Under the previous elected government of Thai Rak Thai (Thai Love Thai) leader and media tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra (January 2001 — September 2006), there were widespread violations of human rights in Thailand. During Thaksin’s first term (January 2001 — January 2005), eighteen human rights defenders were assassinated and one was disappeared. Although arrests have been made for some of the murders, many of the cases remain unresolved. In February 2002, Thaksin's government launched a "War on Drugs," which involved the extrajudicial killings of over 2700 individuals who came under suspicion by police and other state agents of being involved in the drug trade.
In January 2004, martial law was declared in the three insurgent southernmost Muslim-majority provinces of Yala, Narathiwat, and Pattani. In July 2005, martial law was changed to a state of emergency, giving the Thai government even greater power in the South. Since the initial declaration of martial law, a tremendous number of insurgents, Thai state officials, and civilians have died as a result of the ongoing conflict in the South.