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Last Updated:  Monday, 24 February, 2003, 11:17 GMT
Thai drugs war attacked
A Thai female drug addict (L) covers her friend with a blanket in Bangkok
Thailand has more than two million users of methamphetamines
Thailand's human rights watchdog has urged the government to re-examine a crackdown on drug dealing which has led to the deaths of hundreds of people.

The latest victims included a nine-year-old boy whom police shot by mistake as they were chasing his mother, and a woman who was eight months pregnant.

Police have said they are responsible for the deaths of only 22 of the 600 people killed since the campaign started three weeks ago, and that they were acting in self-defence in each case.

But rights groups have said the execution-style killings suggest a shoot-to-kill policy.

Despite the death toll, polls showed that the policy was enjoying a high level of support among the Thai public. One Bangkok university poll on Sunday suggested 92% of respondents backed the approach.

The same survey did show, however, that seven out of 10 people feared being shot by police themselves.

The nine-year-old boy was shot on Sunday as police fired at his mother's car as she tried to escape following the arrest of the boy's father for possession of methamphetamines, police said.

Three police officers have been arrested on murder charges in relation to the case.

Inquiry urged

Thailand Rights Commissioner Surasee Kosolnavin condemned the way the government's anti-drugs campaign - dubbed "an eye-for-an-eye" by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra - was being conducted.

A Thai policeman tries to cut the key in a campaign of drug crackdown at a slum in Bangkok on Saturday
Raids have unearthed millions of methamphetamine pills

"This is clearly a violation of human rights of innocent people," Mr Surasee told Reuters news agency.

"Law enforcement officers are supposed to provide safety to innocent people, not to threaten their lives," he said.

Mr Surasee said his commission had called on the prime minister to investigate whether police officers were operating within the law, and to find out what criteria they were using to place people on their suspects list.

Mr Thaksin himself has denied accusations that his government is encouraging a shoot to kill policy in order to meet tough targets to rid the country of methamphetamines.

The prime minister said on Friday that "everything had been done according to the law".

He argued that police have acted in self-defence.

"There is nowhere on earth that police ask suspects who are about to fire a gunshot to go to court first," the prime minister added.

Police have said the deaths were the result of inter-gang warfare.



LINKS TO MORE ASIA-PACIFIC STORIES


 

SEE ALSO:
Concern at Thai drug crackdown
19 Feb 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Thai PM says officials peddling drugs
18 Feb 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Thai crackdown on drug dealers
04 Feb 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Methamphetamine scourge
25 Jun 02 |  Asia-Pacific
Burma 'joins' fight against drugs
18 Jan 02 |  Asia-Pacific
Thailand's tough drugs message
13 Apr 01 |  Asia-Pacific


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