CHIANGRAI TIMES – Defence Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa wants martial law lifted in Chiang Saen district of Chiang Rai province so that police can be involved in combatting crime on the Mekong River.
The minister aired his opinion at the meeting of the Defence Council at the Defence Ministry in Bangkok on Friday, according to a reliable source.
The National Security Council (NSC) has proposed the lifting of martial law and the minister is supporting it, the source said. Former police chief Pol Gen Wichean Potephosree is the NSC secretary-general.
The source said that the participation of police was aimed at boosting the atmosphere of transparency in security affairs in the northernmost province.
Martial law has been in effect in Chiang Saen district for a long time to facilitate suppression of narcotics and other crime along the border near the Golden Triangle – where Thailand, Burma and Laos adjoin.
About 100 border districts are reported to be under martial law altogether.
Army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha said after the Defence Council meeting that although the martial law was operative in the district, army operations were transparent and soldiers had no conflict with police there.
The idea to lift martial law in Chiang Saen follows the murder of 13 Chinese crew members on two Chinese-flagged cargo boats in the Mekong River early last month. Most of their bodies were found in the river in Thailand and Laos.
Narcotic suppression soldiers of the Pa Muang Task Force of the Thai army have been charged with murder and tampering with evidence, but the task force blames a Shan drug trafficking gang operating just north of the Golden Triangle. The military attributes the murders to a refusal to pay protection money for the cargo boats.
Thai soldiers seized about 920,000 methamphetamine pills from the boats, named Hua Ping and Yu Xing 8 Hao, and believe traffickers planned to use the hijacked boats to traffick drugs into Thailand, but they were stopped by Thai soldiers en route.
Before the Defence Council meeting on Friday, Defence Minister Gen Yutthasak suggested that Mekong countries should jointly step up efforts against crime on the river.
He said there had been 20 or 30 crimes recently on the river, most of them had occurred on sections within the jurisdiction of Laos and Burma and outside the 9-kilometre-long stretch of the river under the authority of Thailand.
The defence minister said he expects clearer guidelines for joint security operations after Pol Gen Wichean, the secretary-general of the National Security Council, returns from a two-day meeting on the murders with Chinese officials in China.
The minister said ties remained good between Bangkok and Beijing because Thai authorities were cooperating well with their Chinese counterparts in investigating the murders.
Gen Yutthasak insisted that no scapegoats would be arrested in this case. Chinese authorities confirmed they had recordings of phone conversations and photographs to identify the culprits, he said.
Chinese authorities are taking part in investigating the murders with Thai police. Read More…