A week after the attack and grisly killing (and disappearance) of 13 Chinese crewmen and women in the Golden Triangle, where Burma, Laos and Thailand meet, many are still asking who did it and why.
There are few who doubt the involvement (direct or indirect) of Naw Kham, the godfather of the protection ring whose members have been collecting fees from ships and traders crisscrossing and plying the Mekong from China’s Da Gong Lui and Jinghong to Thailand’s Chiang Saen, and shooting those who refuse to play by his rules.
The question is why there had to be such an incident. SHAN has accordingly asked several knowledgeable people in the area. What emerges out of it is a grim picture of business rivalry among the local entrepreneurs.
According to the sources, the Kings Romans Casino, established in 2007 by Chinese tycoon Zhao Wei, on the Laotian district of Tonpheung, opposite Thailand’s Chiang Saen, has damaged other gambling businesses in the area, notably those established inside Burma in Tachilek, such as Allure, Regina, Mekong River and Golden Triangle Paradise Resort.
Previously, Zhao Wei had been operating the Landong casino in Burma’s Mongla, opposite China’s Daluo, under the control of the half Chinese-half Shan Sai Leun aka Lin Mingxian. A former communist commander, Lin emerged as one of the most important heroin kingpins until he declared his territory drug-free in 1997.
Naturally, despite Mongla’s vigorous denial that each has gone separate ways in 2007, many still find it hard to believe.
On 26 September, Kings Romans and its surrounding area was stormed by Chinese and Laotian officials, who, according to the Thai press, found 2 sacks of drugs and 50 million baht ($ 1.7 million) in cash. The haul, however, was not enough to close off the casino, which has been granted a 99 year lease.
The result was the 7 October seizure of two Chinese cargo ships by Thailand’s Pha Mueng Force near Chiang Saen. The haul included 12 bodies, hands tied and handcuffed and blindfolded, plus 920,000 speed pills, according to Bangkok Post. At least one of the ships is believed to belong to one of Zhao Wei’s associates.
The inevitable conclusion was that Zhao Wei and Mongla has seized/ used the ships for drug trafficking, but somehow the plan went wrong and the drugs landed in the hands of Thai authorities.
The local businesspeople, however, thought the story was overly simplified:
- For one thing, Zhao Wei would not have used cargo ships to transfer the drug shipments, especially when all officials are all eyes on him and Mongla after the 26 September raid
- For another, it was hard to imagine why the smugglers had time to kill the crew but not have time to escape with their goods
“The whole affair smacks of conspiracy,” said a businessman in Kengtung who claimed to know Zhao Wei. “I think he would have handled it more professionally, if it were him.”
Mongla, the seat of the ceasefire group National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), meanwhile said it has been grilled by Chinese authorities about the Mekong incident.
The group, together with its more notorious ally the United Wa State Army (UWSA) recently signed agreements with Naypyitaw (UWSA on 1 October and NDAA on 9 October) to cooperate in its 15 year master plan to eliminate drugs by 2014.
Above is the gist of the interview given by SHAN to Thai PBS TV, 12 October 2011.