Chiangrai Times – Naw Kham a suspected drug kingpin has admitted he was behind the killing of 13 Chinese sailors on the Mekong River last year, deputy national police Chief Pansiri Prapawat said.
He said he was informed by Chinese investigators that Naw Kham, an ethnic Shan from Myanmar, had confessed to the murders that took place on Oct 5 last year.
Pol Gen Pansiri was speaking after receiving a delegation of Chinese authorities led by China’s Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu, who visited Chiang Rai to inspect the scene of the murder north of the province’s Chiang Saen district.
Pol Gen Pansiri said a police team investigating the attack will travel to China to question Naw Kham, who was captured in April in Laos and extradited to China in May.
Thai police will also speak to relatives of the victims and owners of the two Chinese-flagged cargo ships on which the murders took place.
Naw Kham is wanted by both Thai and Myanmar drug authorities and believed to have crucial information about the murders.
China, Thailand, Myanmar and Laos have set up a joint law enforcement team to protect cargo boats along the Mekong River following the murders of the 13 Chinese men.
The victims were crew members of two Chinese-flagged cargo ships which were attacked by armed men.
Naw Kham is suspected of being a former aide of the late drug kingpin Khun Sa, ex-leader of the defunct Mong Tai Army rebel group.
Police say Naw Kham has been linked to an extortion racket collecting fees from boats on the Mekong and trafficking drugs between Thailand and Myanmar.
Nine Thai soldiers of the Pha Muang Task Force, who reportedly seized 920,000 speed pills from the two barges, have also been arrested in connection with the murders of the Chinese sailors.
They said a Shan drug trafficking gang, led by Naw Kham, hijacked the boats and was using them to smuggle the drugs into Thailand.
Police are continuing to investigate the matter.
Pol Gen Pansiri said the Chiang Rai provincial court had approved a warrant for the arrest of Olarn Sompongphan, alias Chamras, who is believed to have been involved in the attack on the two Chinese boats.
Mr Olarn is believed to be involved in the narcotics trade and he is also wanted for the murder of former deputy interior minister and former Chaiyaphum MP Santi Chaiwirattana in Chiang Rai last year.
Police believe Mr Olarn has fled to border areas under the control of Myanmar’s Wa ethnic group.
Pol Gen Pansiri said the visiting Chinese delegation was satisfied with the progress made in the investigation by Thai authorities.