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Another extrajudicial killing campaign in Thailand must be prevented

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The new Prime Minister of Thailand Samak Suntoravej plans to revive the anti-drug campaign, which reportedly killed 2,500 people in the past. FORUM-ASIA asks the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston to raise this issue to the government to prevent another extrajudicial killing.

Mr. Philip Alston
UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
United Nations Office at Geneva

Dear Mr. Philip Alston,

We would like to bring your attention to the possible extrajudicial executions, named as “War on Drug”, that that could arise in the near future in Thailand.

We are deeply concerned about the plan of the newly elected Thai Prime Minister, H.E. Samak Suntoravej to revive the anti-drug campaign, which originally was started in 2003 by the ousted Prime Minister Thanksin Shinawatra (Reuters, 22 February 2008). The campaign resulted in about 2,500 deaths from 2003 to 2004, and many national and international human rights groups have criticised it.

It is also notable that the Thai Interior Minister Chalerm Yubamrung confirmed this plan by saying, “When we implement a policy that may bring 3,000 to 4,000 bodies, we will do it" (Reuters, 22 Feb 2008 and BBC News, 23 February 2008).

In the “Summary of complaints related to anti-drugs campaign received by the National Human Rights Commission in February 2003”, the Office of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand reported that the large numbers of those killed in the years of the campaign are believed to be innocent, although the police claimed that they were drug dealers with guns. To date, the perpetrators behind these killings had not been thoroughly examined or brought to justice.

The UN Human Rights Committee’s showed concerns related to the extrajudicial killings incidences during the “War on Drugs” in its Concluding Observations on Thailand. It says that “the Committee is concerned at the persistent allegations of serious human rights violations, including widespread instances of extrajudicial killings and ill-treatment by the police and members of armed forces”, which were illustrated in the “War on Drugs” campaign (CCPR/CO/84/THA, Para.10, 8 July 2005). Furthermore, the Committee emphasised that “human rights defenders, community leaders, demonstrators and other members of civil society continue to be targets of such actions, and any investigations have generally failed to lead to prosecutions and sentences commensurate with the gravity of the crimes committed, creating a ‘culture of impunity’” (CCPR/CO/84/THA, Para.10, 8 July 2005).

The United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders (UN SRSG on HRDs) Ms. Hina Jilani expressed her deep concern regarding this particular matter and its impact on human rights defenders in Thailand during her visit to the country, from 19 to 27 May 2003 (E/CN.4/2004/94/Add.1, Para. 52-55). She also stressed in her report that human rights defenders, including the hill tribe leaders, had been included in the “blacklist” for criticising the police for using the list as the basis for their action to meet a quota under the anti-drugs campaign (E/CN.4/2004/94/Add.1, Para. 54).

We do not want to let this happen again. We therefore urge you to raise this issue to the Thai government as a preventive measure and early warning. The Thai government must take into account all the concerns and recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission, as well as the Concluding Observation and the report of the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders. It will prevent larger number of extrajudicial killings in the country under “War on Drug”.

We thank you for your attention.


Anselmo Lee
Executive Director


H.E. Samak Suntoravej, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand
H.E. Sihasak Phuangketkeow, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Thailand to United Nations Office in Geneva
Prof. Saneh Chamarik, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand
Ms. Hina Jilani, the UN Special Represenative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders
Ms Gay McDougall, the UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues
Dr. Homayoun Alizadeh, the OHCHR Regional Representative for Southeast Asia

For more information, please contact:
Anselmo Lee, Executive Director, +6681 868 9178, [email protected]
Yuyun Wahyuningrum, East Asia Programme Manager, +6687 991 4451, [email protected]