Yesterday, ASTV Manager Online, that has for years been reporting on news in the Golden Triangle, presented a clearer (but still incomplete) picture of what happened to the two Chinese cargo ships and their crew last October.
According to the report, the two ships were seized by Naw Kham, “the freshwater pirate”, who has been running a protection racket in the area since 2007, on 4 November. One of the crew women had then made a call to Thailand’s Chiang Saen to inform about what had taken place. This had sealed the fate of herself and the rest of the crew, it says.
On the next day, the two boats were stormed and taken by the Thai Army’s Pha Mueng Task Force.
On 6 October, Pha Mueng and the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) officials held a press conference to explain the previous day’s events.
According to them, Pha Mueng received information at 06:00 on 5 October about the hijacking of the two boats and had accordingly organized a team to intercept them.
At 10:30, the two ships turned up and seeing the Thai officials trying to head them off, the unidentified armed men on the ships fired at the officials and later escaped in a speedboat. The catch, Pha Mueng and ONCB said, included 1 dead armed man and 920,000 pills of “yaba” (methamphetamines).
On 7 October, the dead crewmen and women started floating up on the river one after another.
On 28 October, Thai police summoned 9 Pha Mueng officers to face two charges: killing of 13 Chinese crewmen and women and concealing evidence, which the officers had promptly denied.
However, there are still two Jigsaw pieces missing, the report says: two well known men living in the nearby Maesai district: “Uncle N” and “Mr S”, who is Uncle N’s relative. (A source in Maesai told SHAN “Uncle N” was none other than Olarn Somphongphan aka Chamras Phacharoen, a known “Chao Paw” (Godfather) in the district.
Due to the disappearance of the two who are believed to have gone underground, at least three questions remain unanswered:
- Where did the drugs originate?
- Who seized the boats and killed the crew?
- Who would be the recipient of the drugs?
A local who wished to remain anonymous said one way to find it out is to look at the year’s events that had made headlines in the area and piece them together:
4 April 2011
A ship belonging to Kings Romans Casino on the Laotian side of the Mekong seized and 19 crewmen abducted. Zhao Wei, the casino owner, was reported to have paid a hefty B 22 million ($730,000) ransom to Naw Kham
21 September 2011
Burmese and Laotian security forces attacked Naw Kham’s men at Sri Dorn Mee island, 25 km north of the Triangle. 20 of his men were said to have been killed, while 4 of the wounded came to Chiangrai for medical treatment
26 September 2011
Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister announced that Kings Romans was raided and 20 sacks of yaba pills were seized
5 October 2011
Pha Mueng seized two cargo ships, one either belonging to Zhao Wei or his associate Ah Ming
Updated (1 December 2011)
According to ASTV report, 30 November, there were 4 boats manned by an unknown armed group escorting the two cargo ships into Thai waters on 5 October. 9 Thai officers who are under investigation meanwhile say they had only fired warning shots.