10/12/2018, 13.38
BANGLADESH
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Bangladesh to impose death penalty on drug dealers with an eye on the December election

The government plans tighter controls on drug trafficking. New bill seeks to stop the sale of ‘ya ba’, the mad drug. The real goal is to ensure the outgoing government’s victory in next December’s elections. Since mid-May more than 200 people have been killed in “encounter” with the police.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina approved a draft law last Monday imposing the death penalty for drug offences. The official goal is to stop drug use and be tough on methamphetamine dealers.

Since mid-May, more than 200 people have been shot in the crackdown. Local sources expressed concern to AsiaNews that dealers and drug traffickers may be treated summarily.

Drug dealers "have died in what the authorities call 'encounters' with the police. Those who speak the truth, that these are real shootings, are accused of spreading false information. Police are rough and arrogant. People who have nothing to do with drugs are often involved in roundups."

"Behind tougher controls, there is probably an attempt to protect the government ahead of the upcoming December elections."

Human rights groups have criticised the government, comparing its actions to those of another Asian country, namely the Philippines under Rodrigo Duterte, who is carrying out a brutal campaign against drug dealers.

Officially, the fight against drugs is designed to curb the sale of "ya ba", a low-cost drug that combines methamphetamine and caffeine. Known as the mad drug, its causes hallucinations, euphoria, aggression and addiction.

Approximately 40 million pills were seized last year, but it is estimated that 250-300 million tablets are available on the Bangladesh market. The current maximum penalty for possession is 15 years in prison.

Local sources are amazed at the sheer numbers and report that "in the past, we never even heard about drugs. Now it seems that drugs have become the most urgent problem in the country."

According to experts, the authorities should be more cautious in enforcing the law. For many, the real goal is to control the political debate ahead of the elections. As evidence of this, they cite the police Modus Operandi.

“Increasingly, false complaints are filed. When an opposition politician organises a rally, police prepare false charges of assault, arson, threats or possession of illegal weapons against a list of 25 real people, plus 200 unknowns. Some of these are abroad; others are home-bound paraplegics. This gets into the press. What is ridiculous is that these stories are printed even when rallies are not held.”

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