China suspended ships going through the Golden Triangle yesterday after attacks by suspected drug traffickers on two Chinese cargo ships left 13 people dead or missing on the Mekong River.
The bodies of 12 crew members were found near Chiang Rai on Friday and Saturday after the ships were hijacked Wednesday, the China Daily reported. Another body was found in the same area early yesterday, China’s Xinhua news agency said.
Most of the victims had been bound and blindfolded with adhesive tape and shot, the China Daily reported. The crew included two female cooks, it said.
The Golden Triangle region, where the borders of Burma, Laos and Thailand meet, is notorious for the production and trafficking of heroin and other illicit drugs.
Thai authorities seized both boats after a gun battle with the hijackers and found cargo that included speed pills worth Bt100 million, garlic, apples and fuel.
Thai Army officials reportedly said a gang run by suspected ethnic Shan drug trafficker Nor Kham was believed to be behind the attacks. It said the gang demands protection money from ships it hijacks on the Mekong and kills crew members who refuse to cooperate.
The boats were used to smuggle drugs from Burma to Thailand, the police said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told a daily news conference yesterday China had suspended shipping from Yunnan down the Mekong and had sent a team to help investigate the killings. He said China had appealed to Thailand to boost security on the river.
He put the number of dead at 11 crew, with another two missing.
In April, three Chinese boats and 34 crew members were taken hostage by pirates along the Mekong in Burma but were safely rescued within days.
In related news, Thai Narcotics Suppression Police yesterday announced two separate drug busts, in which they seized some 900,000 “ya ba” methamphetamine tablets.