The Power and the Reach of the DEA
Sunday, 25 March 2012
We know from Kim’s own account of the arrest as well as from the testimony given by Swedish police officer Cecilia Fant that the DEA were involved in the set-up of Kim. The magazine MAXIM that published an article of the event even included a photo of one of the DEA-officers involved. It all makes you wonder how much power the DEA has in a country like Thailand.
Some time ago Wikileaks published more than 3,000 classified US government cables, some involving Thailand. One of these – labelled “Law enforcement cooperation between Thailand and the United States runs deep” provides a very good picture of what the DEA does in Thailand, and what’s more what the US thinks about the Thai police force. It was written by the US ambassador at the time and sent to foreign secretary Ms Clinton.
The cable tells us that the US-DEA maintains several offices throughout Thailand, as well as in several neighboring countries, and according to the cable they enjoy ”remarkable freedom of action in-country and high levels of cooperation (including the right to carry weapons and freely conduct investigations, with the Thai police making the final arrests)”.
To a distant on-looker, it comes as a little bit of a surprise that the proud Thai nation allows foreign police to carry weapons and freely "conduct" investigations.
This is, of course, what happened in Kim’s case: The DEA got Swedish citizen Thomas Lilius involved in setting up the trap, the DEA reported all the events to the Thai police who later raided the house and arrested Kim. But the DEA were still the first to question him – NOT the Thai police, which pretty much details who was running the show. The DEA was represented by two agents, one of which is seen on a photo on page 2 of the MAXIM article.
According to the testimony of Police Colonel Sivapong Patpongpanich he was “contacted by the DEA officer who worked in the United States Embassy in Thailand. They have been informed that a Swedish citizen was going to secretly produce ICE in Thailand. Such person had a house in Klang, Rayong province. The contact with DEA was made orally and not in writing because it was confidential.”
So this was all the information they had to go on? No phone taps, no written evidence, no nothing?
In the leaked cables the US ambassador is very critical of the Thai criminal justice system which “as a whole stands in need of comprehensive development, streamlining, and reform”, describing it as “still very weak by Western standards and the police are at the heart of the problem” and says the Thai police force has “quite low” professional skills. Another area of critique is that the Thai police need a lot of help with “training in human rights and community policing”, areas in which the Thai police evidently are not very well developed.
The cable is very critical of the Thai courts saying that they “lack most of the accoutrements (=normal parts) of a modern justice system and the police, prosecutors, and judiciary do not interact effectively. Instead they represent jealous domains, and the whole system relies upon confessions rather than formal evidence.”
Looking back at Kim’s sentence where very little notice was taken of the evidence presented in Kim’s favour, one is inclined to agree with the justice system being poor. However, Kim’s appeal has addressed all the mistakes made in the sentence and hopefully the judge in the Appeal’s Court will be less one-eyed.
Thailand is a wonderful country with very friendly, resourceful and many times beautiful people. One would think they might deserve a just judicial system, a professional police force and no interference from foreign countries' police agencies.