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Drug gang killers on Mekong set to be executed

By Xu Wei in Kunming, Yunnan | China Daily | Updated: 2013-03-01 07:40

Naw Kham, the Myanmar drug lord convicted of murdering 13 Chinese sailors in 2011, will be executed on Friday.

Along with three accomplices, he will be executed by lethal injection in Kunming, capital of Yunnan province, the Intermediate People's Court announced late on Wednesday.

The accomplices were identified as Hsang Kham from Thailand, Yi Lai, stateless, and Zha Xika, from Laos.

The executions were approved by the top court and handed down to Kunming on Feb 22. The four men were informed of the sentences, and the consulates of Thailand and Myanmar in Kunming were notified on Feb 24, the court said.

Bringing the gang to justice involved police work in four countries - China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand.

The gang was found guilty of masterminding and colluding with Thai soldiers in an attack on two Chinese cargo ships on the Mekong River on Oct 5, 2011.

Drug gang killers on Mekong set to be executed

Naw Kham (right) at a Yunnan court on Sept 21. The Myanmar drug lord and his three accomplices will be executed on Friday afternoon in Kunming. [Wang Shen / Xinhua]

"Our efforts to ensure the safety of the Mekong River will continue," Li Zhuqun, deputy director of the International Cooperation Department of the Ministry of Public Security, told China Daily. "We will continue patrols and law enforcement cooperation with the other three countries to safeguard shipping on the river."

The menace posed by this particular gang may be over, but the Mekong waterway still needs to be protected, he said.

The 100-strong gang was involved in drug trafficking, kidnap and murder along the Mekong. Since 2008, they launched 28 attacks against Chinese cargo ships on the river, killing 16 Chinese citizens and injuring three, according to police.

On Oct 5, 2011, 13 Chinese sailors were murdered and their bodies thrown into the Mekong after two Chinese cargo ships, the Hua Ping and Yu Xing 8 were hijacked.

The gang colluded with Thai soldiers to carry out the attack, police said. Narcotics were placed on the Chinese ships to make it look like a drug hit.

Because the crimes occurred on two Chinese registered ships flying the Chinese flag the trial could be held on Chinese territory, according to international conventions.

Naw Kham was arrested by police in Laos on April 25 and handed over to the Chinese police in May.

He denied the charges or any involvement in the murder of the sailors. But testimony from other gang members sealed his fate, said Yin Ling, a prosecutor at Yunnan Provincial People's Procuratorate.

Naw Kham offered compensation of 6 million yuan ($964,000) to the families of the victims.

The four men were sentenced to death on Nov 6 after being convicted of intentional homicide, kidnapping, transporting drugs and hijacking cargo ships.

Two other gang members were also sentenced.

Zha Bo and Zha Tuobo were both handed two-year suspended death sentences and eight-year prison terms.

Naw Kham betrayed no emotion when informed of his fate, according to Yang Xiaoping, a member of the collegiate bench in the first hearing of the case at the Intermediate People's Court in Kunming, who delivered the result to him personally.

"He said he wanted to see his children. But he does not know their telephone numbers, and we are unable to contact them," she said.

Naw Kham said he had 10 children.

Lin Li, Naw Kham's lawyer, said she regretted the compensation offered by Naw Kham could not save his life.

Li Cangqi, the father of the cook Li Yan, one of the victims, said he was dissatisfied at the compensation offer.

"The compensation is only 380,000 yuan. My daughter used to give us 1,000 yuan a month out of her 3,000 yuan salary. I and her mother feel like the sky is falling after hearing of her death," he said.

Guo Anfei in Kunming contributed to this story.

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