Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung describes his current obsession as a war on drugs. Once again, however, the campaign seems out of control and beyond the law.
Mr Chalerm, like his predecessor Thaksin Shinawatra, appears to have given his anti-drug "warriors" the impression that in order to enforce the law, it is fine to go outside it. The deputy premier needs to rein in the police involved in the anti-drug battle, and explain his campaign more fully.
Over the Songkran weekend, this paper printed the heart-wrenching story of the entirely preventable death of yet another innocent bystander at the hands of zealous and out-of-control anti-drug forces. Sopha Piboon, a 60-year-old woman, was on her way home in a car driven by her husband Sujin when a pickup truck with several fully armed young men on board pulled over to the side of the road and flagged down the couple's car.
The men did not wear uniforms and Mr Sujin thought they were bandits. His first thought was that he needed to escape. And he did. The armed men, who turned out to be non-uniformed border patrol police, chased the couple's car, fired at it and killed Sopha.
The killing took place 18 days ago in Nakhon Si Thammarat province. Mr Chalerm has not mentioned it; no one has even apologised for it.
The killing of Sopha sounds very much like the actions of an undisciplined, out-of-control police force. It could also sound quite a bit like what both Thaksin and Mr Chalerm said they wanted. In order to terrify and neutralise drug dealers, they claim, it may be necessary to also have some regrettable "collateral damage". But should that include killing ageing, unarmed and completely innocent women?
The killing of Sopha is the second case in four months in which police have been accused of excessive force against those they gave suspected of illicit drugs possession.
Last year, Phairot Saengrit, an engineer at a factory in Rayong, was gunned down by police during a drug crackdown in Sakon Nakhon province's Muang district. The House committee on police affairs recently concluded that the Sakon Nakhon police had overreacted and recommended the Royal Thai Police investigate the case.
This is where Mr Chalerm and his programme are remiss. He and his "warriors" have lost the plot. They are supposed to be protecting the people against drug dealers. It turned out that Sopha, who had no links or knowledge of drug trafficking or drug abuse, was only in danger from the government and police.
The killing of Sopha was nothing less than a botched operation. There was no reason for the police to be in plain clothes at a checkpoint. It was incompetence from the top of the command which got Sopha's car, driven by her husband, confused with a car driven by drug-trafficking suspects. It was brutal, careless and ill-trained police who fired numerous times at Sopha's car, killing her.
Mr Chalerm is accountable for this outrageous and negligent taking of an innocent life. His anti-drug campaign has once again strayed over the line, from combatting drugs to endangering the public. He owes humble and effusive apologies to Sopha's family, starting with her husband of 40 years. Then he owes it to the country to re-enunciate the goals and limits of his war on drugs, and set proper procedures for the police involved. Mr Chalerm must take steps to prevent the war on drugs from becoming another war on Thais.