Thai soldiers kill suspected drug traffickers along Myanmar border

Authorities said they recovered 29 backpacks filled with crystal meth.
By Kunnawut Boonreak of BenarNews
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Thai soldiers kill suspected drug traffickers along Myanmar border Soldiers inspect the scene where they exchanged gunfire with suspected drug smugglers in the Fang district of Chiang Mai province, Thailand, Dec. 8.
Pha Muang Task Force via AP

Thai soldiers killed at least 15 men suspected of smuggling drugs along the Thailand-Myanmar border in northern Chiang Mai province, military officials and local residents said Thursday.

Other armed men escaped during the incident late Wednesday night but authorities seized backpacks filled with drugs including crystal methamphetamine, officials said. The frontier with Myanmar is a notorious transit route for trafficking drugs to Malaysia for shipment to Western markets.

“At the moment, the bodies of these 15 smugglers are under forensic process. Initially it was assumed they were all of Myanmar origin, but that cannot be confirmed,” Lt. Col. Yotsamon Sitthichai, the commander of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, Pha Muang Task Force in Chiang Mai, told BenarNews on Thursday.

“The task force found a number of weapons along with 29 backpacks, each containing about 12 kg (26.4 pounds) of crystal meth, totaling up to 348 kg (767 pounds). All items were taken to the Forensics Division in Chiang Mai Province,” he said.

Another task force officer confirmed the death toll, adding that a grenade was found along with other weapons.

“Preliminarily, 15 people died while some suspects managed to escape. We cannot confirm how many have fled,” said the officer who asked to remain anonymous because of the nature of his work.

Yotsamon said a group of drug smugglers had trekked the mountain from the Myanmar side to Khob Dong village in Chiang Mai’s Fang district, a tourist attraction, before shooting at Thai officers who ordered them to stop. Scouts had reported seeing a group of 15 to 20 people crossing from Myanmar earlier in the day.

The shootout was the deadliest since Thai soldiers clashed with drug smugglers in Ban Lise, in neighboring Chiang Rai province, at the end of May. Eight drug traffickers were killed and more than 2 million methamphetamine pills were seized.

The officers said the task force expected to continue clashing with drug smugglers through the end of the year, and advised tourists to avoid traveling to the border fringe in Fang district.

Sitthichoke Intasang, the deputy village headman, said there had been many shootouts with drug smugglers this year.

“Villagers know that there are many drug dealer networks in Fang district, but they cannot identify them,” he said.

Drug route

Smugglers travel through Thailand to deliver methamphetamine, crystal meth and heroin to Malaysia before shipping the contraband to other countries, according to Thailand’s Narcotics Control Board. As many as 500 million Yaba (methamphetamine) tablets were seized in 2021.

Late last month, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha launched a plan to speed up efforts to crack down on drug smuggling.

At the end of September, a Border Patrol Police Unit in Chai Prakan district seized nearly 1.5 million methamphetamine tablets from an adjoining district. In late November, the Pha Muang Task Force clashed with dozens of drug traffickers who managed to escape but left behind more than 200 kg (440 pounds) of crystal meth packets.

BenarNews is an RFA-affiliated news service.


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