against police
officers for criminal action during arrest.

There was no information available to determine how many cases were
settled out of court. However, in cases in which suits were filed, the
official charged often compensated the family of the deceased, and the
lawsuit was waived. Compensation varied widely, from as low as
$3,490-$69,770 (Bt150,000-Bt3 million).

There were no developments in the 2002 killings in Chiang Rai, where
police officers killed several civilians who were suspected of drug

According to the Interior Ministry's Investigation and Legal Affairs
Bureau, during the first six months of the year, 1,197 persons died in
police custody (Section 1.c.). Most of these deaths were attributed by
the authorities to natural illness. During the year, detainees at the
Muang Surat Thani Police Station died in custody. T

The National Human Rights Commission investigated these cases and
concluded that the detainees had died as a result of injuries
sustained when police beat them. However, according to the Law Society
of Thailand, no action was taken against police officers in these
cases. Instead, the victim's cellmates were pending trial for the
murder at year's end. In January 2003 an official from Muang
Kanchanaburi Police Station was suspended from duty pending
investigation for beating a detainee to death. At year's end, an
investigation into the case continued.

Investigations of 25 killings of political canvassers during the
election campaigns leading up to the 2001 general election and the
2000 Senate elections remained open and unresolved at year's end. In
2002, at least 36 persons were killed by landmines in border areas.
During the year, a civilian de-mining unit continued to survey and
remove landmines from border areas. 
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