Moral Responsibility and the War on Drugs

The Nation ran an interesting editorial earlier this week comment on the military government’s decision to launch an investigation into the 2003 war on drugs and the widely reported extra-judicial killings.

What’s interesting about it is it lays moral responsibility at the feet not just of Thaksin or the police, but also at the feet of the Thai people as a whole:

“In the view of too many Thais back then, the desire to suppress the drug scourge, which was once identified as the number one threat to national security, more than justified the undermining of the rule of law, the trampling of human rights, and the disregard for the due process of law. There were few outcries among members of the Thai public over the drug war partly because most of the victims were known to have led criminal lives or because their families and loved ones lacked the wherewithal to sue the authorities over such crimes.”

It’s an interesting and important point, which raises two key questions: to what extent should Thaksin personally be held responsible for the apparent abuses, if it is the case that he was, as a public official, largely carrying out the will of the people? And, what prospects are there for the development of a culture of accountability and checks and balances in Thailand sufficient to stop such excesses from occurring again under a future government?

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One Comment on “Moral Responsibility and the War on Drugs”

  1. Marty Says:

    I’m not sure that the moral repsonsibility for this should lie (even partly) with the Thai people. Thaksin combined a well hyped, populist policy, i.e. a war on drugs, and at the same time manipulated the media with emotive spin about the harmful effects of drugs on Thai youth. Thais (like citizens of all nations) have every right to believe that their elected leaders will act proportionately and responsibly. As the article says, most of the Thais lacked the resources to challenge the actions of the state enforcers. Thus, Thaksin, as leader and chief architect of the killing should be held to account. Now that the true extent of the human cost of these policies are better understood, I’m sure the Thai people will want to see those responsible held to account, and that appropriate accountability mechanisms are put in place to prevent this type of occurance happening again. My hope, as a public health consultant, is that there is a greater understanding of the complex needs of vulnerable adults who use drugs.


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