A people’s militia leader in Nansang Township, in southern Shan State, was detained last week by the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) on suspicion of involvement in illicit drug production and trade, according to local sources.
Sai Tah was detained last week and has been under interrogation since.
“We have not charged him yet, but we detained him and are interrogating him in relation to illegal drug trading,” Tatmadaw spokesperson Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.
Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun said the military attempted unsuccessfully to detain two additional people’s militia members, who are now in hiding.
According to the Shan Herald Agency for News, Sai Nyut, a junior leader and militia captain, is one of the two suspects the Tatmadaw is looking for; he fled with some 60 armed troops, the news agency reported.
According to the Shan Herald Agency for News, the military has offered to release Sai Tah if Sai Nyut turns himself in.
“Following procedure, we will transfer [Sai Tah] to police later, but we are investigating him at the moment,” Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy.
A large cache of illegal drugs were seized near the Thai border last month in Tachileik Township, but the military has doubts that Sai Tah has any relation to those drugs.
The military spokesperson said Shan State sees a lot of drug seizures, a portion of them involving people’s militias.
“We even talked about this earlier at a press conference—that we’d take action against local militias because we’ve found some of the illegal drug trade is related to them,” Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun said.
Sai Tah, an ethnic Shan, is a former member of the Restoration Council of Shan State and the current leader of People’s Militia 758 in Nansang Township. He is being held at the Tatmadaw’s Eastern Command center in Kho Lam Township.
The Tatmadaw has previously found an illegal drug factory worth millions of kyats in Nar Hu Phra Htam Village, in Nansang Township, run by a member of Sai Tah’s militia.
More drugs were seized in Loilem District—drugs the military believes to be connected to peoples’s militias, according to the Shan Herald Agency for News.