Thai authorities clear landmines after soldiers injured

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Last week after three Thai soldiers were injured by landmines near the Thai Burma border, Tak Province authorities launched an extensive search of the area and are presently removing lethal mines along the banks of the Moei River which divides Burma from Thailand. The soldiers were injured while on anti smuggling patrol in an area known for smuggling near Thasailuad village in Maesot district.

Following the explosion Master Sergeant Wutthikorn Khamchum had his right foot amputated, while Sergeant Thawit Leumin and Sergeant Thanapat Amthim suffered minor injuries.

Samart Loifa, Tak Province Governor said on Monday that he urged villagers in the area to watch for explosive devices and inform authorities if they see anything suspicious. “The incident occurred in an area where cars and motorcycles are smuggled regularly from Thailand to Burma. Officials believe that the suspects are smugglers angry by Thai authorities’ new measures that could limit crime in the area,” Samart said, according to a report posted on the Thai news website Komchadluek. Earlier this month in another incident along the border a soldier stepped on a mine and was also injured.

On Friday, Maj Gen Sonthisal Wittaya-aneknan, the commander of Naresuan Task Force of the Royal Thai Army visited the three injured soldiers and surveyed the area where the incident occurred.

Thai officials last month warned villagers living near the border to keep an eye on their vehicles after a number of motorcycles and cars were stolen in Thailand and thought to be taken to Burma,

In a monthly press conference in January, the Tak Province Governor said that Myawaddy authorities on the Burmese side of the river Moei are registering motorcycles and cars without verifying the original source of the vehicles from.

The Governor said this policy affected local villagers along the Thai– Burma border in the province. There were several instances of vehicles being stolen, even after officials attempted to restrict border crossing through 30 border check points along Meoi River, frequently used to transport goods and people between the two countries.

The zone is opposite Burmese territory controlled by the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and it is difficult for the Thai authorities to follow suspects, who often flee to Burma to avoid arrest. The DKBA is a junta backed cease group that split from the Karen National Union in the mid 1990’s, it is considered by many experts to be a key player in Burma’s booming amphetamine export business, smuggling and extortion.

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