13 Chinese who were kidnapped by Golden Triangle godfather Naw Kham were released Friday, 8 April, 4 days after they were taken by his men, according to a source close to the King Romans casino in Laos.
“The ransom money, 25 million baht ($8.3 million), was paid by Zhao Wei (the casino owner) through Chiangrai godfather known as Pu Nuad,” he said. “Naw Kham however said it wasn’t ransom but protection fee due to him and that he hopes this last incident serves as a lesson to Zhao Wei.”
Pu Nuad’s real name is said to be Damras Somphongphan.
Naw Kham first hit the headlines with his shooting of a Chinese patrol boat in February 2008, which was followed by the gunning down of Chinese boats in 2009 and 2010. For this year, his men had been waylaying unsuspecting boats since February.
One of his victims was Ah Yong, said to be a nephew of a top Wa leader. He was relieved of around 58 million baht ($1.9 million) in March.
The source on the Sino-Burma border was quick to point out that the recent appearance of Wa fighters in Paliao-Kenglarb area on the Golden Triangle had nothing to do with Naw Kham. “The Wa don’t mix private affairs with public affairs,” he said.
Burma Army units from Mongphyak-based Military Operations Command (MOC) #18 had fought with the United Wa State Army (UWSA) troops in Tachilek and Mongyawng townships from 5-7 April. The Wa force later retired to their base in Loi Pang Nao, northwest of Mongyawng.
Wanted in Burma, Laos, Thailand and China, Naw Kham, 50, has surprised many observers with his staying quality. The business circle in Shan State East believes the reason is that Burma’s junta authorities are on his payroll.
The Shan State Army (SSA) South agrees. “When we were there,” said Lt-Col Gawnzeun, Commander of Kengtung Force, “the Burma Army and its militias never allowed us an easy time. We were chased out from every hideout we had setup. But Naw Kham never has to worry about it.” He denies the SSA South is also on Naw Kham’s payroll. Naw Kham has reportedly said for every 3 baht he made, 1 baht was for the Burma Army, another baht for the SSA and the last baht for himself.