The Thai military killed five suspected drug traffickers in a jungle shootout in Thailand’s north, officials said Friday — the third such deadly clash in two months.
The incident happened in the early hours of Thursday morning in Chiang Rai province which is near the infamous “Golden Triangle” border region between Thailand, Laos and Myanmar — long a lucrative hub for the illegal drug trade.
A patrol encountered a group of five suspected smugglers with backpacks who refused to be searched and then started shooting with an unknown weapon, the military said.
“Narcotics have been very prevalent (at the border) but recently there has been an order from the commander to step up law enforcement efforts,” Premchai Premkamol, an officer with Pha Muang Task Force, told AFP.
The clash lasted five minutes and no soldiers were injured, the task force said in a statement.
Close to 500,000 methamphetamine pills and a gun were found in the group’s possession.
The shootout followed two similar incidents — the killing of six alleged drug smugglers earlier this week and an altercation in December involving 15 deaths.
Southeast Asia is awash with meth and authorities netted a record billion pills across the Asian region in 2021, according to a United Nations report.
Neighbouring 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.