Making the Mekong safer for shipping

Updated: 2011-12-11 08:04

By Zhang Yan, Cui Haipei and Guo Anfei (China Daily)

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XISHUANGBANNA, Yunnan - International shipping traffic on the Mekong River waterway has been fully restored on Saturday, the first time since it came to a standstill two months ago after 13 Chinese sailors were murdered on the river.

Making the Mekong safer for shipping 

Chinese police officers stand on board a patrol boat before leaving Guanlei Port in Xishuangbanna, Southwest China's Yunnan province, on Saturday. Cui Meng / China Daily 

On Saturday, the first voyage of the joint patrol law enforcement mission was launched. The joint patrols on the Mekong involve four countries - China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand, and were launched from Guanlei Port in Xishuangbanna, southwest China's Yunnan province.

At 10:30 am, five patrol boats carrying more than 200 Chinese armed police and 100 men from the other countries set sail from Guanlei as escort for 10 Chinese cargo ships. Those on board included 42 naval officers from Myanmar and 15 army personnel from Thailand and Laos.

"Maintaining the security and stability of the Mekong River basin is not only the common aspiration, but the common responsibility of the four countries," Bouasieng Champaphan, the deputy chief of the Laos People's Army, said during the ceremony.

"In order to effectively cope with prominent crimes on the river, each respective country will strengthen the law enforcement within its own waters and further deepen joint law enforcement security cooperation based on mutual respect for sovereignty, equality and mutual benefit," he said.

According to the joint statement, the command center is at Guanlei in Xishuangbanna, with contact points in Laos, Myanmar and Thailand to ensure timely sharing of intelligence, organization and coordination, and to establish 24-hour joint patrols and law enforcement liaison channels.

According to the Ministry, the 200 Chinese armed police are under the Yunnan Provincial Border Defense Corps, and they will carry out the armed escorts with enforcement officers from the three other countries.

A senior officer from the joint patrol command center told China Daily that the first armed convoy of five boats would escort the 10 Chinese cargo vessels from Guanlei to Qingsheng harbor in Thailand, a distance of 254 kilometers.

Meng Hongwei, vice-minister of the Ministry of Public Security said the four countries would carry out patrolling of the whole river, and supply convoys to accompany commercial vessels.

The patrols will also combat criminal activity along the river to safeguard ships and crew.

Kyaw Kyaw Tun, the head of the Myanmar Police Force, said in recent years, 17 people have died carrying out their duties on the Mekong, including 12 policemen, one militia man and three sailors.

Wichean Potephosree, Secretary General of the National Security Council of Thailand, said Thailand is stepping up efforts to crack down on criminal activities on the Mekong to ensure security of the river's traffic in Thailand.

"Thanks to the joint patrols, this first voyage after the October attacks should be very safe. There's nothing to worry about as long as we sail with the patrol boats," said Du Guangyou, captain of the Bao Shou, the first of the 10 cargo ships which sailed from Guanlei after the ceremony.

However, Du was still anxious as he said the three Chinese patrol boats would turn back at the Thai border, where the deadly attacks took place. His anxiety is that there may be river bandits waiting if the escort is not alongside.

China Daily