Authorities in Thailand’s northern Chiang Rai Province have confirmed the deaths of 13 Chinese sailors whose two ships were hijacked by drug traffickers last week, according to Xinhua News:
Last Wednesday, Thai border troops seized drugs on board two Chinese-flagged ships coded Yi Xing 8 Hao and Hua Ping, after a gunfight of more than 30 minutes with drug traffickers, in Chiang Saen District, bordering Myanmar. One drug trafficker was reported to have been killed.
The police found bodies of Chinese sailors late last week. Three bodies, with hands tied and handcuffed behind their backs, were found on Friday. Another nine bodies were found on Saturday.
The bodies were identified as the crew of Yi Xing 8 Hao and Hua Ping. The police suspect drug traffickers had planned to use the hijacked ships to smuggle drugs into Thailand and the sailors were killed before the gunfire on Wednesday.
A Bangkok Post report sheds more light on the identity of the drug kingpin allegedly involved and the events surrounding the hijacking:
A gang run by Nor Kham, a Shan drug trafficker, is thought to be behind the grisly murders of 12 Chinese boat crew members whose bodies were found in the Mekong River, says the army.
Maj Gen Prakarn Chonlayuth, commander of the Pa Muang Task Force, said the gang hijacks ships plying the river and demands protection money from them.
If they refuse to pay, they kill the crew and take over the ships to deliver drugs from Burma to Thailand.
… Nor Kham, 40, wanted on Thai and Burmese arrest warrants for drugs trafficking, had expanded his illegal activities to collect protection money from Chinese-flagged cargo ships a few years ago, he said.
Authorities obtained intelligence that the Nor Kham drugs gang killed all crew members of any vessel which refused to pay the gang protection money. He believes that’s what happened in this case.
About 400 armed men are thought to belong to the Nor Kham drugs gang, said Permpong Chavalit, deputy secretary-general of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board.
Meanwhile, an editorial in the Bangkok Post called on Thai and Chinese leaders to press the Burmese government to stop tolerating the drug trade in the Golden Triangle:
In 2000, the Wa strongman Pau Yu Chang promised Khin Nyunt, then a powerful member of the Burmese military junta, that he would end the drug trade by 2005.
Otherwise, he said infamously, “You can chop my head off”. It would be good to take up his offer, at least to the point of putting him under arrest. There are arrest warrants for him in Thailand and the United States. The US and Thai authorities also have warrants to arrest the Wa military leader Wei Hsueh-kang, and his corrupted Thai associate Surachai Ngernthongfu, alias Bang Ron, who has ruined the lives of thousands of his countrymen.
It would be an improvement to bring justice to these men and others. And good luck as well to the current drug crackdown under Ms Yingluck’s auspices. But for now, there is just one good solution. The new Burmese government can only be credible if it moves aggressively against the Pang Sang criminals and their drug factories, for a start. The very highest Thai and Chinese government leaders and diplomats must make this clear to Burma. The sooner the better.