Mekong Murder Has Hallmarks of Naw Kham
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Mekong Murder Has Hallmarks of Naw Kham

By WAI MOE Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thai military officers seize a Chinese-flagged ship allegedly carrying nearly one million speed pills during a patrol along the Mekong river near Chiang Rai’s Chiang Saen district. (Photo: Bangkok Post)
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“His gang patrols a 50 km stretch along the Mekong River between Burma and Laos.”

Naw Kham's militia has since established a reputation as a ruthless and violent gang, bullying and robbing not only drug traffickers, but goods traders and civilian travelers.

Chinese authorities began to sit up and take notice after the gang attacked a Chinese vessel on the river in 2008, seriously injuring three security officials.

According to Brian McCartan, a Chiang Mai-based journalist writing in Asia Times in 2009, one of possible reasons Naw Kham is targeting Chinese interests on the Mekong is related to the expansion of China's business empire in the region, including a massive multimillion-dollar casino project being constructed on the Laotian side of the Golden triangle.

Kings Romans, the Macao company responsible for the casino, has angered local communities by evicting villagers from their land with insufficient compensation, and for importing Chinese workers instead of utilizing the local workforce.

“Many villagers in the area were happy to see him 'tax' Chinese cargo vessels, which often carried products that undercut the price of their local foods and wares,” McCartan wrote, adding that the displaced villagers saw Naw Kham's militia as the only way to challenge the Chinese investors.  

On February 20, 2010, 13 Burmese police officials and patrol boat crew were killed and two other policemen were injured during a gun battle with the Hawngleuk militia.

Following the attack, Naypyidaw and Vientiane significantly raised their level of cooperation on Mekong security.

A Burmese journalist in the Golden Triangle region, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that he recently encountered the Naw Kham militia while taking photographs on the river.

“At the time, Naw Kham’s men were on three speedboats. They cut off our boat and boarded it,” he said. “They were well armed, and some of them wore masks. They made us kneel with our hands on our heads. Then they took all our money.”

Over the past two decades, three ethnic armed groups from Burma have attempted to control the Mekong River route through the Golden Triangle. The first group was drug lord Khun Sa’s Mong Tai Army, followed by the UWSA and the Shan State Army (South) led by Yawd Serk.

“All were pushed back by the Burmese army,” Khunsai Jaiyen said. “Unless they had the support of the local Burmese authorities, Naw Kham and his men could not survive in this area.”

Meanwhile, on Thursday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry demanded immediate action from the authorities of Thailand, Laos and Burma on the case of the murder of the Chinese crewmen.

"The Chinese government values the life and safety of every Chinese citizen, and demands a thorough probe of what happened, and that the murderers be brought to justice,” Vice Foreign Minister Song Tao told envoys from the three Southeast Asian countries. 

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Jim Pollard Wrote:
While the story about Naw Kham is interesting and worth writing, I'm not convinced it's true. Some journalists who went to Chiang Saen a week ago said there was a huge shootout down by the river after these boats came in - not upriver as the Army claimed. Some Thai papers allegedly reported this, but it was not reported by the English language papers. Why would Thai officials want to cover this up? Was the Thai anti-drug taskforce involved in some of these deaths? I think the real truth of what occurred has yet to be revealed.

Farang nak khaow Wrote:
The story of Naw Kham is interesting and worth writing. However, there are other elements of this sordid little drama that are not included here. I think if your journalist goes to Chiang Saen he will find out that there was a huge gunfight between the Thai anti-drug taskforce and people on at least one of these vessels. There were many witnesses who fled as the bullets flew into buildings adjacent to the river. Some Thai papers allegedly reported this - which appears to clash with the Thai Army's claim that these killings occurred 25km upriver. A colleague who visited the town to look into this incident came away feeling that basic details were changed - and was this done with the intent of hiding Thai involvement in some of these people's deaths. I'd be interested in seeing what Chinese investigators uncover about this incident cos I'm not 100pc convinced this official explanation is true.

M.A.I. Wrote:
The red communist Chinese government never values the life and safety of their citizen,more than 600,000 Chinese in Cambodia routinely assassinated by Khmer Rouge Pol Pot in 1970's, did Zhou Enlai's wife Yingchao Deng listen to the rescue plea from Chinese living in Cambodia? on the contrary she immediately agreed arm selling contracts to POL POT killing her own race, that's the true nature of communism. Myanmar militia were raised up by evil red China communists like their evil baby, so evil red parents you should care that if you were get murdered by your evil minded kids...because you're more evil than your evil kids....evil China you deserves all kinds of punishments

dr.saw thein shwe ellerich Wrote:
"The Chinese Government values the life and safety of every Chinese citizen" we all Lao, Burma, Cambodia, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia must learn from Chinese to value the life and safety of our Citizen. Why are these 920000 Amphetamine pills are found in their Chinese Ships. Why do this Chinese Government Support such smugglers and proud to claim as if they are Chinese heroes.It is time to defend our borders. These Chinese come to us when they have nothing to eat. These Chinese come to us again to exploit.

Dr.saw thein shwe ellerich Wrote:
Chinese government values the life and safety of every Chinese citizen.(Why not government of Burma,(Myanmar) Lao ,Thailand,Cambodia and Vietnam Value the life of our Citizens.)Let the Smugglers Kill the Smugglers.Learn from Chinese to value the life of our own CITIZENS)

a villager Wrote:
'The Chinese government values the life and safety of every Chinese citizen....' but not the life and safety of ethnic Kachin refugees who are fleeing from the brutality of Burmese army.

Kyaw Wrote:
No doubt that Naw Kham paid to the Burmese regional command to operate free in Mekong river. The Regional command are hurry to fetch incomes during their short assignment and used to work with the local warlords and militia.

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