Thailand Asks Burma to Arrest Rebel Drug Suspect

By Saw Yan Naing 8 May 2012

Thailand has requested that Burma arrest a Karen rebel leader, Saw Lah Pwe, so that he can be extradited to face charges for drug trafficking, according to Thai media.

Saw Lah Pwe, the leader of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), featured in the top five of a list of Thailand’s 25 most wanted drug traffickers issued by Thailand’s Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB).

Saw Lah Pwe said the accusations were “groundless”.

In retaliation, at the beginning of May, he deployed his troops along border towns opposite Thailand and unilaterally closed 12 border crossing points with Thailand’s Umphang and Phop Pra districts in Tak Province.

The Thai army responded by increasing troop numbers on their side of the border to bolster the security of nearby villages. On Tuesday the Thai authorities also sent extra troops to the border town of Three Pagodas Pass and issued a public alert to residents in the Mae Sot area.

Reports said that the Burmese authorities ordered the DKBA to withdraw its troops from the border.

Major San Aung of the DKBA said that though the Burmese authorities had visited DKBA-held areas to discuss the border closures his troops would remain on the border in a state of high alert.

Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung, who oversees narcotic suppression, told The Bangkok Post on Tuesday that if the prime minister wants him to go he is ready to visit Burma for talks with the Burmese authorities over the drug case.