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A four-year-old boy was among the victims of a gun battle that broke out between a local militia chief and police in the Shan border town of Tachilek on Friday last week.
Residents of the town’s Lwankyine ward say the incident was likely drug-related, although police have refused to comment. The man believed to be behind the shootings, Sai Noon, was the leader of a local militia who had visited the child’s house and taken him hostage.
“Around 5.15pm [on Friday], U Sai Noon, apparently a leader of the Wan Kyauk militia, went into a Shan house and snatched a four-year-old kid,” said a Lwankyine resident, speaking to DVB on condition of anonymity.
“He wanted to kill the child’s father, and took off [with the boy]. He was encountered by policemen at a [guard post] at the ward’s exit, and they exchanged fire.”
Sai Noon, 53, was also killed, along with a bystander, Khin Maung Win, who was hit in the stomach as he took his trishaw for repair nearby.
“[Khin Maung Win] died on the spot when he was hit twice in the stomach. [Sai Noon] died in his car with a bullet in his head.”
The child’s body was also found in the car, but it is not clear whether he was killed as police opened fire on the vehicle or whether at the hands of Sai Noon. The police recovered two M-16 assault rifles and two pistols from the car.
Tachilek locals claim that Sai Noon was a regular visitor to the child’s house and that the incident was likely linked to the border town’s lucrative drugs trade.
A significant proportion of Burma’s drug output produced in Shan state is transported through Tachilek and into Thailand. In September 2009, around five million methamphetamine pills, or yaba, were discovered in a cave close to the town, while separate raids earlier that year netted $US7.5 million worth of drugs, mainly heroin and methamphetamine.
The shootings follow an incident on Thursday last week in Thailand’s Mae Sai, which lies across the border from Tachilek, in which two Burmese men suspected of smuggling motorbikes were killed by police.