VIENTIANE/BEIJING, May 10 (Xinhua) -- A drug lord suspected of masterminding the murder of 13 Chinese sailors on the Mekong River last year was escorted to Beijing from Laos Thursday afternoon, according to the Ministry of Public Security.
Naw Kham, head of an armed drug gang, was arrested on April 25 at an undisclosed location and has been sent to China via a chartered plane.
Liu Yuejin, director of the Narcotics Control Bureau of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, said China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand successfully worked together to arrest Naw Kham and the gang's core members, as well as maintain safety and stability along the Mekong River.
The gang had more than 100 members and was armed with assault rifles, bazookas and machine guns. They are believed to have engaged in drug trafficking, kidnapping, murder, looting and other crimes along the Mekong River for many years.
Liu said a joint police investigation in China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand found that Naw Kham, core members of the gang and a small number of Thai soldiers planned and conducted the murder of 13 Chinese sailors on two cargo ships on Oct. 5 last year.
According to a statement released Thursday by the ministry, the gang is believed to be behind 28 robberies and gun-related crimes directed at Chinese vessels and citizens since 2008, resulting in 16 deaths and three injuries.
The Oct. 5 incident devastated economic and trade activity on the Mekong River, as cargo traffic plunged by 90 percent after the crime, the statement said.
The Chinese government previously ordered a thorough investigation into the case, asking for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
Senior cabinet members from China, Laos, Myanmar 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 along the Mekong River.
Under the framework of the "Law Enforcement Cooperation along the Mekong River Mechanism," the four countries have created new channels for intelligence exchanges, patrolling and law enforcement, as well as for tackling incidents that disrupt public order, combating transnational crimes and dealing with emergency events.
After the meeting, Chinese police sent task forces to the other three countries to work with their law enforcement agencies.
Cooperation between Chinese and Lao police led to the arrest of Naw Kham on April 25. Several suspects had previously been arrested by the law enforcement agencies of the four countries.
"In the future, Chinese police will further cooperate with the law enforcement departments of Laos, Myanmar and Thailand to carry out joint actions to ensure safety and stability along the Mekong River, as well as the interests of local people," the statement said.