Southeast Asia has been inhabited for more than half a million years. Recent archaeological studies suggest that by 4000 B.C., communities in what is now Thailand had emerged as centers of early bronze metallurgy. This development, along with the cultivation of wet rice, provided the impetus for social and political organization. Research suggests that these innovations may actually have been transmitted from there to the rest of Asia, including to China.
The Thai are related linguistically to groups originating in southern China. Migrations from southern China to Southeast Asia may have occurred in the 6th and 7th centuries. Malay, Mon, and Khmer civilizations flourished in the region prior to the arrival of the ethnic Thai.
Thais date the founding of their nation to the 13th century. According to tradition, in 1238, Thai chieftains overthrew their Khmer overlords at Sukhothai and established a Thai kingdom. After its decline, a new Thai kingdom emerged in 1350 on the Chao Praya River.
The first ruler of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, King Rama Thibodi, made two important contributions to Thai history: the establishment and promotion of Theravada Buddhism as the official religion--to differentiate his kingdom from the neighboring Hindu kingdom of Angkor--and the compilation of the Dharmashastra, a legal code based on Hindu sources and traditional Thai custom. The Dharmashastra remained a tool of Thai law until late in the 19th century. Beginning with the Portuguese in the 16th century, Ayutthaya had some contact with the West, but until the 1800s, its relations with neighboring nations, as well as with India and China, were of primary importance.
After more than 400 years of power, in 1767, the Kingdom of Ayutthaya was brought down by invading Burmese armies and its capital burned. After a single-reign capital established at Thonburi by Taksin, a new capital city was founded in 1782, across the Chao Phraya at the site of present-day Bangkok, by the founder of the Chakri dynasty. The first Chakri king was crowned Rama I. Rama's heirs became increasingly concerned with the threat of European colonialism after British victories in neighboring Burma in 1826.
The first Thai recognition of Western power in the region was the Treaty of Amity and Commerce with the United Kingdom in 1826. In 1833, the United States began diplomatic exchanges with Siam, as Thailand was called until 1938. However, it was during the later reigns of Rama IV (or King Mongkut, 1851-68), and his son Rama V (King Chulalongkorn (1868-1910)), that Thailand established firm rapprochement with Western powers. The Thais believe that the diplomatic skills of these monarchs, combined with the modernizing reforms of the Thai Government, made Siam the only country in South and Southeast Asia to avoid European colonization.
In 1932, a bloodless coup transformed the Government of Thailand from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy. King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) initially accepted this change but later surrendered the kingship to his 10-year old nephew. Upon his abdication, King Prajadhipok said that the obligation of a ruler was to reign for the good of the whole people, not for a select few. Although nominally a constitutional monarchy, Thailand was ruled by a series of military governments interspersed with brief periods of democracy from that time until the 1992 elections. Since the 1992 elections, Thailand has been a functioning democracy with constitutional changes of government.
As with the rest of Southeast Asia, Thailand was occupied by the Japanese during the Second World War. Since Japan's defeat in 1945, Thailand has had very close relations with the United States. Threatened by communist revolutions in neighboring countries such as Burma, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, Thailand actively sought to contain communist expansion in the region. Recently, Thailand also has been an active member in the regional Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Today, Thailand is a democratically governed constitutional monarchy that until 1992 had a history of military coups and powerful bureaucratic influences on political life. Since 1992 there have been five national multiparty elections, which transferred power to successive governments through peaceful, democratic processes. The King exerts strong informal influence but never has used his constitutionally mandated power to veto legislation or dissolve the elected bicameral Parliament. The coalition Government, led by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's Thai Rak Thai Party, was formed in February following the general election in January. The election process generally was viewed as free and fair; however, it was marred by widespread corruption, and the killing of 25 political canvassers during the campaign leading up to the elections. The judiciary is independent, but is subject to corruption.
Persistent armed insurgency had been viewed by a succession of Thai governments as the nation's greatest long-term security problem. In the early 1980s, although insurgent activity had been virtually eliminated, the Thai government continued to fear a recurrence of the problem. Bounded on the west by Burma and on the south by Malaysia, where domestic insurgencies also plagued governing powers, Thailand continued to guard against the spread of such activity across its borders. With the threat of its own communist-supported insurgency lessened by the early 1980s, the Thai government strengthened its defenses against attack by external armed forces as large contingents of Vietnamese army troops continued to occupy neighboring Cambodia.
By the late 1980s, armed insurgency--a national problem that had plagued a series of Thai governments and dominated police and army activities for more than twenty years--had been virtually eliminated. From a peak strength of about 12,000 armed insurgents in the late 1970s, the number of armed guerrillas and separatists had declined to fewer than 2,000. Careful and coordinated government efforts combining military and police actions with social and economic policies had succeeded in reducing the level of insurgency. In addition, in the 1950s the United States had provided extensive military aid and technical assistance to the counterinsurgency program.
A number of insurgent elements had enjoyed fair success in the 1970s. They included the armed Communist Party of Thailand (CPT), Malaysian Communist Party (MCP) guerrillas, disaffected hill tribes people, and Muslim separatists. Their ranks had been increased by an influx of youthful, idealistic supporters who turned to the insurgents as a result of the 1976 military coup and the conservative policies of the Thanin Kraivichien government that followed it. By the mid-1980s, however, the government's coordinated counterinsurgency program had succeeded in eliminating all but a few small pockets of rebels.
Foreign observers disagree on the importance of communist ideology to the insurgency. Neglect by past governments, whose primary interests and attention were centered on the capital city of Bangkok, had alienated many rural inhabitants and particularly many ethnic minorities in peripheral areas of the country. Communist militants were able to exploit the discontent that grew steadily during the 1960s and 1970s in those remote regions.
The Thai communist movement had begun in the late 1920s. Dominated by ethnic Chinese, the movement also appealed to other neglected minorities, including the various hill tribes, the Malay, and the Vietnamese. Despite their long residence in the country, these groups had not been accepted by the Thai, who regarded them with suspicion and distrust. In December 1942, a number of small ethnic communist groups merged to form the CPT under predominantly Chinese leadership.
Outlawed by the Anti-Communist Act of 1933, the party began a clandestine existence, surfacing briefly when the act was rescinded in late 1946 but going underground again in 1952, when legislation prohibiting communist political action was adopted. The 1952 law also banned the communist-controlled Central Labor Union, the majority of whose 50,000 members were of mixed Chinese-Thai ancestry. When Sarit Thanarat took control of the government in October 1958, he abolished the Constitution, declared martial law, and intensified the government's anticommunist drives. Nonetheless, the CPT continued its clandestine activities in schools and associations that had large Chinese-Thai memberships and among villagers in border regions. In 1959 the party began to recruit and train limited numbers of Hmong hill people in the North geographical region for use as cadres in antigovernment activities.
The CPT also sought support in the Northeast, appealing to both Thai-Lao and non-Tai minorities, and among the Malay in southern Thailand. Promising a better future to rural peasants in the historically neglected Northeast, the CPT tried to exploit antigovernment sentiments in the area, which for decades had been the center of political dissidence. As a result, the Thai media accused the international communist world of conspiring to break off fifteen northeastern Thai provinces and integrate them into a Greater Laos. In the peninsular provinces adjoining the Malaysian border in the South the CPT sought to capitalize on Malay minority sentiments for a separate state or a union with Malaysia. This effort was enhanced by popular perceptions of Bangkok's long history of neglect of the socioeconomic development of the Muslim minority.
Despite these countrywide efforts, the CPT failed to gain widespread popular support and sympathy. For one thing, the country's long history of national independence made it difficult for the CPT to present itself as an anticolonial, nationalist movement--a tactic that had been successful in other Asian countries. The large influx in the 1980s of refugees from Cambodia and Vietnam, with their stories of hardship and repression under communist rule, cooled potential popular support for communism. For many Thai citizens a sense of shared language, customs, and traditions, together with an ingrained attachment to the king and the Buddhist religion, also presented a psychological barrier to adopting communist goals.
Consequently, the principal energy for the CPT came from external Asian sources. As early as 1959, and particularly after the early 1960s, China and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) began providing Thai cadres with training, money, and materiel for insurgency, subversion, and terrorism. Training camps were set up in Vietnam, in the Pathet Lao-controlled areas of neighboring Laos, and in Yunnan Province in China. In early 1962, a clandestine radio station--the Voice of the People of Thailand (VOPT)--began broadcasting from Kunming in Yunnan, transmitting Thai-language propaganda opposing the Bangkok government, as did Radio Hanoi and Radio Beijing.
In the 1960s, because of growing evidence that the CPT was building support structures among villagers in the Northeast, the government began to institute limited countermeasures designed to improve both the defense and the living conditions in villages in threatened areas. Information teams sought to identify villagers' problems and needs and to establish better communication with local authorities. Mobile development units dispatched to vulnerable areas attempted to establish the government's presence and improve its image among isolated villagers. The units were designed to stimulate village self-help and to meet immediate local health, educational, and economic needs by furnishing guidance, materials, and tools. Failure to complete many of the projects, however, limited the effectiveness of the program.
In 1964 Thai authorities further increased their counter- measures. As a follow-up to the mobile development unit scheme, they initiated an accelerated rural development program in security-sensitive areas, constructing roads, wells, market- places, health clinics, and schools. Despite these initial government steps, insurgent activity increased steadily after 1965.
Insurgency also became much more active in the South, where dissidents staged ambushes and held propaganda meetings in isolated villages along the Thai-Malaysian border. Many of these rebels were remnants of the MCP that had been driven north across the border into the jungles of southern Thailand by British counterinsurgency action against the MCP in the late 1950s. Roving groups of bandits compounded the security problems in the area. The leading Muslim separatist movement in the South after the early 1970s was the Pattani United Liberation Organization (PULO), whose objective was the formation of an independent Muslim state. PULO enjoyed support from radical Muslims in both southern Thailand and northern Malaysia. The MCP, CPT, and several Muslim separatist organizations, as well as opportunistic bandit groups, all conducted operations against Thai security forces and area residents.
By the mid 1970s, the multifaceted insurgency had become a part of life in the kingdom. The Thai government and the United States had spent vast amounts of money to combat the various insurgencies, but success was limited at best. When the United States withdrew from the counterinsurgency effort in the mid-1970s, a stalemate set in. The infusion of substantial funds by the United States (estimates for the 1951-76 period range from a low of US$100 million to a high of US$1 billion) had failed to gain "victory." There had been too great a diffusion of responsibility among the myriad Thai and American agencies planning and carrying out counterinsurgency operations. In addition, the 1976 coup had sent as many as 5,000 students into the jungles to join the CPT. Total CPT strength was estimated at 12,000 armed fighters in the peak year of 1979.
