Chiangrai Times – The Royal Thai Police in ChiangRai have shot and killed eight suspected drug smugglers from Myanmar early Monday in a gun battle that was Thailand’s deadliest drug-related incident in three years, police said. Myanmar, meanwhile, reported a major seizure of methamphetamine near its border with China.
U.N. and U.S. drug experts say Myanmar, especially Shan state in the country’s east, is a major producer of amphetamine-type stimulants. Thailand and China are large markets for the drug.
Royal Thai police Maj. Gen. Surachet Thopunyanon said investigators who had been tipped off and were waiting at a border crossing for several days caught members of a drug gang as they entered Thailand’s Chiang Rai province.
A team of more than 50 soldiers and police was assembled to patrol the forest areas in Tambon Wiang Phang Kham in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district, he said.
At about 5.30am, the team spotted about a dozen people, all carrying weapons, walking in line through the forest.
They surrounded them, but they refused to be searched and a fight then broke out. The shooting lasted about 15 minutes
The team waited until daylight to search the scene, fearing they might be attacked if they moved forward in the dark.
At about 8.30am police reinforcements, led by national police Chief Priewpan Damapong, arrived to inspect the area.
Surachet said police seized 520,000 methamphetamine pills and 70 kilograms (154 pounds) of crystalline methamphetamine and are still hunting for other suspects who escaped the scene, about 735 kilometers (455 miles) north of Bangkok.
Myanmar’s state-controlled Kyemon newspaper, meanwhile, said police there seized 73 kilograms (161 pounds) of crystal meth and hundreds of kilograms (pounds) of drug-making chemicals worth 3.14 billion kyat ($3.6 million) in a raid July 9 on a house in the town of Laukkai near the Chinese border.
It said nine people were arrested, including the homeowner, a member of the ethnic Kokang minority. Laukkai, 500 miles (800 kilometers) northeast of Yangon, is under the authority of the Kokang.
Myanmar traditionally has been one of the world’s biggest producers of opium and its derivative, heroin, but in recent years drug gangs affiliated with ethnic minority groups have also been making methamphetamine in border areas under little control by the state.