Police in Thailand have seized a large cache of firearms ammunition and rocket launchers bound for neighboring Myanmar in a raid across the border from conflict-ridden Shan state.
Two Thai citizens were arrested in Sunday’s raid on a house in northwestern Thailand’s Mae Hong Son province where police confiscated more than 100,000 rounds of rifle ammunition and four surface-to-air rocket launchers.
More than 100 police staged the raid after receiving a tipoff from the military that arms traders would be delivering weapons to the house that would be sent across the border to Myanmar, authorities said at a press conference on Sunday.
Authorities have not said where in Myanmar or to which group the weapons were headed, but a Myanmar source in the area who has close connections with Thai police said that the ammunition was believed to be bound for Shan state.
“They [the detainees] said they were bringing the weapons to Shan state, but we haven’t found out the details yet,” the source told RFA’s Myanmar Service on condition of anonymity.
“The ammunition was brought from [the Thai capital] Bangkok and nobody knows how many times they have been doing this. Police haven’t investigated this yet,” the source added.
Rebel groups in Shan state include the Shan State Army-South, the Shan State Army-North, the Kachin Independence Army, and the United Wa State Army.
Myanmar has fought wars with ethnic rebels in its borderlands for decades and President Thein’s Sein’s government has been negotiating ceasefire and comprehensive peace agreements with each of them since coming to power two years ago.
Police arrested the two men—one of them a former Thai police officer—after they arrived by truck late Saturday night at the house in Ban Kung Mai Sak village in Mueang Mae Hong Son district—some 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the border with Myanmar’s Shan and Kayah (Karenni) states.
Police found sacks of ammunition in the vehicle and more inside the house, confiscating in total 109,478 rounds of ammunition for an assortment of firearms including AK-47 and M16 rifles as well as the four rocket launchers.
Mae Hong Son governor Narumol Palawat told the press conference that the haul was the largest amount of ammunition seized in the area.
Last November, Thai authorities in Tak province south of Mae Hong Son seized over 100,000 rounds of ammunition that sources said were likely being transported to ethnic rebels in Kayin (Karen) state.
In Shan State, Myanmar government troops have been locked in fighting this year with the Kachin Independence Army and their allies the Shan State Army-South despite talks aimed at a ceasefire with the Kachin.
The Shan State Army-South and the Shan State Army-North have each signed ceasefire agreements with the Myanmar government.
The United Wa State Army, which has a secondary stronghold in southern Shan state, is the biggest and best-equipped of Myanmar’s military rebel groups and is believed to get most of its arms from China.
On Saturday, the Wa rebels signed a key trust-building pact with government negotiators aimed at an eventual comprehensive peace agreement.
Reported by Aung Moe Myint for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.