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China begins trial of "Mekong Massacre'" suspect

Burmese gangster thought to be responsible for the murder of 13 Chinese sailors in Thailand

Mekong River boatman XayaburiEnlarge
A boatman on the Mekong River, which is already experiencing major effects from dams built in China. The Xayaburi Dam on the Laotian part of the river could have devastating consequences for those who make their livings along the Mekong. (Samantha Page/GlobalPost)

It's reckoning time for Burmese gangster Naw Kham, implicated in the July 2011 "Mekong Massacre" that saw the deaths of 13 Chinese sailors on a hijacked shipping vessel in Thailand. 

The Telegraph reports that 44-year-old Kham, who is ethnically Shan, is a known Golden Triangle drug trafficker and pirate—who didn't hesitate to use violence to achieve his goals. 

Read more: Naw Kham to go on trial this week - Irrawaddy Magazine

Kham allegedly murdered the sailors when they refused to cough up protection money for the right to traverse a stretch of water he considered his own. 

CRI English reports that Kham "commited crimes including kidnapping, killing, robbery, drug producing, and racketeerring" during his reign of terror over the Mekong Delta region, commanding in the region of 100 armed thugs. 

The sailors murders prompted the Chinese to send gunboat patrols to the Mekong region, reported the New York TImes.

Kham and five accomplices are currently standing trial for the murders in the southern Chinese city of Kunming, reports CRI English, and Kham has already denied that he planned the killings. However, the five other defendents were more than wiling to positively ID Kham as the master-mind. 

Read more: Background: Life of Naw Kham - CRI English

Tracking down Kham was no easy task for Chinese authorities, who pursued him through Thailand and Laos, where he continually evaded them. Kham was finally brought in and extradited from Laos to China on April 25. 

The sensational case is playing big in the Chinese media, especially as Kham is one of a small number of foreign criminals extradited to China for trial. There are rumors that China payed Laos handsomely for the right to remove him.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/myanmar/120920/china-begins-trial-mekong-massacre-suspect