Amnesty denounces ‘murder spree’ in Thai war on drugs

Amnesty denounces 'murder spree' in Thai war on drugs - Financial Times, November 5, 2003
Amnesty International has accused Thailand's Thai Rak Thai (Thais love Thais) government of bullying its critics and ignoring abuses against the vulnerable, allowing security forces and the well-connected to act with impunity.


[2014 note: Like many newspaper articles from the earlier days of the net, this article is no longer online. Below is the complete text of the original article.]

Full text:
By Amy Kazmin in Bangkok
Published: November 5 2003

Amnesty International has accused Thailand's Thai Rak Thai (Thais love Thais) government of bullying its critics and ignoring abuses against the vulnerable, allowing security forces and the well-connected to act with impunity.

In a report released today, Amnesty, the human rights group, criticises the lack of a credible investigation into the bloodshed unleashed by this year's official war on drugs.

At least 2,252 people were killed in a three-month anti-drug campaign, yet Thaksin Shinawatra, prime minister, "appeared to condone such killings" with repeated public statements that death was an appropriate fate for drug dealers.

"The stated policy of the royal Thai government has allowed the killing of more than 2,000 people by unknown assailants with impunity," the report said.

While many killings were believed to have been extra-judicial executions, "relatives and associates of those who have been murdered are often too terrified for their own lives to seek an investigation", and none has yet been held accountable for most of these crimes.

The murder spree left many people "afraid to leave their homes, and others avoided travelling to areas where they were not known for fear of being suspected as drugs traffickers and shot dead".

Amnesty also criticised the government for failing to investigate seriously crimes against individuals from marginalised groups such as migrant workers and ethnic minorities.

Though Mr Thaksin came to power pledging to improve the lives of the poor, community activists who have opposed government-backed projects or challenged powerful vested business interests have been subjected to harassment, intimidation and, occasionally, assassinated.

"Amnesty International remains concerned about the inconsistent levels of protection offered to Thai citizens by its democratically elected government," the report said. "Government critics, rural activists, and others demanding their rights or the rights of their fellow citizens are not receiving adequate protection from either local or central government authorities."

In 2001 and 2002, a total of 11 provincial environmental and community activists were killed, including one who was involved in protesting against the destruction of mangrove forests by the expansion of prawn farming in Phuket. Another was a 59-year-old community leader in Chiang Mai who encouraged landless farmers to begin cultivation of unused, vacant land.

Other slain activists led protests against businesses or industrial projects in their various communities, including illegal timber trading, a water treatment facility, a mineral separation plant and a rock grinding plant.


Also: How many died in the drug purges? 2275, 2245, 1329, or 72?
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