KANGAR, PERLIS - Malaysian authorities have detained 18 suspected smugglers, three of them Thai nationals, following a shoot-out on Tuesday (Nov 24) at the Thai-Perlis border that killed a policeman and seriously injured his partner.
The group was believed to be smuggling into Thailand ketum (kratom) leaves and cough medicine to be used as drugs.
Police chief Abdul Hamid Bador told a news conference on Wednesday that in exchange, the Malaysian side would receive syabu, yaba pills and heroin, to be sold in the country.
The 18 men, aged 19 to 37, were being remanded for seven days from Wednesday to help police in their investigations, The Star online news reported.
The suspects are being investigated under the Penal Code for murder and attempted murder.
Four Malaysian states - Perlis, Kedah, Perak and Kelantan - share a long border with southern Thailand.
Perlis state's police chief, Datuk Surina Saad, said 16 out of the 18 suspects were rounded up from various part of the state as early as 7am after the 3am shoot-out.
Two of the Thai nationals were arrested by Thai police across the border, The Star said.
Corporal Baharuddin Ramli, 54, from the police's light infantry General Operations Force (GOF) died on the spot after being shot, while Corporal Norihan Tari, 39, is in critical condition.
The duo were on intelligence gathering duties when they were came across the suspected smugglers in the wee hours of Tuesday, and the shootout occurred.
Malaysian Inspector-General of Police Hamid said the shooting incident at the border between the GOF and suspected smugglers was the third one this month alone, but there were no injuries in the first two incidents.
He was reported by Berita Harian Malaysia as saying that the smugglers would climb a wall at the border using ladders and leave their illegal goods at an agreed area, to be picked up by the other side later on.
No cash was exchanged as they used a "barter trade" system.
"The syndicate from the neighbouring country will supply syabu, yaba pills and heroin with the local syndicate," Tan Sri Hamid said.
"The trade did not involve any cash, only an exchange of goods as ketum leaves are quite valuable in the neighbouring country".