CHIANGRAI TIMES – Naw Kham suspected drug kingpin who allegedly masterminded the murder of 13 Chinese fishermen on the Mekong River in October was handed over to Chinese police by Laos on Thursday.
Naw Kham arrived in Beijing from Vientiane, the capital of Laos, on a chartered flight, the Ministry of Public Security said.
The 44-year-old ethnic Shan from Myanmar was arrested on April 25, Zhang Tianyong, ministry press officer said.
The drug lord suspect was arrested in the district of Tongpheung in the Laotian province of Bokeo along with two Lao nationals.
A report in the Vientiane Times said he was about to negotiate a narcotics sale at the time of his arrest.
He was allegedly a former aide to late drug warlord Khun Sa – the former leader of the now defunct Shan rebel Mong Thai Army.
“Four countries – China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand – cooperated to fight cross-border crimes, and succeeded in arresting Naw Kham and the gang’s core members,” Liu Yuejin, director of the narcotics control bureau under the ministry, said on Thursday. The arrest enhances security on the river, he added.
Liu described the transfer of the suspect as a major success for joint law enforcement among the four nations.
“China will adhere to relevant international conventions in carrying out interrogation of the suspect and we promise a fair and just judicial process,” Liu said.
Naw Kham was “a key figure” in violent incidents along border areas of Laos, China, Thailand and Myanmar, Sysavath Keomalavong, director-general of the Lao police, told the Vientiane Times.
The gang had more than 100 members and an arsenal that included AK assault rifles and M16 semi-automatic rifles, as well as bazookas and machine guns.
They were allegedly involved in various crimes, including drug trafficking, kidnap and murder along the Mekong River, Xian Yanming, deputy director of Yunnan provincial public security bureau, said.
The gang launched 28 attacks against Chinese cargo ships on the Mekong River, killing 16 Chinese citizens and injuring three, Xian said on Thursday.
On Oct 5, 13 Chinese fishermen were murdered and their bodies thrown into the Mekong after two Chinese cargo ships, Hua Ping and Yu Xing 8 were hijacked by armed men.
Naw Kham colluded with some Thai soldiers to hijack the ships on the river, Xian said.
The killers placed drugs on the Chinese ships to make it look as if they killed “drug traffickers”.
On Oct 31, the four countries along the Mekong River met in Beijing to establish a joint law enforcement and security cooperation mechanism. They decided to share intelligence and conduct joint patrols to maintain public safety on the river.
After the meeting, the Ministry of Public Security immediately set up a special team and sent a police working group to Laos, Myanmar and Thailand to assist with their law enforcement officers.
Qu Xing, director of the China Institute of International Studies, said that the handing over of the suspect dealt a serious blow to other criminal gangs who may have been thinking of carrying out crimes on the river.
Dai Peng, director of the criminal investigation department under the Chinese People’s Public Security University said it was unusual to send a suspect on a chartered flight and this highlighted the seriousness of the case.