Chinese cargo ships back to Mekong River

Updated: 2011-12-12 11:08


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CHIANG SAEN, Thailand - After more than two months of idleness, Mekong River in northern Thailand became alive again with the arrival of ten Chinese cargo ships.

Mekong River had been very quiet since early October, when 13 sailors were killed on two cargo ships on a section of the river in the Golden Triangle, where Laos, Myanmar and Thailand's borders meet, leading to the suspension of Chinese shipment.

But as shipment resumes on Sunday, colorful banners of "Long live Sino-Thai friendship" decorate the bank. Local residents gather at the port to welcome Chinese sailors with dances and flowers.

A fleet of ten patrol vessels loaded with armed officers and heavy machines guns waited at the Thai-Laos border on Mekong River. An armed helicopter hovers on the sky.

"We will ensure the safety of every ship on the Thai section of Mekong River," said Atthawoot, commander of the Thai police in the four-country joint patrol operation.

About 100 Thai police officers will have daily patrols on the Thai section of Mekong River in the Golden Triangle, also a hotbed of drug-related crimes. They are part of a joint operation of China, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar authorities to safeguard ships and sailors on the river.

The four countries have agreed to launch patrols on the river, escort ships and send liaisons to each other to share intelligence to curb crimes and ensure safety along the river.

Thai patrol vessels began escorting Chinese cargo ships after Chinese and Laos patrol vessels turned around upon reaching the Thai border.

Accompanied by Thai police vessels and watched closely by Thai police on the bank, the cargo ships smoothly completed the nine kilometers from the border line to Chiang Saen port.

When Huang Xingqiang set foot on the port, he decided that he would not resign as the captain of cargo ship 'Shun'an No 6', which he had been brewing since his brother Huang Yong, captain of attacked cargo ship 'Hua Ping', was killed along with 12 other sailors in October.

Many of Huang's shipmates and friends have chosen to stop sailing on Mekong River after their shipmates were murdered on October 5. Some ship owners even sold the ships, believing it is no longer safe to sail on the river.

"I will tell my fellow sailors back home that there is nothing to worry about. It is safe to sail on the Mekong River as long as we are protected by the joint patrol," Huang said.