Two armed men from an illegal drug trafficking gang were killed and eight others were arrested by the United Wa State Army (UWSA) on Tuesday after fighting briefly broke out between the two groups in eastern Shan State near the Thai-Myanmar border, according to the UWSA.
UWSA spokesperson Nyi Rang told The Irrawaddy that one of the eight detainees was wounded and that some people escaped during the clash and crossed the border into Thailand.
The clash broke out at a village in Hwe Aw Township after the UWSA seized 1.8 million methamphetamine tablets and one gun.
The UWSA received a tip last month that a group of illegal drug traffickers was using its territory to transport methamphetamine tablets into Thailand. The UWSA tightened security along the border with Thailand starting on Sept. 10.
On Tuesday, the UWSA learned that a group had entered into its territory. When UWSA forces attempted to stop and search the group, the traffickers allegedly attacked the UWSA members.
Nyi Rang said the drug traffickers were from an ethnic group in Myanmar but refused to mention which group, saying it was not good to mention their ethnicity.
Some detainees are reportedly members of a local people’s militia in Shan State. The UWSA says it is still investigating the other detainees.
Nyi Rang said the UWSA may hand the eight detainees over to the Myanmar government but that the armed group would only do so after completing its investigation.
In August, the UWSA arrested 53 men, included 14 Thai citizens, who tried to smuggle 7 million methamphetamine tablets from eastern Shan State into Thailand.
The UWSA is the largest and best-armed ethnic armed group in Myanmar, based in northern and eastern Shan State. The group has a reputation for trafficking illegal drugs; the Thai government has often accused the group of trafficking drugs across the Thai border. The UWSA has denied all accusations from the Thai government.
The armed group also announced that it has eliminated illegal drugs in its area, no longer allowing local residents to produce heroin and punishing drug traffickers.
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