Karen rebel leader’s drug case will not grow into Thai, Myanmar bilateral issue: Gen Yuthasak



BANGKOK, May 11— Deputy Prime Minister Gen Yuthasak Sasiprapa on Friday said he believed that the drug-related case of Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) Commander-in-Chief Gen Saw Ler Pwe, also known as Na Kham Mwe, listed by Thailand as one of the 25 most-wanted suspected drug dealers, will not be raised as an issue between Thailand and Myanmar.


Gen Yuthasak also reaffirmed that bilateral relations between Thai and Myanmar government remained normal, adding that the cooperation between the two countries continued. He pointed out that the ongoing problem was related to a Myanmar ethnic minority group, not between Thailand and Myanmar.

However, Gen Yuthasak denied knowing details of the Na Kham Mwe case, saying it should be the responsibility of Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubumrung who heads the National Command Center for Drugs (NCCD).

Although the Karen rebel leader Na Kham Mwe threatened to shut down the cross-border trade at a dozen locations from Tak through Kanchanburi provinces, the deputy prime minister said the situation along Thailand-Myanmar border remained normal.

He explained that military personnel from the 3rd Army Region were closely monitoring the situation and also vowed to protect and keep sovereignty of the country.

So far, no additional army units have been deployed at the Three Pagodas Pass border checkpoint in Kanchanaburi.

As the Cabinet is scheduled to meet in Kanchanaburi on May 19-20, Gen Yuthasak said that he would take this opportunity to follow up the border situation as well.

In a related development, Pol Capt Chalerm on Friday reaffirmed that he is prepared to travel to Myanmar to seek cooperation in the arrest and extradition of Na Kham Mwe, if necessary.

The Karen rebel leader was named in an outstanding arrest warrant for drug trafficking with a Bt1 million bounty.

At a press conference in Myawaddy Township on Thursday, Na Kham Mwe reemphasised that he was not involved with drug trafficking. He said he will intensify retaliatory measures against the Thai authorities and will make known the names of persons involved with Thai-Myanmar cross border drug trafficking.

The retaliation will relate to trade and investment, and not include any military responses.

He challenged international anti-narcotics bodies–including the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) — to investigate the allegations against him.

The DKBA leader also said he was willing to face the charges in a court of law if Capt Chalerm offered any evidence to support the claims.