Thailand won’t copy PH style on drug war
President Duterte’s bloody drug war may not be a suitable template for Thailand, as the country’s strategy is not to fight drugs with anger but compassion, according to the Thai secretary general of the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (Aipa).
After the failure of Thailand’s own violent crackdown on illegal drugs in the early 2000s, Aipa Secretary General Isra Sunthornvut said his country would now rather focus on rehabilitating drug addicts.
“What works in the Philippines might not work in Thailand and what works in Thailand might not work in the Philippines,” he told a media briefing early Thursday evening at the close of the meeting of Asean lawmakers in Manila.
Sunthornvut added, however, that Thailand and the Philippines could still learn from each other’s experiences.
“It’s a watch-and-learn and we’ll see how it goes, as long as we’re serious in this fight, as long as there are examples for us to adapt to,” he said.
Aipa’s fact-finding committee, composed of parliamentarians from Asean’s 10 member economies, had a meeting in Manila hosted by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and other Philippine lawmakers to discuss regional cooperation to combat the drug menace.
Each country gave a report on its campaign against illegal drugs, as concerns were raised over drug trafficking activities in Southeast Asia. The Philippines boasted a substantial drop in the narcotics trade and the crime rate since the start of the drug war.
Mr. Duterte has waged an aggressive campaign against illegal drugs since his assumption to office last year, leaving thousands of suspected users or pushers dead in police operations and vigilante-style killings and triggering accusations of widespread human rights abuses.
But Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Barbers, chair of the House dangerous drugs committee, said there was no discussion of human rights violations during the Aipa meet.
“I don’t see any reasons why we should connect the issue of human rights to the campaign of the Duterte administration in the war against drugs,” Barbers said at the same briefing.
Sunthornvut acknowledged that his country had gone through a similar phase as the Philippines, launching an all-out offensive against drug dealers and users.
“There was a time when [the campaign] was to stand and yell at the drug users. And then they changed that to ‘let’s have compassion, let’s understand them,’” he said.
“But it’s always been alongside the policies and ideas like King Rama the Ninth when he said, ‘You can’t fight drugs with anger, you have to be compassionate because it’s your fellow countrymen, so try to find ways to help understand,’” Sunthornvut said.
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