Thai Army secures Moroccans’ release amid Myanmar chaos. Junta struggles to maintain control. Thailand faces a rising Drug Trafficking pattern from the Golden Triangle. 

There is growing nervousness in Thailand about events across its border with Myanmar. On Monday, a senior Royal Thai Army officer linked the rising tide of drug shipments from the Golden Triangle to efforts by the democratic forces battling the illegal junta regime to buy arms. The spotlight this year has been focused on both drug trafficking activities and scamming centres, often linked with casinos in the lawless lands near Thailand’s border with its war-torn neighbour.

A Karenni National Defence Force soldier takes cover in a battle with the Burmese Tatmadaw. Presently the ethnic army and the People’s Defence Armed Forces (PDF) are battling the Tatmadaw over Loikaw, the capital of Kayah State. They are also threatening Nay Pyi Taw, the junta’s remote capital in the centre of the country. (Source: Associated Press and Karenni National Defence Force.)

Over the weekend, the Royal Thai Army was able to secure the release of 12 Moroccans detained in a casino across from Tak province.

Meanwhile, a senior UN official at the end of June identified Thai firms and banks as coming to the rescue of the failing Nay Pyi Taw regime.

Growing difficulty for Myanmar’s junta to secure arms. Facing a popular uprising. May see a final offensive as ethnic militias and PDF forces gain ground

There are rising fears that Thailand could find itself embroiled in the uprising currently gaining strength in Myanmar. 

On Monday, news reports in Bangkok quoted army sources in the kingdom blaming an upsurge of crystal methamphetamine and other drugs entering the country on rebel forces in the war-torn neighbouring country.

These reports run counter to comments from Chinese authorities late last year and into 2024. These suggested that Burmese military forces were turning a blind eye to drug traffickers.

In addition, they were also providing security for human trafficking syndicates, particularly scam centres operating in Shan state. At the same time as the illegal junta government in Nay Pyi Taw is losing sway, there is disturbing evidence of a range of illegal activities being exposed.

Over the weekend, the Royal Thai Army was praised for the rescue of Moroccan nationals in Myanmar. Before that, the Moroccan Embassy had sought the Thai government’s help in rescuing 12 detained Moroccans. 

They had been lured initially to Thailand with the promise of online service jobs. Nonetheless, after that, they were transported across the border.

Details of Moroccan rescue highlight the complexity of border issues. Army used contacts to secure release amid ongoing drug and arms trafficking concerns

The Twelve Moroccans who were released were among 21 previously detained. Others had paid ransoms to be released, while a number wished to stay working with the scammers.

Subsequently, Rangsiman Rome, MP, had asked the army to help. Cautiously, it used its contacts with Myanmar officials and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on the ground.

Shortly afterwards, the captives were located at a casino across the border from the Phob Phra district of Tak province.

On Monday, however, Colonel Meechai Nillasart, the deputy commander of the army’s anti-drug-busting Pha Muang Force, had a different story.

He warned that ethnic militias were assisting growing shipments of drugs. The senior officer linked these shipments to the influx of arms to the forces fighting the illegal junta in Burma.

United WA State Army’s neutrality underlined as growing evidence links it to the narcotics and arms trade. It is the real threat to Thailand’s border security

Nonetheless, the main militia which controls what is effectively an independent state is neutral in this conflict. The United WA State and its army sit on an extensive part of Thailand’s border with Myanmar.

Thailand shares 2,416 km of border with Myanmar but this area is the main illicit drug conduit.

Undoubtedly, the WA army is linked with extensive narcotic production and supply worldwide.  Undeniably it is linked to mafia and drug trafficking gangs in the kingdom. Police investigations and cases before the courts show this.

At length, this militia and ethnic state have taken up arms against both the Burmese army and National Unity Government forces, which have neared its territory.

It controls an area opposite the Thai border near Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. At the same time, it has the unofficial backing of the Chinese Communist Party. 

Part of its territory also borders China from where it imports precursors for drug making unimpeded from Chinese factories. In the meantime, the National Unity Government, which is fighting the illegal junta, claims to be the legitimate government of Burma. 

Certainly, it is recognized by the United Nations, with Myanmar’s ambassador at the UN working with former democrats aligned with the legitimate government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Myanmar conflict sees the National Unity Government recognised by the UN. It is battling the junta with international help and the Burmese people’s support

In brief, the democratically elected government was overthrown by the military on February 1st, 2021. Since then, the junta has found itself facing a popular revolution which certainly aims to overthrow it. 

