China considered using drone in Myanmar to kill wanted drug lord
After wanted Naw Kham eluded capture, China weighed using unmanned aircraft on foreign soil
The hunt for a Myanmese drug lord wanted for killing 13 Chinese sailors in 2011 could have ended with a drone strike launched on foreign soil, China's top drug tsar told the Global Times newspaper.
Liu Yuejin, director of the public security ministry's anti-drug bureau, said one of the plans to end the months-long manhunt for drug lord Naw Kham was to strafe a mountain hideout in northeastern Myanmar using unmanned aircraft.
Naw Kham was the ringleader of a large drug trafficking outfit based in the Golden Triangle - the mountainous drug-producing region in Southeast Asia covering areas of Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
"One plan was to use an unmanned aerial vehicle to carry 20kg of TNT to bomb the area, but the plan was rejected because we were ordered to catch him alive," Liu told the newspaper, published by People's Daily.
According to the report, if the plan had been carried out, China's Beidou satellite navigation system would have guided the drones into Myanmar - a move that would have sparked international controversy.
China recently announced plans to step up development of what is believed to be its nascent drone technology, which it says will be used for peaceful surveillance. It unveiled eight unmanned aircraft models at November's Zhuhai air show.
Chinese police took part in one of their first overseas operations in late 2011 after the hijacking of two cargo ships on the Mekong River in Thailand left 13 sailors dead in October that year.
Joint investigations by police from China, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar eventually linked the attack to Naw Kham and triggered a region-wide manhunt. China sent its own task force to the Mekong.
According to Liu, who headed the taskforce, Naw Kham had escaped capture at least three times because his team was "limited in what they could do overseas".
Naw Kham was eventually arrested in April 2012 during a night ambush in Laos and extradited to China. Naw Kham and four of his accomplices are awaiting execution after being sentenced to death by a Yunnan court in November.