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Thai authorities kill 7 drug suspects near border

BANGKOK (AP) – Thai security forces killed seven suspected drug smugglers from Myanmar early Monday in a gunbattle that was Thailand’s deadliest drug-related incident in three years, police said. Myanmar, meanwhile, reported a major seizure of methamphetamine near its border with China.

U.N. and U.S. drug experts say Myanmar, especially Shan state in the country’s east, is a major producer of amphetamine-type stimulants. Thailand and China are large markets for the drug.

Thai police Maj. Gen. Surachet Thopunyanon said investigators who had been tipped off and were waiting at a border crossing for several days caught members of a drug gang as they entered Thailand’s Chiang Rai province. He said the suspects refused to stop and a shootout ensued in which seven were killed.

Surachet said police seized 520,000 methamphetamine pills and 70 kilograms (154 pounds) of crystalline methamphetamine and are still hunting for other suspects who escaped the scene, about 735 kilometers (455 miles) north of Bangkok.

Myanmar’s state-controlled Kyemon newspaper, meanwhile, said police there seized 73 kilograms (161 pounds) of crystal meth and hundreds of kilograms (pounds) of drug-making chemicals worth 3.14 billion kyat ($3.6 million) in a raid July 9 on a house in the town of Laukkai near the Chinese border.

It said nine people were arrested, including the homeowner, a member of the ethnic Kokang minority. Laukkai, 500 miles (800 kilometers) northeast of Yangon, is under the authority of the Kokang.

Myanmar traditionally has been one of the world’s biggest producers of opium and its derivative, heroin, but in recent years drug gangs affiliated with ethnic minority groups have also been making methamphetamine in border areas under little control by the state.

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