The government’s war on drugs has been hailed as a remarkable success thanks to a significant increase in drug gangs busted, drugs seized, and drug addicts rehabilitated.
And the key to success, the Royal Thai Police and the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) say, is the government’s clear policy which has made it easier for law enforcement authorities to take action.
Deputy National Police Chief Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew said he was satisfied with the outcome of the anti-drugs policy implementation in the past year, given the increased the number of drug suspects arrested and addicts rehabilitated.
“Regarding these statistics, the war on drugs now is going much better than it was under the previous government. Actually, it is even better than under the Thaksin Shinawatra administration which initiated this policy in 2001,” said Pol Gen Adul, who also serves as acting secretary-general of the ONCB.
Since Sept 11 last year, when the Yingluck Shinawatra government kicked off its version of the war on drugs, about 340,000 drug cases have been prosecuted, nearly 8% more than in the same period the year before.
More than 330,000 suspects have been arrested, a 14% increase in a year-on-year comparison, and as many as 65.5 million methamphetamine pills have been seized in total, a 26% increase from the year before.
“More importantly, this government has put an emphasis on cutting the number of drug addicts by stepping up rehabilitation, to curb demand for the drugs,” said Pol Gen Adul.
Over the past year, more than 450,000 addicts have entered rehabilitation programmes, compared to about 300,000 during Thaksin’s war on drugs.
Thailand has more than 1,200 drug rehab centres in about 900 districts throughout the country, Permpong Chaovalit, deputy secretary-general of the ONCB, said.
Under government policy, one rehabilitation centre was set up in every district nationwide, but certain districts were capable of establishing and operating more than one centre, he said.
This explains why far more drug addicts have been rehabilitated in the past year, Mr Permpong said.
In the year to come, the government aims to bring another 300,000 addicts to rehabilitation facilities to help them overcome their substance abuse problems, said Pol Gen Adul.
A follow-up programme will also be launched targetting about 700,000 people who have completed rehab programmes and returned to their communities in recent years.
Thailand also wants to seek drug suppression cooperation through regional mechanisms such as Asean, he said.
Despite all these achievements, he said, the drug problem in more than 4,000 densely populated communities in Bangkok and surrounding provinces remains a huge concern to state agencies running the war on drugs.
The rise of crystal methamphetamine, or ya ice, was a worrying trend to watch for and deal with, said Mr Permpong, adding that 1.2 tonnes of this type of drug have been seized over the past year compared to less than 10kg seized in the decade before that.
Somchai Kerdrungruang, who lost his nine-year-old nephew Chakkraphan Srisa-ard, or Nong Fluke, and his younger sister Pornwipa in police drug operations in 2003 when Thaksin was prime minister, said the Yingluck government is on the right track.
“I have closely monitored the policy and found that no innocent citizens have been killed in the government’s drugs campaign over the past year.
“The government has learnt a lesson from Thaksin’s war on drugs that killed more than 2,600 people allegedly involved in drugs,” he said. The campaign would be even more effective if the government cracked down on authorities involved in the drugs trade.