NAN – Maj Gen Chainarong Klaewkla told reporters that soldiers and police clashed with suspected drug traffickers,Â killing one and arresting another on Friday afternoon leaving 11 soldiers and police injured yesterday.
A source said the dead suspect was believed to be Woenkhuan Sae Jao, 60, alias “Saddam”, a major drug trafficker in the area, said a source. The arrested suspect, Laosan Sae Toen was being interrogated.
Thairath Online reported Friday afternoon that Sgt Theeradet Techanan was shot in the back and rushed to Nan Hospital at about 1pm. Three rifles, a handgun, four firelocks and six motor saws were seized during a search of suspects houses in Ban Huay Laboaya village.
More than 400 personnel, led by Maj Gen Chainarong Klaewkla, commander of the 38th Army Circle, were deployed to the tambon Sanian village in Muang district after fighting broke out Thursday afternoon and continued well into the evening.
Six soldiers and five police officers sustained gunshot wounds. Among them was Col Setthapol Kettem, chief of staff of the 38th Army Circle and head of Nan’s peacekeeping force. He was hit in the head and chest and later transported by C130 aircraft to Phra Mongkutklao Hospital in Bangkok where he was in stable condition.
The other injured were treated at Nan Hospital.
Maj Gen Thana Jaruwat, deputy commander of the Third Army, said Friday afternoon that authorities now have brought in more officers to arrest the suspects and block roads out of the village.
Situated on a hill, the village is populated by Yao tribal people. Deputy Third Army commander said drug addicts and dealers living there were hired to smuggle and narcotics.
The armed men were tribal people who migrated from Chiang Rai’s Wiang Kaen distrit to the village, said the commander of the 38th Army Circle. This group had used the village as a storage venue for illicit drugs, said Maj Gen Chainarong.
Lt Col Wattana Chanpaichit, head of Nan provincial international security operations command’s intelligence-gathering unit had scoured Ban Huay Labaoya since Thursday afternoon to find drug traffickers.
Thursday’s gun battle began when officers scouring the village for suspected drug-gang members were fired upon by suspects who fled into a forest. They left behind nine packs containing 1,732 speed pills, a rifle, 32 rounds of ammunitions and some opium.
Officers this morning blocked the entrance of the village and searched all houses, including the home of accused trafficker Tawan Witruthasuannan, who was not present.
Officials said they planned to run similar operations in 250 tribal villages in 12 northern provinces in a bid to crack down on the narcotics trade. He noted, however, that not all tribal villages were involved in the drug trade.
Nan governor Suwat Promsuwan said a command centre has been set at Ban Labaoya School for residents uninvolved in drug trafficking and the gunfire to report to authorities. More than 80% of the residents gave their full cooperation to officers. All rice barns in the village would be searched to find illicit items, said the governor.
Maj Gen Chainarong said all measures were being put in place to put pressure on suspects involved in fighting with security officers.