ON THE TRAIL OF A MULE - A Drug Run Through The Golden Triangle.

Discussion in 'Touring Northern Thailand - Trip Reports Forum' started by Rod Page, Jun 9, 2011.

  1. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

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    and yet more news................... 4th January 2012;

    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2012-01/07/content_14397335.htm

    New attack on Mekong River

    Updated: 2012-01-07 07:53

    By Xin Dingding and Zhang Yan (China Daily)

    KUNMING -Four Chinese cargo ships and a Myanmar patrol boat were attacked early on Jan 4 at Wan Pung Port in Myanmar.
    The incident further raised safety concerns about the Mekong River, where 13 Chinese sailors were slaughtered in October.
    The Chinese newspaper People's Daily reported that the group of Chinese ships was composed of three cargo vessels - Baoshou 8, Baoshou 9 and Yuanfeng - and an oil tanker previously named Renda 3.
    The attack happened less than a month after international shipping resumed on the Mekong River and Chinese border police started patrolling the river together with their counterparts from Thailand, Laos and Myanmar.
    Sources from the naval police in Thailand said the attackers had fired two rockets. One fell into the water while the other exploded near the ships.
    The attacks occurred in the wee hours and the assailants' goal was unclear, making it difficult for the Myanmar patrol vessel to mount a counterattack, according to a press release from the Thai police.
    There were no official reports of the attacks causing casualties or damage to the vessels.
    On Oct 5, 13 Chinese sailors aboard two cargo ships were shot dead by a group of gunmen in a section of the Mekong River that forms parts of the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar.
    Thai police have said their country's servicemen were involved in the crime.
    Patrols from the four countries had enabled international cargo shipping to pick up again on the Mekong River in the past three weeks.
    From Dec 10, when the shipping resumed, to Jan 3, vessels transported 15,844 tons of cargo on the river. In the first 10 months of the year, an average of 24,280 tons were shipped on the river each month, said Fu Zhiming, Party secretary of the Lancang River Maritime Bureau. In China, the Mekong River is known as the Lancang River.
    "About two thirds of the 86 freighters that are registered for international shipping on the river have returned to do business and so have many sailors," he said.
    The industry's recovery came faster than expected, in part because the halt in river traffic let the demand for shipping build up for months. As a result, shipping charges have increased, he said.
    Fu said restoring the transport industry on the river will require "personal safety to be guaranteed".
    He said he doubts the Jan 4 attack will deal a big blow to the confidence of shipowners and sailors.
    "The joint patrol on the river is more of a 'deterrent force', because it is not easy for patrols on the river to fight back," he said.
    "If we cannot guarantee safety, the economic value of this waterway will be nothing."
    Captain Feng Zhengliang, 35, who has worked on the Mekong River for 11 years, said he feels anxious doing his job even though armed police now escort cargo ships on the river.
    "The recent rocket attack shows that there are many dangers on the Mekong River," he said. Statistics show more than 3 million tons of cargo have been transported on the Mekong River since 2001, generating more than 30 billion yuan ($4.8 billion) from imports and exports.
    Guo Anfei contributed to this story.
    China Daily

    (China Daily 01/07/2012 page2)
     
  2. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

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    and yet more;

    http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/275265/chinese-ship-attacked-on-mekong

    Chinese ship attacked on Mekong

    SHANGHAI: Unidentified attackers fired on a Chinese cargo boat on its way from Thailand to China on the Mekong River in Laos, China's police said, less than two months after Beijing began joint patrols to protect shipping.
    Shots were fired at the Chinese ship Sheng Tai 11 on Saturday evening, but none of the crew was wounded, China's Ministry of Public Security said in a statement on its website on Sunday.

    The boat, which had five crew members, was carrying wood, Chinese state television reported.

    China last month deployed more than 300 armed police to patrol the Mekong in boats in collaboration with Burma, Thailand and Laos after a deadly attack killed 13 Chinese sailors in October last year.

    In the latest incident, the Chinese ship was returning to China after loading cargo in Thailand, the statement said.

    After the attack occurred, patrol ships from both Laos and China responded and Laos was still pursuing those suspected of carrying out the shooting.

    The Mekong flows through China's southwestern province of Yunnan into Southeast Asia, serving as a major trade route through several countries.

    China reacted angrily to the October murders in Chiang Saen district of Chiang Rai. Beijing ordered patrol boats down the Mekong to retrieve 164 stranded Chinese sailors and 28 cargo ships and called on diplomats from Thailand, Laos and Burma to speed up investigations.

    Police in Chiang Rai have detained nine soldiers suspected of killing the Chinese sailors and are also thought to have links with a Burmese drug kingpin.

    In a separate incident earlier this month, an unidentified rebel group fired grenades targetting Burmese soldiers on a patrol boat that was accompanying four Chinese cargo ships on the Mekong, but missed.
     
