NINE suspects, all Royal Thai Army personnel, have turned themselves in for the attack on the Mekong River near the Thai-Myanmar border in which 13 Chinese sailors were killed, Thai police chief Pol Gen Priewpan Damapong said yesterday.
The nine soldiers involved were from the Third Army Command, headquartered in Phitsanulok, responsible for the northern parts of the kingdom, Damapong said.
He emphasized that the army and the government were not behind the killings. He said the police suspect the servicemen acted on the order of some local tycoons and further investigation is under way. He also said the Third Army Command assisted police in making the arrests.
“They are now put under custody in the city of Chiang Rai,” Damapong said.
The victims were crew members on two cargo ships attacked on October 5 in the “Golden Triangle”, where the borders of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos meet, a region notorious for drug smuggling.
Their bodies were found and salvaged from the river in northern Thailand.
The visiting Chinese vice minister of public security, Zhang Xinfeng, said the case will soon be referred for judicial proceedings.
“There has been important progress in this case today, and nine suspects have been caught, showing the case has been basically cracked,” Zhang said. Investigators will find more details, and China will continue to work with Thailand.
Chiangrai Times-Anna Wong