The United Wa State Army has reportedly issued a statement denying it killed 12 Chinese nationals on two cargo vessels traveling along the Mekong River earlier this month.
According to the statement. which was only available in China and not Thailand, the UWSA stated it had nothing to do with the killings and that they occurred outside areas under its control.
The scene of the massacre _ a section of the river north of the Golden Triangle _ was under the supervision of Thai authorities, the statement reportedly said.
The armed ethnic group is highly influential in Burma’s Shan State, an area renowned for the production of illegal narcotics.
It urged China to seriously investigate the incident and for Thai authorities to provide their cooperation.
Both Thai and Chinese authorities say they are taking the case seriously.
The Royal Thai Police Office sent deputy police chief Pol Gen Parnsiri Praphawat and a large team of investigators to Chiang Rai province to investigate the killings.
The team includes officers from the Central Investigation Bureau, the Crime Suppression Division, the Marine Police, the Scientific Crime Detection Division, the Police General Hospital and the foreign affairs division of the Royal Thai Police Office.
China has also dispatched a team led by Guo Shaochun, deputy director-general of its Department of Consular Affairs and head of the Center for Consular Assistance and Protection, to conduct an investigation.
The case involves the killing of 12 people _ including crewmen and family members _ who were aboard a Chinese oil tanker called the Hua Ping and a cargo boat called the Yu Xing 8.
Thai soldiers patrolling a stretch of the Mekong found the boats in Chiang Saen district of Chiang Rai on Oct 5.
On closer inspection they discovered a body on board one of the boats and 11 others in the water on both the Thai and Lao sides of the river.
The soldiers also found 920,000 methamphetamine pills on the boats.
The victims are believed to have been killed along a section of the Mekong which divides Burma and Laos, 15-20km north of Thailand’s Chiang Saen district, which borders the two countries.
Initially, investigators assumed nine assailants in four speedboats attacked the vessels, later sailing them towards Thai waters.
The killings prompted China to call for better river transportation security and on Friday barred its cargo boats from plying that part of the Mekong River.
Meanwhile, Lao and Burmese authorities held a local border meeting in Tachilek in Shan State yesterday, where they also discussed security issues along the Mekong.