  3. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

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    More of the same thing (Bangkok Post);

    Drugs seized, 2 die in border clash


    A total of 100,000 methamphetamine pills, eight kilogrammes of crystal methamphetamine (ice) and some heroin with a street value of about 50 million baht were seized and two suspected drug traffickers killed in a clash with Thai soldiers on Saturday night near the Burmese border in Chiang Mai's Mae Ai district.
    Maj-Gen Prakan Cholayuth, commander of the Pha Muang Force, said the clash took place late in the night after a 10-man patrol spotted a group of about six armed men near Huay San village in tambon Tha Ton of Mae Ai district.
    The six men opened fire at the soldiers when told to stop for a search. The two groups traded fire for about 10 minutes before the intruders retreated across the border.
    When the clash site was searched early Sunday morning, the Thai soldiers found the bodies of two men, one about 25 years old and the other about 40. They were wearing uniforms of Red Wa soldiers. Also recovered were three backpacks and one SKS rifle.
    The Thai soldiers found 100,000 methamphetamine pills, about 500 grammes of heroin and 8kg of ice in the backpacks.
    Maj-Gen Prakan believed the armed men were Red Wa soldiers hired to transport the drugs across the border into Thailand.
     
  4. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

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    Shoot-out near Doi Chang Moob, 2 killed. 22 Jan 2012.

    Today, I was driving some guests along one of my favourite back roads, from Mae Sai, the 1149 along the border to Doi Chang Moob, then right turn along the even quieter road, the 1334 which leads to the 3051 main road to Therd Thai. Beautiful scenery along the back road along the border. Anyway, about 15 klms after the mountain, we came across an extra checkpoint. The soldiers there explained there had been a shootout and two people killed. We said we were just driving through and they let us by. We then came across a humvee with machine gun mounted on top and many soldiers with M16s. They also let us pass after some questions. 200m farther, about 30 police and a crime scene, like something out of CSI. More guns here too. They too were not sure about letting us through, but after some questioning from several officers, they did. About 20 number markers on the road, one marker where there was blood on the road. There was a reporter and cameraman there too. Then more soldiers, heavy weapons and another humvee with big machine gun on top. From what we could get from the soldiers, it appeared that some corrupt Thai police or soldiers had met up with some drug dealers from over the Burmese border and there had been a shootout last night. Two people killed, one Thai, one Tai Yai.

    Not a pretty sight and certainly brought home the reality of the violence of the ongoing drug business up here.
    Ian
     
  5. brucegsrider

    brucegsrider Ol'Timer

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    As a side note, just finished a book by a guy who worked for years as a pilot for Air America covering Laos and Vietnam flying out of Thailand. He swears blind that air america never carried drugs at all and that the stories were all BS. His name is Allen Cates and the book is called The Truth About Air America and the CIA HONOR DENIED.

    He flew many SAR missions a lot along the HCM trail which he said was particularly dangerous.

    As president of the Air America Association, he fought the US govt for years to have the service of AA pilots under contract to the CIA recognized in order to get medical care and pensions for guys who served. The US govt as not interested at all.

    Contrary to that, a few years ago met an Thai Indian guy whose family were VERY wealthy. He openly claimed that his Dad made a lot of money as a contractor bringing body bags back from Vietnam, stuffed with drugs.

    The real story is probably somewhere in between.....

    Any readers there at the time?
     
  6. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

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    G'day 'brucegsrider',
    One can only encourge debate on an issue such as this, so may I recommend also Alfred Mc Coy's "The Politics of Heroin" (revised 2003). Alfred Mc Coy is Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin, an eminent historian & recognised authority on this issue. This is very much an area that he continues to research & speak publicly on.
     
  7. brucegsrider

    brucegsrider Ol'Timer

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    Thanks Rod, I'll download it.
     
  8. harrythefinn

    harrythefinn Ol'Timer

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  9. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

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    Following on from the shoot-out at Doi Chang Moob 22nd January 2012, the incident was covered on the Thai TV news yesterday. The news reader said that it was one drug dealer and a top Thai policeman who had been killed on the mountain. The policeman had only been transferred to Chiang Rai one month ago.
    That back road has now been closed to the public. The fear is, that as the chinese have many patrol boats on the Kong now, the smugglers will be bringing more of the drugs over the mountains.
    Ian
     
  10. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

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    There was another bust on the Thai TV news, two days ago, in Mae Sai. The Thai Drug Squad busted a couple in Mae Sai that own 10 houses and found millions of yah bah tablets and 10kgs of yah ice.
     
  11. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

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    A good friend went over the river a several months ago with two farang journalists to interview the owner of the Kings Romans Casino across from Sop Ruak at the Golden Triangle. I went there myself out of interest about a year ago and saw a stetched limo and several Hummers, all with Chinese registration. Seemed to be mostly Chinese people working there. Here is a copy of the report;

    http://www.chiangmainews.com/ecmn/viewfa.php?id=3212

    The Kings Romans Casino sits across the Mekong River on the Laos side, a gaudy beacon of civilisation in what is otherwise an empty stretch of green. We are in the Thai portion of the Golden Triangle, the historic land of opium production where Burma and Laos meet, and no one will tell us how to get across the river. We ask three people, each of which smiles and uses a suspiciously identical phrase: "Casino? No. Only Laos shopping."

    We finally made it across the river about half an hour before the crossing was supposed to close, and only by invoking the name of a contact in far away Bangkok. We were dropped off at the speedboat pier and driven to one of several hotel buildings, which together can accommodate up to five hundred guests. At night, the bars and hotel buildings shine with collections of coloured bulbs, complementing the large multi-coloured crown that tops the dome of the casino building itself. The flashiness of the casino is a big change from the old nighttime scene in the area. As the manager who accompanied us said, "before there was nothing in Laos; there were no lights at night."

