15 suspected drug smugglers killed in Thai army shootout

15 suspected drug smugglers killed in Thai army shootout

BANGKOK (AFP): Thai soldiers killed 15 suspected drug smugglers in a shootout in a remote northern district near the Myanmar border, an army official said Monday.

The clash on Saturday evening took place in Chiang Rai province’s Mae Fah Luang district, close to the “Golden Triangle” where Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet, which has long been a hub for smuggling.

After the clash, officers found 17 bags containing more than two million amphetamine tablets, the army official told AFP.

“We cannot identify yet whether the 15 were all Thais or not,” he said on condition of anonymity.

Myanmar is a major producer of illegal amphetamines, many of which are shipped through Thailand and Laos.

Myanmar has been in chaos and its economy crippled since a military coup in February 2021, but synthetic drug production in troubled Shan state was already booming before the putsch.

Deadly shootouts between military patrols and drug smugglers are not uncommon in the hilly jungle areas along Thailand’s northern border with Myanmar.

A smuggler and a police officer were killed in a clash in September, while a year ago 15 suspects were shot dead by the military in Chiang Rai as they attempted to cross the border on foot.