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South Korea Lends Support to Bangladesh Drug War, as Death Toll Rises

Over 200 people have been killed in Bangladesh’s brutal drug war, and authorities are now receiving material support for it from the South Korean government.

Since May, Bangladesh law enforcement have been killing people who they allege are involved with the illegal drug trade. Authorities claim that all those killed were shot to death in exchanges of gunfire, but human rights groups and some witnesses claim people are being executed – some for political reasons or personal vendettas entirely unrelated to drugs.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan has warned that “this war will continue until we bring [drugs] under complete control”. He has denounced those killed as “not good people”, and said there was “no question” that they all sold illegal drugs.

The stark death toll of 200 was reported on July 17 by a local human rights group, Ain o Salish Kendra, who also claimed that around 25,000 people have been imprisoned under the crackdown. The organisation’s executive director – Sheepa Hafiza – denounced the approach, describing it as “unprecedented in Bangladesh. So many people have been killed in such a short period of time. […] We condemn these extrajudicial killings and want fair investigations into each of these killings.”

Hafiza’s remarks came one day after a South Korea government body provided material support to the Bangladeshi government to assist in the implementation of the drug war.

KOICA – the Korean International Cooperation Agency – provided vehicles and equipment, free of charge, for law enforcement to use in suppressing drug trafficking and use. This will include “remote drug detectors” which can reportedly detect concealed drugs in the human body or luggage, five cars, 125 computers, and various other equipment, according to The Daily Star.

KOICA is also allocating funds to drug use prevention in Bangladesh, including by supporting an anti-drug media campaign in the country.

The Bangladesh drug war has drawn considerable condemnation from the UN since its initiation.

A spokesperson of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said the institution was “quite alarmed by the [Bangladeshi] Government statement that nobody who has been killed was innocent. […] Even if people have been selling or using drugs that does not mean you have the right to kill them, they need to have the right to due process.”

Bangladesh appears to be following in the footsteps of the Philippines, where an estimated 12,000 people have been killed in the country’s drug war since July 2016. A crackdown may also be looming elsewhere in the Indian subcontinent; Sri Lanka plans to “replicate the success” of the Philippines drug war, and has vowed to hang people for drug offences and militarise the country’s drug war approach.

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