Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Warrants issued for Thai solders in Mekong murders

Tuesday, 03 July 2012 16:13 Mizzima News

After nine months, Thai police have issued arrest warrants for nine soldiers in connection with the murder of 13 Chinese sailors on the Mekong River last year, Thai media reported on Tuesday.

A view of the Mekong River at Luang Prabang in Laos. Photo: Wikipedia

Thailand's deputy police chief said 109 witnesses were interviewed in the investigation, according to a story in the Bangkok Post on Tuesday. The sailors were on two cargo ships when armed men attacked them on Oct. 5 in an area of the river in the Golden Triangle, which is notorious for drug running.

Police said a Thai man, Olarn Sompongphan, alias Chamras, is also wanted and helped plan the attack on two Chinese boats. Olarn is also wanted for the murder of former deputy interior minister and former Chaiyaphum MP Santi Chaiwirattana in Chiang Rai last year, police said. He is believed to have fled to an area under the control of Burma’s Wa ethnic group.

In response to the murders, China, Thailand, Burma and Laos have launched joint law enforcement efforts to protect cargo ships and crack down on drug trafficking along Mekong River. A notorious drug lord Naw Kham was arrested in Laos in April and later extradited to China on suspicion of being linked to the murders. Naw Kham was No. 1 on China’s most wanted list.

On Monday, Mizzima reported on the murder of three people onboard a long-tailed speedboat on the Mekong River in the same general area of the Chinese murders, in another incident that had the markings of drug-gang violence.

The dead were believed to be Burmese nationals who were travelling about 10 kilometres north of the Golden Triangle, where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Burma meet. It is still unclear who attacked the boat.

Last week, a story in China Daily, a state-run newspaper, said the Golden Triangle, one of Asia's two major opium-producing areas, is still the most harmful source of drugs in China. The other is called the Crescent Triangle covering Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Chinese police seized 5.1 tonnes of heroin and 7.9 tonnes of methamphetamine produced in, and smuggled from, the region last year, which made up 72 per cent and 55 per cent of the total nationwide seizures of heroin and methamphetamine, respectively, up 55 per cent and 62 per cent year-on-year, according to the report.

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