Beginning in the mid-1970s, the Thai government tried to increase the effectiveness of its counterinsurgency operations. In 1974, in order to eliminate the customary competition for power among government agencies, a new coordinating and command agency, the Internal Security Operational Command (ISOC), was established directly under the military's Supreme Command. In 1987 Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda took over as director of a reorganized ISOC, signaling an increased emphasis on political rather than military counterinsurgency programs.
In the early 1980s, the operational policy of Thai counterinsurgency forces had also changed. Rather than concentrating on military actions designed to kill insurgents, the counterinsurgency focused on neutralizing CPT tactics by reclaiming remote areas and their people from control by the communists. The approach demanded increased and better use of coordinated civic action, police, and military operations.
In 1980 the government also began a new policy addressing the complex political and social aspects of the insurgency problem. A directive from the prime minister laid out the broad political strategy, which featured an offer of amnesty to all insurgents and a promise to accord them respect and security. The document also outlined measures to improve the social and political conditions that had contributed to CPT strength. A companion directive issued in 1982 called for a coordinated offensive against insurgent centers in the remote mountainous areas. King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX, 1946- ) had played a role in formulating this strategy, and his enthusiastic support for it quickly spread throughout the military and civilian agencies implementing it.
The government's new approach--referred to as communist suppression rather than counterinsurgency--resulted in the surrender of more than 2,000 insurgents during the first ten months. Many who rallied to the government side during this period were students who had fled to the remote jungles and joined the CPT forces after the repressive action of the Thai police at Bangkok's Thammasat University in early October 1976. Some had grown disillusioned with CPT goals and tactics. Others were simply tired of the hardships endured in years of fighting under spartan conditions in the remote countryside. Former student leader Thirayuth Bunmee's surrender after 5 years with the CPT gained wide publicity for the amnesty program, as did the mass defection of 250 armed insurgents and hundreds of unarmed family members and supporters at Mukdahan in December 1982.
At the same time, the Thai armed forces conducted selective but increasingly aggressive and effective operations against longtime guerrilla bases in the Northeast and North. The capture and destruction in 1981 of the Khao Khor base astride the border between Phetchabun and Phitsanulok provinces in the North was a serious blow to the insurgency. In the South, more aggressive Thai military operations, political and social strategy, and a series of combined operations with Malaysian armed forces exacted a similar toll on the MCP, CPT, and Muslim separatists. By 1981 MCP strength had declined by one-third, to about 2,000. The steady pounding by the military and the political defections also rapidly depleted CPT strength. By the end of 1982, the number of armed CPT forces had decreased from 12,000 in 1979 to fewer than 4,000 countrywide. The coordinated military, political, economic, and social strategy had proved successful.
The phaseout of materiel support from China also weakened the insurgency. The rift in Sino-Vietnamese relations in Asia benefited Thailand. Beginning by closing the clandestine guerrilla radio station (VOPT), which had broadcast for years from Yunnan Province, China eventually halted virtually all support for the CPT and minority separatists. At the same time the CPT, plagued for many years by factionalism and ideological differences, was paralyzed by a break between Maoists and Leninists. Faced with the loss of border sanctuaries in Laos and China and deprived of Cambodian sanctuaries by the Vietnamese invasion, CPT cadres faced ever-increasing hardship, and only the most dedicated revolutionaries remained in the field. Thai authorities expressed concern over the emergence of a small, Vietnam-oriented faction of the CPT, but that faction posed little threat to stability in the country.
In mid-1987 the government estimated that there were about 600 armed, active communist insurgents operating in Thailand. Of this number, approximately 65 to 70 were thought to be in the North, 85 to 115 in the Northeast, 260 to 350 in the South, and 55 to 60 in the Center. The MCP, which had been reduced to fewer than 1,500, operated in two factions along the Thai-Malaysian border. Muslim separatists--PULO and the smaller Barisan Revolusi Nasional (National Revolutionary Front)--numbered between 350 and 400 altogether.
Although, by the late 1980s most of the insurgencies had been defeated, dedicated revolutionaries remained, both within Thailand and abroad. The government was particularly concerned about a new CPT strategy that stressed urban operations. Moreover, there had long been a suspicion that not all the heralded defectors had indeed renounced their communist beliefs. Nonetheless, the Thai government had achieved significant success in defeating an array of insurgents during the 1980s.
The country has a population of approximately 60,000,000. It is a newly industrializing country with a market-based economy and strong tradition of private enterprise, although state enterprises play a significant role in some sectors. Gross domestic product (GDP) growth is estimated at 1-2 percent during the year 2001. Annual per capita income is approximately $2,000; depreciation of the local currency during the 1997-99 financial crisis magnified declining income. Roughly 60 percent of the population remains rural and agricultural, although agriculture only accounts for approximately 10 percent of GDP. Rice and other agricultural and fisheries products are important exports, as are electrical goods, textiles, and automobiles. Government efforts to narrow the gap between urban and rural living standards have met with mixed success, and the Government increasingly focused on education and investment promotion in poor areas to reduce disparities in income distribution. Although government regulation generally provides protection for individual economic interests, including property rights, a lack of transparency in bureaucratic decisionmaking and a gap between regulation and enforcement sometimes leads to uneven treatment of some firms and institutions. Some areas of Government remain subject to corruption.
Theravada Buddhism, the form of Buddhism practiced in Sri Lanka, Burma, Cambodia, and Laos, was the religion of more than 80 percent of the Thai people in the 1980s. These coreligionists included not only the core Thai, but most other Tai speakers, as well as the Khmer, the Mon, and some members of other minorities, among them the Chinese. Relatively few Thai were adherents of Mahayana Buddhism or other religions, including Hinduism, Christianity, Taoism, animism, and Islam. Of these only Islam, largely identified with but not restricted to Southern Thai of Malay origin, was a dominant religion in a specific geographic area.
Theravada Buddhism was the established religion, in that there were formal organizational and ideological links between it and the state. Thai rulers (the king formerly, and the military and bureaucratic oligarchy subsequently) sought or--if they thought it necessary--commanded the support of the Buddhist clergy or sangha, who usually acquiesced to (if not welcomed) the state's support and protection. A Thai religious writer pointed out that Thailand was the only country in the world where the king was constitutionally required to be a Buddhist and upholder of the faith.
Buddhism's place in Thai society was by no means defined solely by its relation to the state. The role of religious belief and institutions in Thai life had changed, and, with increasing commercialism and urbanization, some observers questioned the prevalence of Thai piety and good works. However, the peasant's or villager's view of the world remained at least partly defined by an understanding of Buddhist doctrine, and significant events in his or her life and community were marked by rituals performed or at least supervised by Buddhist clergy. Often, the villager's city-dwelling siblings would return to the home village for significant events such as weddings and funerals. Additionally, much of Thai village life--social, political, economic, and religious--centered on the local wat.
As is often the case when a scripturally based religion becomes dominant in a largely agrarian society, the religious beliefs and behavior of most Thai were compounded of elements derived from both formal doctrine and other sources. The latter either developed during the long history of Buddhism or derived from religious systems indigenous to the area. Implementation of the same Buddhist rite and tradition often varied from region to region. In Central Thailand, for example, praiseworthy priests were selected and honored by the king, whereas in the Northeast this recognition was bestowed by the people.
Until the nineteenth century the source of criminal law in the kingdom was ancient Thai law based on the Indian Dharmashastra (a Hindu legal code attributed to Manu), which was introduced into the country during the Ayutthaya era. Over the centuries this code was augmented by numerous and sometimes conflicting royal laws and decrees, and there was little uniformity in the interpretations and applications made by different judges. The resulting tangle of legal concepts and arbitrary judicial decisions was strongly criticized by Western countries whose nationals were brought in as advisers or engaged in commerce in the kingdom during the nineteenth century. Objecting to the complexities, cruel punishments, delays, and injustices of the legal system, each Western government insisted that its nationals and others under its protection in the kingdom be subject only to the jurisdiction of its own extraterritorial courts. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the system of extraterritoriality was firmly established and had further complicated an already confusing legal structure.
Concerned by the limitations on the country's sovereignty and encouraged by treaty promises that extraterritoriality would be ended when the laws and judiciary were modernized, the Thai rulers set about making legal reforms. Whereas earlier kings had attempted to codify existing law and eliminate many of the harsher punishments, King Mongkut upon his accession to the throne in 1851 went further. Proclaiming the equality of all people before the law, he tried to improve standards of judicial honesty and competence and to abolish the delays and conflicting rules that had become so much a part of the judicial administration .
During the reign of King Chulalongkorn, who succeeded Mongkut in 1868, legal reform took a new direction. Whereas previous kings had tried to revise and adapt ancient law to meet modern needs, Chulalongkorn believed that the problem would be solved not by revising the old system but by replacing it. He created the Ministry of Justice in 1892, extending its powers to all courts of the kingdom. The ministry's first task was to develop a modern uniform court structure, a process that continued until 1920, ten years after Chulalongkorn's death.
During this period existing statutory and customary laws were collected and codified, and an enormous volume of new legislation was added. In 1897 a commission composed almost entirely of French and Belgian lawyers was appointed to draw up a penal code, which was promulgated in 1908. The constitutional monarchy established after the coup of 1932 brought about further legal reforms, promulgated in 1935 in the Criminal and Civil Procedures Code. This new legislation was based on Thai and Western legal practices that provided substantial safeguards in the administration of justice. In response to these legal reforms and the incorporation into Thai law of some Western concepts of jurisprudence , the system of extraterritoriality was completely eliminated by 1938. Further legal refinements resulted in the Criminal Code of 1956, which in the late 1980s remained the core of Thai criminal law.
The Criminal Code listed twelve kinds of offenses categorized as felonies. The first consisted of crimes against the security of the kingdom, including those against the royal family, treason, espionage, and acts that damaged friendly relations with foreign countries. Crimes relating to public administration, such as malfeasance in office and offenses against public officials, constituted a second major category. Crimes relating to justice, such as perjury or offenses against the police or the judiciary, formed a third major group. Other felonies included crimes against Buddhism; acts against public order and safety; offenses relating to the counterfeiting of money, seals, stamps, and documents; crimes against trade, including the use of false weights and measures and misrepresentation of goods; sexual offenses; crimes against the person; crimes against liberty and reputation, such as false imprisonment, kidnapping, and libel; crimes against property; and offenses such as misappropriation and receipt of stolen property. The code also listed a wide assortment of petty offenses that were classed as misdemeanors, defined officially as violations punishable by imprisonment for not more than one month, a modest fine, or both.