In recent weeks, the People’s Defence Armed Forces (PDF) and militia in northern Shan State have broken a Chinese-brokered ceasefire there. While this came as no surprise to the junta, a large number of Burmese-controlled outposts were taken. Meanwhile, the junta is losing ground in Rakhine state to the west. 

There, it is battling a resurgent Arakan Army. 

Similarly, in Kayah or Kayin state on Thailand’s western borders, the People’s Defence Armed Forces (PDF) and ethnic militias are still battling the Burmese Tatmadaw, or official army. 

However, even faced with Chinese-supplied drones and weapons, they are making ground.

At the same time, they are establishing governance systems to replace the junta’s rule. For instance, immigration officers have been put to work at several border points with Thailand.

The ethnic army and National Unity Government forces are battling over Loikaw, the capital of Kayin State. Many government-controlled outposts have surrendered but others are holding on.

Junta’s diminishing control sees Democratic forces establishing governance. Foreign volunteers used to make significant strides across multiple states

These include Ban Huay Ton Noon in the Khun Yuam district and Ban Sao Hin in the Mae Sariang district of Mae Hong Son province. Significantly, the ambition of the democratic forces, including militias and their People’s Defence Armed Forces (PDF) counterparts, is growing. 

Strikes have been stepped up in Bago state near the junta capital Nay Pyi Taw. The aim of these operations is to distract an already weakened government army on a growing number of fronts. 

One source linked to Thai intelligence services also suggests that American mercenaries are being deployed. 

Certainly, for a long time, there have been American volunteers fighting against the junta, particularly in Chin State in northwestern Myanmar.

Foreign volunteers, including ex-US and UK servicemen, bolster democratic forces in Myanmar. Strategic strikes aim to destabilise the junta on all fronts

In short, many of these volunteers are ex-servicemen from either the US or UK armed forces. In addition, they have ethnic links or ties to the country in some way. They are coming to fight oppression

In March, an Al Jazeera report followed Jason, a British army veteran of four years. An infantryman, he spent eight weeks fighting in Myanmar during March and April 2024.

He told reporters that he was certainly ‘ready to die for the cause’ in what are fierce and merciless confrontations with the hardened and despised Tatmadaw.

‘It’s different from other places I’ve fought, where you see more fear in the eyes,’ he said. ‘They’re brave people.’

In the meantime, interested parties in Thailand are growing increasingly nervous.

The reason is that the downfall of the Burmese military now looks likely. Undoubtedly, there are signs that it may happen sooner than people think.

Ex-servicemen join Burmese conflict. Ready to die for the cause as Thai officials grow nervous. Signs of imminent downfall of the despised military junta

Unquestionably, there are business and economic links between commercial players in Thailand and the cronyism which has for decades been an essential part of the Burmese military dictatorship’s survival.

It is clear that it has benefited from illegal operations on its borders. Essentially, no man’s lands have been infiltrated by criminal mafia gangs.

In short, a criminal version of a government-sponsored tax-free development area. Presently, all this is threatened. Certainly, a recent report by UN Rapporteur Tom Andrews was too close to the bone for many in Bangkok.

It drew vigorous denials from Thai banks, particularly one of the country’s leading commercial banks, Siam Commercial Bank. 

Tom Andrews has long called for more robust action against the Burmese junta. His calls are being heard.

For instance, he recently highlighted that Singaporean firms and banks have closed their doors to the generals in Nay Pyi Taw.

Economic ties between Thai entities and Burmese junta scrutinised amid UN report urging stronger action. Singaporean firms cut ties while Thailand steps in

In turn, according to a senior United Nations official, Thai entities and banks have taken up the slack.

Certainly, the junta led by General Min Aung Hlaing, whose son and daughter were implicated in a controversial drug case in Thailand in 2022, is now relying on the kingdom.

In a report titled ‘Banking on the Death Trade: How Banks and Governments Enable the Military Junta in Myanmar,’ Andrews did, significantly, single out Thailand. In short, he confirmed that supplies were being cut off from the junta regime.

This tallies with reports of a lack of ammunition and essential supplies in Myanmar among the military and all government services. In turn, this has led to desertions and defections which are ongoing.

Andrews said that up to 2024, the junta purchased $253 million of supplies from abroad. Notably, this was down from $377 million the year before.

Thai entities implicated in supporting Burmese junta amid reports of dwindling supplies and ongoing desertions. UN report shows shifting financial dynamics

In particular, the Nay Pyi Taw military needs parts and equipment to service the aircraft and helicopter strike forces which are a key part of its current defence strategy.

Undeniably, its forces are wilting on the ground. 

