BANGKOK - Thai forces have shot dead seven suspected drug smugglers and seized six bags of heroin after a firefight near the Myanmar border, an official said, in the latest clash over narcotics in the remote region.
Heroin and methamphetamine pills are frequently smuggled from Myanmar into Thailand, the gateway to the lucrative Southeast Asian drugs market.
The latest clash broke out between around a dozen suspected drug traffickers and paramilitary forces Thursday night in Mae Fah Luang district in the kingdom's northernmost Chiang Rai province, said an official.
"We still don't know the identities of the victims," district chief Vorayan Bunarat told AFP, adding that a machine gun and six full bags of heroin were seized, without providing an estimated value or size of the haul.
He said that some of the group of between 10 and 15 people fired upon by Thai forces "managed to escape".
There were no casualties among the paramilitaries.
The notorious "Golden Triangle" region -- covering parts of Laos, Thailand and Myanmar -- was formerly one of the world's top producers of opium and heroin, until the emergence of Afghanistan as a drugs production hub.
Myanmar's eastern Shan state accounts for nearly all of the illegal poppy cultivation in the country, which remains the world's second largest opium producer.
Much of the raw material is believed to be smuggled across the border for processing into heroin in China, which is home to the world's largest number of addicts.