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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 26 February, 2003, 08:24 GMT
Thai drug war toll nears 1,000
A Thai drug addict sleeps while attending a drug detoxification program at Thanyarak hospital in Bangkok
Bangkok is desperate to rid the country of drugs
Thailand's interior ministry has said that the death toll from a crackdown on drugs has reached 993 since the campaign started on 1 February.

International alarm has spiralled over the mounting toll, which rights groups suspect is partly the result of a government-backed shoot-to-kill policy.

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights added its voice to the condemnation on Wednesday, calling on officials to carry out their duty in accordance with international human rights standards.

The government and police have repeatedly denied any part in extra-judicial killings, arguing that most of the deaths have resulted from inter-gang warfare.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who will have served half of his mandate on Thursday, again dismissed the allegations of a shoot-to-kill policy.

"They did not die because government officers killed them, they killed each other," he told reporters.

Drug war figures
993 dead
16 shot in self-defence by police (police say 22)
46,177 on blacklist
8,745 arrests
928 government officials implicated
Source: Thai interior ministry

Thailand's interior ministry said on Wednesday that the high death toll meant that a blacklist of 46,177 people suspected of involvement in drugs had already been reduced by 20%.

Thai health officials estimate that three million Thais - roughly 5% of the population - are addicted to methamphetamines, and the government has set itself tough goals to rid the country of the drug.

Blacklist fears

Thailand's National Human Rights Commission said that around 50 people had complained that they had been mistakenly included on interior ministry and police blacklists.

Thirapat Assawasangsit, secretary to the commissioner who oversees drugs issues, said those blacklisted have been asked to report to police, but are afraid of what awaits them.

"They are reluctant to go because they think it would seem like they are admitting that they are involved. They feel very insecure now and they don't know which way to go, what to do next," he told the French news agency AFP.

The UNHCR special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Asma Jahangir, asked the Thai authorities to ensure that "the strict limits on the use of lethal force... are followed rigorously and without exception".

The BBC's Phil Mercer
"The country is paying a high price"

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04 Feb 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Methamphetamine scourge
25 Jun 02 |  Asia-Pacific

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