In a stunning clash of law enforcement and drug traffickers in Chiang Rai province, five suspected drug smugglers were killed and almost 500,000 methamphetamine pills were seized after an intense firefight.
A military patrol of the Pha Muang Task Force came across the suspected smugglers carrying backpacks in the morning hours of Thursday in the area where the forested borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet.
When the task force attempted to search the individuals, the group of five opened fire, resulting in an intense five-minute firefight. The Pha Muang Task Force reported that the suspects were killed and no Thai soldiers were injured.
Premchai Premkamol, an officer with the task force, told AFP news agency “Narcotics have been very prevalent at the border but recently there has been an order from the commander to step up law enforcement efforts.”
The skirmish in Chiang Rai follows two similar incidents in the past several weeks. Earlier this week in Chiang Mai province, six suspects were killed and nineteen backpacks containing hundreds of kilograms of ketamine were recovered, and in December fifteen people were killed in a minor battle.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is set to release a report on opium cultivation in Myanmar which suggests that production and trafficking of meth and opium have boomed since the country’s military coup in February 2021. The UNODC stated in a Thursday statement that “the country is experiencing a profound change in the opium economy”.
The incident in Chiang Rai serves as a stern reminder of the dangers posed by drug trafficking and the necessity for vigorous law enforcement efforts. The skirmish is one of a number of recent clashes between law enforcement and drug traffickers in the area, and highlights the need for continued vigilance against the illegal drug trade in the region.