Update on War on Drugs Investigation in Thailand

The Asia Sentinel today has a useful overview of the status of investigations into the unsolved extra-judicial kilings from the 2003 war on drugs. A major focus of the article is the lack of interest by the military junta, until very recently, in investigating the issue.

An independent commission, however, has now been establish and Thai editorialists are urging investigators to  leave no stone unturned in getting to the bottom of the deaths. But some long-time human rights activists in Thailand believe that a truly effective investigation won’t be likely to happen on the junta’s watch. Thus former senator Kraisak Choonhavan: “The coup was made by very conservative military people whose subordinates or colleagues served Mr. Thaksin very well to perpetuate a horrific rule over Thailand. It’s as simple as that.”

Ironically, the impetus to the new investigations appear to have been Thaksin’s takeover at Manchester City, and the protest filed by Human Rights Watch with the Premier League to Thaksin’s fitness. The cynical, and likely correct, interpretation is that the junta sensed a political opportunity in purusing these serious charges.  While it’s good that an investigation is opened, the findings will lack the necessary weight, particular in regard to evaluating Thaksin’s role,  if they are released while the junta is still in charge.
The article also cites the 2007 United Nations World Drug Report, which says that drug use in Thailand, particularly use of meth, did decline notably in Thailand after the crackdown. That is far stronger and more authoritative evidence than I’ve seen before of the positive consequences of the crackdown, though it doesn’t excuse human rights abuses entailed in the process.

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One Comment on “Update on War on Drugs Investigation in Thailand”

  1. Vichai N Says:

    ‘Getting to the bottom of deaths’ could be an awkward objective. And if by bottom they mean prosecuting the lowly village police ranks who pulled the trigger, then Kraisak Choonhavan will have reason to be dismayed.

    I am more interested in correcting the ‘system’ and any ‘checks & balances’ that failed to prevent, to halt and to post-deaths investigate the needless slaughter of suspects without due process.

    Whether Thaksin Shinawatra himself will be found guilty of direct or indirect complicity in the extrajudicial crimes is secondary in such public inquiry is of secondary concern. That public inquiry into the extrajudicial deaths should be able to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that because nearly every Thai themselves were either applauding or silent while the needless slaughter went on from 2003 – 05, ergo nearly every Thai was complicit and are nearly s guilty as Thaksin for the extrajudicial deaths. Maybe that shared sense of public guilt resulting from such a public inquiry would do more to prevent any more future extrajudicial killlings, and any more future Thaksins, in Thailand.


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