Thai PM: U.S. a 'useless friend'
Thailand's prime minister, a key American ally in the war on terror, has blasted Washington as a "useless friend" after a U.S. State Department report criticized his government's human rights record.
"I am very upset and annoyed by the report," Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra told reporters, reacting to the State Department's annual report on the state of human rights in the world during 2003.
In its section on Thailand, the report said the human rights situation in Thailand was generally positive last year but that the government's record worsened on extra-judicial killings and arbitrary arrests.
It cited the killings of drug suspects during confrontations with police during a war on drugs ordered by Thaksin between February and April last year. News reports and human rights groups said more than 2,000 people were killed in what they described as summary executions.
"A report that takes its information from the media is unacceptable to me," Thaksin said.
"What kind of friends are they? They are friends who damage the reputation of their friends every year. What would they do if Thailand issued the same report annually? These kind of friends are useless friends," he said.
Thaksin won personal praise from U.S. President George W. Bush last year after Thai police arrested a top terrorist suspect, Hambali, in a central Thai city. Hambali, an Indonesian, has been described as al Qaeda's pointman in the region. He is now being held by the United States in an undisclosed location.
Thaksin said his government had already explained to the United States last year its position that the drug deaths were caused by internecine fighting among drug barons.
The drug killings caused a huge uproar among local and human rights organizations. The U.S. Embassy had also officially expressed concern about the killings.
The government claims that out of a total of 2,598 homicide cases during the February-April, 2003 period, there were 1,383 narcotics-related deaths, of which just 42 people were shot by police, mostly in self-defense. The rest, it says, were killed by drug gang infighting.
However, the State Department report said the Thai government "failed to investigate and prosecute vigorously those who committed such abuses, contributing to a climate of impunity."
Thaksin did not comment on the overall tone of the report, which considered the general human rights situation in the country as positive.
In a statement late Thursday, the Foreign Ministry said the Thai government is "deeply disappointed" with the report, which it said "contains a number of factual inaccuracies ... as was the case with the year 2002 and 2001 reports."