Thailand junta launches anti-drug raids across Bangkok

BANGKOK (AFP) - The Thai authorities launched anti-drug raids across Bangkok on Tuesday sending scores of "addicts" to rehabilitation centres after conducting door-to-door urine tests, the police said, in the latest junta crackdown on law and order.

The pre-dawn operation by police and army officers saw the arrest of 22 small-time dealers while 83 suspected drug users were dispatched for treatment, deputy Bangkok police chief Ittipon Piriyapinyo told AFP. "We went to targeted places - where there are teenagers gathering, people suspected of taking drugs or small-time drug-sellers," said Mr Ittipon.

The suspects were rounded-up in neighbourhoods across the Thai capital after admitting to drug use or taking a urine test, he added. "If they don't go to rehab, they might be sent to court but if they go voluntarily, they will be considered as patients."

The operation was a "test mission" for a longer campaign of anti-drug raids, initiated by the authorities including the junta, aimed at sending 900 drug users to rehab, he said.

Thailand has among the world's most severe penalties for drug offences, including the death penalty in some cases.

Since the Thai army seized power from the civilian government on May 22 it has emphasised the importance of restoring "morality" to Thailand.

A junta blitz on organised crime has seen raids on underground casinos, dozens of arrests and access to a number of online gambling sites blocked.

The new rulers also triggered an exodus of Cambodian labourers after the coup by threatening to arrest and deport undocumented workers, although thousands later returned as the junta pledged to simplify the process to obtain an official permit.