Thais swear to stay drug-free
Published by BBC News – Monday 21 April, 2003
Copyright: BBC News
An estimated 40,000 Thais have taken an oath against using drugs at a ceremony in the ancient capital of Ayutthaya, 76 kilometres (47 miles) north of Bangkok.
The event, led by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, comes at the end of the second month of a controversial drug crackdown.
Nearly 2,000 people are thought to have been killed since the crackdown began on 1 February, provoking international concern that the police are operating a “shoot-to-kill” policy .
But Prime Minister Thaksin defended his policy at Friday’s event, saying: “The drugs problem is a threat to national security. Thus my government has declared war on drugs and placed drugs eradication as the nation’s most urgent agenda.”
Leaders from five major religions – Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism – took part in the oath-taking ceremony, encouraging their followers to abstain from drugs.
High death toll
The Thai crackdown targets producers and traffickers accused of bringing large amounts of drugs, mainly methamphetamines, into the country.
The authorities have already arrested more than 40,000 people on drugs charges, and seized 517 million baht ($12m) in assets belonging to suspects.
But it is the high death toll which has especially concerned the international community.
Police have said that only 42 of the dead were shot by police, with the remainder being killed as a result of in-fighting between drug gang members.
But human rights groups accuse the Thai Government of encouraging security forces to carry out extra-judicial killings on drugs dealers.
On Wednesday the Thai Government said 95 military personnel had been implicated in drugs trafficking since the crackdown was launched.
Seventeen of the 95 have already been arrested and the remainder are undergoing investigation, Defence Minister Thammarak Issarangkun Na Ayutthaya said.
Of those arrested, six were fired, seven suspended and the rest face disciplinary action, he said.
Most of the drugs that are brought into Thailand are said to come from neighbouring Burma or the so-called “Golden Triangle” region where the borders of Thailand, Burma and Laos meet.