Does Thailand have a drug problem 1

Merciless «war on drugs» in Thailand

In February the Thai government announced the start of a relentless “war on drugs”. After three months, the authorities have drawn an extremely positive balance. But behind the reports of success are worrying numbers. The campaign has cost over 2000 lives so far.

spl. At the beginning of February, an officially announced "war on drugs" began in Thailand. At the end of April, the police and government took stock of the situation. In three months, 17,000 people were arrested, 14 million methamphetamine pills seized and $ 23 million drug money confiscated. The Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra spoke of a great success. Ninety percent of the drug trade could have been eliminated. The campaign was so successful that it would be extended until the end of the year, he said and promised the king a “drug-free Thailand” for his birthday on December 2nd.

Shockingly high death toll

However, the success reports are clouded by a less positive number: the anti-drug campaign has claimed 2275 lives to date. According to official information, only 51 people who are part of the drug scene were shot dead by the police in self-defense. The remaining dead are victims of gang wars. Non-governmental organizations, however, consider this version to be extremely questionable. You speak of serious human rights violations by the authorities and see the rule of law in danger. With his request to take merciless action, the Prime Minister had in fact granted the police a license to kill. The anti-drug campaign is about meeting targets, regardless of victims. The government blacklisted the names of 45,000 alleged drug traffickers and put provincial governors and local police chiefs under pressure. Anyone who has not "withdrawn enough" suspected dealers from the market has been dismissed or transferred.

Human Rights Watch officials believe that the Thai police, with the government's blessing, have killed suspects in cold blood. It is noticeable that many of the victims were shot on the way home after being interrogated at local police stations. The forensic medicine institute in Bangkok complains that the increasing number of alleged murders within the drug milieu are not being investigated.

The Thai media are also observing the events with increasing skepticism and are reporting deaths in which the role of the authorities is unclear. The reports make it clear that the merciless “war” not only paid for numerous drug dealers with their lives, but also many innocent people. But Prime Minister Thaksin rejects all allegations. He indignantly rejected the proposal of the UN Human Rights Commission to send a special envoy to Thailand to investigate the allegations. His country's authorities acted strictly according to the law, he said.

Chemical fashion drug as the main problem

In his tough politics, Thaksin knows a majority of the population behind him. Few Thais share the concerns of the media and human rights organizations. The Southeast Asian country has been suffering severely from the drug problem for years. Above all, cheap methamphetamine pills - called Yaba in Thailand and also known by this name in Europe - are consumed in large quantities. Problems with other intoxicants have moved into the background. Over three million Thais from all walks of life regularly consume the stimulating chemical fashion drug. According to the government, 700,000 schoolchildren are already swallowing methamphetamine tablets. These are produced in neighboring Burma for a few cents each. Around 900 million such pills are said to have crossed the border to Thailand last year and were sold there at around fifty times the price. Despite the immense profit margins, Yaba is still extremely cheap compared to other drugs and affordable even for lower classes of the population and young people.

If the government's campaign can solve the drug problem, then for the majority of Thais it appears to be worth the many deaths. According to a survey by Bangkok Assumption University at the beginning of February, 84 percent of those questioned supported the beginning of the campaign against drug dealers. A month later, 53 percent said they were satisfied and 40 percent very satisfied with the campaign. The police forces also speak of extremely positive feedback. Complaints were only received from non-governmental organizations, and private individuals only expressed their approval.

The situation on the streets of Bangkok and other large cities has eased for a short time. Methamphetamine pill prices have skyrocketed since early February and consumption has fallen. Admittedly, the campaign will hardly have any containment effect in the long term. To this day, only small fish and not the influential backers of the lucrative drug business have fallen victim to her. Thaksin will also be aware of this. The “war on drugs” is probably primarily for political reasons. The Prime Minister wants to distinguish himself among the electorate as a strong, unconventional leader. With his hard-handed style of government, he ties in with a paternalistic tradition that has proven itself in Southeast Asia. The resigning great statesmen of the region, Lee Kuan Yew and Mahathir, have successfully ruled politics in Singapore and Malaysia for decades.

What's next?

The drug campaign has also paid off for the government so far. According to surveys, the Prime Minister is more popular than ever with his compatriots. A majority of Thais would re-elect their Thai Rak Thai party today. This popularity and the "success" of the drug campaign begs the question of what will come next. It is to be feared that Thaksin will soon start a new campaign against illegal immigration. Today there are an estimated one million illegal workers - particularly from neighboring countries Cambodia and Burma - in Thailand. A tougher crackdown on this would probably meet with as much approval from the increasingly nationalist population as the “anti-drug war”. The Thai people blame illegal immigrants for all kinds of evils - illness, violence and unemployment.