February 7, 2008 / 10:18 AM / 12 years ago

Thailand to revive controversial war on drugs

Thailand's new Interior Minister Chalerm Yubamrung poses at the Government House in Bangkok February 6, 2008. Thailand's new government will revive a controversial war on drugs in which more than 2,500 alleged dealers were killed, Chalerm said on Thursday. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand’s new government will revive a controversial war on drugs in which more than 2,500 alleged dealers were killed, Interior Minister Chalerm Yubamrung said on Thursday.

“Narcotics must be lessened in 90 days, although they can’t be wiped out,” said Chalerm, a former police captain whose son was acquitted of charges of killing a policeman in a bar for lack of evidence.

The fight against drugs was one of his top three priorities and he would spend time along the border with Myanmar, the source of most drugs now entering Thailand, seeking to defeat trafficking networks, Chalerm told reporters.

The war on drugs launched by ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2003 was praised by many rural Thais whose villages were rife with drugs but fiercely attacked by rights activists for giving police a “licence to kill”.

A military-appointed government, set up after the generals ousted Thaksin in a bloodless 2006 coup, investigated Thaksin’s war and called it a “crime against humanity”, but failed to link Thaksin to extrajudicial killings.

Thaksin, now living in exile in Hong Kong, won a second landslide election victory two years after the war on drug was launched, largely on the back of support in the countryside.

At the time, Thailand, once a major supplier of heroin from the Golden Triangle where it meets Myanmar and Laos, was awash with methamphetamines made across the border in the former Burma.

The war on drugs cut supply and pushed up prices for a while, but business returned to normal after the campaign petered out, anti-drug agencies say.

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