Thai soldiers surrender over killing of 13 Chinese sailors

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 30, 2011 1:08 AM

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Nine Thai soldiers have turned themselves in to police over the killing of 13 Chinese sailors on the Mekong river near the Thai-Myanmar border, Thai police said Sunday.

The victims were crew members on two cargo ships attacked on October 5 in the "Golden Triangle," where the borders of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos meet, a region notorious for drug smuggling.

A police chief in northern Thailand's Chiang Saen district, which is on the Mekong near the Myanmar border, said two officers were among the nine who turned themselves in on Friday.

"They're all soldiers," police superintendent Phopkorn Kooncharoensuk told Reuters by telephone. "They came in and surrendered to police."

Phopkorn declined to give any details, saying the case was being investigated.

China had demanded a swift investigation of the killings and urged countries in the region to ensure the safety of its sailors.

The Mekong flows out of China and forms the border between Myanmar and Laos, and then Thailand and Laos. It later flows through Cambodia and Vietnam to the sea.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung said police had "solid evidence" suggesting that weapons were fired from Thailand at the Chinese cargo ships when the 13 were killed, the Nation newspaper reported Sunday.

But Chalerm said the incident was "personal" and had nothing to do with the Thai army, the newspaper said.

(Reporting by Apornrath Phoonphongphiphat; Writing by Robert Birsel)