This report comes as something of a surprise:
Nine Thai army men have surrendered and confessed to killing 13 Chinese sailors in Thailand earlier this month, the Thai police chief has said. The victims onboard two cargo ships were shot dead by a group of gunmen Oct 5 in a section of the Mekong river that forms the border of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. Their bodies were found and salvaged from the river in northern Thailand later, China Daily reported. The suspects were servicemen of the Third Military Command of the Thai army, which guards the northern border of Thailand, said police chief Pol Gen Priewpan Damapong. Priewpan, however, said the army and the government were not behind the killing. He said the servicemen acted on the orders of some local tycoons.
Most of the speculation so far has pointed the finger of blame at warlords/drug traffickers in Burma. Of course, Thai army involvement does not mean that this is not the case, but it does make a complex and sensitive situation even more complex and sensitive.
It would be interesting to know exactly where this incident occured. Saying that the Mekong River “forms the border of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar” is misleading. It is the border between Laos and Burma and then the border between Laos and Thailand. I had assumed that the killings took place on the river where it forms the border between Laos and Burma, but I have seen another report (which I cannot find right now) suggesting that the killings may have taken place along the Lao-Thai border.[UPDATE: I have done some more research on this. It is clear that there was a violent confrontation between the boats (who was in control of them at the time?) and Thai authorities (Army? Navy? Border Patrol? Police?) in Thai territory, opposite the Lao village of Don Sao. It appears to have been a planned raid, with the river-side road between Chiang Saen and Sob Ruak sealed off. Locals reported heavy gunfire. A report, with some disturbing pictures of bound and gagged dead bodies, is available here. According to the report, after the confrontation, one dead body was found on one of the boats, together with almost one million methamphetamine pills. Locals were told that the other crew members had escaped into the river. Were they killed in this exchange? Or had they been killed earlier?]