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China Executes Foreign Killers of Mekong Fishermen

Convicted murderer Naw Kham is led from his cell in Yunnan, China (1 March 2013)Four foreign men have been executed in China for the murder of 13 Chinese fishermen on the Mekong river in 2011, state media report.

The men were put to death by lethal injection in Kunming, Yunnan province.

CCTV News broadcast live footage of the men being taken from their cells to the execution site, though it did not show the moment of death.

Many social media users in China have reacted angrily, condemning the broadcast as insensitive.

Among the prisoners was Naw Kham, a Burmese man thought to have been one of the most powerful warlords in the Golden Triangle of Thailand, Laos and Burma.

The fishermen were found dead inside two Chinese cargo ships in October 2011 on the Thai side of the river.

State media said Naw Kham and his subordinates had collaborated with Thai soldiers in launching an attack on the ships, the Hua Ping and Yu Xing.

The other men were Hsang Kham from Thailand, Yi Lai, who is stateless, and Zha Xika from Laos, said the Xinhua news agency.

Social media users in China spoke out against the men being paraded in front of cameras, in what some are saying was a throw-back to the execution rallies of China’s past.
River security

The group were arrested in Burma and brought to China in May last year, after Beijing said the attack had happened on board Chinese-flagged ships.

In November, they were found guilty of intentional homicide, drug trafficking, kidnapping and hijacking.

Two other members of the gang were also convicted – one received a death sentence with reprieve and the other eight years in prison.

Thailand launched an investigation into the allegations against nine of its soldiers.

China’s state media had earlier said that after finals appeals, the four would be executed by lethal injection on Friday. Xinhua said they had had their “legal rights fully respected” while on death row.

The attack came amid a wave of hijacking of vessels sailing on the Mekong which were blamed on gangs operating in the notorious drug-trafficking region.

China, Burma, Laos and Thailand launched joint security patrols on the Mekong in response.

Li Zhuqun, a senior international co-operation official at China’s Ministry of Public Security said the gang had now been broken up, but that “efforts to ensure the safety of the Mekong River will continue”.

“We will continue patrols and law enforcement co-operation with the other three countries to safeguard shipping on the river,” he told China Daily.

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