Citing a source in the Lao PDR, Mr Chalerm disclosed that Mr Norkham, believed to be an aide of the late so-called ‘Opium King’ Khun Sa, was apprehended Thursday by Lao PDR authorities.
Apart from being on Thailand’s most wanted list with a Bt2 million reward for information leading to his arrest, Mr Norkham was allegedly involved in the murder of 13 Chinese boat crew members on 5 Oct 2011 on the Mekong River in Chiang Rai’s Chiang Saen district.
Following the news of his detention, Mr Chalerm said that he had instructed Narcotics Control Board officials to coordinate with Lao authorities to extradite Mr Norkham to Thailand for prosecution.
China’s official news agency Xinhua reported on Oct 10 last year that the Thai authorities confirmed all 13 Chinese crewmen on two hijacked ships were killed.
Investigators believe that a drug ring of the Shan (Tai Yai) ethnic group led by Nor Kham was responsible for the incident, according to Chiang Saen District Chief Seramsak Seesant, as told to Xinhua.
The Chinese news agency said Thai border troops seized drugs on board two Chinese-flagged ships coded Yi Xing 8 Hao and Hua Ping, after a gunfight lasting more than 30 minutes with drug traffickers in Chiang Saen district bordering Myanmar. One drug trafficker was reported killed.
The police found bodies of three Chinese sailors handcuffed behind their backs. Another nine bodies were also found.
The bodies were identified as the crew of Yu Xing 8 Hao and Hua Ping. Police believed the traffickers planned to use the hijacked boats to smuggle drugs into Thailand and that the crew were killed before the Thai authorities engaged in the firefight with the suspected smugglers..
Mr Seramsak was quoted as saying that this was the first time a commercial ship was hijacked by drug traffickers.