31 Thai detainees in Myanmar probed for drug offenses: Defence Minister


BANGKOK, July 11 – Thai Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat said Wednesday that the release of the 31 Thais now detained in Myanmar detention depends on whether they violated the neighbour’s law on drugs.

The Thai minister made his remarks after dozens of Thai were detained by the Myanmar authorities for encroaching on that country’s territory at Koh Song, opposite Ranong’s Kra Buri district.

Many Thais were freed and returned home, but Myanmar officials are investigating 31 Thais still detained regarding possible involvement with drugs, the Thai minister said. Whether they will be released or not depends on whether they had violated the country’s drug laws.

For those who were already freed without paying any fine for illegal entry to Myanmar, Mr Sukumpol said, they will be briefed to create better understanding to avoid any repeated offence.

Thai Deputy Foreign Minister Jullapong Nonsrichai, meanwhile, said that Thailand will use the Thai-Myanmar Township Border Committee (TBC) mechanism to resolve the case but stated that all must comply with Myanmar law.

The New Light of Myanmar newspaper earlier reported that the Myanmar army arrested 61 Thai nationals–52 men and nine women– for illegally operating 1,500 acres (607 hectares) of rubber plantations. They were safe, but were to face charges.

The newspaper said that “the Thai detainees have encroached upon Myanmar’s territory and worked rubber farming on a commercial scale and held arms and ammunitions for their security.”

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa earlier said some 200 Thais were lured by brokers to build homes and grow para rubber trees in Myanmar.  He also said Thailand will discuss with Myanmar to allow Thais to rent those areas for cultivation.