Five penalties for violating the code's various provisions were stipulated: death, imprisonment, detention (restricted residence), fines, and forfeiture of property to the state. The death sentence was mandatory for murder or attempted murder of any member of the royal family or for any offense likely to endanger the life of a king; murder of a public official or anyone assisting a public official in the performance of his or her duty; murder committed in perpetrating another offense or in an attempt to escape punishment; matricide or patricide; premeditated murder; or murder accompanied by torture. Other homicides could be punished by death but usually brought only imprisonment. Execution was carried out by a firing squad. A sentence of life imprisonment usually meant incarceration for twenty years, the maximum prison term.
Children under eight years of age were not subject to criminal penalties. Juveniles between the ages of seven and fifteen were not fined or imprisoned but could be restricted to their homes, placed on probation, or sent to a vocational training school. Juvenile delinquents were, however, admonished by the court, and their parents were required to show that they had taken measures to ensure against repeated violations. Offenses committed by minors between the ages of fifteen and seventeen resulted in fines or periods of confinement amounting to one-half the penalties prescribed for adults committing the same crimes.
INCIDENCE OF CRIME
The crime rate appeared to have risen throughout the 1970s and early 1980s--perhaps an inevitable by-product of a society changing under the pressures of population increases and economic and social modernization. The TNPD reports revealed increases in murder, assault, theft, armed robbery, smuggling, and petty violations. The major share of these criminal activities occurred in Bangkok and some of the larger towns in outlying areas. The high incidence of theft by youthful gangs also caused the police considerable concern.
In general, organized crime appeared to be rare, except for the illicit trade in opium, heroin, and cannabis, which persisted in spite of ever-increasing government efforts during the 1970s and 1980s to cope with a problem that had not only serious domestic implications but also escalating international repercussions. The drug trade had originated with the growing of poppies as a traditional primary cash crop by hill tribes in the Thai section of the notorious Golden Triangle--a mountainous border region including parts of Burma and Laos. For many years peasant cultivators in this region produced a major share of the world's opium.
According to estimates by the Thai government and international drug-control agencies, the average crop year yielded from 500 to 1,000 tons of opium, which, when processed in clandestine laboratories, produced from 50 to 100 tons of heroin. An estimated one-half of each annual crop found its way into the world market, destined primarily for addicts in Western Europe and the United States. The other half supplied users in Thailand, Malaysia, and other Asian countries. ln the late 1980s, it was believed that Thailand alone had roughly 500,000 addicts who depended on illicit supplies of opium and heroin. For years the Thai government maintained that there were relatively few opium users among the cultivators. But a medical survey, conducted in 1976-77 by health researchers from Chulalongkorn University, indicated that the rate of addiction in 6 sample villages varied from 6.6 to 16.8 percent of all inhabitants over the age of 10. This survey and subsequent studies convinced the Thai leadership that trafficking in illegal narcotics had become a domestic problem requiring action, rather than a low-priority international problem.
The opium-heroin trade of the 1980s stemmed from a history of international political machinations in the countries of and around the Golden Triangle--a maze compounded in more recent times by increasing profitability. The hill tribes grew the opium. Insurgents and separatists in Burma transported it. Yunnan Chinese living in northern Thailand taxed it, and Chaozhou Chinese (overseas Chinese living in Bangkok and Hong Kong) bought and exported it. Any clear understanding of the complicated system requires careful study of the region's ethnic and political hierarchy.
The Chinese appeared to have been heavily involved in the opium trade, but that was mainly before the advent of Mao Zedong. The Yunnan Chinese who traded in opium were a hodgepodge of private armies, including representatives of the Guomindang (Kuomintang--KMT) forces that fled China at the time of the communist takeover in the late 1940s. The rebel Chinese bands in the Golden Triangle were the remnants of the KMT who were unable to escape to Taiwan but instead sought refuge in Burma. Over the intervening years their fanatical anticommunist attitude kept them active in southern China as well as in Burma, Laos, and northern Thailand. For many years their fierce independence and swashbuckling military courage was regarded by many Western governments as helpful in stemming communism in Southeast Asia. That attitude, however, predated the international heroin problem and the rapprochement between the West and China.
The Chaozhou Chinese (originally from Chaozhou District, Guangdong Province) traced their roots in drug trafficking back to the days of organized crime in Shanghai after China's defeat in the Opium War (1839-42). Operating their maze of syndicates from Hong Kong, the Chaozhou Chinese had a virtual monopoly on the illicit opium and heroin trade, and the technology they used in converting opium to more easily transportable heroin was handed on to Chinese living in Thailand. The syndicates' intricate system of international couriers operated within Thailand to transport drugs both to local dealers and to the vast array of worldwide customers.
Faced with increasing use of illicit drugs among young people in the United States in the 1960s and a rising incidence of addiction among its servicemen in Vietnam, the United States government focused on the flow of heroin from Thailand. On September 28, 1971, the two governments signed a memorandum of understanding, reaffirming their intention to cooperate with each other in combating the illicit international traffic in dangerous drugs. Under the terms of the accord, the Thai government agreed to step up its efforts to eliminate poppy production and to control narcotics traffic within the country. The United States agreed to provide support, such as training, equipment, advisory assistance, and funds, to improve the effectiveness of the Thai programs. For several years the cooperative efforts of the two governments produced limited results, partly because certain corrupt senior Thai officials in the bureaucracy, the army, and the police had personal interests in the drug trade.
By the 1980s, successive Thai governments had played an increasingly effective role in the suppression and control of illicit drugs originating in Southeast Asia. The agents of the Narcotics Suppression Center, established under the TNPD, were highly regarded by foreign narcotics representatives for their efficiency and incorruptibility. Personnel of the Provincial Police and the BPP received training in narcotics work, and new equipment--including helicopters--had been procured to aid in aerial surveillance. Coordination between the TNPD specialists and Interpol provided the Thai with valuable information and suggestions from the police representatives of countries such as Canada, France, Britain, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the United States as well as the metropolitan police of Hong Kong. Many foreign governments, including the United States, assigned professional narcotics specialists to their embassies in Bangkok to work with the Thai government on the illicit drug problem.
Thai citizens, threatened by the problems stemming from drug abuse in their country, strongly supported such measures as preventive education, treatment, and rehabilitation. In addition, tough amendments were added to the Criminal Code to deter those trafficking in narcotics. Legislation passed in March 1979 mandated the death penalty or life imprisonment for persons convicted of possessing, manufacturing, or transporting more than 100 grams of heroin. Despite limited success in the legal and enforcement areas of antinarcotics programs, the Thai government and its foreign advisers believed that the most logical long-term solution lay in persuading the opium-growing hill people to abandon their traditional crop and switch instead to other cash crops, such as coffee, beans, tea, and tobacco. This effort received aid from the United Nations, which started a pilot project along these lines in 1973. The United States provided funds to assist in the development of a highland marketing system for the hill tribes' produce and for a system of roads to provide growers with easier access to lowland consumers.
During the 1980s, as the number of narcotics addicts in Thailand continued to grow, the Thai government renewed its attention to narcotics eradication and interdiction programs. These efforts received strong support from the United States and other countries. Thailand and Burma, always suspicious neighbors, increased cooperation in the effort to eliminate narcotics traffic along their border. The two governments arranged for limited intelligence exchange on narcotics refineries and trade routes along the border and also cooperated in combined tactical missions against the narcotics traffic. Progress in the battle against illicit narcotics was slow, partly because of the vested interests of certain influential figures within Thailand. It was also difficult to combat the problem because of the remote and rugged terrain and the international border. Observers predicted drug traffic would continue for many years to come and might never be completely eradicated.
The crime rate in Thailand is low compared to industrialized countries. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. In the UN reports, murders are referred to as "intentional homicides." Aggravated assaults are referred to as "major assaults," and larcenies are referred to as "thefts." According to the United Nations Seventh Annual Survey on Crime, crime recorded in police statistics shows the crime rate for the combined total of all Index crimes in Thailand to be 174.84 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2000. This compares with 1951.92 for Japan (country with a low crime rate) and 4123.97 for USA (country with high crime rate). For intentional homicides, the rate in 2000 was 8.47 for Thailand, 0.50 for Japan, and 5.51 for USA. For major assaults, the rate in 2000 was 33.15 for Thailand, compared with 34.04 for Japan, and 323.62 for USA. (Note these data for Japan are for total recorded assaults, since Japan did not report a figure for major assaults.) For rapes, the rate in 2000 was 6.62 for Thailand, 1.78 for Japan, and 32.05 for USA. For robberies, the rate in 2000 was 1.29 for Thailand, 4.07 for Japan, and 144.92 for USA. For automobile theft, the rate in 2000 was 5.40 for Thailand, 243.81 for Japan, and 414.17 for USA. The rate of burglaries for 2000 was 21.78 for Thailand, 233.45 for Japan, and 414.17 for USA. The rate for thefts in 2000 was 95.13 for Thailand, compared with 1434.27 for Japan and 2475.27 for USA. (Note that USA data were those reported to INTERPOL for year 2000, since USA has not yet reported this data to UN.)
TRENDS IN CRIME
Between 1995 (Sixth Annual Survey) and 2000 (Seventh Annual Survey) the rate for all recorded Index offenses increased from 142.91 to 171.84 per 100,000 in Thailand, an increase of 20.2%. The rate of intentional homicide increased from 7.65 to 8.47, an increase of 10.7%. The rate for major assaults increased from 27.02 to 33.15, an increase of 22.7%. The rate of rape increased from 6.32 to 6.62, an increase of 4.7%. The rate for robberies decreased from 4.24 to 1.29 per 100,000, a decrease of 69.6%. The rate for automobile theft increased from 3.71 to 5.4, an increase of 45.6%. The rate of burglaries decreased from 23.05 to 21.78, a decrease of 5.5%. Thefts increased from 70.92 to 95.13, an increase of 34.1%.
