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Amnesty Blasts Thailand on Deaths of 2,000 Alleged Drug Dealers - 2003-11-05

The human rights group Amnesty International has criticized Thailand for not investigating the deaths of more than 2,000 alleged drug dealers earlier this year. The group also accuses the government of failing to protect the rights of civic activists.

Amnesty International on Wednesday issued a report detailing what it calls grave human rights abuses during the past year in the kingdom.

The report says so far there has been no independent investigation into the deaths of more than 2,000 suspects who were killed in a campaign against Thailand's illegal drug trade.

The government launched the campaign in February, pledging to eliminate the illegal drug trade by early December. During the first three months of the campaign, hundreds of suspected drug dealers were killed, many of them after reporting to police stations.

The Interior Ministry spokesman, Police Colonel Somchai Petprasert, says drug dealers were responsible for most of the killings. He says the Thai government is determined to eliminate the drug trade because of its devastating effect on Thai society but adds that it will be done lawfully.

"Whatever we can, we will do it, to stop the drug [trade]," said Colonel Somchai, "but we never had a policy to kill anybody ... even [if] they are concerned with drugs. We are under the law. The police [are] working under the law."

Colonel Somchai says the campaign has been a success. The Thai government says tens of thousands of drug dealers and drug users have turned themselves in and are being rehabilitated, while hundreds of corrupt security officials have been apprehended and punished.

The Amnesty International report notes that important steps have been taken in the past decade toward improving human rights in Thailand, including rights guarantees in a new constitution and the signing of the international civil rights covenant. However, the report says these principles have yet to be translated into action.

The report also criticizes the government for not protecting what it calls vulnerable members of society, including the poor, migrant workers and tribal people.

It notes that protests against infrastructure projects, such as dams and gas pipelines, have been suppressed and civil rights activists have been threatened. And it says delays and inadequate methods by law enforcement officials have hindered investigations into such abuses.

It calls on authorities to do more to ensure that the rights of all Thai people are respected. The Thai government says it allows peaceful anti-government protests but that they must not undermine law and order.