By: BangkokPost.com and AFP
Published: 18/03/2009 at 02:22 PM
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva announced a new war on drugs on Wednesday, saying it was essential to combat the growing levels of drug abuse and addiction. to cope with the rising number of drug addicts.
Mr Abhisit said the six-month campaign will mainly target Bangkok and the southern region and will run from April 1 to Sep 30.
"We must decisively crack down on drug abuse," the prime minister said after delivering a briefing on national security and narcotics suppression to high-ranking officials at Government House.
"But we must be careful to implement this crackdown within the boundaries of the law, to ensure it does not lead to other problems," he added -- an apparent reference to Thaksin's campaign in 2003.
There ws a need for urgency in tackling the drug problem, as the number of drug addicts in Thailand had risen from about 460,000 in 2003 to an estimated 655,000 last year.
Tightening border security against the illegal trafficking of drugs would be a priority, he said.
"`None of these drugs are produced in our country, but come from neighbouring countries. So we meed better measures to protect our country," the prime minister said.
Mr Abhsit outlined a "five fences" strategy to prevent the spread of drugs - citing border, community, social, school and family fences.
The government would also try to bring more addicts into drug rehabilitation programs.
"If all sides work together, I am confident that the amount of drugs being trafficked will be reduced. The agencies involved will have six months to show concrete results," he said.
Human rights groups have said that at least 2,500 people died in extrajudicial killings in 2003 and 2004 during the get-tough campaign launched by Thaksin and the police force.
Thaksin, who was toppled in a coup in 2006 and now lives in exile, at the time explained away the high death toll as "bad guys killing bad guys''.
Thaksin said his get-tough campaign not only enjoyed widespread public support but also appeared to stem the supply of illegal drugs in Thailand.
Every democratically elected prime minister since Thaksin has launched their own "war on drugs'', the most recent being last November by Somchai Wongsawat, Thaksin's brother-in-law, during his short-lived premiership.
But Mr Abhisit's move comes amid criticism that -- despite his Democrat party's hostility towards Thaksin -- his three-month-old government has appropriated many of the billionaire's populist policies.