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Twelve bodies have been found in the Mekong River in Chiang Rai’s Chiang Saen district.

The bodies of three Chinese men, their hands tied and handcuffed behind their backs, were found on Friday, and another nine bodies, also thought to be Chinese, were found Saturday.

Police said most of the nine bodies had also been blindfolded, tied and handcuffed.

The dead men are believed to have crewed two Chinese-flagged cargo ships which were hijacked by drug traffickers on Wednesday.

The bodies have been sent to Chiang Saen hospital for an autopsy.

Pol Col Popkorn Khuncharoensuk, Chiang Saen police chief, said he would ask the Department of Special Investigation to step in.

Authorities from the Chinese embassy had been informed of the discovery and on Saturday travelled to Chiang Saen to inspect the bodies.

The grisly discovery has affected business in the district. Nikom Wiboonrungruang, a manager of Chiang Saen Shipping Company Ltd, said about 10 Chinese-flagged cargo ships were moored at Chiang Saen port as they dared not travel back to China due to safety concerns.

The first find came on Friday when the body of a handcuffed Chinese man was found near the Chiang Saen port.

Identified as Huang Yong, 30, he was the captain of the cargo ship Hua Ping, which was seized by soldiers of the Pa Muang task force during an anti-drug trafficking operation on the Mekong River on Wednesday after a clash with drug traffickers.

His ship, which was carrying garlic and apples, and a second Chinese-flagged ship Yu Xing 8 Hao, which was transporting fuel, were thought to have been hijacked earlier by the traffickers.

The attackers, who wanted to use the ships to smuggle drugs into Thailand from Burma, are thought to have killed Huang and his crew.

Another two dead Chinese men were found later in the Mekong River.

Their necks were broken and their faces covered with cloth, police said.

The Pa Muang task force says it killed one suspected trafficker on the Yu Xing 8 Hao during the firefight.

The others managed to flee overboard. The soldiers seized 520,000 speed pills kept in three sacks on the Hua Ping and 400,00 speed pills on the Yu Xing 8 Hao.

The drugs were worth 100 million baht.

A Chinese-owned casino near the Thai-Burmese border is suspected of being a transit point for drugs smuggled into Thailand, says the 3rd Region Army.

Troops had seized methamphetamine pills from boats believed to have carried the drugs across from the casino, located on Burmese soil opposite Chiang Rai’s Chiang Saen district, said 3rd army chief Wannathip Wongwai.

The drugs were allegedly sent by the Burmese ethnic minority group the United Wa State Army (USWA).

It is not known if the drugs found on the Chinese-flagged vessels came from the casino.

The Bangkok Post published this story about drug trafficking on the Mekong river in its October 9th, 2011 edition.

Please connect to the Bangkok Post website to read more.