The concept of public order founded on the supremacy of law has long been stressed in Thailand as a necessary prerequisite to internal security and the achievement of national development goals. For the most part, Thai governments, in accordance with constitutional provisions, have dealt with matters of public order through a comprehensive system of statutory law enforced by a professional police force. Some exceptions have occurred during periods of martial law, which has been declared to control dissidence perceived as a threat to public safety. In such times, summary justice at the hands of the police and the army has stressed expediency in a way that has drawn criticism from human rights advocates throughout the world.
One of these periods of martial law occurred after the bloody October 1976 coup d'etat, which brought to power the military junta known as the National Administrative Reform Council (NARC) and Thanin Kraivichien as prime minister. The regime abolished the 1974 constitution and ruled by decree and martial law. During the following year the government issued a series of decrees known as NARC orders. These restrictive measures were instituted following the brutal suppression of leftist student demonstrations at Thammasat University by police-supported and ultra-right vigilante gangs, such as the Red Gaurs (Red Bulls) and the Nawa Phon, or New Force.
Most of the NARC orders applied to activities neither covered by the criminal code nor under the jurisdiction of the established system of criminal courts. The orders were enforced by arbitrary arrests of people suspected of communist leanings; long-term detention or imprisonment, often without charge or trial; and summary execution of major offenders. Military courts had authority to try those defendants who were allowed a hearing, but the right of appeal was denied. The government also imposed press censorship, revoking the publication licenses of newspapers that criticized government activities.
One of the most repressive of the decrees--NARC Order 22--defined nine categories of offenses, six involving criminal violations and three identifying political activities that "endanger society." The political offenses were defined as "instigating confusion," advocating political systems other than those headed by the king, and undertaking labor strikes. The decree stated that political detainees could be held for thirty days and could subsequently be required to attend democracytraining schools for periods as long as three months. These schools, operated under the government's reeducation program, provided lectures on democracy and Thai national institutions. Some NARC orders were retained by the Kriangsak regime immediately after it gained power in 1977 by ousting Thanin, but they were gradually phased out during conciliation efforts that led to adoption of the new Constitution in December 1978.
In early February 1979, the National Assembly unanimously adopted the new Anti-Communist Activities Act, which had universal application throughout the country. Later in the month martial law was temporarily lifted as the government prepared for the national elections to be held in April. In August NARC Order 22 was abolished, and the government revealed that nearly 12,000 people had been detained or imprisoned indefinitely under the decree's provisions since its imposition in October 1976. All who were still incarcerated solely on "danger to society" charges were granted amnesty and released. Although these actions drew favorable responses from some human rights critics, others saw continuing problems in the criminal justice system under the Anti-Communist Activities Act of 1979.
The Anti-Communist Activities Act gave Thai security forces authority to search suspected individuals and establishments at any time without a court warrant and to detain suspects for a maximum of 480 days. Moreover, the act gave provincial governors and regional military commanders broad powers to control the activities of local populations by imposing curfews, banning demonstrations and meetings, confiscating mail, monitoring telephone conversations, and reviewing business employers' personnel files. Human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and the Union of Democratic Thai, regarded the new act as tantamount to a state of martial law. Most provisions of the Anti-Communist Activities Act were not enforced in the late 1980s because insurgent activities had been virtually eliminated. Most of the other aspects of arbitrary justice gave way to safeguards assured by the Constitution. Although laws mandating harsh sentences for certain major crimes remained, they were infrequently implemented.
Primary responsibility for the maintenance of public order through enforcement of the kingdom's laws was exercised by the Thailand National Police Department (TNPD), a subdivision of the Ministry of Interior. Charged with performing police functions throughout the entire country, the TNPD was a unitary agency whose power and influence in Thai national life had at times rivaled that of the army.
The formal functions of the TNPD included more than the enforcement of laws and apprehension of offenders. The department also played an important role in the government's efforts to suppress the remnants of the insurgency. In the event of an invasion by external forces, much of the police force would come under the control of the Ministry of Defense to serve with, but not be incorporated into, the military forces.
Originally modeled on the pre-World War II national police force of Japan, the TNPD was reorganized several times to meet changing public order and internal security needs. American advice, training, and equipment, which were provided from 1951 through the early 1970s, did much to introduce new law enforcement concepts and practices and to aid in the modernization of the TNPD. During this era the strength and effectiveness of the police grew steadily.
All components of the police system were administered by the TNPD headquarters in Bangkok, which also provided technical support for law enforcement activities throughout the kingdom. The major operational units of the force were the Provincial Police, the Border Patrol Police (BPP), the Metropolitan Police, and smaller specialized units supervised by the Central Investigation Bureau.
In mid-1987 the total strength of the TNPD, including administrative and support personnel, was estimated at roughly 110,000. Of this number, over one-half were assigned to the Provincial Police and some 40,000 to the BPP. More than 10,000 served in the Metropolitan Police. Quasi-military in character, the TNPD was headed by a director general, who held the rank of police general. He was assisted by three deputy directors general and five assistant directors general, all of whom held the rank of police lieutenant general. Throughout the TNPD system, all ranks except the lowest (constable) corresponded to those of the army. The proliferation of high ranks in the TNPD organizational structure, as in the military, indicated the political impact of the police on national life.
The Provincial Police formed the largest of the TNPD operational components in both manpower and geographic responsibility. It was headed by a commander, who reported to the director general of the TNPD, and administered through four police regions--geographic areas of responsibility similar to those of the army regional commands. This force provided police services to every town and village throughout the kingdom except metropolitan Bangkok and border areas. The Provincial Police thus handled law enforcement activities and in many cases was the principal representative of the central government's authority in much of the country.
During the 1960s and early 1970s, as the police assumed an increasing role in counterinsurgency operations, a lack of coordination among security forces operating in the rural areas became apparent. Observers noted that the overall police effort suffered because of conflicting organizational patterns and the highly centralized control system that required decisions on most matters to emanate from the various police bureaus of TNPD headquarters in Bangkok.
A reorganization of the TNPD in 1978 and 1979 gave more command authority to the four police lieutenant generals who served as regional commissioners of the Provincial Police. Thereafter, the senior officers of each region not only controlled all provincial police assigned to their respective geographic areas but also directed the railroad, highway, marine, and forestry police units operating there, without going through the chain of command to the Central Investigation Bureau in Bangkok. Although this change increased the workload of the four regional headquarters, it resulted in greater efficiency and improved law enforcement.
Developed in the 1950s with assistance from the United States Central Intelligence Agency, the paramilitary Border Patrol Police (BPP) has remained the country's most effective internal security force. Although technically part of the TNPD, the BPP has always enjoyed a great deal of basic autonomy within the national headquarters as well as in its multifaceted field operations. Because the royal family was a principal patron of the organization, the BPP developed the esprit de corps of an elite unit. This traditional relationship benefited both the palace and its paramilitary protectors. At the same time, the BPP retained direct links with the larger Royal Thai Army--a relationship that afforded it an additional degree of political strength. Most BPP commanders were former army officers whose military ties were of considerable value in BPP operations.
Charged with border security along some 4,800 kilometers of land frontiers, the BPP's mission included collecting information on the activities of smugglers, bandits, illegal immigrants, refugees, infiltrators, and communist insurgents. To fulfill its mission, it employed an extensive intelligence network and maintained surveillance over villages and farming districts that had a history of cross-border activities. When armed force was required, the BPP was able to respond effectively. Despite its modest size in comparison with the army, the BPP became a primary counterinsurgency force because of its training, motivation, and unique skills.
Thirty-two-man platoons functioning as security teams formed the basic operating units of the BPP. Each platoon was supported by one or more heavy weapons platoons stationed at the regional and area police headquarters. A special police aerial reinforcement unit airlifted BPP platoons to troubled areas when an emergency arose. Relatively well armed with modern light infantry equipment, the BPP also benefited from training by United States Army Special Forces advisers, who helped establish an instruction program during the 1960s.
The BPP served as an important adjunct to the Thai military and often operated under army (and sometimes marine corps) control during counterinsurgency operations. BPP units stationed along the Cambodian and Laotian borders following the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1979 often served as the first line of defense and bore the brunt of Vietnamese attacks.
In order to carry out its primary intelligence mission, the BPP worked to establish rapport with remote area villagers and hill tribes. They engaged in civic action projects to gain the confidence and loyalty of rural peoples, building and operating more than 200 schools in remote areas and helping the army to construct offices for civilian administration. In addition, they established rural medical aid stations, gave farmers agricultural assistance, and built small airstrips for communication and transportation purposes.
Responding to village complaints of banditry and harassment by elements the central government considered subversive, the BPP supported the development of a local law enforcement adjunct known as the Volunteer Defense Corps (VDC). Established in 1954, the corps was intended to provide law and order, much like a civilian militia responsible to local authorities, in the event of defense emergencies or natural disasters. The paramilitary VDC had the main responsibility for protecting local inhabitants from threats and intimidation by guerrillas who infiltrated the border provinces from neighboring Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia. One of its chief tactics was to deny the insurgents access to the food and other supplies that made villages and farms favorite targets. VDC members received training from the BPP, and their effectiveness in both law enforcement and civic action was of considerable value to government goals.
In the late 1980s, VDC strength was estimated at roughly 33,000, down from a peak of about 52,000 in 1980. Part of the reduction was absorbed by the formation of a new organization called the Thahan Phran. With a strength of about 14,000, the Thahan Phran was a volunteer irregular force deployed in active trouble spots along the Cambodian and Burmese borders. The organization followed a military structure and had 32 regiments and 196 companies. The Thahan Phran gained considerable publicity and incurred significant casualties during Vietnamese bombardments and local assaults along the Cambodian border.
Responsible for providing all law enforcement services for the capital city of Bangkok and its suburbs, the Metropolitan Police was probably the most visible and publicly recognizable of all TNPD components. This largely uniformed urban force operated under the command of a commissioner, who held the rank of police major general and was assisted by six deputy commissioners. Organizationally, the force consisted of three divisions, each responsible for police services in one of the three urban areas: northern Bangkok, southern Bangkok, and Thon Buri. Together they accounted for about forty police precincts, which were patrolled around the clock.
In addition to covering the city with foot patrols, the Metropolitan Police maintained motorized units, a canine corps, building guards, traffic-control specialists, and law enforcement personnel trained to deal with juvenile problems. The Traffic Police Division also provided mounted escorts and guards of honor for the king and visiting dignitaries and served as a riotcontrol force to prevent unlawful demonstrations and to disperse unruly crowds within the capital city.
