CHIANGRAI TIMES – Approximately 30 members of a Golden Triangle drug gang whose leader was arrested in Laos and sent to China have turned themselves into the Burmese government, official sources said Wednesday.
The group, believed to have been responsible for armed hijackings, extortion and drug running, “exchanged arms for peace,” bringing their weapons with them, authorities said. A Shan drug lord believed to be involved in the murder of 13 Chinese sailors on the Mekong River last year has been arrested in Laos and sent to China, according to Thai security forces.
The group’s leader, Naw Kham, was on the most-wanted list of the governments of Thailand and China. He was arrested with six others in Laos in in Tonpheung District in Bokeo Province last week. The area is opposite Chiang Rai, Thailand.
Xinhua news agency said Naw Kham was flown to Beijing on May 10 on a specially chartered flight from Vientiane, the capital of Laos.
He and seven other suspects were caught by Laotian police on April 25. He was wanted in connection with the death of 13 Chinese sailors who were shot dead on two cargo ships on the Mekong in October, and their bodies thrown into the water. Naw Kham had become the Chinese authorities’ most wanted criminal suspect, following the murders.
The killings sparked a public outcry, particularly on Chinese websites and micro blogs, with demands for Beijing to take action, said Xinhua.
Liu Yuejin, director of the Narcotics Control Bureau at the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, told state broadcaster CCTV this week that the case was complicated.
“According to an agreement formerly signed by the public security ministries of both China and Laos, Naw Kham was extradited to China, although he is a Burmese national and the murders took place in waters under Thailand’s sovereignty,” said Liu, who was also the head of a task force set up by the ministry to look into the case.
Liu said China was the right place to try Naw Kham as all the victims were from China and the killings took place on Chinese vessels.
Liu said the gang allegedly under Naw Kham’s control was responsible for as many as 28 attacks on Chinese ships along the Mekong since 2008.
Naw Kham had proved hard to catch, he said, because he had loyal followers – including villagers and officials – who would tip him off if they got wind of any police operation targeting him.
A former aide to the late drug lord Khun Sa, who led the defunct Mong Tai Army rebel group, Naw Kham for years had operated with impunity in an area including Burma, Thailand and Laos.
An unidentified source told the News that a woman identified as Naw Kham mistress, who was not named, was arrested in Ban Luang Saenjai in Laos on April 13.
Nine Thai soldiers have also been charged in connection with the Chinese sailors’ death, because police believed they were in some way linked with Naw Kham’s gang.