On April 30, Thailand’s Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra claimed victory in his three month “all-out campaign against drug trafficking.” The campaign included over 17,000 arrests and the deaths of 2,274 people, most killed in “extrajudicial executions.”
Interior Minister Wan Mohammed Noor Matha had begun the campaign by warning that drug dealers would “be put behind bars or even vanish without a trace. Who cares? They are destroying our country.”
Shinawatra told the media that his nation had “done our duty as a member of the world community.” He brushed aside concerns from human rights groups, which claimed that police had organized death squads to execute many hundreds of suspected traffickers. “In this war, drug dealers must die,” the prime minister said. “But we don’t kill them. It’s a matter of the bad guys killing the bad guys.”
Shinawatra had created “blacklists” with the names of many thousands of people which he suspected of being involved in the methamphetamine trade. He then set ambitious quotas for governors and police chiefs to remove names from the blacklists.
Authorities told the media there are only three ways to get off the list: get arrested, turn informant, or die.
Somchai Homlaor, from the human-rights group Forum-Asia, told the media that most of the dead were killed by the police. In many cases, suspects were summoned to their local police station, then shot to death in broad daylight minutes after being released.
Homlaor also warned that the nation could return to the ways of the military dictatorship that ruled from 1957 to 1973, and employ death squads to eliminate opponents.
Thai media covered notable victims, including a pregnant woman, a 9-year-old boy shot and killed by police who were arresting his parents, a 1-year-old boy killed in a shooting that injured his mother, and the killing of a 75-year-old grandmother suspected of selling methamphetamine.