Burmese Drug Kingpin Transferred to China: Report

By Saw Yan Naing 27 April 2012

One of Burma’s most infamous suspected drug traffickers, Naw Kham, has been transferred to China for interrogation after his capture by authorities in Laos early on Thursday, according to Thailand-based newspaper the Bangkok Post.

His arrest comes just days after he was included on Thailand’s most wanted list with a two million baht (US $64,000) reward on his head.

Naw Kham is an ethnic Shan from Burma who was allegedly a former aide of late drug warlord Khun Sa—the former leader of the now defunct Shan rebel Mong Thai Army. He also became China’s most wanted suspected criminal as Beijing believes he was responsible for an attack against a Chinese boat on the Mekong River on Oct. 5 which killed 13 crewmen.

According to the Bangkok Post, a Thai security source claims that Naw Kham, his Laotian aide Tao Maitaeng and six other collaborates were captured on Thursday during a raid in Laos’s Tonpheung District of Bokeo Province—just across from Thailand’s Chiang Rai Province. He was immediately sent to China after his capture, claims the English language paper.

However, Khunsai Jaiyen, editor of the Thailand-based Shan Herald Agency for News, said that Naw Kham is still being detained at a location nearby Bokeo and has not yet been transferred to China.

He said that the Chinese authorities reportedly offered two million yuan ($320,000) for Naw Kham’s capture. Naw Kham himself is rumored to have bid 20 million baht ($640,000) to be released on bail.

“All China, Burma and Thailand want him,” said Jaiyen. “So he has also bid 20 million baht for his release.”

When contacted by The Irrawaddy, officials at Thailand’s Office of Narcotics Control Board declined to confirm the arrest of Naw Kham and said they were unaware of his present whereabouts.

Chiang Rai police chief Surachet Thopoonyanont told the Bangkok Post that China may still allow Naw Kham to face charges in Thailand at a later date because a number of arrest warrants remain outstanding in the Kingdom in connection to previous drug cases.