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Multinational police operation crushes Mekong drug gangs, says China

By Tim Hume, CNN
updated 2:46 AM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
Authorities in Myanmar burn drugs seized across the country for a ceremony against drug abuse and trafficking last month.
Authorities in Myanmar burn drugs seized across the country for a ceremony against drug abuse and trafficking last month.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Chinese state media report success of a major joint anti-drug operation
  • China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand worked together to make over 2,000 arrests
  • Nearly 10 tonnes of drugs were seized over two months
  • The 'Golden Triangle' area in southeast Asia is a major drug-producing region

(CNN) -- A joint operation between police from China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand has resulted in 2,534 arrests during a two-month anti-drug campaign along the Mekong River, reported Chinese state media Xinhua.

The operation, named "Safe River," has led to 9.78 tonnes of drugs being seized, along with 38 firearms, $3.6 million and 260 tonnes of precursor chemicals, Liu Yuejin, director general of the Ministry of Public Security's Narcotics Control Bureau told a press conference

Liu said 1,784 drug-related cases were solved during the campaign, which ran from April 20 to June 20, the news agency reported.

The Mekong River runs through China, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam -- including southeast Asia's Golden Triangle region, one of the world's major drug-producing areas -- forming a major trade route in the region.

Xinhua previously reported that one raid, conducted by China and Myanmar police on May 12, busted a Myanmarese ring engaged in smuggling methamphetamine into China, while another series of busts in China's Yunnan and Hunan provinces saw the arrest of 35 involved in importing drugs from foreign countries for distribution in China.

In March, China executed four foreign drug traffickers who had been convicted of murdering 13 Chinese sailors along a stretch of the Mekong in northern Thailand in 2011, state media reported.

Thai authorities discovered the gruesome murder scene in October 2011, after boarding two cargo ships, the Hua Ping and Yu Xing 8, that had come under gunfire. They found 12 dead bodies, some with their hands bound. One sailor was missing.

Chinese authorities identified one of the convicted men as a Myanmar drug lord named Naw Kham, with the other three -- believed to be members of his gang -- named as Hsang Kham from Thailand, Yi Lai, referred to as "stateless," and Zha Xika, a Laotian, Xinhua reported.

The agency reported that Kham was nicknamed as "the Godfather," saying that his was "the largest armed drug trafficking gang on the Mekong River."

In an interview from his prison cell with state broadcaster CCTV, Kham appeared to express regret about his past.

"The Golden Triangle area is a place of evil," he said, referring to area that overlaps the mountains of Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. "It turns good people bad.

"People come here doing business, but they couldn't resist the temptation of drugs, then they become drug dealers too."

CNN's Paul Armstrong contributed to this report.

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