05/30/2018, 10.23
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Dhaka declares war on drugs: 103 drug dealers killed and 12 thousand arrested

by Sumon Corraya

The campaign started on May 3rd. Human rights defenders complain of extra-judicial murders. The fight against drugs in Bangladesh compared to that conducted in the Philippines by President Duterte. There are between seven and eight million drug addicts across the country.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - At least 103 people have been killed among drug dealers and traffickers and 12 thousand arrested since the launch of the anti-drug campaign by the Dhaka government in early May. The high number of deaths has prompted critics to compare the crackdown on drug trafficking in Bangladesh to that made by President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, and to raise suspicions about the existence of extra-judicial killings. On the other hand, experts working in drug addiction recovery welcome the government initiative.

The goal of the authorities is to curb the sale of a particular pill called "yaba", a low-cost drug that combines methamphetamine and caffeine. Known as the " drug of madness", it causes hallucinations, euphoria, aggression and addiction. Approximately 40 million pills were seized last year, but it is estimated that 250-300 million tablets are circulating on the Bengali market.

Police report that 10 dealers have been killed in the last 24 hours. The deaths occurred during raids conducted by the agents of the elite RAB (Rapid Action Battalion), of the State Police, or in shootings between police officers and drug traffickers.

The campaign to combat drugs started on May 3rd, but the murders are the result of the last two weeks of operations across the country. Minister of the Interior, Asaduzzaman Khan, said that "the war on drugs will continue until we have complete control". Meanwhile, 12 thousand people have been accused of dealing and tried in special courts. Some of them - but there is no confirmation of the exact number - will have to serve prison sentences from seven days to six months.

In Bangladesh it is estimated that there are at least seven million drug addicts. Patrick Rodrigues, a Catholic, director of Bangladesh Rehabilitation and Assistance Center for Addicts (Baraca), among the top projects of Caritas Bangladesh, comments to AsiaNews: "I think the government's decision to stop the traffickers and their pushers is positive. But the authorities must be neutral. If they do not also arrest party politicians [who support them], the operation will have no real fruits ". He prefers not to comment on the victims, but says: "The authorities know who the traffickers and the drug dealers are. If they really wanted to, they could catch them all ". Then he reports that among the Christians there are numerous drug addicts who reject a path of recovery.

Amdadul Haq, a Muslim, a professor at North South University in Dhaka, believes that "the situation in Bangladesh is even worse than in the Philippines. Data for 2016 show that [in the latter country] the number of drug addicts was 1.8 million. In Bangladesh, however, there are between seven and eight million. " The teacher appreciates the central government's efforts, but emphasizes that the police should also arrest the drug bosses.

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