Six people suspected of taking part in an attack last year on the Mekong River that left 13 Chinese sailors dead went on trial on Thursday in a court in southwest China's Yunnan Province.
The trial of Naw Kham, head of an armed drug gang from Myanmar, along with five other gang members, started at 9:35 a.m. at the Intermediate People's Court of Kunming City, capital of Yunnan.
Present at the court were relatives of the 13 Chinese victims, embassy personnel of the related countries, Chinese legislators, political advisors, experts and representatives of local residents and media.
The six suspects, all foreigners, were charged with intentional homicide, drug trafficking, kidnapping and ship hijacking.
The crime ring was busted earlier this year in a joint operation by police from China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand after the brutal murders of Chinese sailors' triggered an outcry in China last year.
A previous police investigation found that Naw Kham, core members of the gang and a small number of Thai soldiers attacked, hijacked and finally murdered 13 Chinese sailors on two cargo ships, the Hua Ping and Yu Xing 8, on Oct. 5 in 2011 on the Mekong River.
Naw Kham, dubbed "Godfather" for running one of the most notorious armed drug rings on the section of the Mekong River near the China-Myanmar-Laos borders, was sent to China via a chartered plane in May.
"It is uncommon in China's judicial practice for foreigners who commit crimes against Chinese nationals outside China to be brought to justice before a Chinese court," Dong Lin, vice president of the Intermediate People's Court of Kunming City, told media before the trial.
Li Ruokun, deputy procurator of the Yunnan Provincial People's Procuratorate, said the trial showed China's resolution to severely punish cross-border crimes and to protect the legitimate rights of its citizens.
According to the bill of indictment presented by prosecutors, a large amount of evidence, including DNA test results, autopsy reports and witness testimonies, will be produced before the court during the trial.
With a length of almost 5,000 km, the Mekong River, known in China as the Lancang River, is one of the most important waterways in southeast Asia, linking the countries of China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. It plays a crucial economic role among the Greater Mekong Sub-region countries.