Fighting chance for ‘Mekong Godfather’

Convicted ‘godfather’ of Mekong Naw Kham still has a chance, though slim, of escaping a death sentence, according to sources on the border.

He had withdrawn his guilty plea in court on 20 December after being sentenced for the murder of 13 sailors on the Mekong on 5 October 2011.

The Intermediate People’s Court of Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, also sentenced 3 of his colleagues to death and another to 8 year jail. The Yunnan higher court later upheld the verdict.

According to an informed source, his subordinates, especially Hsang Kham and Yilai, appear to be impossible to elude the court decision. “They were caught by the close circuit TV camera,” he said. “But with Naw Kham, it (his guilt) was only by conjecture: authorities believed the killing wouldn’t have been carried out without his orders.”

Six appellants convicted of murdering 13 Chinese sailors on the Mekong River in 2011 hear their verdict at a court in Kunming, capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province, Dec. 26, 2012. The Provincial Higher People's Court of Yunnan on Wednesday rejected appeals from the six people who were convicted of intentional homicide, drug trafficking, kidnapping and hijacking by a local court in Kunming last November. The provincial higher court upheld death penalties for the case's prime convicts Naw Kham, the Myanmar drug lord, and three of his right-hand men. The court also sustained sentences for the two other Myanmar convicts, known by their Chinese names Zha Bo and Zha Tuobo. They were handed a death sentence with two-year reprieve and eight years in prison, respectively. (Xinhua/Liu Xuebin)

Naw Kham himself said he did not order the sailors to be killed.

A Thai legal consultant agrees. “You must know by now that lawyers don’t play by the truth, but only by the rules,” he told SHAN. “They (truth and rules) are not always the same.”

Naw Kham is being defended by a Hong Kong-based lawyer. His appeal now awaits final decision from Beijing.

Naw Kham, 43, who is a dead ringer for Thai action star Ake Rangsiriroj, had been an officers in the Mong Tai Army led by the late Khun Sa (1934-2007) until he surrendered in 1996. He then became a Burma Army run People’s Militia Force (PMF) leader in Tachilek. He escaped his government captors in 2006 to appear on the Mekong in the Golden Triangle area, where Burma, Laos and Thailand meet to run a protection racket. He was caught on 25 April 2012 in Laos.


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