DKBA Drug Suspect Initiates Anti-Drugs Campaign

By The Irrawaddy 23 May 2012

The Karen rebel leader, Saw Lah Pwe, who is on Thailand’s most-wanted list for drug smuggling, has initiated his own anti-drug trafficking campaign, posting signs bearing anti-drugs messages across areas under his control in southern Karen State.

According to a report by the Bangkok Post on Tuesday, Maj-Gen Saw Lah Pwe, a commander with the Democratic Karen Buddhist army (DKBA), has ordered posters with DKBA logos put up at strategic points. The posters read: “Trading in drugs and using drugs is strictly prohibited in DKBA territories. Violators could face a maximum penalty of death.” The messages were written in Burmese and ethnic Karen languages.

The signs were put up at DKBA military bases and checkpoints, and at Karen villages along the Moei River on the Thai-Burmese border, easily within view of Thai villages and bases in the Phop Phra and Umphang districts of Tak province, and Sangkhlaburi district in Kanchanaburi Province.

Armed DKBA soldiers were reportedly stationed at points where the posters were displayed.

The move by the Karen rebel leader is being seen as a thinly veiled retort at Thai authorities who on April 20 accused him of involvement in the drugs trade, and issued a 1-million baht reward for his arrest.

A few days after the Thai government had issued its accusation, Saw Lah Pwe conducted two press conferences, denying the allegations that he was involved in drug trafficking, and inviting the Thai authorities to come to his area and investigate.

The DKBA commander also called on international anti-narcotics bodies, including the US Drug Enforcement Administration, to investigate Thailand’s allegations against him.