Having jurisdiction over the entire country, the Central Investigation Bureau was organized to assist both provincial and metropolitan components of the TNPD in preventing and suppressing criminal activity and in minimizing threats to national security. The specialized units of the bureau, including the railroad, marine, highway, and forestry police, employed up-to-date technical equipment, law enforcement techniques, and training.
In addition to the specialized units, five other divisions and offices employed modern procedures to assist in investigating and preventing crime. The Crime Suppression Division--one of the bureau's largest components--was responsible for conducting most of the technical investigations of criminal offenses throughout the kingdom. Its emergency unit coped with riots and other public disorders, sabotage, counterfeiting, fraud, illegal gambling operations, narcotics trafficking, and the activities of secret societies and organized criminal associations. The Special Branch--sometimes referred to by critics as the "political police"--was responsible for controlling subversive activities and served as the TNPD's chief intelligence organization. The Criminal Records Office collected and maintained records required in the conduct of police work, including dossiers and fingerprints of known criminals and persons suspected of wrongdoing . At the well-equipped Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory, technicians performed the requisite chemical and physical analyses. The Licenses Division registered and licensed firearms, vehicles, gambling establishments, and various other items and enterprises as required by law.
The Police Education Bureau of the TNPD was responsible for training police personnel in the latest methods of law enforcement and the use of modern weapons. It operated the Police Officers Academy at Sam Phran, the detective training school at Bang Kaen, the Metropolitan Police Training School at Bang Kaen, and the Provincial Police training centers at Nakhon Pathom, Lampang, Nakhon Ratchasima, and Yala.
The bureau also supervised a number of sites established and staffed by the BPP to train its field platoons in counterinsurgency operations. These sites included a large national facility at Hua Hin and smaller facilities in Udon Thani, Ubon Ratchathani, Chiang Mai, and Songkhla.
Today, the security forces have wide-ranging legal powers, derived primarily from past militarily controlled administrations. The armed forces have become increasingly professional and increasingly subject to civilian control. Their influence in politics has been diminishing. The Royal Thai Police have primary responsibility for internal security and law enforcement. Elements of both the armed forces and the police have a reputation for corruption. Some members of the security forces committed serious human rights abuses.
There were no reports of politically motivated killings during the year 2001 by government agents; however, legal organizations, reputable nongovernmental organizations (NGO's), and the press continued to report that some police officers used unwarranted lethal force in apprehending criminal suspects. Armed alleged drug traffickers in particular continued to confront and threaten police officers violently, and officers used deadly force during some arrest attempts. During 2000 police killed 50 criminal suspects, statistics were not yet available for 2001.
There were press allegations that the government considered forming "killing teams" to assassinate suspected drug traffickers. The Prime Minister and other government officials publicly denied the reports, stating that such a measure would be illegal and would violate human rights principles.
The two senior police officers arrested in the June 1999 Nonthaburi abduction and killing of a suspected car thief were freed on bail and returned to their positions. An internal investigation of the killings continues; a civil suit filed by relatives of the victims was settled out of court in July.
The trial of the police officer charged in the 1996 killing of farmer activist Joon Bhoonkhuntod was dismissed for lack of evidence on October 18, after the victim's family accepted a monetary settlement from the officer. The Office of the Attorney General has not yet decided whether to prosecute police allegedly involved in the 1996 Suphanburi killings of suspected drug dealers.
In the past, when the Government investigated extrajudicial killings, it prosecuted few police or military officers accused of such abuses. A senior prosecutor in 1999 stated that 99 percent of all cases in which government officials were accused of extrajudicial killings were dropped on the basis of insufficient evidence. Senior prosecutors and legal associations claimed that most cases eventually were dismissed because regulations outlined in the Criminal Code required public prosecutors to rely exclusively upon the recommendations of the police when determining whether to bring a case for criminal prosecution. Initial inquiries were carried out by police officers, often from the same units allegedly responsible for the killing. Credible sources reported that police investigators routinely determined that police took no wrongful action. Routine exoneration of police officers contributed to a climate of impunity that was a significant factor in preventing any major change in police behavior. It also discouraged relatives of victims from pressing for prosecution. However, in June 2000, a new procedure for investigating suspicious deaths, including deaths occurring while the individual is in custody, took effect as part of the amended Criminal Procedure Code. It requires, among other things, that the prosecutor, a forensic pathologist, and a local administrator participate in the investigation and that family members may have legal representation at the inquests. Thus far the effects of the reforms appear limited. The most notable case reflecting a changed climate actually concluded in May 2000 before the reforms officially entered into effect, when 10 policemen were sentenced to life imprisonment for the 1994 killings of 4 municipal officials.
Families rarely take advantage of a provision in the law that allows them to bring personal lawsuits against police officers for criminal action during arrest. If pursued by the family, the case is handled by the same office--in some instances by the same prosecutor--who already has ruled that no criminal action occurred. There is no information available to determine how many cases are settled out of court. However, in cases in which suits are filed, the official charged often compensates the family of the deceased, and the lawsuit is waived.
There were 25 killings of political canvassers during the election campaigns leading up to the January general election and March 2000 Senate elections. All the victims worked for political parties, and, although some of the killings apparently were politically motivated, many appeared to be the result of personal disputes. Police arrested several persons in connection with killings that were motivated by both political and private disputes. Investigations into these cases continued at year's end 2001.
In past years, conflicts along all four of the country's borders as well as internal insurgency resulted in the placement of landmines, and, over the last 2 years, 346 persons have been killed or injured in landmine or unexploded ordnance incidents. The Government is strongly committed to removing all landmines and unexploded ordnance, and the country's security forces have not laid landmines in recent years.
There were no reports of new politically motivated disappearances during the year 2001.
In February 2000, following border clashes involving Burmese, Thai and Karen forces, a large group of Karen crossed into Thailand seeking safety. Some of the Karen fighters were associated with a small splinter group, commonly referred to as God's Army. The Thai military reportedly separated 55 males from the group. The family members of those 55 have had no word from them since that time. There were allegations that the 55 men were executed. However, no physical evidence has been provided to support these claims. The Thai military stated that the group of 55 voluntarily returned to Burma to continue their fight against the Burmese army.
As a result of a request made under the Official Information Act by the victims' families, the Government in May 2000 released the Defense Ministry's report on the military forces' suppression of political demonstrations in May 1992. The report provided no new information on the whereabouts of the remaining 38 prodemocracy protesters still listed as missing. Most, if not all, are presumed dead by family members and NGO's.
The results of a government investigation into the 1991 disappearance of Labor Congress of Thailand president Thanong Po-an conducted by the House Justice and Human Rights Standing Committee have never been released to the public. In March labor activists filed a request under the Official Information Act for information regarding the case. In July the President of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) wrote to the Prime Minister to request public release of information on the 10th anniversary of Thanong's disappearance. There was no official response by year's end 2001.
The Constitution and the Criminal Code prohibit such practices; however, NGO's and legal organizations continue to report that some members of the police occasionally beat suspects in order to coerce confessions. During the year 2001, there were newspaper reports of six cases in which citizens accused police of brutality, threatening false charges, and extorting bribes. Investigations were undertaken in four of the cases, including one in which the accused police officer was suspended pending the result of the internal investigation. Authorities also investigated and prosecuted police officers accused of raping and extorting sex from female suspects in detention.
In May two women accused a police officer of raping them in jail while they were serving a sentence on drug charges. The officer was suspended from duty and released on bail. The rape case against him was being tried at year's end 2001.
Police and prosecutors continued to investigate a November 2000 incident in which villagers allegedly paid by the Government violently dispersed a protest by the NGO Assembly of the Poor at the Pak Mun dam seriously injuring 4 protesters and burning more than 500 temporary shelters.
Among junior police officers, corruption remains widespread. Police officials complain that low pay for members of police forces makes them susceptible to bribes.
Some corrupt police and soldiers are involved in prostitution and trafficking in women and children.
Except for limited exceptions, the Constitution prohibits such actions, and the Government generally respects these prohibitions in practice. With a few exceptions, including crimes in progress, the Constitution requires police to obtain a warrant from a court prior to conducting a search. However, the procedures for issuing warrants are not standardized, primarily because various laws such as the Criminal Procedure Code and internal government regulations, including those that apply to the police department, have not been amended to comply with the Constitution. The laws must be amended to comply with the Constitution by 2002.
Lawyers' associations reported that police at times used blank search warrants rather than obtaining judicial approval or used legitimate warrants to conduct intrusive searches outside the stated evidentiary domain. NGO's concerned with the welfare of highlanders reported that police and military units carried out several warrantless searches of villages for narcotics in northern provinces during the year 2001. Such operations are permitted under both the Constitution and the Narcotics Prevention and Suppression Act of 1976 in cases in which there is reasonable suspicion and an urgent search is deemed necessary. However, some academic groups claimed that the searches were arbitrary and violated the villagers' civil rights. The Anti-Communist Activities Act, which had allowed officials engaged in "Communist suppression operations" to conduct searches without warrants, expired in June.
In June the National Countercorruption Commission found two Telephone Organization of Thailand technicians responsible for malfeasance in the June 2000 wiretapping of the residential telephone of Wira Somkhwamkhit, an anticorruption activist. The Commission had not yet taken further action on the cases and had not yet been able to identify the person who ordered the wiretaps by year's end 2001.
Security services monitor persons, including foreign visitors, who espouse extremist or highly controversial views.
With few exceptions, including crimes in progress, the law requires police officers making an arrest to have judicial warrants, and authorities generally respect this provision in practice. Under the Constitution, persons must be informed of likely charges against them immediately after arrest and must be allowed to inform someone of their arrest. Detainees have a right to have a lawyer present during questioning, and the police generally respect this right in practice. Foreign prisoners sometimes are forced to sign confessions without benefit of a competent translator.
Police also are required to submit criminal cases to prosecutors for the filing of court charges within 48 hours of arrest; however, the law also allows an extension period of up to 3 days. Police also may seek court permission to hold suspects for additional periods (up to a maximum of 82 days for the most serious offenses) to conduct investigations. In addition laws and regulations place any offense for which the maximum penalty is less than 3 years under the jurisdiction of the district courts, which have different procedures. In these cases, police are required to submit cases to public prosecutors within 72 hours of arrest. Lawyers report that the police rarely bring their cases to court within the 48-hour period. There is a functioning bail system.
The Anti-Communist Activities Act, which formerly provided the only legal basis for detention by the police without specific charges for long periods (up to 480 days), expired on June 3.