    Construction of the pompous sounding Kings Romans started four years ago with a price tag of about 500 million US dollars, including the installation of a 46 km road from the casino to the Laos town of Huay Xai further down the Mekong River (opposite Chiang Khong on the Thai side). According to the manager, there were plenty of challenges, as labourers and materials for the building had to be transported from China into the relatively undeveloped region. The casino is one of several projects located in an area in northern Laos called the Special Economic Zone, to which the government has granted Chinese companies development rights with a 99-year lease. The Kings Romans Group controls 10,000 hectares of that region. At the end of that period, all of the Chinese-owned properties in the area will be turned over to the Laos authorities.

    Meanwhile, the casino claims they are seeing about ten thousand guests per month, with many from China, Thailand, Europe, and the United States. However, during our visit we appeared to be the only foreigners in sight, certainly quite daunting at times. It is said to be similar to the casinos found in China's Macau special administrative region (gambling is illegal in the rest of China). Although the identities of the group's funders are not public, we were told the group has substantial experience in casino management, including connections in Macau, Burma's Mongla gambling region, and Boten on the China-Laos border. The manager pointed out that "there are other casinos in Laos, but they are much smaller and not as good." The company has its own security force to patrol the area. The emphasis on security hopes to prevent the serious problems (including allegations of violence and kidnapping) which plagued the gambling area at Boten.

    The complex does seem rather well controlled. There is no drinking or picture-taking allowed inside the casino, and entrances are guarded by security staff and metal detectors. Unlike the bling and glam of Vegas, gambling is serious business here. Inside, huge amounts of money move around under standard casino video surveillance. A live pianist plays a baby grand on a red velvet stage. The interior design is a fusion of grandiose styles: chunky Renaissance murals, sweeping staircases, and huge chandeliers. We watched in unpaid-intern horror as one man blithely bet 625 baht over and over again at a slot machine and another played with a stack of 10,000 yuan card chips. Everywhere there are servers offering water, tea, and coffee, and smoking is allowed indoors.

    The massive complex is supported by a staff of 4-5 thousand people, many of whom live in large dorm-like apartments a little outside of the main area. Some of the staff are from the seven villages in the area, and some commute to work by motorbike. Others have come to work in the area from Thailand, Russia, and Nepal. The casino's management hopes that the project will benefit local people by providing jobs and opportunities for founding small businesses. Already, the manager told us, the area has improved vastly: "before it was an opium and drug businesses, maybe an only ten years before...there were no roads, no electricity, no water...Laos is developing and it is good for them."

    The manager showed us a new village the company built for locals (called Ban Kong), a set of 120 modern buildings, large and identical and yellow, built on stilts. Construction on the complex is slated to continue indefinitely. The group is looking for more partners, and plans on putting in a golf course, a museum, more 4-star hotels, and an airport. They hope to develop a network of branches and agents in nearby cities, including Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai. "In twenty years, we're planning on building a city here," said the manager, "This is only a start."

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Ed: Unfortunately, we were unable to find a way for visitors from the Thai side to go over easily. We apologise for this but it appears they have yet to put that infrastructure in place.
     
  12. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

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    I am 'winging' it here from VN as my resaerch materials are all still in storage in Chiang Mai.

    In terms of the report of a drug bust in Mae Sai - that would probably be a raid on Nor Kham (writing this from memory but I'm referring to the hill-triber who lives in the Mae Sai/Tachilek area & is known as 'the Pirate of the Mekong'). Nor Kham heads a fairly substantial & very bold gang & has been muscling in on the drug trade & associated ventures for some time now, especially since the surrender of Khun Sa. Disregarded initially by the big players as being too small an operator, he's slowly built a formidable operation. He, in my opinion is behind much/most of the recent drug, murder & piratage activity on the Mekong.

    I'd be interested to learn who actually was involved as I'm simply 'guessing' from here.

    In terms of the casino report. The investor/funder/king-player/man behind the operation is definitely Wei Xuegang - the funding is 'petty cash' for Wei who's methamphetamine trade to Thailand alone was estimated at almost $3billion annually in the mid 2000's. It also fits with the investment strategies he employs for his ill-gotten gains.

    Wei is also behind the casino near Boten - this would seem clear as the man in charge of the casino is none other than Bang Ron (who used to live in Kanchanaburi but fled to Burma when Thailand issued a still valid arrest warrant for him) who moved from Burma to Laos to live not far from the casino. Bang Ron is the technical brains behind Wei's drug empire, a man with a strong understanding of drug production. His appointment to control Wei's casino near Boten is no co-incidence as Wei has reportedly opened laboratories in the same area with a view to producing ecstacy. Bang Ron also reportedly overseas the Kings Roman Casino.
     
