The extradition of Burmese drug lord Naw Kham to China from Laos this month shows the increased cooperation of Golden Triangle countries in fighting lawlessness in the area, according to a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) official.
“The joint cooperation shown in this arrest demonstrates the good relations and common goal to ensure security and stability shared by all countries in the region,” UNODC Country Representative for Laos and Deputy Regional Representative Liek Boonwaat told the Xinhua news agency.
For decades, the Golden Triangle region bordering Laos, Thailand and Burma along the Mekong River has been beyond the hand of the law, offering refuge to drug lords, armed ethnic groups and bandits. The area is a major source of opium and illegal amphetamines. Liek Boonwaat said that co-operation between the regional authorities should help improve the situation.
Information sharing between Lao and Chinese authorities was instrumental in the successful arrest of Naw Kham.
Senior cabinet members from China, Laos, Burma and Thailand met in Beijing on Oct. 31 last year, and agreed to take joint action to crack down on cross-border crime and secure transportation corridors along the Mekong River.
Under the framework of the “Law Enforcement Cooperation along the Mekong River Mechanism,” the four countries established joint intelligence exchanges, patrols along the river and law enforcement programs to deal with public order, combating transnational crimes and emergency events, according to reports.
Naw Kham, 44, was arrested in western Laos on April 25 where he was suspected of attempting to negotiate a drug deal. He was No. 1 on China’s “most wanted” list. He and his followers have been linked to the shooting of 13 Chinese sailors on the river on October 5, 2011.
“The arrest of Naw Kham and the reported surrender of 30 of his followers would indicate that drug trafficking and piracy committed by a major group in the Golden Triangle area has ended,” Boonwaat told Xinhua.
Boonwaat said the arrest was a major event, but that “socio-economic development and poverty reduction in these remote areas is essential to long term security.”
Though Naw Kham has been linked by Chinese and Lao officials with last year’s murder of nine Chinese sailors on the Mekong River, members of Thailand's Pha Muang Taskforce have also been implicated. The case is far from clear, but China's prosecution of Naw Kham could bring more details to light, said the Xinhua report.