China executes 4 foreigners over Mekong murders
China's Public Security Ministry made the case a top priority, forming a 200-officer special investigation group and working with Thai, Lao, and Myanmar authorities to gather evidence and track down the perpetrators. Naw Kham was arrested in Laos last April and turned over to China the following month along with the other defendants. Because the killings took place on board Chinese-flagged vessels, Beijing, whose massive economy and powerful military give it considerable sway over its smaller southern neighbors, ruled the trials should take place in China.
The four were sentenced to death in November in a two-day trial, and the judgment was upheld by China's Supreme People's Court in Beijing following an automatic appeal in accordance with Chinese law.
In their testimony, the four said they had conspired with renegade Thai soldiers, nine of whom were arrested in October 2011 in Thailand and charged with taking part in the killings. They have yet to be tried or extradited, and remain in Thai army custody.
Months after the killings, China established a multinational river patrol headquartered in Yunnan which Beijing says has been effective in clamping down on such incidents.
"The case set a precedent that China would vigorously pursue criminals who commit crimes against its nationals. That's led to an expansion of Chinese police powers into the neighboring region and a big boost in Chinese influence," said Jin Canrong, associate dean of Renmin University's School of International Studies in Beijing.
China has devoted increasing attention to the safety of its nationals abroad as the Chinese economy continues to expand overseas. In recent years, Beijing has used navy ships and air force planes to help evacuate Chinese workers from fighting in Libya, and its diplomats have worked to free kidnapped workers and resolve local disputes across Africa and parts of Asia.
Associated Press researcher Yu Bing in Beijing and writer Thanyarat Doksone in Bangkok contributed to this report.
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