  13. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

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    Latest bust;

    http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/282607/police-seize-4-million-speed-pills-in-chiang-rai

    Police seize 4 million speed pills in Chiang Rai


    Chiang Rai police yesterday seized more than 4 million methamphetamine, or speed, tablets from a pickup truck left in Mae Chan district.
    365153. Police show monster drugs haul : Anti-narcotics police at the Royal Thai Police Office yesterday display 34 backpacks containing a combined total of more than 4 million methamphetamine tablets and another set of 200,000 tablets seized separately in Chiang Rai province over the past two days. KOSOL NAKACHOL

    Provincial police chief Surachet Thopunyanon said his team received a tip-off that a large amount of illegal drugs would be trafficked into Thailand via the Mae Ai-Mae Chan Road.
    Investigators started tracking a group of suspected drug traffickers. The suspects managed to run away but left a pickup truck with a Lampang licence plate in Ban Lao Fu Moo 20 village in tambon Patung.
    Police found 34 backpacks in the truck with 60 packets of methamphetamine tablets in each bag. Altogether, 4.08 million tablets were found.

    Police identified the owner of the truck as Chidphon Bua-ngoen, a resident of Lampang's Ngao district. The person believed to be the driver yesterday is known as Wutthiphong Kitbamrungkun or Cha-sue Chaside, an assistant headman in Ban Chakorna village.
    Police will track the two down, said Pol Maj Gen Surachet.
    Meanwhile, in Bangkok, Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung told a news conference that Chiang Rai police on Thursday arrested two drug trafficking suspects and seized 200,000 methamphetamine tablets.
    Mr Chalerm claimed that drug trafficking in Thailand has been declining because of the police's operations.
    "I thank Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, the army chief, for building barbed wire fences along the Sai River in Chiang Rai. The fences have made it more difficult for drug traffickers to enter Thailand," he said.
    Mr Chalerm will this weekend visit Lop Buri, which he claimed is a distribution hub for narcotics.
    "My sources say the province is now the Colombia of Asean," he said.
    The government's main drugs suppression strategy is to prevent reactant substances for drug production from leaving the country and to keep narcotic drugs from coming in. Mr Chalerm is confident the measures will lead to a reduction of the drugs problem.
    Meanwhile, Public Health Minister Witthaya Buranasiri yesterday voiced his concern that space is running out for the storage of seized narcotics under the care of the Food and Drug Administration. The facility has a capacity to hold up to 30 tonnes of drugs and now stores 25 tonnes.
    "Over the past four to five months, the amount of evidence drugs sent for storage has doubled," Mr Witthaya said.
    Drugs kept in storage are for evidence in cases still on trial. They can be destroyed only at the end of the judicial process. If a case is suspended, the evidence must be kept for at least 20 years, or until the case resumes and concludes.
    Mr Witthaya said he would ask the cabinet for an expansion of the storage facility or for a change in the law so that the impounded drugs could be kept for a shorter period.
     
  14. mudboots

    mudboots Ol'Timer

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    I find all a bit of a Worry to tell the truth, our little farm is on the back road from PongPha village along the base of the Mountain on the back road in to Mae Sai or turn up the Mountain though Moms village to road 1149 at the top. Three weeks ago i had a call here in OZ at 4.20 am from the wife to say that there were thieves so she thought steeling our workshop tools she had already called her brother down the road, turnd on all the lights out side and all the woman were yelling out the thieves bolted thank goodness its a worry with just woman and kids at the farm at night.and now i worry armed drugrunners can come stumbling off the Mountain right to our back door.
    I am sad to say i still need to work for another 2 or 3 years for we have what we want in life so i can not always be where i want to be with the family, 'get a dog i said so the wife gos and gets a pup from what i understand it was a smart little thing ... well not that smart the brother inlaw backed out the other night and run over the poor little bugger.
    Any one got any puppys you want to give away ? would love to get one with a bit of labrador in it :D
     
  15. Tubber

    Tubber Ol'Timer

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    Fascinating stuff Rod. A couple of other books. The Secret Army: Chiang Kai Shek and the Drug Warlords of the Golden Triangle by Michael Richard Gibson with Wen H. Chen-ISBN 0470830182
    The Hunt for Khun SA: Drug Lord of the Golden Triangle by Ron Felber - ISBN 1936296152
     
  16. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    An interesting news story

    Laos Drug Tycoon Xieng Phenh nabbed, again


    http://www.tuoitrenews.vn/cmlink/tuoitrenews/features/laos-drug-tycoon-xieng-phenh-nabbed-again-1.68976

    Laos drug tycoon Xieng Phenh nabbed, again
    Wed, April 18, 2012.

    Laotian drug tycoon Xieng Phenh has been familiar with Vietnamese policemen for a long time.

    The 53-year-old man had been sentenced to death by a Vietnamese court in 1995 but was commuted to only 15 years in prison for ‘precious statements’ minutes before his execution, which was planned the following year.

    While being taken to the execution grounds, he fainted, wet his pants, mumbled and begged for time to name his accomplice. It was his statement that helped Vietnamese police smash a major drug ring and execute five senior drugs prevention officers that were a part of the illicit operation.

    With the commutation of his sentence, Xieng Phenh spent only 15 years in prison thanks to being given amnesty five times, and was released in 2010.

    Yet he continued his involvement in the illegal trading business and was collared again several days ago after being caught red handed with 39 cakes of drugs, equivalent to 13kg, in a hotel in Laos.

    A year-long chase

    The border guard force of the central province of Ha Tinh, in coordination with a Laos security unit, nabbed Phenh on April 8 while he was staying in a hotel in Pac Ca Dinh District in Laos.

    Colonel Nguyen Trong Thuong, chief of the Ha Tinh border guard department, said his forces agreed to work with Laotian counterparts to set up a special task force to investigate the case of Xieng Phenh last April. This was the time when marijuana plants were often grown in Laotian farms.