Approximately 28 percent of the total prison population were pretrial detainees. Pretrial detainees usually are not segregated from the general prison population. Pretrial detention of criminal suspects for up to 60 days is common. Some foreigners held in immigration detention facilities face trial delays of up to 6 months.
The Government does not use forced exile.
The legal system of Thailand is a civil law system, with influences of common law. The legal system remained an amalgam of the traditional and the modern. In several southern provinces, for example, Islamic law and custom were applicable to matrimonial and inheritance matters among the Muslims. A large part of the modern legal system was made up of criminal, civil, and commercial codes adopted from the British and other European legal systems with some modifications borrowed from India, Japan, China, and the United States. Also, an extensive body of administrative law consisted of royal decrees, executive orders, and ministerial regulations.
The judiciary provided for three levels of courts: the courts of first instance, the Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court. The courts came under two separate jurisdictions. The Ministry of Justice appointed and supervised the administrative personnel of the courts and instituted reform in judicial procedures; the Judicial Service Commission, which was responsible for the independence of the courts, appointed, promoted, and removed judges. As a rule, judges retired at age sixty, but their service could be extended to age sixty-five.
The country was divided into nine judicial regions, which were coextensive with the nine administrative regions (phag), in contrast to the four geographic regions (North, Northeast, Center, and South). At the base of the judiciary system were the courts of first instance, most of which were formally known as provincial courts with unlimited civil and criminal jurisdiction. Petty civil and criminal offenses were handled by magistrates' courts, which were designed to relieve the increasing burden on provincial courts. Offenses committed by Thai citizens on the high seas and outside the country were tried before the Criminal Court in Bangkok. Labor disputes were adjudicated by the Central Labor Court established in Bangkok in 1980. Offenses by persons under eighteen years of age were referred to the Central Juvenile Court and its counterparts in several regional centers.
The Court of Appeal in Bangkok heard cases from all lower courts (except the Central Labor Court) relating to civil, juvenile, criminal, and bankruptcy matters. At least two judges were required to sit at each hearing. Cases of exceptional importance had to be heard by plenary sessions of the court. The appellate court could reverse, revise, or remand lower court decisions on questions of both law and fact.
The Supreme Court, which was the highest court of appeal, also had original jurisdiction over election disputes. Although decisions of the court were final, in criminal cases the king could grant clemency. A dispute over court jurisdiction was settled by the Constitutional Tribunal.
Responsibility for the administration of criminal law was shared by the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Justice. Appropriate branches of the TNPD were charged with detecting and investigating crimes, collecting evidence, and bringing the accused before the court. The Public Prosecution Department of the Ministry of Interior represented the state in criminal proceedings and conducted the prosecution. The Ministry of Justice supervised the operation of the courts.
The first step in a criminal case was a preliminary investigation carried out by a police officer; the investigation might include searches of suspects, their homes, and others thought to be implicated. The required warrants for these searches stated the reason for the search, the identity of the person or place to be searched, the name and official position of the officer making the search, and the nature of the offense charged. The police generally adhered to this requirement except in instances covered by the Anti-Communist Activities Act of 1979.
Similar procedures applied for arrest warrants, but a senior police officer was permitted to make an arrest without a warrant when the offense was of a serious nature, or when someone was apprehended in the commission of a crime or in possession of a weapon or instrument commonly used for criminal purposes. Private citizens were permitted to arrest without warrant anyone caught in the act of committing a serious crime. Arrested suspects were required to be taken promptly to a police station, where the arrest warrant was read and explained to them. They were then held or released on bail. The provisions for bail and security were defined by law.
After an arrest, a further and more detailed investigation of the case was made, but not until the complainant--the state or a private individual--had submitted and signed a full bill of particulars. At the beginning of this phase, accused persons were warned that any statement they made might be used against them in court. The investigator was not permitted to use threats, promises, or coercion to induce the accused to make self-in- criminating statements.
When the investigation was completed, a report was filed with the public prosecutor, who then prepared an indictment and gave a copy to the accused or his counsel, who entered a plea of guilty or not guilty. Based on the plea and the evidence that had been gathered, the judge either accepted a case for trial or dismissed all charges. Trials were normally held in open court, and the accused was presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. If the defendant had no counsel and wished to be represented, the court appointed a defense attorney. During trials, accused persons or their counsels could cross-examine prosecution witnesses and reexamine defense witnesses. They could also refuse to answer questions or to give evidence that might be self-incriminating. At the conclusion of the argument the court usually recessed while the judge reached a decision; the court was required, however, to reconvene within three days and the judgment be read to the accused in open court. The presiding judge, after pronouncing sentence, frequently canceled half of the term of the sentence if the accused confessed to his crime. A convicted person wishing to appeal was required to do so within fifteen days. The case then was transferred to the Court of Appeal, which could reverse or reduce, but not increase, the sentence imposed by the original trial court.
Although periodic revisions of the Criminal Code improved the quality of criminal justice, the system still suffered from disparity in sentences. In many cases the court experienced difficulty in determining appropriate sentences because the minimum punishment specified by the Criminal Code was often quite severe. In order that sentences for the same offense be consistent without hampering the court's discretion, judges had a list of standard sentences derived from past practices and consideration of other relevant factors. These guidelines, however, were not compulsory. To permit judges to exercise informed discretion, the Ministry of Justice stressed the importance of accurate information about the causes of the crime, the nature of the accused, and other circumstances pertinent to judicial decisions. Even so, the criminal courts showed some difficulty in overcoming the historical tendency to regard punishment solely as retribution for past misdeeds and deterrence of future antisocial behavior.
Today, the Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, while the judiciary generally is regarded as independent, it is subject to corruption and has a reputation for venality.
The civilian judicial system has three levels of courts, as well as an independent Constitutional Court: courts of first instance; courts of appeal; and the Supreme Court. A separate military court hears criminal and civil cases pertaining to military personnel as well as those brought during periods of martial law (which was last in effect in the country in 1992). There is no right to appeal military court decisions. The Constitutional Court, charged with interpreting the Constitution, began operating in 1998. The courts became fully independent of the Ministry of Justice and responsible for its own administration and budget in August 2000. Islamic (Shari'a) courts hear only civil cases concerning members of the Muslim minority. Access to courts or administrative bodies to seek redress is provided for and respected.
There is no trial by jury. A single judge decides trials for misdemeanors, and two or more judges are required for more serious cases. Trials often require years to complete because they run sporadically, typically convening for a single day every few months. While most trials are public, the court may order a closed trial. This is done most often in cases involving national security or the royal family. Judges are career civil servants and judicial appointments and judicial bodies are not subject to parliamentary review.
The Constitution provides for the presumption of innocence. Defendants tried in ordinary criminal courts enjoy a broad range of legal rights, including access to a lawyer of their choosing. A government program provides free legal advice to the poor, but indigent defendants are not provided with counsel at public expense automatically. Most free legal aid comes from private groups, including the Law Society of Thailand and the Thai Women Lawyers Association.
There were no reports of political prisoners.
The penal system was administered by the Department of Corrections within the Ministry of Interior. The government's stated policy in operating the system was to use its facilities to reduce crime by correcting and rehabilitating offenders rather than only punishing them. Rehabilitation of convicted offenders was a relatively recent penal concept in Thailand, however, and proper facilities, programs, and specially trained penal staff were limited.
In the late 1980s, the system consisted of forty-six regular penal institutions, including seven central prisons, five regional prisons, twenty-three prison camps, seven correctional institutions, three reformatories, and one detention home. In addition, all metropolitan, provincial, and district police stations had jails of varying adequacy for offenders whose sentences did not exceed one year.
The seven central and five regional prisons housed the majority of prisoners with long-term sentences. Khlong Prem Central Prison in Bangkok, with a capacity of 6,000 inmates, was one of the oldest and largest. A maximum security institution for habitual criminals was operated at Nakhon Pathom. Twenty-three prison camps were located on Ko Tarutao, an island in the Strait of Malacca. The camps accommodated an average of fifty good-conduct prisoners, who worked principally in agriculture, preparing themselves for employment after their release.
Two correctional institutions, one at Ayutthaya and one in Bangkok, held primarily offenders eighteen to twenty-five years old serving terms of up to five years. The Women's Correctional Institution was also located in Bangkok, and the specialized Medical Correctional Institution for drug addicts and other prisoners who required medical attention was located in Pathum Thani Province north of the capital. Minimum security correctional centers were located at Rayong and Phitsanulok.
Of the three reformatories, the Ban Lat Yao facility, just north of Bangkok, with a capacity of about 2,000, received the majority of the more recalcitrant juvenile delinquents. Limited rehabilitation activities were undertaken there; those who failed to respond were sent to a second reformatory near Rayong, which was operated on the prison farm principle. A third reformatory at Prachuap Khiri Khan, about 200 kilometers southwest of Bangkok, was used only to accommodate the overflow from the other two institutions.
Additional special facilities for juvenile offenders, called observation and protection centers, were administered by the Central Juvenile Court and the Central Observation and Protection Center of the Ministry of Justice. Attached to each juvenile court, the centers assisted in caring for and supervising delinquent children charged with criminal offenses, both before and after trial. Probation officers, social workers, and teachers assigned to the centers aided the court by collecting information on the background and home environment of offenders, by taking them into custody pending trial, by accompanying the defendants into court, and by reporting to the court on their mental and physical conditions.
Health conditions in all types of penal institutions improved during the 1970s and 1980s, but more hospital facilities were needed. Prison education facilities conducted literacy classes for 20,000 prisoners each year. Vocational training workshops also were established in some prisons. Products from prison labor were sold, and 35 percent of the net profit was returned to the prisoners. Some of this income could be spent during incarceration, but most of it went into a savings fund to assist the prisoner in making a new start after release.
Today, prison conditions are poor but in general they do not threaten the life or health of inmates. Already severe prison overcrowding worsened during the year 2001 due to increased numbers of persons imprisoned for drug-related offenses (of more than 240,000 prison inmates, approximately 140,000 were charged with narcotics violations). The total prison population of approximately 242,000 inmates is housed in 156 prisons that have a total design capacity of 100,000 prisoners. Sleeping accommodations and access to medical care remain areas of concern. Medical care in prisons is inadequate. The Corrections Department employs only 17 full-time doctors and 7 full-time dentists. Prison authorities sometimes used solitary confinement to punish difficult prisoners. They also used heavy leg irons as a means of controlling and punishing prisoners. Credible sources continued to report that prisoners captured in escape attempts were beaten severely. Male and female prisoners in official remand centers and prisons are segregated, and juveniles are held separately in 34 of the 76 provinces. Men, women, and children often are held together in police station holding cells pending indictment.
