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Cablegate: New Panel to Investigate Thai Drug War Killings

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KDEM TH
SUBJECT: NEW PANEL TO INVESTIGATE THAI DRUG WAR KILLINGS

REF: 06 BANGKOK 0235 (SOMCHAI VERDICT)

SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) In the latest in a series of moves to investigate
abuses by the government of former Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinwatra, the Ministry of Justice in August established an
independent commission to probe the extra-judicial killing of
an estimated 2,500 people during the Thaksin government's
2003-2005 war on drugs. The commission will examine the
cause and impact of Thaksin's anti-drug policies and make
recommendations for providing restitution to its victims
rather than investigate specific killings or prosecuting
human rights violators. Expectations for the success of this
and other ongoing investigations into extra-judicial killings
during the Thaksin era are low, however, and it is unclear
whether the commission's efforts will help bring alleged
human rights violators to justice. End Summary.

NEW INVESTIGATIONS ANNOUNCED
----------------------------

2. (SBU) On August 30, the Thai Ministry of Justice announced
the formation of an independent panel to investigate the
extra-judicial killings of thousands of people during the
Thaksin government's 2003-2005 "war on drugs." The
government has tasked the 13-member panel -- formally called
the "Independent Commission for the Study and Analysis of the
Formation and Implementation of the Drug Suppression Policy"
(abbreviated ICID) -- with providing a fact-based analysis of
the development and execution of the aggressive drug policies
of the previous government and specifying remedial measures
for its victims. The panel will be headed by Khanit Na
Nakhon, a former Attorney-General, and will include
high-level government officials, law enforcement officers,
and respected academics.

3. (SBU) The move is the latest in a series of proactive
steps the interim government of Prime Minister Surayud
Chulanont has taken following the September 2006 coup to
investigate extra-judicial killings committed during the
tenure of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Since
December 2006, the Justice Ministry's Department of Special
Investigations (DSI) has conducted ongoing investigations
into 11 unsolved deaths attributed to the drug war. In
January, the National Counter Corruption Commission tasked a
sub-committee with investigating the presumed 2004
extra-judicial killing of renowned human rights attorney
Somchai Neelaphaijit. To date, no individuals have been
charged for any of these killings (reftel describes the trial
of 5 police officers on lesser charges of coercion and gang
robbery in the controversial Neelaphaijit case).

"NOT A TRUTH COMMISSION"
------------------------

4. (SBU) At an August 30 meeting between Poloff and Charnchao
Chaiyanukij, a member of the ICID and a Deputy Permanent
Secretary at the Justice Ministry, Charnchao told us the

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primary purpose of the committee would be to examine the
original objective of Thaksin's drug suppression policies and
how those policies resulted in human rights abuses. The
panel will gather evidence from various government agencies,
interview victims, and review documents to "specify
corrective and remedial measures" for victims of the drug
war.

5. (SBU) Charnchao was careful to note that the ICID was "not
a truth commission", and that the panel would not seek to
identify the perpetrators of individual killings, nor would
it seek to bring charges against alleged human rights
violators. He emphasized that the commission would approach
the drug war killings in an "academic manner," and that the
decision on whether to prosecute any alleged violators
identified by the panel would be left to the government and
its investigative bodies, such as the DSI.

6. (SBU) Charnchao explained that the ICID would hire

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investigators to interview victims and would invite academics
to sit on ICID fact-finding hearings that would be open to
the general public. Charnchao insisted the commission would
conclude its report within 10-12 months (an aggressive
timetable given the magnitude of the alleged violations).
Charnchao agreed with widely reported statistics estimating
that 2,500 people were killed extra-judicially by the
security forces during the drug war. Charnchao also
acknowledged that the commission's work would almost
certainly extend into the tenure of the next government --
which is expected to take office following a planned December
23 general election -- and admitted that any benefits that
emerge from his panel's work would hinge on the policies of
this new government.

EXPECTATIONS LOW
----------------

7. (SBU) Expectations for bringing perpetrators of drug war
killings to justice have remained low despite the interim
government's latest investigative efforts. While editorials
in the local media viewed the ICID's formation positively,
several commentators expressed skepticism that human rights
violators would be brought to justice given the amount of
time that has elapsed since the killings. Even Justice
Ministry officials, such as prominent forensic expert
Pornthip Rojanasunand, publicly admitted that the most
beneficial outcome of the ICID would likely only consist of
recommendations for compensating victims who were injured or
lost family members during the war on drugs.

COMMENT
-------

8. (SBU) While progress in government investigations of
extra-judicial killings and disappearances from the Thaksin
era has been depressingly slow, the interim government's
efforts to begin the process of examining past human rights
violations are reassuring. It remains to be seen, however,
how effective or independent this new panel will be, or how
much support the ICID and other government investigative
agencies will receive from the next government. We will
continue to encourage government officials to ensure that
extra-judicial killings and other human rights violations are
properly investigated and their perpetrators brought to
justice.
BOYCE

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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