Thai authorities seized a stash of smuggled weapons in the border town of Mae Sot over the weekend, arms which sources claim could have been bound for one of Burma’s ethnic armies or for gangs operating in the area.
The weapons included ammunition, as well as ten M-16 rifles and seven AK-47 machine guns, models that are frequently used in the region by armed groups fighting against Burmese government forces. The guns in question reportedly belonged to a former police officer in Mae Sot.
Maj Saw Roe, a liaison officer with the Karen National Union (KNU) in Burma’s Myawaddy, opposite Mae Sot, said that he only learned of the seizure through Thai media and is not aware of a trade involving the smuggled weapons and the KNU.
“It is hard to say whom the weapons were to be sold to, because we don’t know the case in detail,” he said. “There are a lot of gangs on the border and these kinds of smuggled weapons are widely traded.”
He also said that it is difficult to know whether the weapons were supposed to be sent to other ethnic armed groups. There are several other ethnic Karen armies operating near the Thai-Burma border, including Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), and KNU/KNLA (Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army) Peace Council.
Weapons smuggling across the Thai-Burma border was once common; the trafficking of drugs also remains well established at the Myawaddy-Mae Sot crossing.