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Friday, July 30, 1999 Published at 19:10 GMT 20:10 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Thais shoot to kill

The army is chasing down drug runners along the border with Burma

By Charlotte Bevan in Bangkok

Thai security forces have been given shoot-to-kill orders for dealing with drug traffickers.

Security chiefs said that drug traffickers will be shot on sight by a task force that has been conducting a massive military sweep of the Thai-Burma border in recent weeks.

[ image:  ]
On Thursday they landed their biggest seizure of amphetamine pills - a drug responsible for an alarming increase in young addicts.

The trade of millions of amphetamine pills along the Thai-Burma border has been an issue of national concern in Thailand for several years.

But the current military and police crackdown is the most extensive in recent history.

Eight hundred soldiers and police, backed by heavy weapons, have been conducting house to house searches in villages along the northern border for several weeks. Twenty-nine traffickers are reportedl to have been shot.

[ image: Thailand is being swamped by cheap amphetamines]
Thailand is being swamped by cheap amphetamines
Four million pills were seized early on Thursday after a shoot-out between traffickers and police.

It is estimated that between two and three hundred pills flood the Thai market every year.

The main producers of amphetamines are believed to be the United Wa State Army; an ethnic group operating inside Burma.

But a Thai drug official was quoted by a local newspaper earlier this week as saying the drugs trade is also supported by the Burmese military.

The Thai government recently suspended 90 of its own state employees believed to be involved in the trade.

School children, some as young as seven years old, are the new target market for drug dealers in Thailand.

Non-government organisations say that juvenile detention centres in Bangkok have reached double capacity as a result of surging drug related crime.

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