Posts filed under 'Laos'

2013: Naw Kham, Mekong drug lord

1 comment March 1st, 2013 Headsman

Today in Kunming, China, Burmese drug lord Naw Kham was executed by lethal injection along with three of his associates.

Naw Kham (or Nor Kham), a Burmese Shan, ran a sizable gang of drug traffickers/paramilitaries/pirates, the Hawngleuk Militia, in the Golden Triangle.

In addition to heroin smuggling, this gang also shook down for protection money the many Chinese commercial shippers coming down the Mekong River, and wantonly raided shippers that held out on them. He was untouchable in his lawless zone (with the possible protection of Burmese military to boot) for more than a decade.

Times may have started passing Naw Kham by in the 2000s.*

China’s economic boom has driven more shipping, and a search for investment outlets for Chinese capital, both inevitably increasing its presence on the economically developing Mekong. Ultimately this had to come at Naw Kham’s expense.

He had hit Chinese shippers before to the annoyance of Beijing, but matters came to a head when the kingpin allegedly retaliated against the flouting of his “taxes” by massacring 13 Chinese sailors in 2011 on board two tightfisted merchantmen. (“Allegedly” because Naw Kham blamed the Thai military for this slaughter, and some people believe him.)

At any rate, China put the screws to the drug lord, not only pressuring Southeast Asian governments for his capture but directly hunting him with special forces. Early in 2012, Naw Kham was arrested and his gang broken up after a multinational manhunt; the leader was extradited from Laos to face Chinese justice with five of his associates.** The accused had little recourse but to throw themselves on the mercy of the court.

Executed with Naw Kham — and underscoring the multinational complexion of his outfit — were Hsang Kham (a Thai), Zha Xika (a Lao), and Yi Lai (stateless). The other two defendants received a suspended (reprieved) death sentence, and an eight-year prison term.


Naw Kham being led to an execution van on March 1, 2013. Two hours of footage of the “Mekong River murderers” walking their green mile was broadcast on CCTV News, although not the executions themselves.

The case isn’t entirely closed with his date’s executions, however. China is still pressuring Thailand to bring to book Thai troops whom China says colluded (at the very least) in the Mekong murders. The future direction of that investigation is quite unclear.

* China, Burma, Thailand, and Laos, inked a 2001 pact to regularize shipping on the Mekong. It contained no provision allowing for stateless narco-buccaneers.

** It’s noteworthy that this is a non-Chinese citizen being extradited to China for a crime not on Chinese soil.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Burma,Capital Punishment,China,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Drugs,Execution,History,Laos,Lethal Injection,Murder,Notable Jurisprudence,Organized Crime,Pirates,Ripped from the Headlines

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1972: Evelyn Anderson and Beatrice Kosin, missionaries

Add comment November 2nd, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 1972, Vietnamese communists in Laos summarily executed two American missionaries.


Evelyn Anderson (top) and Beatrice Kosin

Evelyn Anderson and Beatrice Kosin were nurses dispatched to southeast Asia with the Christian Missions of Many Lands, which does what it says on the tin.

On Oct. 27, 1972, North Vietnamese communists seized the town of Ban Kengkok, near Savannakhet.

Though several other western missionaries escaped, and were evacuated by helicopter, Anderson and Kosin were captured and tied up in a hut.

A mission to extricate them was scratched — allegedly from on high because the ongoing secret negotiations between the U.S. and North Vietnam on ending the war had just reached a turning point. Someone evidently felt this a skirmish across the border concerning (and possibly killing) good Christian heartland girls might prove politically inflammatory at this delicate moment.*

So it didn’t happen, and that October 1972 diplomatic breakthrough eventually formed the basis of the Paris Peace Accords, publicly unveiled in January 1973, that set the framework for American withdrawal and gave Henry Kissinger his controversial Nobel Peace Prize.

This was all very nice — but also very far from Anderson and Kosin, who were left to swallow to the dregs their sacrificial draught.

A coded message sent early on Nov. 2, 1972 (American radio operators intercepted it) ordered their immediate execution, and the directive was accomplished without delicacy: the hut they were held in was simply torched, with them still inside.

* Also notice that this is days before the U.S. presidential election.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Borderline "Executions",Burned,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,History,Laos,No Formal Charge,Religious Figures,Summary Executions,USA,Vietnam,Wartime Executions,Women

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1974: Charles Dean and Neal Sharman

Add comment December 14th, 2007 Headsman

On or about this date in 1974, a young American traveler — or perhaps intelligence agent — named Charles Dean and his Australian friend Neal Sharman are believed to have been executed in Laos by the Pathet Lao guerrillas.

The 23-year-old Dean was in the midst of a protracted post-university globetrotting when he was apprehended with his friend traveling down the Mekong River in the war-torn country. They were held in captivity for three months — long enough for the family to learn they were detained, and Dean’s father to fly to Laos to negotiate in vain for his release.

Charles Dean’s older brother Howard, perhaps the most prominent death penalty survivor in the United States, subsequently became governor of Vermont and is now chairman of the Democratic Party’s chief national organ.

Coincidentally, it was also at about this point of the 2003-04 presidential election cycle that Howard Dean, then the frontrunner for his party’s presidential nomination, learned through DNA analysis that remains recovered in Laos were indeed those of his brother. Twenty-nine years after his execution, Charles Dean was repatriated and buried with military honors.

Dean had remembered the loss in his campaign autobiography:

[Charlie] wrote me a letter about what it was like to sit outside his bungalow [in Laos] at night, listening to the thump of distant artillery and the muffled explosions as the shells hit the ground. I almost wrote him back, saying, “What are you thinking? Get out of there — it’s not safe.” Then I reminded myself that he was a twenty-three-year-old who was capable of making these judgments himself. I’ve often wished I had written that letter, although I don’t think he would have changed his mind had he read it.

There was speculation that Charlie was in Laos because he was working for the CIA and I think my parents believed that to be the case. Personally, I don’t think he was employed by the U.S. government in any capacity, but we’ll probably never know the answer to that question.

Charlie’s capture and death were the most traumatic events of my life. They have eaten at me ever since. You never get over something like this; all you can do is live with it. It was awful for my two other brothers and me, and it was far worse for our mother and father. It was so painful for my father that he rarely spoke of it afterward.

One of the feelings that accompanies survivor’s guilt is anger at the person who was killed. You are angry because your loved one left you with this terrible loss. I had never understood why Charlie had gone to Laos and stayed there so long.

I often think about the courses our lives might have taken had Charlie been around. One thing is certain: I’m sure that, had he lived, he’d be the one running for president and not me.

Update: Gov. Dean’s December 2012 tweets on his family’s loss:

@executedtoday It was Dec 14. Charlie was my younger brother. He would have turned 63 on April 5, 2013. view original

@executedtodayHe was likely killed by North Vietnamese operating inside Laos. I have been to the site of his execution thanks to JTFA view original

Australian Neil Sharman was captured with him in September, 1973 and also died with him 38 years ago today view original

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Borderline "Executions",Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Innocent Bystanders,Laos,No Formal Charge,Notably Survived By,Ripped from the Headlines,Shot,Spies,Summary Executions,Uncertain Dates,USA,Wartime Executions

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