A House committee chairman suspects nine Thai soldiers were involved in the killing of 13 Chinese sailors in the Mekong River north of Chiang Rai’s Chiang Saen district on Oct 5.
Pheu Thai Party list MP Sunai Jullapongsathorn, who heads the foreign affairs committee that is investigating the deaths, yesterday said he had obtained evidence suggesting the soldiers were linked to the deaths.
Mr Sunai said he had received a photograph of a soldier holding a machine gun that had been taken on one of the two Chinese cargo ships.
The soldier in the picture was one of the nine soldiers suspected of being involved.
The nine drug suppression soldiers, attached to the army’s Pa Muang Task Force, reported to police investigators in Chiang Rai on Oct 28. They were charged with murder and tampering with evidence. They denied the charges.
Mr Sunai said Chinese authorities were now looking into the matter.
Defence Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa said police are investigating the case and the ministry will cooperate.
Gen Yutthasak said the suspects include both retired and active soldiers and they have now been sent to investigators for questioning.
It was unclear who killed the 13 Chinese sailors on board the Hua Ping and Yu Xing 8 ships, which were attacked by armed men on Oct 5.
The soldiers claimed they had boarded the ships after the attack and that they found 920,000 amphetamine pills and one dead body. A few days later, other bodies turned up in the river, most blindfolded, tied up and handcuffed. The Pha Muang Task force blames a Shan drug trafficking gang run by Nor Kham, 40, who is wanted by both Thai and Burmese drugs authorities.
They say the gang hijacked the vessels to smuggle the drugs into Thailand, but were frightened off by the Thai troops. However, investigators doubt any drug traffickers were involved, and have charged the nine army officers with the murders.