At first, what happened on the Mekong River on October 5, 2011 seemed like a simple matter of rough frontier justice. A detachment of Thai military commandos reported that they had confronted a band of drug runners smuggling methamphetamines out of the Golden Triangle, the famously lawless borderlands between Burma, Laos, and Thailand. A gunfight ensued, the smugglers fled, and the commandos seized two barges and a haul of nearly a million pills. The story appeared to be over-until the bodies started washing ashore. There were thirteen of them, all Chinese merchant mariners-not hardened criminals. And they appeared to have been executed in cold blood.
It was the largest massacre of Chinese civilians outside of China in over half a century, and Beijing quickly named the culprit: Naw Kham, a mysterious former guerrilla warrior turned river pirate who had haunted the Golden Triangle for years. Regarded as a feared terrorist by some and a local Robin Hood by others, Naw Kham was undoubtedly a skilled criminal-but was he a mass murderer? In Murder on the Mekong, Jeff Howe travels to the scene of the crime that transfixed East Asia and finds a tale of adventure, deception, and political intrigue.
Reporting supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
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