China executes drug kingpin with last moments on TV
One of Asia’s most notorious drug kingpins has reportedly been executed in China for the massacre of 13 Chinese sailors - with his final moments being broadcast live on national television.
On Friday afternoon - nearly one year after he was captured following an international manhunt - 44-year-old Naw Kham was paraded before the cameras alongside three accomplices also convicted of the 2011 Mekong river massacre in Thailand.
At 2.19pm local time the stony-faced men were bundled into vans by black-clad security forces in the southwestern city of Kunming. By 2.55pm, they were dead, killed by lethal injection.
“Execution implemented,” read an online post from Yunnan province’s Public Security Bureau.
The lead-up to the executions received rolling coverage on China’s state-run CCTV news channel with live analysis from a top Beijing law professor and China’s anti-drug tsar, Liu Yuejin.
“We can see that Naw Kham fears death,” Renmin University criminologist Han Yusheng, told the channel.
“Although he is a cold-blooded murderer, he is still terrified knowing his final day has arrived.”
Liu Yuejin, head of China’s anti-drug unit, told CCTV: “Naw Kham is apparently a Buddhist. But his life has been dedicated to shooting, crime and murder. He is, by nature, a brutal killer with no regard for life.”
The coverage also featured a chilling face-to-face interview with the death-row drug lord, apparently recorded on February 27.
“I haven’t been able to sleep for two days. I have been thinking too much. I miss my mum,” Naw Kham said. “I don't want my children to be like me. I want them to study and work properly. I am afraid of death. I want to live. I don't want to die. I have children. I am afraid.”
Naw Kham was one of southeast Asia’s most notorious drug lords - an elusive gangster who was compared to Osama bin Laden and who allegedly commanded an armed militia of some 100 men in the Golden Triangle region between Burma, Thailand and Laos.
He became a household name in China after being blamed for the slaughter of 13 Chinese sailors during an ambush on the Mekong River in October 2011.
The incident triggered a massive international manhunt with Chinese security forces at one point considering deploying a drone to eliminate Mr Naw. In the end, they opted to take him alive.
“Some analysts had even said the hunt for Naw Kham could be as difficult as the hunt for bin Laden,” the Global Times reported this week.
Following a painstaking investigation, Naw was finally caught in Laos on April 25 last year and extradited to China.
In September, he and three accomplices – named as Hsang Kham, Yi Lai and Zha Xika – were convicted of the massacre. They were later sentenced to death.
The decision to broadcast some of the convicted traffickers’ final moments sparked controversy online. Liu Xiaoyuan, a Chinese lawyer, said “parading” the prisoners on live television was both an “ethical and legal violation.”
But state media insisted the prisoners’ rights had been “fully respected”. “The men's personal belongings will be transferred to their family members,” reported the Global Times.
China broadcast the final moments of four foreign drug traffickers yesterday, right before they were put to death by lethal injection for the 2011 killings of 13 Chinese fisherman.
The coverage, which lasted almost two hours, showed the prisoners being led from their cells to a final check-up by a doctor. Commentators for CCTV (the state television network) remarked, "From the appearance of these criminals, you can clearly tell our prison has carried out humanitarian spirit. These criminals clearly look healthier ... with better skin complexion than when they were arrested." The drug traffickers were the subject of a multinational manhunt which ultimately led to their arrest in Laos last spring.
The coverage, which did not show the actual injections, but did include live images of the prisoners just minutes before their death, drew criticism from human rights advocates. Prominent blogger lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan (who defended Ai Weiwei) wrote, "This carnival on CCTV was a violation not only of ethics, but of the criminal code regulations that the death penalty not be carried out in public."
China executes 4,000 prisoners a year, although coverage of this kind is unprecedented. In an interview this week, also broadcast on Chinese television, trafficker ringleader Naw Kham said, "I am afraid of death. I want to live. I don't want to die. I have children. I am afraid."
State officials confirmed his death by lethal injection yesterday afternoon.