Thailand: Government must protect the vulnerable and investigate drugs war deaths

Amnesty International UK Director, Kate Allen, said:

'The Thai authorities must take immediate action and set up an independent investigation into the 'war on drugs' deaths. They must send a clear message to the national police force, the military, and paramilitary groups, that extra-judicial executions by the security forces will not be tolerated.'

In the report, Thailand: Grave Developments and Other Abuses, Amnesty International notes no independent inquiry has been instituted into the deaths of 2,245 drug suspects who were killed during the three months of the 'war on drugs' campaign. Amnesty International is concerned by the climate of fear created by these killings and the lack of transparency in the 'drugs war' procedures, both of which are believed to have deterred witnesses to the killings from coming forward.

On 26 February Thanom Monta and Kwanla Puangchompu, a married couple, were shot dead a few kilometres from the Tha Chaliang Police Station, Petchburi Province, where they had just paid a 5,000 baht fine for drugs possession. Police later told a relative that the couple were involved in drugs, which the relative denied. The same family member also reported that the police did not investigate the killings.

The Amnesty International report also documents threats, intimidation and assassinations of poor and other marginalised people, including members of hill tribes, land rights and environmental activists, and migrant workers. Tribal people have increasingly sought full citizenship rights, while land rights and environmental activists have challenged infrastructure projects such as pipelines, dams, mineral separation plants or illegal logging activities. Campaigners for labour rights for migrant workers from neighbouring Burma have been deported.

Kate Allen continued:

'We are extremely concerned that the Thai government is failing to give protection to those who need it most - the poor, tribal people, land rights activists and migrant workers - and that the injustices suffered by these people are exacerbated by a weak criminal justice system susceptible to bribery, delays and poor investigations.'

Watcharin Uprajong, a community leader from Ban Hua Fai village, Chiang Mai Province, who had been involved in monitoring logging in the local forest, was the subject of an assassination attempt in June 2002. As he was travelling to a meeting he was shot in the chest but survived. The serial numbers of two weapons which the gunmen left at the scene were reportedly official government serial numbers, although police claimed the numbers were falsified.

In June 2003 a dispute at the King Body Concept Factory in Mae Sot, Tak Province involving 420 Burmese migrant workers, all of whom possessed valid Thai work permits in June 2003, led to the dismissal and deporting of all the workers back to Burma. They had complained about overcrowded dormitories, poor sanitation facilities and low pay, and had sent a petition to the Labour Protection Department. Amnesty International believes they were arrested and deported solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of association and for demanding the rights to which they were entitled under Thai law and international labour standards.

The lack of protection for poor people in Thailand, coupled with government anger at activists' critical statements, have contributed to a climate of fear for many people attempting to address social and economic problems in Thailand. And while important steps have been taken towards improving the human rights situation in the country in the last decade Amnesty International believes that the Thai Government is not exercising due diligence in protecting some of its most vulnerable citizens. This is exacerbated by a weak criminal justice system which is open to corruption, subject to long delays, and has many law enforcement officials who lack basic investigative skills.

Amnesty International is calling for:

  • the publication of the list of the 2,245 people killed during the 'war on drugs' earlier this year
  • clear instructions to the police, the military and paramilitaries that extra-judicial executions will not be tolerated
  • the prompt and independent investigation of all suspicious deaths
  • adequate resourcing for the National Human Rights Commission.

Kate Allen concluded:

'The Thai authorities must ensure that respect for human rights becomes a reality for all people in Thailand.'

The report is available online at: http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engasa390082003

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