    Initial investigation showed that the marijuana plants were harvested, dried and pressed into cakes and then hid in the jungle. On average, each pack of 1,500kg of dried marijuana was swapped for a luxury car.

    From secret information, leaders of the task force sent two disguised groups of servicemen to Bolykhamxay Province in Laos, one led by the Vietnamese forces and the other by the Laotian, to search for three pick-up cars based on their identification features.

    The task force chased and stopped the last car. Two men left the car and hid in the forest along the road. The car was carrying 1,000kg of dried marijuana. One of them was caught an hour later. He said his name was Vu A Xay, 26.

    From his statements the task force concluded that Phenh was in one of the two other cars and set up a plan to catch him.

    After receiving info from a reconnaissance team that the men in the two cars may stop at one of three hotels at the Thang Beng T-junction in Vient Kham Village in Pac Ca Dinh, secret agents were arranged to check in there in advance.

    At noon that day, one of the two cars stopped in front of Vieng Thon Hotel and the other car went around the street as if to stand watch. 20 minutes later, a man from the car entered the hotel with a white bag to check into Room 7.

    The task force was ordered into action. After hearing knocks on the door, two men in Room 7 stepped out and were immediately hurled to the ground. Xieng Phenh was also handcuffed without resisting.

    Upon searching the room, the task force found 39 heroin cakes, or 13kg, and US$250,000 in cash.

    After release from prison in Vietnam, Xieng Phenh began setting up links to continue drug trafficking and even mobilized all members of his family to become involved in the illegal business.

    Statements 17 years ago

    Phenh, a native of Xop Nao Village in Muong Noc District of Phong Sa Li Province in Laos, generated shocking news in Hanoi in 1995 when Vietnamese policemen caught him while transporting 90 cakes of heroin, or 30kg. It was a huge amount then, when traffickers were usually caught with just a few drugs cakes each.

    He was nabbed while driving a car with his brother-in-law, Xieng Nhong, at the Giang Vo – De La Thanh Crossroad in Hanoi.

    At the two courts in Hanoi, Phenh insisted that he worked alone and that Nhong was just his hired driver. Phenh was given the death sentence while Nhong was released seven months after his arrest.

    Whilein prison, Phenh was confident that his Vietnamese accomplices Vu Xuan Truong, Bui Danh Ca and Vu Phong Ma, who were then senior drugs prevention police officials, would be able to bail him out. Phenh couldn’t imagine that Truong, a captain of special mission No.5, actually wanted to eliminate the drug lord and had informed the police of his whereabouts, allowing them to catch Phenh.

    Truong and other police accomplices took turns visiting Phenh to both threaten him not to rat them out and reassure him that he would be freed soon.

    Phenh had lived with confidence till the turning point -- at 3:00am on June 21, 1996 when he was taken out of his cell to have his fingerprints taken and to go through some legal procedures.

    He guessed he was about to be freed until an interpreter told him he was making final procedures for execution. He fainted then, wet his pants and begged for time to name his accomplices.

    Seven death sentences for Truong, Ca, Ma and others were given thanks to the statements of Phenh.

    Now in prison again, Phenh is expected to give honest statements to Lao police.
     
  17. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    And another one "gone".....

    Shan Drug Lord Suspect Nabbed In Laos, Sent To China

    http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/crimes/290626/shan-drug-lord-suspect-nabbed-in-laos-sent-to-china

    Published: 27/04/2012 at 01:48 AM

    Jai Norkham, a suspected drug kingpin on Thai authorities' most-wanted list and the man believed to hold crucial information about the murder of 13 Chinese boat crew members on Oct 5 last year, has been arrested in Laos.

    Norkham: Wanted in three countries

    Norkham, who is an ethnic Shan and alleged to be a former aide of late drug kingpin Khun Sa, ex-leader of the defunct Mong Tai Army rebel group, was captured along with seven other people yesterday, a Thai security source said.

    Norkham, his Lao close aide Tao Maitaeng, and six others were detained during a raid by Lao authorities in Ban Mom in Tonpheung district of Bokeo province of Laos in the early hours of yesterday, the source said.

    Bokeo province is just opposite Chiang Rai in Thailand.

    The Lao government did not reveal further details about the arrest of Norkham and the seven other suspects, but said they were taken to China immediately after their arrest, the source said.

    Chiang Rai police chief Surachet Thopoonyanont said it is understood there was an agreement between the Lao and Chinese governments regarding the extradition of Norkham.

    Pol Col Surachet said Thailand could still ask to later take Norkham from China to face charges in Thailand because a number of arrest warrants for him have already been issued here in connection with previous drug cases.

    Prior to the arrest of Norkham, his mistress, whose name was not revealed, was arrested in Ban Luang Saenjai on April 13 in the same Lao district, allegedly in possession of one million methamphetamine pills, 1kg of gold, and 74 million baht cash, another source said.

    However, about 44 million baht was later reported to be missing when the money was handed over to Laos' Bokeo authorities by the team which made the arrest, the source said.

    Since the 13 corpses of Chinese boat crew members were found last October along with an SK47 rifle, and 920,000 methamphetamine pills, Norkham has become the Chinese authorities' most wanted criminal suspect.