Conditions in Bangkok's Suan Phlu Immigration Detention Center (IDC) and in provincial detention centers remained very poor. Immigration detention facilities are not administered by the Department of Corrections and are not subject to many of the regulations that govern the regular prison system. Some foreigners face trial delays of up to 6 months. Overcrowding and shortages of food and water in the immigration detention centers remain significant problems.
Access to prisons is not restricted, and the Government permits visits by independent human rights monitors and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Domestic abuse continues to be a serious problem affecting the welfare of many women; reliable reports indicate that domestic abuse occurs across all social classes. Specific laws concerning domestic violence have not been enacted. Spousal and child abuse are covered by assault provisions in the Criminal Code, but rules of evidence often make prosecuting such cases difficult. Police do not enforce laws against such violence vigorously, and domestic violence often goes unreported, because many victims and law enforcement personnel continue to regard domestic abuse as a private matter rather than a legal one. NGO-supported programs designed to aid victims include emergency hot lines, temporary shelters, counseling services, and a television program designed to increase awareness of domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, and other issues involving women. The Government's "one-stop" crisis centers, which are located in state-run hospitals, continued to care for abused women and children, but faced budget difficulties.
Rape is illegal. However, a husband may not be prosecuted for spousal rape. In 1998 the Government proposed changes to the law that would redefine the term rape to include marital rape. There has been no action on the proposal.
According to academics and women's rights activists, rapes and domestic assaults are underreported, in part because law enforcement agencies widely are perceived to be incapable of bringing perpetrators to justice. Police have sought to change this perception and encourage women to report sexual crimes through the use of teams of female police officers that operate in metropolitan Bangkok police stations, with a total of 20 female investigators. The police expanded this program to three provinces by adding an additional nine female officers.
Prostitution is illegal but flourishes. It is culturally ingrained and often is protected by local officials with a commercial interest in it. Trafficking in women and children for prostitution is a serious problem. Government and NGO estimates of the number of women and children engaged in prostitution vary widely. Many NGO's and government departments report a figure of 200,000 persons, which is considered a conservative estimate. This figure includes children under 18 years of age and foreigners. There were reports that women were forced into prostitution in border areas, but the number of such cases is difficult to determine. The majority of prostitutes are not kept under physical constraint, but a large number work under debt bondage. The 1996 Prostitution Prevention and Suppression Act makes child prostitution illegal and states that customers who patronize child prostitutes are subject to criminal sanctions. Parents who allow a child to enter the trade also are subject to criminal sanctions, but the number of prosecutions remains low. NGO's and government agencies provide shelter, rehabilitation, and reintegration programs for children and women involved in the sex industry.
Sex tourism is a problem.
The Criminal Code provides for the protection of children from abuse, and laws on rape and abandonment provide for harsher penalties if the victim is a child. However, as with domestic abuse, police are reluctant to investigate abuse cases, and rules of evidence make prosecution of child abuse cases difficult. In September 2000, legislation designed to protect witnesses, victims, and offenders under the age of 18 came into effect. The new procedures allow children to testify on videotape and in private surroundings in the presence of a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other social worker. However, some judges refused to allow video testimony in their courts. Persons charged with pedophilia are charged under appropriate age of consent and prostitution laws. Victims' testimony is handled under the provisions of the Child Friendly Procedure Act.
Trafficking in children, including for prostitution, is a serious problem. Pedophilia, both by citizens and by foreign sex tourists, continues. The Government, university researchers, and NGO's estimate that there are as many as 30,000 to 40,000 prostitutes under the age of 18. The Prostitution Prevention and Suppression Act of 1996 made child prostitution illegal and provided for criminal punishment for those who use child prostitutes. Parents who allow a child to enter the trade also are punishable. There had been no prosecutions under the law by year's end 2001.
Child labor remains a problem, and some international organizations, government-funded research organizations, and news media continued to report on the large number of children leaving school for economic reasons.
The Department of Public Welfare and the International Labor Organization-International Program for the Elimination of Child Labor (ILO-IPEC) estimate that as many as 20,000 children live in the streets of the major urban centers. Many are thought to come from neighboring countries, including Cambodia and Burma. Although the Bangkok authorities attempt to provide shelters, resources are inadequate and many of the children reportedly avoid the shelters for fear of being detained and expelled from the country.
TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS
The law prohibits trafficking in women and children; however, trafficking in persons is a serious problem. The country is a source, transit, and destination for trafficking in women and children for a variety of purposes, including indentured servitude, forced labor, and prostitution. Some local officials, immigration officers, and police reportedly either are involved in trafficking directly or take bribes to ignore it.
Government and NGO estimates of the number of women and children engaged in prostitution in the country vary widely. Many NGO's and government departments report a figure of 200,000 persons, which is considered a conservative estimate. This figure includes children under the age of 18 and foreigners. The number of victims of trafficking not involved in prostitution and including men, women, and children is unknown but believed to be substantial.
Within the country, women are trafficked from the impoverished Northeast and the North to Bangkok for sexual exploitation. Thai women also are trafficked internationally to Japan, Taiwan, Australia, Europe, and the United States, chiefly for sexual exploitation, but also for sweatshop labor. Men also are trafficked into the country for farm, industrial, and construction labor. Women and men are trafficked from Burma, Cambodia, the PRC, and Laos into the country for labor and sexual exploitation. Boys and girls are trafficked chiefly from Burma and Cambodia primarily for sexual exploitation and to work in begging gangs. Young children, either orphans or those sold by their families, are among them. For example, very young Cambodian children are run by begging gangs in Bangkok. Occasionally entire families are trafficked for labor in sweatshops. Underage boys reportedly are brought into Thailand for specialized work in which small size is an advantage. Vietnamese and Russian citizens also reportedly were trafficked to Thailand in smaller numbers. According to domestic NGO's, girls between the ages of 12 and 18 continued to be trafficked from Burma, southern PRC, and Laos to work in the commercial sex industry. Persons trafficked from the PRC generally were in transit to other countries. As many as 8,000 women were trafficked from Russia, Ukraine, and other former Soviet Republics for work in the sex industry in the country by year's end 2001.
NGO's believe the lack of citizenship status for some hilltribe women and children is a strong risk factor for becoming victims of trafficking.
Impoverished families send or sell children to traffickers, often a neighbor, a local official, or some other respected local person. Sometimes villagers see the local traffickers as friends offering a way out of poverty. Typically, local traffickers feed persons into larger networks, after which they exercise no further control and hear no more of them. Traffickers may misrepresent the type of work and working conditions, and victims may find themselves forced to remain and work in the border areas. Some women who contract for other kinds of work find themselves coerced into the sex trade. Indentured work, both sex work and other labor, is also a problem.
Trafficking through the country to onward destinations tends to be conducted by citizens of the PRC and other international organized criminals. Trafficking into and within the country generally is conducted by Thai criminal elements.
There continue to be credible reports that some corrupt police, military, and government officials are involved directly in trafficking or taking bribes to ignore it. Police personnel are poorly paid, and widely accustomed to taking bribes to supplement their income. There were no recorded arrests of police or military officials for violations of trafficking or prostitution laws during the year 2001.
The majority of prostitutes are not kept under physical constraint, but a large number work in debt bondage. Brothel procurers reportedly advance parents a substantial sum against their daughter's future earnings, frequently without the consent of the young woman involved. The women are then obligated to work in a brothel to repay the loan.
Many Thai women are trafficked to Japan for purposes of sexual exploitation. Traffickers promise victims lucrative legitimate employment, or make false promises regarding wages, working conditions, or the nature of the work. According to Human Rights Watch, upon their arrival in Japan the traffickers confiscate the victims' passports, demand repayment for their "purchase," and charge the victims for living expenses, care, and fine them for misbehavior. Traffickers often restrict the women's movements, threaten them and their families, isolate them, and use violence to punish them for disobedience
The 1997 Prevention and Suppression of Trafficking in Women and Children Act increased the penalties for trafficking in women and children for the purposes of prostitution or slave labor, and provided for wide powers of search and assistance to victims. The authorities occasionally utilized these powers during the year 2001, but the number of prosecutions remained minimal. A money-laundering law, which became effective in August 1999, and included provisions to enable authorities to confiscate the assets of persons convicted of trafficking or engaging in the business of prostitution. NGO's and government agencies continued to provide shelter, rehabilitation, and reintegration programs for children and women involved in the sex industry during the year 2001.
Because foreign women frequently are unable to speak the Thai language and are considered illegal immigrants, they particularly are vulnerable to physical abuse and exploitation. Some women are lured into the country with promises of jobs as waitresses or domestic helpers, but end up working as prostitutes. Illegal immigrants have no rights to legal counsel or health care if arrested. The amnesty provisions available under UNHCR auspices do not apply to such women. In June 1999, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Government and several domestic NGO's provided for some detailed police procedures to assist with the problem of trafficked persons being detained by the authorities. The agreement stated that the training of police officers would include instructions to treat such persons as victims of human trafficking rather than as illegal immigrant workers. Rather than being deported, they become the responsibility of the Public Welfare Department. However, implementation of the MOU was erratic, due to insufficient training of law enforcement officials and their unfamiliarity with the law.
Illegal immigrants generally are repatriated as soon as possible; however, in order to implement the new policy of special treatment for victims of trafficking, Department of Public Welfare (DOPW) officials try to pick up underage and illegally entered women arrested for prostitution and house them in one of the government shelter houses. Repatriation is delayed, but not canceled. Victims are encouraged to seek legal action against the traffickers, and the are told by DOPW personnel at the shelters that this is an option. In October nine underage girls from China and Burma, who had been discovered during police raids on sex venues, testified against alleged traffickers in Chiang Mai. However, in general, however, trafficking victims are reluctant to assist in prosecution. This is due to mistrust of the authorities and fear of the traffickers, as well as the victim's limitations in education and language.
