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Xinhua Insight: Capture of Mekong murder suspect example of effective cooperation

(Xinhua)

11:08, May 12, 2012

BEIJING, May 11 (Xinhua) -- The recent capture of a drug lord suspected of masterminding the murder of 13 Chinese sailors last year has demonstrated the effectiveness of regional security cooperation, according to Chinese police and analysts.

Naw Kham, head of an armed drug gang, was arrested on April 25 at an undisclosed location and sent to China via a chartered plane on May 10.

A joint investigation by police from China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand found that Naw Kham, core members of the gang and a small number of Thai soldiers planned and conducted the murder of 13 Chinese sailors on two cargo ships on Oct. 5 last year.

DEADLY WATERWAY

With a length of almost 5,000 kilometers, the Mekong River is one of the most important waterways in southeast Asia, linking the countries of China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand.

Since signing a pact related to merchant ship navigation on the river, the four countries have conducted cooperation in trade, tourism and resource exploitation, turning the river into a "golden waterway."

However, the river's "Golden Triangle" region is notorious for its poor security caused by the spread of drug gangs, inefficient transportation and a diverse mixture of ethnicities and nationalities.

"The region is the world's biggest area for producing drugs, whether it's heroin or new types of narcotics," said Hu Zujun, head of the Narcotics Control Bureau of the Public Security Department of southwest China's Yunnan province, which borders Myanmar.

Driven by huge profits, many drug dealers in the region collaborate with militants and form well-organized gangs equipped with advanced weaponry, Hu said.

Naw Kham was a leader of such a gang, with more than 100 active members in the region. Armed with assault rifles, bazookas and machine guns, The gang is believed to have engaged in drug trafficking, kidnapping, murder, looting and other crimes along the Mekong River for years.

The group has even targeted police officers. In February 2008, a Chinese police speedboat was shot by Naw Kham's gang in waters belonging to Laos during a bilateral police exchange mission. Two policemen and one sailor were seriously injured.

"The attack was a vengeful strike at our cooperation with Laos in drug control," said Qin Hua, a Chinese police officer who was seriously injured in the incident.

Armed violence has turned the "golden waterway" into a deadly area, and also threatened the lives of people in neighboring countries.

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