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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 December, 2003, 14:01 GMT
Thai PM ups war on illegal guns

By Kylie Morris
BBC, Bangkok

Thailand's prime minister has pledged to eradicate crime gangs who refuse to hand over their weapons in the latest stage of his war on guns.

The prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, is pushing ahead with his campaign against illegal arms, despite criticism that his last crusade went too far.

Thaksin Shinawatra
The Thai prime minister says that those who still have guns are bandits
This year, Thaksin Shinawatra has taken aim not only at guns, but also at corruption and drugs, in well-publicised and sometimes brutal campaigns.

On Monday, a two-month amnesty, during which Thais could hand in unregistered weapons without penalty, came to an end.

The government has called it a success, counting a yield of more than 100,000 pistols, rifles and machine-guns, as well as nearly 250,000 mines and rocket-propelled grenades.

Thailand is considered to have been what some describe as an arms bazaar for the region, supplying rebels as far away as Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

Thaksin Shinawatra said those who still hold guns illegally are clearly real bandits.

He said the government knew where the mafias were, and promised to eradicate them all.

The prime minister warned they would face a serious penalty of twenty years in jail.

But his government is still dealing with the fallout from his widely-publicised other campaign - the ten-month-long war on drugs, in which more than 2,500 people were killed.

Under pressure from the king, who is greatly revered in Thailand, the police are now investigating those deaths.

Human rights groups hold the police largely responsible, but the prime minister says most of those who died were drug dealers who were killed by their rivals.

The police have said they will deliver the results of their investigation to the government this week.

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