Soldiers from the Pha Muang Task Force killed at least 15 men suspected of drug smuggling along the Thailand-Myanmar border in northern Chiang Mai province, Lt. Col. Yotsamon Sitthichai, commander of the Pha Muang Task Force in Chiang Mai reported.
Soldiers seized backpacks containing drugs such as crystal methamphetamine, according to officials. The border with Myanmar is a well-known transit route for drug trafficking to Malaysia for shipment to Western markets.
“At the moment, the bodies of these 15 smugglers are being forensically examined. “At first, it was assumed that they were all of Myanmar origin, but that cannot be confirmed,” said Lt. Col. Yotsamon.
“The task force discovered a number of weapons as well as 29 backpacks, each containing approximately 12 kg (26.4 pounds) of crystal meth, totaling 348 kg” (767 pounds). “Everything was taken to the Forensics Division in Chiang Mai Province,” he explained.
Another task force officer confirmed the death toll, adding that a grenade and other weapons were discovered.
“Preliminarily, 15 people died while some suspects managed to escape. We cannot confirm how many people have fled,” said the officer, who requested anonymity due to the nature of his work.
According to Lt. Col. Yotsamon, a group of drug smugglers hiked the mountain from Myanmar to Khob Dong village in Chiang Mai’s Fang district, a tourist attraction, before shooting at Thai officers who ordered them to stop. Earlier in the day, scouts reported seeing a group of 15 to 20 people crossing from Myanmar.
The clash was the bloodiest since Thai soldiers clashed with drug smugglers in Ban Lise, Chiang Rai province, at the end of September. More than 2 million methamphetamine pills were seized, and eight drug traffickers were killed.
According to the officers, the task force expects to continue clashing with drug smugglers until the end of the year, and they advise tourists to avoid traveling to the border fringe in Fang district.
The deputy village headman, Sitthichoke Intasang, said there had been numerous shootouts with drug smugglers this year.
“Villagers are aware that there are numerous drug dealer networks in Fang district, but they are unable to identify them,” he explained.
According to Thailand’s Narcotics Control Board, smugglers travel through Thailand to deliver methamphetamine, crystal meth, and heroin to Malaysia before shipping the contraband to other countries. In 2021, up to 500 million Yaba (methamphetamine) tablets were seized.
Late last month, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha announced a plan to accelerate efforts to combat drug smuggling.
A Border Patrol Police Unit in Chai Prakan district seized nearly 1.5 million methamphetamine tablets from an adjoining district at the end of September.
Soldiers from the Pha Muang Task Force clashed with dozens of drug traffickers in late November, escaping with more than 200 kg (440 pounds) of crystal meth packets.