PM declares new fight on drugs

PM declares new fight on drugs

Asset seizures to step up as big goals set

The government has vowed to make efforts to stamp out narcotic drugs, especially methamphetamine, within its four-year term as a new national agenda item.

It will also commit to a short-term goal to contain drugs as much as possible in the first year, and has invited the public to join the drugs suppression effort.

The government wants to break the circle of the narcotic drug problem, from smuggling to drug addiction and money laundering, said Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin yesterday, addressing a meeting of the government committee on drug suppression.

The PM is chairman of the committee, which includes some cabinet ministers, the chief of the Narcotics Control Board and the national police chief.

"A consensus has been reached among the 11 coalition parties as well as all other parties in the opposition that the need to tackle the drugs problem is high on the agenda," he said.

The priority now is the suppression of drug smuggling which is seen as a key measure for preventing drugs from reaching communities. The waiting time between drugs being seized in a crackdown and when they are destroyed also will have to be shortened, he said.

Shortening the process of seizing the assets of drug dealers is key to cut them and their network off from these resources, said Mr Srettha. "Let's make today the start of a new fight to stamp out drugs problems from society," he said.

Since assets confiscation is the worst fear of drug dealers, state agencies concerned are now asked to accelerate assets seizure efforts in every drug case.

Mr Srettha said he would follow up on progress of the work while ensuring good governance rules apply so state agencies and the public feel secure in joining the fight against drugs. "The problem must subside within a year while within the four-year term of this government, methamphetamines must be gone," he said.

After the meeting, Mr Srettha watched as narcotic drugs confiscated in more than 100 recent drug cases were destroyed at an incineration facility owned by Akkhie Prakarn Plc in Samut Prakan's Muang district.

The drugs included 12.52 tonnes of methamphetamine, 11.65 tonnes of crystal methamphetamine, 418 kilogrammes of heroin, 179kg of opium, 704kg of ketamine and 25.51 tonnes of other narcotic substances.

They were burnt at 800-1,200 degrees Celsius in a natural gas-powered incinerator equipped with environmentally friendly and pollution-controlling technology.

Wichai Chaimongkhon, secretary-general of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), said destruction of drugs seized in crackdowns can now be conducted much faster than in the past when seized drugs needed to wait until legal proceedings were done, which could take up to 10 years.

Recent updates on laws concerning the destruction of drugs seized in a drug case sooner also sped things up and eased the ONCB's burden in taking care of drugs awaiting destruction, he said.

In response to the PM's order to make the drugs fight a national agenda item, Interior Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said the ministry will accelerate the suppression of drug smuggling and trade at the provincial level and report directly back to the PM.

As for the time frame set, Mr Anutin said he has to admit that it is impossible to say exactly when this problem will be fixed. Imposing a strict deadline could result in setbacks, he said.

Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, a human rights defender and director of the Cross Cultural Foundation, said the government's anti-drug policy reminds her of the mass extrajudicial killings which took place during the Thaksin Shinawatra administration's war on drugs policy 20 years ago.

Initiated by Thaksin in 2003, the war on drugs sparked an uproar among rights activists after more than 2,500 suspects were allegedly killed during its implementation.

"The government's vow to completely eradicate narcotic drugs makes me feel concerned and fear that history will repeat itself," she said.

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