    Norkham was wanted not only by Chinese authorities but also their Myanmar counterparts who had information that he was allegedly involved in a drug smuggling gang operating between Thailand and Myanmar.

    Nine Thai soldiers have also been charged with murdering and concealing the corpses because police believed they were in some way linked with Norkham's gang.
     
  18. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    A bit more from the Shan Herald News

    Mekong Godfather Run Down
    Friday, 27 April 2012 09:52 S.H.A.N.
    Naw Kham, known as the Godfather of the Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Burma and Laos meet, was finally nabbed at his mistress’s home in Bokeo province, on Wednesday night, 25 April, confirmed sources in the area.
    The raiding party was made up of Chinese and Laotian officials. The Chinese had been hot on his tail since the killing of 13 sailors near the Golden Triangle on 5 October 2011. The arrest ended his 7 year “reign” in the area.
    Villagers yesterday had protested to the authorities that they had arrested the wrong suspect and that he was a bona fide Laotian national. “The officials told them they couldn’t let him go until he was duly interrogated,” said the source.
    8 of his men also surrendered to the Burmese authorities on 23 April, Myanmar Alin reported on 25 April.
    His capture took place 5 days after his deputy Hsang Kham was detained by Thai law enforcement officers on 20 April, the same day the kingdom’s anti-drug suppression center announced a 2 million baht ($ 66,666) price on his head, according to a former Mong Tai Army (MTA) commander who used to work with Naw Kham before his (Naw Kham’s) surrender to the Burma Army together with Khun Sa in 1996.
    “The Chinese, Burmese and Thais all want him extradited each to their own country,” said a Burmese official source. “It’s up to Laos to decide what it should do with him.”
    Naw Kham, a native of Mongyai (a scion of the princely Mongyai House, according to a source), became a Burma Army-run militia chief in Tachilek following his surrender.
    On 10 January 2006, he became a fugitive after his home was raided and “countless numbers” of methamphetamine were seized by the authorities. Since then he had taken control of the cross-border trade and shipping, both legal and illegal, along the Mekong by collecting protection money from the traders.
    He was believed to be behind the killing of the 13 Chinese sailors, including two women, on the river six months earlier. The event had triggered Chinese law enforcement into the Triangle that finally led to his arrest.
    Lt-Gen Yawd Serk, leader of the Shan State Army (SSA), however said catching Naw Kham would not end lawlessness on the Mekong especially in the Golden Triangle. “It began well before Naw Kham appeared on the scene,” he said. “All will remember the 1967 Opium War which took place in the same area. To prevent these things from happening, cooperation from all those concerned is imperative. We, as citizens of Shan State (west bank of the Mekong), hope all those concerned will allow us to do our part.
     
  19. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

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    David,
    Thank you. Interesting reading. Maybe things will quieten down again for a while, with these guys out the way. One wonders whatever became of the missing 30 million Baht...
     
  20. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

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    [h=2]Looks like the authorities are going after Nor Kham's gang now. From Bangkok Post 3rd July 2012.
    =====

    Four held as Naw Kham's bases raided[/h] [h=3]Thai man suspected in Chinese sailors' murders[/h]

    Myanmar authorities have seized large quantities of heroin and speed pills and arrested four suspects during raids on areas under the control of Naw Kham, a suspected drug trafficker.
    Teams of Myanmar troops in Tachilek town have targeted Naw Kham's bases, said a Thai military source based at the border.

    They have particularly cracked down on operations in Samsamphu, Ban Pong, Muang Pong and other border villages opposite Rimlao village in Chiang Saen district of Thailand's Chiang Rai since June 30.
    More than 600,000 speed pills and 120 bars of heroin were seized and four drug suspects arrested in an area adjoining Myanmar, Thailand and Laos, about 7-10km north of the Golden Triangle.
    There have been reports that Myanmar troops have also joined forces in several areas with the Shan State Army, an ethnic armed group, to destroy precursor chemicals for the manufacture of drugs, the source said.
    Myanmar has joined China, Thailand and Laos in setting up a joint law enforcement team to protect cargo boats along the Mekong River following the murder of 13 Chinese men on Oct 5 last year. The victims were crew members of two Chinese-flagged cargo ships which were attacked by armed men.
    Laos subsequently arrested Naw Kham in April on suspicion of being linked to the murders. Laos extradited him to China on May 10.
    After Naw Kham was captured, at least 20 other suspected drug dealers in his gang surrendered to Myanmar authorities, said the source.
    Naw Kham is wanted by both Thai and Myanmar drug authorities.
    Meanwhile, a Thai police team investigating the attack on the the 13 Chinese crew members said a Thai man with a criminal record was behind the attack.
    The investigation team, headed by deputy national police chief Pansiri Prapawat, said Olarn Sompongphan, alias Chamras, had worked with the gang to attack the two Chinese boats.
    Mr Olarn was involved in illicit drugs and is also wanted for the murder of former deputy interior minister and former Chaiyaphum MP Santi Chaiwirattana in Chiang Rai last year, police said. He is believed to have fled to border areas under the control of Myanmar's Wa ethnic group.
    Pol Gen Pansiri yesterday said his team has questioned 109 witnesses and issued arrest warrants for nine soldiers for their suspected involvement in the murder of the 13 sailors.
    =====
     
  21. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    Still going.....so a bit more.......

