Tag Archives: War on drugs

Soldiers murder young Lahu activist in cold blood

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

On the 17th March soldiers in Chiang Mai shot down Chaiyapoom Pasae, a 17 year old Lahu activist. The killing was committed in cold blood. A villager who witnessed the event, which took place at a military check point, told Thai PBS news channel that soldiers dragged Chaiyapoom out of his car and beat him up, stamping on his face. They fired two warning shots and then deliberately let him go. While he was running away they shot him dead. [See news report here https://prachatai.com/english/node/7013 ].

Chaiyapoom was a well-known Lahu activist who was engaged in cultural youth work among the Lahu people in order to help them avoid taking drugs. He wrote songs and received a prize for a short film that he directed.

Another young man who was the driver of the car was arrested and charged with narcotics offences. This young man has been detained in prison because his family cannot come up with the 2 million baht bail set by the courts.

The soldier who murdered Chaiyapoom was briefly questioned by police and given bail until his court hearing.

Military sources claimed that Chaiyapoom attacked them with a knife and was shot “while trying to escape”. The military also claimed that he tried to throw a bomb at them. Conveniently after the event, drugs were found in his car. Thai police and military are famous for planting drugs and weapons on people after they shoot them or after they raid their homes. Villagers who witnessed Chaiyapoom’s murder said security forces planted drugs in his car after the shooting.

There are contradictory reports about whether the military check point had any CCTV. It is usual for check points to have CCTV to take pictures of cars passing through the check points. No CCTV video clips have been released, despite damands for this. Some military sources say there was no CCTV while others claim they have CCTV evidence.

Military and police sources also claim Chaiyapoom had “too much money” in his bank account and that he telephoned people and spoke to them in his Lahu language!

General Wijuk Siribanpot, commander of the 3rd Region Army

General Wijuk Siribanpot, commander of the 3rd Region Army gave a televised interview saying that if he had been at the scene he would have switched his gun to automatic mode and riddled Chaiyapoom with bullets.

Members of the Lahu community report that there was long-standing ill feeling between locals in Chaiyapoom’s village and members of the security forces. Police and soldiers have attacked and injured villagers in the past and they threatened people who exposed this on social media. Chaiyapoom’s elder brother has been threatened by someone who place a bullet on his door step.

Recently another local was shot dead in cold blood at a check point in the same area. This case has not been properly investigated.

A local academic commented that it would be very stupid for anyone to try and transport drugs through the permanent check point where Chaiyapoom was murdered. Drug smugglers used other routes to avoid check points.

It is normal for members of the Thai security forces to be able to commit crimes with impunity. No police or soldiers were ever charged with murder following ex-Prime Minister Taksin’s bloody war on drugs where 3000 people were killed without trial. Many of those killed or disappeared in Taksin’s war were from minority ethnic groups.

No members of the security forces has ever been charged with the cold-blooded killing of unarmed red shirt protesters who were demanding democratic elections. General Prayut, the present Thai dictator was in charge of the military at the time.

The Thai State is run by nationalists who are wedded to the extremist ideology of “Nation, Religion and Monarchy”. The military, who are in charge of the country, have always subscribed to this ideology in an aggressive manner. From Privy Council Head, General Prem, down to various local commanders, the notion that the country is peopled by citizens of various non-Thai ethnicities is deemed to be blasphemy. All Thai schools enforce the Thai language and students who speak to each other in local dialects or languages are often punished. Manic flag waving is encouraged and every citizen is supposed to stand to attention twice a day when the Thai State’s national anthem is played in public places. The lèse-majesté law is designed to support this nationalist ideology and also to protect the elites, especially the military, because the military claim to be the guardians of the monarchy. The religion in this racist ideology is of course Buddhism, thus excluding Islam and other faiths including animism.

This racist nationalist ideology results in the oppression of Muslim Malays in Patani and people who live in remote mountainous areas of the north and west.

People from ethnic minority groups in the north and west of the country, like the Lahu, who have lived either side of the various nation state borders for centuries, are not regarded as “true citizens”. Many are denied Thai citizenship despite being born within Thailand. They hold special identity cards which prevent them travelling outside their local areas without permission from the military and local authorities. Many are forced to register themselves with Thai-language names rather than using their real ethnic names.

In Thai society in general, it is still acceptable for people to refer to various ethnic groups using racist names rather than showing them any respect. Because people from ethnic groups were so poor that they often had to rely on growing opium or being involved in the drug trade, everyone is seen as being involved with drugs. Yet the drug trade is controlled by top military and police officials and gangster politicians from Bangkok.


Yes, drugs ought to be decriminalised

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The announcement by junta minister for Justice, General Paiboon Koomchya, that he was considering decriminalising Methamphetamines or “Ya Ba” is welcome news. However, we cannot trust the military junta to follow through with the necessary policies which should accompany this. It is also not nearly enough. Other drugs should also be decriminalised.

In the past, criminalising drugs has led to violence and the abuse of human rights. It never works in terms of eradicating drug use and is an obstacle to the humane treatment of those addicted to drugs.

Previous Thai governments have waged so-called “wars of drugs”. The worst case was under former Prime Minister Taksin Shinawat when approximately 3000 people were executed by death squads made up of police and military personnel. Top generals like Prem Tinsulanon were also featured on posters designed to create a climate of fear. Prem was quoted as saying that if you used Methamphetamines you would end up dead. During the Sarit dictatorship public executions of drug dealers took place.

