Thu, May 08, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Thailand denies extrajudicial drug killings took place

AP AND REUTERS , BANGKOK

Thailand's prime minister yesterday denied that any extrajudicial killings took place during the country's recent war on drugs and said the world should be grateful that Thailand is helping to curb the drug trade.

"Everything that has been done is according to our modern constitution ... everything is according to law," Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra told a select group of reporters at his office.

A total of 2,274 people were killed nationwide during the three-month anti-drug campaign that ended April 30, according to official figures.

The Thai government has come under intense criticism from international human rights groups who say the high death toll suggests extrajudicial killings by security forces. Thaksin last week declared the anti-drug campaign a huge success, but had not until now responded to the allegations so explicitly.

Thaksin said that only about 35 people had been shot by the police in self defense, which he said was permissable by law. He said most of the killings were because of gang wars and suspected informers being shot to death by "big bosses" who were afraid that "fingers would be pointed at them."

The US said yesterday it has serious concerns about the high death toll in Thailand's war on drugs and urged Bangkok to investigate and prosecute the killers of drugs suspects.

Mark Larsen, a US embassy spokesman in Bangkok, said the concern had been expressed to Thai officials at all levels a few weeks after the three-month long anti-drugs campaign started on Feb. 1.

"We believe the government of Thailand must investigate all of the unexplained killings and prosecute the killers identified and do so as quickly and transparently as possible," Larsen said.

Thailand has in recent years become a major market for methamphetamines, with health officials earlier this year saying about four percent of the population was thought to be addicted.

Thai anti-narcotics officials say drug gangs in the notorious "Golden Triangle" region where Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet, are increasingly producing the drug, as well as the usual opium, which is refined into heroin.

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