KUNMING, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) -- A three-day trial of a Myanmar drug lord and five of his top aides for alleged murders of 13 Chinese sailors in a crime-ridden section of the Mekong River in Southeast Asia last October, began in China Thursday.
Naw Kham, the 43-year-old of the ethnic Shan minority, and five gang members -- all foreign nationals -- stood trial in a local court of southwestern Chinese city of Kunming over charges of murder, drug trafficking, kidnapping and ship hi-jacking.
Police investigations 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, 2011, near a port in Thailand on the Mekong River.
Prosecutors said they would bring to court a large amount of evidence from DNA test results, autopsy reports to witness testimonies. Police officers and civilians from Laos and Thailand will also testify in court.
Though he confessed to the murders in police custody, Naw Kham denied wrong-doings in court, saying he was not fully informed by his fellow gang members of the attack.
"I did not know about it at that time," he told the court. "They did not tell me. I was only informed afterwards."
Formerly an aide to the notorious Shan rebel commander Khun Sa, Naw Kham grew his clout by re-organizing the war lord's residue forces after his surrender to the Myanmar government in 1996. It is estimated that Naw Kham controlled a militant army of 100 people and had become a figure to be reckoned with in the region, according to police accounts.
The ring was busted by a joint police operation in April. By August, Naw Kham and the core members had all been transferred to Chinese police custody.
Though the verdict was not expected to be out soon, the police said they hoped the trial would send a warning to the lawless militants in the region that they would be held responsible for crimes against Chinese nationals even outside the country's borders.
The new forms of security cooperation between China and Mekong countries, initiated to bust Naw Kham's ring, have also paved the way to improving safety of Mekong voyages, the police added.