Thursday, December 27, 2012

Burmese drug lord’s final appeal rejected

Thursday, 27 December 2012 12:35 Xiao Ting Shirley

A Chinese court on Wednesday rejected appeals by Shan drug lord Naw Kham and three of his subordinates, upholding the death penalties imposed on them for the murder of 13 Chinese sailors on the Mekong River in October last year.

Naw Kham pictured entering the High Court in Kunming on December 26, 2012. (Photo: China News Agency)

The final ruling on the morning of December 26 by the High Court in Kunming, capital of China’s southwestern Yunnan Province, upheld the death penalties awarded to the case’s four principal defendants, including Naw Kham. Two other accomplices, identified by their Chinese names Zha Bo and Zha Tuobo, were sentenced to death with reprieve and eight years in prison respectively, according to China’s official news agencies.

Naw Kham, the reported leader of the Hawngleuk Militia, a 100-strong force based in the Shan State border town of Tachilek, together with five co-defendants, was accused of a brutal murder on the Mekong River where two cargo ships were hijacked and the 13 crew members killed and dumped in the water, their bodies recovered by Thai authorities on October 5, 2011.

Referred to by the Chinese media as the “Mekong Tragedy”, the Shan militia was accused of taking revenge on the Chinese cargo ships because they had failed to pay protection money for safe passage on the river.

Naw Kham denied plotting the attack at his first appearance in court on September 20 while the five other defendants all testified that Naw Kham was the gang’s ringleader who had ordered the hijacking. All six suspects were charged with intentional homicide, drug trafficking, kidnapping and ship hijacking by the Chinese Procuratorate.

The People's Court of Yunnan handed down a death sentence on Naw Kham last month although the drug lord had changed his plea to guilty, expressing remorse and pleading for a lighter penalty.

The two Chinese cargo ships involved in the case, the Hua Ping and Yu Xing 8, were seized on the Mekong River, an important trading waterway in Southeast Asia.

This was allegedly not the first crime committed by the Hawngleuk Militia along the Mekong River. Public data reported by Chinese media shows that the drug gang was suspected of robberies and armed attacks aimed at Chinese vessels and Chinese citizens more than 28 times, incidents which caused 16 deaths and three injuries.

China, Laos, Burma and Thailand launched a new joint patrol on the Mekong River last Sunday in an attempt to normalize trade and transportation, reported China’s Xinhua News Agency. The initial four-country joint patrol was initiated in October 2011 to tackle safety concerns raised after the fatal hijacking incident.
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