The Myanmar troops were shot dead during a gunfight with an unidentified armed group yesterday in a Myanmar border village near Kra Buri district in Ranong province (about 400 kilometres north of Phuket) Thai officials said. Two soldiers remain missing.
Thai authorities are investigating whether the attack involved a group of Thais who encroached on Myanmar territory last year. However, Myanmar authorities have said the six Thais now in hospital were the culprits.
A Defence Ministry source said Myanmar alleged the six Thais fled across the border into Thailand shortly after the clash with the Myanmar troops.
The source said Myanmar wanted the Thai authorities to help keep tabs on them but did not say what the next step should be.
The source said a Myanmar major who was commander of the 592nd battalion was among the 13 dead Myanmar soldiers.
Myanmar officials earlier informed the Thai army of the incident and sought cooperation from the army to prevent the attackers fleeing across the border, Maj Gen Noppawong Surawichai, commander of the 5th Infantry Division, said.
The clash took place as the Myanmar troops were patrolling the border in Ban Inthaninkhwang, a village opposite Ranong's Kra Buri district.
It is the area where 92 Thais were arrested on July 4 last year for encroaching on Myanmar territory. Officers are checking whether the armed group comprised villagers who might have encroached on a forest in Myanmar, Maj Gen Noppawong said.
Col Kriangkrai Srirak, commander of the Special Task Force of the 25th Infantry Regiment, said 40-50 armed men clashed with the Myanmar army patrol in the incident.
"The attack has nothing to do with Thai soldiers," he said.
Myanmar soldiers suspect members of the group are Thai villagers who were granted a pardon by the Myanmar government, said Col Uthit Anantananon, the special task force's deputy chief.
Of the 92 arrested Thai encroachers, 90 have been released, while the other two have been sentenced to more than 20 years each on additional charges of drug possession.
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