Thai troops shot dead an armed drug smuggler during a clash with a gang trying to cross the Mekong River from neighbouring Laos, a military official said Wednesday.
Lt. Col. Prasitpong Moondee, of Special Border Force 956, said his troops had gone to the Sob Kham border area in Chiang Saen District after a tip off from army intelligence about an attempt to bring in a large quantity of amphetamines.
He said the special anti-drug patrol spotted a group of four foreign men travelling in a ‘long-tail’ motor boat heading from Ban Hua Phung in Laos to the Thai side of the river frontier.
The armed men opened fire on the Thai soldiers after they attempted to stop them on the river bank.
The exchange of fire lasted about 10 minutes before the armed drug gang retreated in their boat back to Laos.
After clearing the area, Lt. Col. Prasitpong said the anti-drug force found the dead body of a gang member along with an assault rifle and at least 12,000 amphetamine tablets hidden under his shirt.
The Thai officer said the armed gang was providing protection to a drug trafficking convoy from Laos which had a connection with the United Wa State Army known as the Red Wa in Burma.
He said a number of illicit drug factories had been built along the Thai-Laos border with their output smuggled to drug traffickers in Thailand.
Lt. Col. Prasitpong said he believed the gang members who escaped back to Laos had carried tens of thousands of amphetamine tablets with them.