    Mekong murder suspect adamant on denial From Shan News.
    Thursday, 09 August 2012

    Sai Aung Myat who is reported to have carried out the execution of 13 Chinese sailors near the Golden Triangle on 5 October 2011 has denied he had anything to do with the victims, according to a source close to his family.

    He was interrogated for two days, 7-8 August, by a team of Chinese investigators which included the ambassador and the police chief of Xixuangbanna (Sibsongpanna) Tai Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan province in Kengtung. The interrogation sessions were arranged by the regional Military Affairs Security (MAS).

    Also interrogated was Sai Tun Kala, another member of the erstwhile Mekong protection racket led by Sai Naw Kham, who was captured in Laos on 25 April, and is now under custody in Xixuangbanna. Both Chinese and Thai papers have quoted Chinese officials as saying he has confessed to the murders.

    Some of his followers, including Sai Aung Myat, later surrendered to the Burma Army in Tachilek.

    “Burmese authorities, in rejecting Chinese request to extradite him, said Aung Myat, unlike his boss, was not captured but had voluntarily surrendered and thus was entitled to the privilege,” said the source.

    His wife, Nang Awn, a native of Sarmpu village on the Mekong, is reportedly in Rangoon to solicit for his speedy release.

    Sai Naw Kham, a former officer in the now defunct Mong Tai Army led by the late Khun Sa and later a militia leader in Tachilek, had run a protection racket on the Mekong, 2006-2011, demanding payments for drugs going across the river and boats plying its waters near the Golden Triangle, where Burma, Laos and Thailand meet.

    “His capture has now led to a free for all for drug traffickers,” said a Shan businessman in the area to SHAN.

    Latest information says he was interrogated from 09:00-21:00 yesterday. The Chinese officials claimed he was not a Burmese national and therefore should be extradited. Burmese officials, as a result, are coming down to Tachilek today to check the official records there.
     
  22. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    Some more background history on the curent wheeling & dealing to open the borders a bit more..

     
  23. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    The story continues..the murder of the Chinese sailors on the Mekong....

     
  24. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

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    latest report from Bangkok Post 30th September 2012;

    [h=2]Mekong River bandit's powerful friends dry up[/h] [h=3]Naw Kham, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to the murders of 13 Chinese sailors, is now in custody, armed with potentially explosive information about those in power in Myanmar who are cashing in on the Golden Triangle's drug trade[/h]

    Naw Kham has been labelled a pirate, drug lord, murderer, racketeer, godfather and spy. He is listed as a fugitive on Interpol's Wanted Persons index. Earlier this year, both the Thai and Chinese governments placed Naw Kham on top of their most wanted foreigners lists, with Thailand offering a US$65,000 (two million baht) bounty for his capture.
    430787. a delegation of Chinese authorities led by Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu, visit Chiang Rai to inspect the scene of the murders north of Chiang Saen district.