The Government faces severe budgetary limitations on its ability to fight trafficking and to aid its victims. Nevertheless, it maintains shelters for trafficked women. Two national committees are directed and empowered to combat trafficking, and these committees coordinate and cooperate with NGO's, as well. The National Committee on Trafficking in Women and Children (NCTWC) is primarily concerned with counter-trafficking efforts within the country, while the National Project Committee on Trafficking in Women and Children in the Mekong Subregion focuses on regional efforts. Local enforcement officers are sometimes ignorant of new laws and regulations designed to protect victims and ignorant of the special requirements of antitrafficking work. Also, police officers do not view antitrafficking as a path to advancement because their superiors do not emphasize it. Narcotics and serious crime are the preferred career concentrations, while the attitude that trafficking also qualifies as serious crime is only slowly developing. Another barrier for stricter enforcement is the court system, which can be cumbersome and time consuming.
Throughout 1998, Thailand continued its long tradition of cooperation with the United States and the international community in anti-drug programs. Thailand cemented its role as a leader in regional drug control programs by co-establishing the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) with the U.S. in Bangkok. Despite a serious domestic methamphetamine abuse problem and deep government budget cutbacks, Thailand continued to cooperate fully with the U.S. in narcotics law enforcement and drug control efforts. Legal and judicial cooperation also became more streamlined. Additional defendants arrested in 1994's operation "Tiger Trap" were extradited to the U.S., and new cooperative law enforcement programs were initiated. Thailand's agreement to extradite to the U.S. Thai citizens and residents who claim Thai citizenship continued to expand from a base of near zero four years ago to a total of six individuals extradited in 1997 and five in 1998.
Thailand has one of the most effective narcotic crop control programs in the world. USG analysts estimated that Thailand's opium production in the 1998 growing season declined 36 percent to 16 metric tons. Cultivation decreased by 18 percent. Reflecting trends of previous years, opium farmers continue to cultivate smaller, more isolated fields and engage in multiple cropping to avoid eradication. A drought last year adversely affected the production of all agricultural commodities, including opium. The 1999 eradication campaign was inaugurated in mid-November 1998. A concentrated effort in December and January will be necessary, however, to destroy the poppy before it can be harvested. Activities related to heroin production, such as the refining of raw opium into morphine base, continued in northern border areas where drug producers often combined heroin operations with the manufacture of methemphetamines. Thailand has yet to become a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention due to its lack of anti-money laundering legislation. A bill is currently in House/Senate committee where differences over the types of predicate crimes covered are being debated. The Royal Thai Government (RTG) remains committed to the passage of a law with as broad application as possible. Seizures and court actions under the asset seizure law continued. With DEA support, the Thai Police established the first in a series of specially trained narcotics law enforcement units to target major trafficking groups. Thailand's programs aimed at treatment, epidemiology of substance abuse, and demand reduction were maintained and continue to be effective. Drug trafficking and abuse, notably methamphetamine use among students, was especially troubling to Thai society over the past year while, at the same time, drug control agencies, including the Narcotics Control Board, the police, and education and treatment organizations faced budgetary cutbacks resulting from fiscal austerity programs.
The importance of Thailand as a source of opiates for the international market continued to decline in 1998. Thailand's opium poppy crop accounts for less than one percent of the regional production of opiates. Opium from Burma is necessary to satisfy Thai internal demand. The spread of methaemphetamine is a serious concern as traffickers in Thailand, Laos, and Burma are producing and/or dealing in both opiates and stimulants. Thailand's importance as a transit country diminished somewhat as smugglers have developed new smuggling routes. Nevertheless, good roads in northern Thailand connect refineries in Burma with the remainder of Thailand's excellent transport system. Thailand's position as a regional airline hub is also important. The trade in arms, precursor chemicals and other supplies into Burma, and the outflow of drugs from that country have diversified over the past three years through China, Laos, and Vietnam.
Thailand still produces marijuana in the northeast, although this production has been reduced due to the intervention of police and security forces in recent years. There continue to be reports of marijuana cultivation in the northern and southern regions of the country. Out of domestic political necessity, Thailand has shifted drug control resources from the traditional heroin and marijuana targets to the domestic methamphetamine problem. Like heroin, methamphetamine is mainly produced in and enters the Kingdom from Burma.
Seizure and arrest data and treatment prevalence for stimulant abuse indicate a rapidly growing problem, especially among students. As a result of the inflow of methamphetamine, Thailand has experienced an increase of polydrug use among traditional heroin users such as the hill tribes in the north and fishermen in the south. Hill tribe abusers continue to abandon opium for heroin and methamphetamine. There were also unconfirmed reports that traffickers associated with the United Wa State Army (UWSA) in Burma are producing the stimulant "Ecstasy" for the Thai urban youth market. Existing heroin trafficking routes have now been expanded for use in trafficking methamphetamines. A study of the drug abuse situation in Thailand published in 1995 by the Thai Development and Research Institute (TDRI) continues to be a baseline estimate of drug abuse in Thailand-1.27 million drug users. This figure comprises those abusing stimulants and inhalants, heroin, opium, and marijuana.
The Royal Thai Government does not condone the cultivation, production, trafficking, or financing of illicit narcotics. The Police Narcotics Suppression Bureau and the Office of the Narcotics Control Board continue to exhibit a high degree of professionalism and honesty derived in part from long standing relationships and institution-building programs with international drug control organizations, including those from the United States. But, narcotics-related corruption remains an open secret in Thailand. Army and police departments lack the necessary internal mechanisms to punish high ranking corrupt officials. Usually the culprit is transferred to an inactive post until the matter is forgotten. However, as middle and upper class Thai youth fall victim to burgeoning methamphetamine use and other drug-related problems, blind eye acceptance of corruption appears to be lessening. Thailand's exceptionally open and free press has sensitized more to the problem while modestly strengthening government reformers. Long-standing institution-building by the USG and other donors appears to be the best method to bring about corrective change.
Narcotics trafficking poses special problems in countering corruption because of the fantastic profits generated and the resultant availability of cash for either facilitating payoffs or completely co-opting law enforcement personnel. Stories of narco-corruption abound in the Thai media while little effective action against corruption is ever reported. On the other hand, American law enforcement officials have noted that security of complex operations against major traffickers has been maintained which indicates an internal sensitivity to the issue as well as knowledge of those police officers and other governmental officials who can or cannot be trusted with easily saleable, sensitive information.
The northern border areas of Thailand are the principal location for poppy cultivation in the country, although the RTG also reported an increase in poppy cultivation in Tak province in the lower north in 1998. Opium has a long history in the region, and the use of the crop as a medicine and source of cash for certain hill tribe communities has been a fact of social and economic life. The government's control efforts have combined eradication of the crop with development, improved infrastructure, and economic support designed to offer growers alternatives to narcotics production.
Thailand has one of the most successful narcotic crop control programs in the world. Over the past twenty years efforts to discourage cultivation and later to penalize growers through an active eradication campaign have proven effective. The eradication campaign is one of the main reasons refineries no longer operate in Thailand, and has reduced opium cultivation in Thailand to a point where opium must now be imported to meet the requirements of domestic addiction. Thailand's crop control programs have resulted in a reduction of the amount of poppy grown from an estimate of up to 200 metric tons produced in the 1970's, to 16 metric tons based on U.S. estimates in 1998. Opium yield was estimated in 1998 at 11.5 kilograms per hectare. Last season's reduction in the poppy crop resulted from a more aggressive eradication effort, and a drop in cultivation-which is the ultimate goal of the program. A serious drought last year also reduced crop yields. The Thai Government estimates that only ten percent of Thai poppy growers use opium themselves, and even these sell their higher quality product for cash and consume cheaper drugs from Burma. Since brokers and middlemen play a strong role in the production equation and influence hill tribe growers, the incentive to plant a crop exists, even with the risk of having it destroyed by the government. Evolving opium cultivation practices of out-of-season poppy planting and multiple cropping require much more effort and capital, and thus reflect the significant adjustments traditional growers have had to make in the face of eradication efforts. A mark of the growers' sophistication is the practice of interspersing the poppy plants with legitimate vegetable production. Sometimes, after the eradication officials destroy the poppies, the field owner duns the local government for the collateral damage to the legitimate crops, the owner only admitting to lawful agriculture and blaming a sneaky unknown neighbor for the illegal crop. The stubbornness and greed of Thailand's residual growers and their ability to increase cultivation in some geographically difficult to control areas argue for continued active support for the opium control program.
An important initiative in crop control supported by the U.S. and other donors has been the establishment of Chiang Mai University's Highland Agricultural Training Center. Opened in 1994 with assistance from the Government of Japan, this center provides hands-on training and experience to farmers in alternative crop techniques and provides a site for training farmers from neighboring countries.
The RTG in an effort coordinated and implemented by the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) and with cooperation from the army and police authorities annually surveys the opium crop in Thailand. The RTG survey and analysis methodology has continually benefited from updating by empirical data collected in situ and is unmatched in the region. Both ground and aerial surveys are used. Survey data is shared with eradication campaign operating units. ONCB executes its survey before, during and after the traditional opium cultivation window to cover early and late season crops. Over the past years, however, ONCB conclusions have reflected more cautious estimates of cultivation trends than the USG survey. The USG estimation for the 1997 survey was a 24 percent decrease from the 1996 estimate, while ONCB estimated a 12 percent increase for the same period.
Thai opium production is dwarfed by the amount of opium produced elsewhere in Southeast Asia, especially that from Burma. Opiates move into Thailand for consumption and also for onward shipment to world markets, making Thailand both a consumption and a transit country. Over the past several years, and especially since Khun Sa's "retirement," and the occupation of his former territory by the Burma Army, there has been a steady increase in the use of alternate routes, mainly through China but also through Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Criminals take advantage of opportunities presented by countries with relatively weak law enforcement as well as the superior transportation infrastructure, financial systems, and international cargo handling facilities provided by Thailand's sophisticated economy. Unfortunately, neither Thailand nor its regional law enforcement partners have the police intelligence data to provide a breakout of tonnage or trafficking patterns in the region.
Prevention and demand reduction programs are coordinated through ONCB and managed by various government agencies, with activities coordinated through the Anti-Narcotics Coordinating Committee (ANCC). There are programs in place with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education to expand treatment and demand reduction in schools and in provincial areas as well as to target specific high-risk groups including students, fishermen, laborers, and long-haul truck drivers. A longer term program within the Health Ministry aims to increase the number of treatment facilities and spaces in therapeutic community settings for detoxification and after care. Thailand is in the forefront in the utilization of the therapeutic community and narcotics anonymous models in treatment. The government and NGO's have undertaken studies of drug abuse patterns in various population sectors.