Nine Thai soldiers to face military court over killing of Chinese sailors
Nine Thai soldiers have turned themselves in and will face a military court over the killing of 13 Chinese sailors on the Mekong River near the kingdom's northern border earlier this month, according to Thailand's police chief.
Xinhua quoted Thai Police General Priewpan Damapong as saying that the suspects were from the Thai army's Third Military Command, which guards the border area.
The soldiers gave themselves up on Friday in northern Chiang Rai province, the agency's report said, without offering further details of the surrender.
The report said Damapong promised a full investigation into the deaths, saying the men might have been acting on the orders of some local kingpins.
The Chinese sailors were aboard two cargo ships on October 5 when they were shot dead by gunmen on a section of the Mekong River that forms the border of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar.
Thai police later discovered the bodies and pulled them from the water.
Deputy minister of public security Zhang Xinfeng was sent to Thailand with a team of police investigators to work with Thai police.
Zhang was quoted by Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television as saying that the surrender of the nine suspects meant the reasons for the murders would be revealed soon.
Early reports said most of the victims were blindfolded with adhesive tape before being shot.
The area, known as the Golden Triangle, is notorious for the production and trafficking of heroin and other illicit drugs.
The Shanghai Morning Post said Damapong did not go into detail about any link between the sailors' deaths and the drugs found on board.
It said the suspects would face a Thai military court over the alleged murders and subsequent dumping of the bodies.
According to the report, Thai police complained of being under great pressure from the start of the case.
At one point, it threatened to trigger a full diplomatic crisis, with China summoning envoys from Thailand, Laos and Myanmar to ask them to speed up the investigation.
'However, there was nothing we could do because of the limits of our powers,' one police officer was quoted as saying.
The officer said all key evidence on the two Chinese vessels was collected by the Thai army as, traditionally, army officers have priority over police at crime scenes.
In a telephone call yesterday to Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to offer sympathy over the flooding in the country, Premier Wen Jiabao called on the Thai government to punish the killers according to the law.
The value, in HK dollars, of amphetamine pills found by Thai authorities on one of the Chinese cargo ships on the Mekong River