Thirteen Chinese Sailors Massacred by Thai Meth Mob
A grisly event in South East Asia highlights the region's developing meth-driven drug war.
In one of the grisliest incidents of the drug war in South East Asia in recent memory, the corpses of thirteen Chinese sailors have been found by Thai authorities on the Mekong River. The victims, including two female cooks, were blindfolded, bound, and shot dead. They're believed to be the crew members of two Chinese cargo ships that were hijacked last week by Thai drug gangs—the boats were recaptured in a firefight with Thai police and 950,000 methamphetamine pills were discovered on board. It's unclear whether the meth was loaded onto the boats by the Thai gangs, or whether it was already being shipped from China. Thai military officials blame a drug trafficking ring led by 40-year-old kingpin Nor Kham—who operates out of northeast Burma and is a wanted man in both Burma and Thailand—for the attacks. Authorities speculate that the Chinese ships neglected to hand over protection money and paid the price. The Chinese government has reacted defensively, suspending cargo and passenger trips along the Mekong river. The region along the border of Burma, Laos, and Thailand—known as the “golden triangle”—is the center of methamphetamine production in Asia, although China has also produced vast amounts of meth since the 1990s. Ephedrine, the base of methamphetamine, is derived from a native Chinese herb—“mao,” AKA "yaba"—which has an important role in Chinese medicine. The UN estimates there are between 3.5 million and 20 million methamphetamine users in South East Asia: such a broad range only serves to illustrate how badly understood the problem is. In 2009, countries in South East Asia collectively reported a 250% jump in methamphetamine arrests, as well as an increasing trend of injecting methamphetamine, which leads to a corresponding jump in HIV and other diseases among users.