BANGKOK ó Hundreds of bullet-riddled corpses have been found across Thailand, and news photos show the victims often surrounded by horrified neighbors
and grinning police.
"We have done nothing wrong," declared Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, defending his new campaign to drive out illegal drugs from this
troubled Buddhist kingdom within three months.
"We can explain everything. Nothing has to be changed. Nothing has been done to damage Thailand's image," said Mr. Thaksin, 53, a former police
officer who received a doctorate degree in criminal justice at Sam Houston State University in Texas.
The dead are described as drug dealers shot while resisting arrest ó or, more often, silenced by other traffickers who fear that competitors and
underlings will become informants as the noose tightens. The clothed bodies are often found slumped face down in rural sites or on urban streets, in
a puddle of blood congealing in the tropical winter heat. Police arrive, occasionally taking photos or posing for TV reporters next to the bodies
while lecturing bystanders about the danger of drugs. Undertakers hurriedly wrap the corpses in white sheets, dump them in vehicles and haul them
away. One police station piled a dozen "donated" coffins in front of the building to symbolize what could happen to anyone who manufactures,
smuggles, sells or uses illegal drugs. "Strangely enough, the drug suspects in two Bangkok communities are mostly housewives," police Sgt. Anant
The government threatened yesterday to fire officials if they fail to step up the anti-drug crusade that has claimed more than 300 lives this month
alone. Interior Minister Wan Muhamad Noor Matha told governors and senior civil servants in 23 provinces that had fallen behind government targets to
detain by the end of the month at least 25 percent of trafficking suspects named on a government list. The nationwide list contains 46,000 names.
"If I find provincial governors who can't meet the government target, I will send someone else to replace them," Mr. Wan Muhamad told reporters in
Bangkok yesterday. "We are fighting in a war and we have to fight hard to win it."
According to the latest police data, security forces arrested more than 15,000 suspects, seized 6 million methamphetamine pills and 182 million baht
($4.23 million) worth of assets in the first two weeks. Police say they killed just 15 of the 319 suspects who died this month, attributing the other
deaths to warfare between gangs. Surveys show that about 80 percent of Thais are happy with the anti-drug operation.