2,274 dead in Thai drugs crackdown
Wednesday, May 7, 2003 Posted: 7:00 AM EDT (1100 GMT)
BANGKOK, Thailand -- Thailand's prime minister has defended his controversial war on drugs trumpeting the successful conclusion of a campaign that left more than 2,200 people dead in a three-month period.
Speaking to journalists in Bangkok Wednesday Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra denied accusations of extra-judicial killings and said the world should be grateful that Thailand was taking such a tough line on drugs.
"The success of this campaign has helped the whole world, especially the Western countries," he said.
"Everything that has been done is according to our modern constitution... everything is according to law," he added, defending the high death toll.
According to official Thai government figures a total of 2,274 people died nationwide during the nationwide crackdown.
Of those killed, Thaksin said, police had shot about 35 out of self-defense -- an act he said was permissible by law.
Most of the other killings he said were the result of fighting between drug gangs and the orders of "big bosses" who ordered hits on suspected informers out of fear that "fingers would be pointed at them."
Thaksin has labelled the drug problem the number one threat to Thai society.
The campaign, which officially ended at the end of April, was dubbed "an eye-for-an-eye" by Thaksin who has declared the drugs problem the number one threat to Thai society.
Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have condemned the crackdown, labeling it a government sanctioned shoot-to-kill policy against anyone even suspected of involvement in the drugs trade.
The United Nations and several Western governments also expressed concern about the high death toll from the policy saying that in most cases there had been no official inquiry in line with standard police procedures.
On Wednesday the Associated Press quoted a U.S. Embassy spokesman in Bangkok as saying Washington had "serious concerns about the number of killings."
The unnamed spokesman said the United States had urged the Thai government to "investigate all unexplained killings and identify and prosecute those responsible."