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Thai police find bodies of suspected smugglers in reservoir

February 27, 2020 GMT

BANGKOK (AP) — Police in northern Thailand said the bodies of seven people believed to be drug smugglers were found Thursday in a reservoir in an area under military control.

Police in Chiang Rai province’s Mae Sai district said the seven are thought to have been involved in an armed clash with soldiers on Monday.

The area is notorious as a route for drugs smuggled from neighboring Myanmar, and it is not unusual for security forces to encounter smugglers there, most commonly transporting methamphetamine tablets. Thailand is both a market and a transit point for the drug.

Police said 21 sacks filled with methamphetamine tablets and “íce,” a crystallized form of the stimulant, were discovered on the bank of the reservoir more than a kilometer (half a mile) from where Monday’s shootout occurred. The drugs were estimated to be worth 2 million baht ($63,000).

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Police speculated that the bodies may have been of people who drowned while attempting to swim across the reservoir to escape the soldiers.

Police investigating the case are awaiting the results of autopsies on the bodies.

The U.N. anti-drug agency said last year that production of methamphetamine is skyrocketing in Southeast Asia, with prices dropping and usage expanding,

Even as seizures of the drug known as speed, ice and “ya ba” in its various forms reached a record high last year, street prices have dropped, indicating increased availability, said the report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The report said organized crime groups in the region have stepped up their involvement in making and trafficking methamphetamine and other drugs in the Golden Triangle, the region where the borders of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand meet that has historically been a major source of opium and heroin.