Like it or not, 9 Thai military officers charged by the police on 28 October killing 13 Chinese crewmen and women on 5 October in the Golden Triangle where Burma, Laos and Thailand meet, are almost certain to be acquitted by the end of the trial, according to Thai military and business sources.
The said 9 officers, 2 commissioned and 7 non-commissioned, are being detained under two charges: premeditated murder of 13 people and removal of their remains.
The officers claim that they had been fired upon by a gunman from one of two Chinese cargo ships near Chiang Saen, a Thai port on the Mekong on 5 October. They had returned the fire and, after boarding the ships, found one dead gunman and 920,000 speed pills.
The Phamueng Force, presided over by their commander Maj Gen Prakarn Cholayuth, held a press conference on the next day, 6 October.
Things seemed to be going well until the following day, when 11 (some say 12) corpses were seen floating down to near Chiang Saen, many of them handcuffed, tied behind their backs, blindfolded and shot to death.
China that had recalled its more than 100 boats plying the river expressed satisfaction with the turnout of the case. The Mekong however remains close to Chinese ships.
“To charge us with the murder is one thing,” said an angry Thai border a security officer. “But to prove that we did it is another. One think piece, had our people been the real culprits, the corpses should have been found further downstream two days after the shooting took place. For another, why should we let it float near Chiang Saen to implicate ourselves?”
Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha also appears to believe in his own men when he told Matichon Online on 3 November 2011 that the officers had not “surrendered themselves” to the police but only gone to meet them “to demonstrate their innocence.”
The corpses must have drifted down from upstream, part of the river belonging to Burma and Laos, the source said. “Of course, we are not accusing Burma or Laos. But it’s an open secret that Naw Kham is operating in that area.”
Naw Kham, a former Burma Army-backed militia leader, has been active in the Golden Triangle collecting protection money from businesses, both legal and illegal, along the river.
A businessman in Chiang Saen agreed. “Everyone of us would gladly pay to know why Naw Kham can operate there when bigger and more well-armed groups like MTA (Mong Tai Army of the late Khun Sa), UWSA (United Wa State Army) and SSA (Shan State Army) are being kept out,” he said.
Sources believe Naw Kham is more or less responsible for the killing. SHAN so far is unable to reach him. One local source (usually reliable) say he is taking refuge in an area under the command of the Burma Armys Mongphyak-based Military Operations Command #18. “Unless he says something,” he worried, “I’m afraid he will be getting all the blame for the killing.”
Meanwhile, other sources are pointing fingers at Zhao Wei, owner of the Kings Romans Casino in Laos, opposite Burma’s Golden Triangle Paradise Resort Hotel in Tachilek, as one of the likely suspects. Kings Romans is incidentally located at 1967 battlefield between Khun Sa and the Kuomintang.