The campaign of extrajudicial killings was not based on any scientific evidence of the relative harm of various drugs and no open discussion in society about this could take place. Figures from the Ministry of Public Health show that the main reasons why Thais die young is due to the following: (these are rough proportions of the causes of early deaths)

  • AIDS: 17% in men and 10% in women
  • Road accidents: 9% in men and 3% in women
  • Cardio vascular and pulmonary diseases, often caused by cigarettes and alcohol: 17% in men and 12% in women
  • Illegal drugs: 2% in men and less than 1% in women

As usual, there is a capitalist bias against illegal drugs when compared to alcohol and cigarettes. This is due to the interests of big business and also the ability by governments to tax these “legal” drugs.

Thai governments have never been serious about tackling the reasons why people turn to drugs, for instance, long working hours, alienation and a lack of opportunities in life. Thailand does not have a welfare state and the present junta are against spending state funds on improving the quality of life of citizens. The neo-liberals in the dictatorship have frozen the minimum wage and are trying to dismantle the universal health care scheme.

When waging war on small time drug dealers, the Big Fish always avoid any punishment. The big players in the drug trade are politicians, well-connected gangsters or high-ranking military or police officers. Sometimes these characters blend into one. Thailand is currently run by a bunch of military gangsters anyway.

Apart from decriminalising drugs, there needs to be a “Harm Reduction” policy to increase the ability of citizens who choose to use drugs to protect themselves. The supply of clean needles and the production of low cost good quality drugs, in a sensible manner, is part of this. If drugs are expensive then users will tend to commit crimes in order to get a supply. They will also need to push more drugs to increase their incomes. So if the government were to produce some drugs and guarantee their quality and safety that would be a good thing.

Another important part of Harm Reduction is to have a free and open society where people can discuss and learn about the effects of drugs and their potential dangers. They can also discuss the benefits too. This is vital if we are to equip young people to be able to make sensible decisions about drugs. They need to think for themselves. They need to be self-empowered.

But today there is no space for open discussion in society and young people are pressurised to take orders from teachers and military men.

My guess is that the junta want to decriminalise Methamphetamines because they know that they do not have the ability to control their use. They do not want to appear to have failed in an attempt to reduce drug use. They may also want to reduce the prison population. But it is hard to read the warped minds of these generals. Some claim that the generals want to make money from the open sales of Methamphetamines, but I doubt this is the real reason. However, what we can say with confidence is that they will not take the necessary measures to reduce harm for drug users or to increase the quality of life for the population and they certainly will not create a climate where open and free discussion about drugs or anything else can take place.

Further reading: http://bit.ly/28NKd1c

Let’s talk about politics reform (5) We need basic standards of human rights

Numnual  Yapparat

Today advanced voting was taking place in Thailand and we have seen disturbing scenes. Sutep’s mobs tried to block the election venues in Bangkok by working closely with the election commission’s staff. They used violence against ordinary people who wanted to vote. However, in several areas, especially in Bangkok, pro-democracy people came out to resist the thugs and to vote.  In Pattani and Yala provinces the heads of the villages and religious leaders faced down Sutep’s mob and ensured that people could express their democratic will smoothly. The activities of pro-democracy groups have been ignored by the mainstream media but in the social media it is another world. There is hope that we can have real political reform, but pro-democracy movements must be the main force to achieve it.

The international human rights organisation, FIDH and its member organizations in the Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) has condemned Sutep’s mob. But the Thai National Human Rights Commission remained silent. As the crisis goes on, the main stream institutions are finding it more and more difficult to hide their real personalities. There are no standards of human rights in Thailand. Why is this so? The main explanation would be the prevailing conservative attitude which does not tolerate the fact that citizens should be equal. The Thai people are usually called “Ras-sa-don” which means a group of people who live in the land belonging to the king. The concept was used during the Absolute Monarchy. It is an out of date concept and is incompatible with the modern democratic world.

The concepts supporting inequality have been re-emphasised by the military which staged coups and committed crimes against the people again and again. Such crimes happened in 1973, 1976, 1992 and under Taksin’s government at “Tak-Bai” and in the “war on drugs”. In 2010, the Democrat Party and the military killed red shirts in Bangkok. None of those who committed these crimes have been punished. We need to learn from Argentina, South Korea and Chile about punishing state criminals.

In the work places, employers think that they have absolutely rights over their employees. The attitude is fully enshrined in labour laws as well as in the minds of the judges who fail to deliver justice. When judges sit in court they look at the poor with contemptuous eyes as if the poor were only animals. These people ignore modern views that respect prisoners as human. The children of the rich can get away easily when they kill people because “daddy” buys the police and judges.

There is a very hostile view against migrants or refugees, but there are a few groups who show solidarity with unfortunate people from neighbouring countries. Lots of Thais have no feeling at all when they hear the news about migrants being exploited. They just ignore the news or explain that these people are “not Thai” so why should we brother about them. But Thais themselves do not have rights.

What can we see in the mainstream body language in Thai society? “Good Thais” have to crawl to show their respect to people who are in power or are their seniors. The main purpose of this practise is that the Thai elites need us to believe that “people are unequal”. This grotesque culture has been taught through schools and families. In the elite households they make their maids crawl to them as well. The unequal concepts can be easily seen in daily conversations, especially with personal pronouns which signify social position. Women are told that they need to call themselves “Noo” which means “little mouse” in a childish fashion. The idea simply identifies women as second class citizens.

The first step to standardise human rights is to abolish the National Human Rights Commission. The organisation is full of soldiers, police and academics who stand against democracy.

Then, we need to campaign that Thailand accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court so that we can punish state criminals such as the generals, Abhisit, Sutep and Taksin.

In the long term, we need to increase the rights in work places, schools, and universities and we need full gender rights. We need human dignity and respect.

Photo credit: (The Nation Newspaper)