Thai Security Forces on Alert for Myanmar Border Arms Smuggling

By The Irrawaddy 22 September 2021

Thai security agencies have been instructed to step up vigilance along the border with Myanmar, The Bangkok Post reported. But this time the Thai army is looking to prevent weapons smuggling from Thailand into conflict-ridden Myanmar.

Thai Defense Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Kongcheep Tantrawanich said on Tuesday the instruction came from Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon and followed recent reports of arms dealers smuggling military-grade weapons to Myanmar, where fighting between the ruling junta and rebels has intensified.

Lt-Gen Kongcheep said Prawit had instructed that security intelligence agencies concentrate on obtaining information on the sources of weapons, transport routes and financial transaction channels used by the smugglers, the Post reported.

In late March, Thai Police in the northern Thai border town of Mae Sai seized thousands of rounds of ammunition and over 100 grenades thought to be headed for Tachileik, the Myanmar town opposite Mae Sai.

Thai newspapers reported that the total seizure amounted to 6,000 rounds of ammunition for M16 and M4 series assault rifles and 112 K75 anti-personnel grenades.

In June last year, a joint task force, including the Thai military and police, seized a large cache of Chinese-made weapons, which were believed to be destined for Myanmar.

AK47 assault rifles, machine guns, anti-tank mines, grenades and ammunition were among the items seized in a joint raid on a house in Mae Tao in Mae Sot District on the Thai side of the border.

This time Thai security forces are concerned about a recent increase in fighting in Kayah State opposite Mae Hong Song province in northern Thailand and in areas controlled by Karen insurgents to the south. Moreover, loosely formed People’s Defense Forces in Myanmar have been engaged in battles against the military junta, which staged a coup on Feb. 1.

Two weeks ago, Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government declared a defensive war on the junta. Fighting has intensified, with bombings and killings taking place in Myanmar almost daily.

Ethnic insurgents along the border with Thailand have purchased arms and ammunition from overseas black markets and in Thailand.

Lt-Gen Kongcheep quoted Prawit as saying that Thailand does not support the use of violence in any form in Myanmar.

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