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General blasts banks over drugs

Assistant Army chief General Paibul Khumchaya.

Assistant Army chief General Paibul Khumchaya.

Paibul says banks face probes over allegations they are enabling the trade in illegal drugs, calls for national database to monitor users to be set up

ASSISTANT Army chief General Paibul Khumchaya is up in arms over what he considers to be a lack of scruples in the banking sector, after discovering that commercial banks are accepting deposits from imprisoned drug traffickers.

"How is it possible that jailed prisoners have been able to open bank accounts with your banks?"

"Are you happy that you are able to attract deposits from the drug trade?"

These are the sorts of questions Paibul says he asked officials from more than 60 banks suspected of having accounts belonging to drug traffickers.

To reach their deposit targets banks are turning a blind eye to dodgy customers, he said.

The junta has asked the Anti-Money Laundering Commission to monitor bank-account transactions for drug money. Banks that do not allow the commission access to accounts will face fines of Bt5,000 per account.

Police will monitor banks along the border.

"If drug traders do not receive money from selling drugs, it will deter them,'' Paibul said.

The general, who also heads the National Council for Peace and Order's legal affairs panel, has declared war on drugs.

He said the scourge had penetrated so deeply into Thai society that a single state agency was unable to combat the problem alone.

He said it might be the right time for the NCPO to exercise its "absolute power" by implementing an integrated and comprehensive approach that brought all state agencies together to tackle this massive problem.

Even though it might not be able eradicate drug trafficking, the NCPO might be able to at least make traffickers fear the long arm of the law, the general added.

Ministries that will work closely with the Office of the Narcotics Control Board and the police's Narcotics Suppression Bureau to fight the drug problem are the Interior, Public Health, Education, Labour and Justice ministries.

"Apart from the three battles - arrests, monitoring and blocking the drug trade - I will stress building preventive and immune systems as well as drug rehabilitation, because this part of the solution has been missing,'' Paibul said. He said drug monitoring and rehabilitation had failed because there is no database on drug addicts.

"After drug addicts are rehabilitated and released to live a normal life, we do not know where they are or whether they return to abusing drugs.

"The number of drug addicts who return to drugs is an indicator of the rehabilitation's success. We cannot evaluate the work without this indicator or information.''

He said he had assigned the Interior Ministry to handle the database because it works at the grassroots.

"No one knows people in the village more than village heads,'' he added.

The Corrections Department and drug rehabilitation agencies will provide information on addicts who undergo rehabilitation to the Interior Ministry, he said, adding that the ministry had to know where addicts were after rehabilitation.

Paibul said he felt it was unnecessary for schools to receive extra funding for educating students on drug-preventive measure, as the issue was part of the curriculum and teachers had a responsibility to cover the topic.

The Tambon Administrative Organisation also should not incur extra expenses in handling anti-drug work because it was part of its responsibilities.

Provincial governors will be held accountable for any failure to solve drug problems, Paibul added.

Since taking power over a month ago, the NCPO has conducted a number of prison raids nationwide as part of its crackdown on drugs in prison. Top officials at the Corrections Department have been warned they will be punished for failing to stop drug trafficking in prisons. Drugs are often smuggled in via food.

"You send these bad people into jail, but you allow them of operate a drug trade in their jail room. People who do this are worse than drug traders,'' he said.

Paibul said he was making a comprehensive list of drug networks, which included politicians and state officials.

"I called them in for questioning and asked them if they were happy to see newspaper headlines about children killing parents for not giving them money to buy drugs,'' he said.

The government will also buy x-ray machines to prevent drug smuggling, he said. This will allow it to spot drugs hidden in trucks that transported agriculture goods.






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