    Backtrack to Oct 11, 2011, the day that Chinese prosecutors allege Naw Kham and his men ambushed two Chinese cargo ships, the Hua Ping and the Yu Xing 8, near Thailand's Chiang Saen and murdered 13 sailors.
    The bodies of some of the 13 murdered crew members were later found floating in the river _ masking tape gagged their mouths, their hands were tied and some had multiple gunshots to the head. Chinese citizens and authorities were outraged as gruesome photographs and videos appeared on websites showing the murdered men's bodies being retrieved from the river by Thai authorities.
    China was quick to respond to the growing domestic anger at the killing of its citizens in Thailand and called for the establishment of better law enforcement and security cooperation between the four countries along the Mekong River. In response to China's urgency, senior ministers from China, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar met in late October and agreed to beef up joint security patrols to secure transportation routes along the Mekong River.
    Naw Kham was named as the main suspect in the murderous attack on two cargo ships that killed the 13 sailors. The attack took place in the notorious Golden Triangle region where the Mekong twists its way along the jungles and borders of Thailand, Laos and Burma before flowing down to Cambodia and Vietnam.
    In response to the killings, China launched a massive six-month manhunt that resulted in the capture in Laos of Naw Kham and five of his officers in April this year. Naw Kham and his men last week went on trail in the Yunnan city of Kunming, charged with murder, drug trafficking, kidnapping and hijacking and face a possible death sentence.
    China's official Xinhua news agency reported that Naw Kham told police at the time of his arrest that he launched the killing spree on the boats because they had refused to pay him ''protection money''.
    During the second day of his trial, Naw Kham retracted his earlier confession and while admitting he was the gang's ''boss'' told the court he did not order the attack and blamed a renegade group of Thai soldiers, an accusation the military has rejected.
    However, by Sept 21 Naw Kham had reversed his plea to guilty after the five co-defendants testified against him, Chinese state media reported. Naw Kham begged for leniency and he will be sentenced following a review of the case by Chinese judges.
    GETTING STARTED
    The Golden Triangle area has a well deserved reputation for being out of the control of law enforcers. For decades, it has been home to the world's largest illicit drug producers, armed gangs, drug-runners, smugglers, illegal loggers, illegal wildlife poachers, people traffickers and rogue military units who battle for the vast profit that comes with territorial control of the waterways and mountain passes.
    Khuensai Jaiyen, author of the 2012 ''Shan Drug Watch'' report, explains that Naw Kham, 43, has been in and around the Golden Triangle's drugs and violence trade for most of his adult life.
    ''He was a captain and an administrator in Khun Sa's Mong Tai Army until he surrendered to the military regime in 1996 _ Naw Kham had to surrender, he had no choice.''
    During the 1980s and early 1990s, Khun Sa was the Golden Triangle's most notorious drug figure. His Mong Tai Army, fuelled by opium and heroin money, was estimated to be more than 10,000 strong and well armed. At the height of Khun Sa's reign he was labelled the Golden Triangle's Opium King, the Prince of Darkness and was regarded as the world's biggest heroin dealer. It was reported that before he surrendered to the Myanmar regime in 1996, the US Drug Enforcement Administration had offered a $2 million bounty for his capture.
    A report by the Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN), ''Hand in Glove'', details the close connections between the Myanmar army and the drug trade. The report documents that Naw Kham had been living in the Myanmar border town of Tachilek since his surrender to the country's military in 1996 and was leader of a 100-strong People's Militia Force, also known as the Hawngleuk Militia.
    The SHAN report notes that a ''raid by Myanmar authorities on Jan 10, 2006, at his home in Tachilek netted 150 assorted weapons, two compressors and countless numbers of methamphetamines''.
    Local militia sources at the time said that, ''the amount [of drugs] if sold could have bought up the whole town''.
    Despite the numerous regional drug agencies and media reports naming Naw Kham as a serious criminal _ extortionist, major drug trafficker, kidnapper and racketeer _ he had managed for nearly a decade to avoid efforts by the region's law enforcement agencies to capture him.
    Regional security officers say Naw Kham benefited from the ''protection and blessings'' of both villagers and Myanmar's military in the Tachilek and Kentung area of Shan State. Villagers who supported Naw Kham are said to have ''anointed'' him as a ''Robin Hood'', for the doling out of money he extorted from Mekong shipping, often giving wads of cash to entire villages.
    A member of Naw Kham's family admitted to Spectrum in a telephone interview that he had close ties with many of the region's authorities, but since his arrest by the Chinese ''no one wants to know him any more _ he's now on his own''.
    Naw Kham's sister, Nang Nyunt Aye, blames Naw Kham's closest aide for leading the authorities to where her brother was hiding out in rural Laos. She said that at the time of her brother's arrest he was down to his last 5,000 baht and armed with one pistol. She also said he had grown up disadvantaged, had left school at the age of nine and was barely literate.
    Regional law enforcers allege that Naw Kham's heavily armed group has been terrorising Mekong River shipping since 2006. Speaking on Chinese television, Xian Yan Ming, from the Yunnan Public Security Bureau, said, ''[Naw Kham] committed crimes including kidnapping, killings, drug production and racketeering. The evidence shows that since 2008, in 28 crimes against Chinese vessels, 16 people were killed and three injured.''
    Xinhua reported that Xian Yanming, the deputy director of the Yunnan Provincial Public Security Bureau said, ''The prosecution case is that Naw Kham's criminal gang colluded with renegade Thai soldiers in premeditated attacks on Chinese ships.''
    It seems Naw Kham's Mekong crime spree did pay. Figures from Yunnan Provincial Public Security Bureau quoted in the China Daily newspaper indicate that Naw Kham earned around $63 million from his river banditry.
    Hu Zujun, an officer from China's Narcotics Control Bureau, said on Chinese television that Naw Kham's gang was heavily armed and dangerous.
    ''The guy was equipped with very modern weapons, exceeding what we had expected.''
    Chinese police reports claim that Naw Kham's gang used AK47s, M16 assault rifles, rocket launchers and grenade launchers in their river attacks.
    The 2012 ''Shan Drug Watch'' report states that despite Myanmar government reforms, the country's opium production has surged in the last year, poppy cultivation was reported in 49 out of 55 townships in Shan State.
    The report noted that many of the People's Militia Forces (PMF), set up by the Myanmar army, have spawned many of the ''key players in the drug trade, both heroin and ATS [amphetamine type stimulants]''.
    Khuensai Jaiyen said media stories at the time of Naw Kham's arrest glossed over the fact that he built his drug and racketeering empire while serving as a Myanmar army militia leader in Tachileik.
    A regional security officer acknowledged that the arrest of Naw Kham could open a political can of worms.
    ''The Chinese have said in open source materials that they are pushing for the death penalty for him, but in reality, they will want names of those running with him, they want the bigger players behind him.''
    The security officer noted that Myanmar still generates around 40% of its export dollars from narcotics _ most of the drugs produced in the Golden Triangle area of Myanmar.
    ''The region's lawlessness is still a massive test for all countries in the region, including China. The drugs and other crimes are not going to go away, unless the governments in the region tackle those making the big money _ on all sides of the border _ from illegal logging, drugs, gambling and trafficking.''
     
  25. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

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    I enjoy greatly the follow-ons to this thread like those added by Ian & David amongst others. This thread started as a means to provide travellers with information concerning the area in which they were travelling so as to enhance their experience. At a time when Myanmar is 'opening up', &, especially, at a time when access to Myanmar via more remote points along the Thai-Myanmar border is well 'tempting', reports such as these provide a timely reminder for adventurers.

    I look forward to updates from Prof. Alf Mc Coy should anyone come across any such reports in their reading.
     
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