A lot of talk in Thailand these days is about the prospects for a new “war on drugs,” following on from the state-sponsored murders of people supposedly buying and selling amphetamines in 2003.
Although only a few killings have so far been reported in the weeks following the current prime minister’s and interior minister’s announcements that the war would resume, their enthusiasm for its methods does not seem to have been dampened by its manifest lack of success.
There is persistent argument about the numbers of persons killed and circumstances under which they died last time around. As there were few criminal inquiries and the scale of earlier killings was far beyond the capacity of human rights groups and the media to document fully, it is difficult to speak with certainty about what happened nationwide.
Instead, a better way to understand the mechanics of the “war” is to recall specific cases. In the last week or so a newspaper in Bangkok has been doing just this, publishing accounts of the dead and their relatives, such as that of Somjit Kayandee, who was shot in front of her family after visiting the local police station, and that of six northern men killed together in a pickup truck on their way home from an anti-drug meeting.
Another story published is that of Saman Thongdee, in 2003 a 47-year-old living with his partner of over twenty years, Charuayporn, and their two children in the big northwestern town of Tak.
Seven years earlier, Saman had been accused of dealing in drugs while working as a schoolteacher. He was transferred to an office job and had been investigated but let off. He had kept working in the new post.
But at dusk on April 9 of that year, a black sedan pulled up outside Saman’s house. At least two of its occupants shot him dead with pistols before driving away. Continue reading