3 Myanmar soldiers killed

2011-12-12 11:04

Bangkok - Three Myanmar soldiers were killed during a joint patrol with Lao troops when they clashed with a suspected criminal gang along the Mekong River, a news report said on Monday.

A gang believed to be led by alleged drug trafficker Nor Kham engaged the patrol on Sunday at Ban Don Sam Pu, 20km north of the three-way junction of the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myamnar, the Bangkok Post quoted security sources as saying.

Authorities have been increasingly concerned about alleged gangs operating on the river in the area known as the Golden Triangle, which straddles neighbouring areas of Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and south-western China, so called because of its opium production.

The gangs are believed to grow and smuggle drugs, hijack boats for use in trafficking and for ransom, and kidnap crews along the waterway.

A few kilometres south of Sunday's incident, in Thailand, 13 Chinese sailors were killed on October 5.

Bangkok has detained and charged nine Thai soldiers with the murder of the Chinese crew. The accused have denied the charges, saying Nor Kham's gang from Shan State in northern Myanmar was behind the killings.

Also on Sunday, China sent 11 armed police boats to escort nine private cargo ships from Yunnan province to Chiang Rai in northern Thailand. Myanmar and Lao soldiers have been deployed along the route.

Under an agreement made late in October, China has deployed more than 300 armed police to patrol the Mekong in boats in collaboration with Myanmar, Thailand and Laos to respond to the attacks.