‘The good news is that the junta is increasingly isolated,’ Mr Andrews explained as he quoted his figures. ‘The bad news is that the junta is circumventing sanctions and other measures by exploiting gaps in sanctions regimes, shifting financial institutions, and taking advantage of the failure of (U.N.) Member States to fully coordinate and enforce actions.’ 

Thereafter, he singled out the shift by Burmese military procurers to Thailand. This came after Singapore cut down the transfers by 90%. It follows a previous report from the UN official. 

‘The flow of weapons and related materials to Myanmar from Singapore-registered companies dropped by nearly 90%,’ he confirmed. At the same time, Singapore banks that previously had facilitated 70% of the embattled regime’s payments reduced this activity to just 20%.

Report reveals Thai firms increased trade with the junta after Singapore’s withdrawal. Highlights Thailand’s de facto support for the Burmese military

At length, Mr Andrews revealed that Thai-registered firms had increased trade with the junta from 2022 to 2023.

Sales rose from $60 million to $130 million. Andrews then singled out Siam Commercial Bank, suggesting it handled transactions amounting to $100 million of this amount.

Afterwards, the Thai bank virulently rejected the claims as unfounded.

In the meantime, the Burmese regime is currently drafting and training conscripts for the front. 

In short, there is some intelligence that an offensive by the junta may happen in the coming months. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which monitors the war, the Burmese army plans to use the new recruits as sentries and backup personnel. 

Following that, it will launch its push or military offensive. However, it may be the last hurrah for the regime that most observers now agree cannot win this war.

Having alienated its own populace and lost control over 70% of the territory, there simply may be no way back.

Amidst dwindling support and territory, Burmese junta drafts conscripts for a possible final offensive. Prospects of winning the war appear increasingly bleak

In the meantime, the fall of General Min Aung Hlaing’s junta and the emergence of a new federated union in Burma will take some time.

Nonetheless, many observers have noted successful coexistence between the National Unity Government, the People’s Defence Armed Forces (PDF), and the ethnic groups.

There certainly is a determination among democratic activists to make it work. 

Afterwards, this will leave the criminal elements in Myanmar exposed. In particular, powerful warlords who have grown wealthy by carving out personal fiefdoms during the decades of chaos.

Undoubtedly, some of this wealth has been shared by Thai business figures and even officials who are well-connected in the kingdom. No one doubts, anymore for instance, that there is widespread corruption in Thailand.

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Myanmar scam gang linked with 19-year-old girl’s iPhone suicide in Nakhon Si Thammarat
Junta retakes Myawadee as it redeploys forces while rebels there have staged a ‘tactical’ retreat for now
Drug seizures in Thailand spotlight the narcotics threat and regional instabilities

At the same time, it will at some stage highlight the need to deal with the United WA State and its powerful army on Thailand’s drug-infested northern border. Significantly, it is the biggest player of all.

In conclusion, there are many both in Thailand and on its borders with Burma, who do not wish to see a final resolution to the ongoing conflict in the country.

Ethnic conflicts in Burma have been ongoing since 1948. That was the year it gained independence from the United Kingdom.

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Further reading:

Myanmar Junta meltdown threatens to end Bangkok’s condominium sales boom as Kyat currency fails

Thaksin could play a positive role in resolving the civil war in Burma as the dynamic has already shifted

Junta retakes Myawadee as it redeploys forces while rebels there have staged a ‘tactical’ retreat for now

Tyrant of Nay Pyi Taw’s days are numbered as Karen soldiers burn the hated Myanmar flag in Myawaddy

Crumbling Burmese junta sends a plane to Tak to rescue retreating soldiers. They failed to show up as rebels advance

Outgoing Foreign Minister defends his two days of regional dialogue with Myanmar held in Pattaya

Hated Burmese junta regime seeks peace talks as its grip on power across the country unravels

Bangkok sends delegation to meet Myanmar’s pariah junta regime in its eerie capital Nay Pyi Taw

Rising Anger at Myanmar’s regime is leading to scrutiny of its clandestine business links with Thailand

UN official slams ‘Distorted’ international response to Myanmar after Horrific junta atrocity

Myanmar’s junta crumbles along with Russia’s war in Ukraine as US progresses in the Indo Pacific

Desperate Myanmar junta executes 4 including a former MP and pro-democracy activist by hanging

Intensive clashes in Myanmar near Tak ease leaving locals near the border rattled and on guard

A second war raging in Myanmar unlike anything seen since World War Two with over 12,000 dead

Thailand calls for Myanmar talks as besieged coup leader is barred from the ASEAN summit in Brunei