At least 12 Chinese crew members were killed and the remaining one was still missing in Thailand yesterday after two Chinese-flagged cargo ships they were onboard were hijacked by armed drug traffickers on Wednesday, a local report said.
According to the Bangkok Post, the remains of the 12 had been recovered from the Mekong River in Chiang Rai's Chiang Saen district.
The report said that the bodies of three Chinese men, with their hands tied and handcuffed behind their backs, were found on Friday, and the other nine bodies, also believed to be Chinese, were found on Saturday.
Local police told the newspaper that most of the nine bodies had also been blindfolded, tied and handcuffed. All remains had been sent to Chiang Saen hospital for autopsies.
In response to the incident, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing ordered the embassy in Thailand and consulate in Chiang Rai to launch all-out searches for the two Chinese nationals who were still missing - one of whom was later found dead - and to investigate the incident, the ministry said on its website.
The Bangkok Post said that all the Chinese men were on board two Chinese-flagged cargo ships, named the Hua Ping and the Yu Xing 8, when they were hijacked by two unknown armed vessels.
Guo Zhiqiang, a shareholder of the Yu Xing 8, confirmed yesterday afternoon that the cargo ship had been seized, China Network Television reported.
Local police identified the first handcuffed body as Huang Yong.
Huang, 30, was the captain of the Hua Ping, which was seized by soldiers of the Pa Muang task force during an anti-drug-trafficking operation on the Mekong River on Wednesday after a clash with drug traffickers, the Bangkok Post reported.
The report added that Huang's ship, which was carrying garlic and apples, and the Yu Xing 8, which was transporting fuel, were thought to have been hijacked earlier by the traffickers. The attackers, who wanted to use the ships to smuggle drugs into Thailand from Burma, were believed to have killed Huang and his crew.
The Pa Muang task force said it killed one suspected trafficker on the Yu Xing 8 during a firefight.
The soldiers had reportedly seized 520,000 Ecstasy pills in three sacks on the Hua Ping and 400,000 on the Yu Xing 8, all of which were valued at 100 million baht (HK$24.7 million), the report said.