Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Mekong joint patrols

Joint patrols of the Mekong River by China, Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar have begun as a way to combat crime and drug trafficking on the major waterway. The Golden Triangle has long been a centre of drug production, trafficking, and piracy. Gangs often hijack boats, which they then use for trafficking or smuggling and to kidnap people.

Earlier nine Chinese crew members were killed and nine Thai soldiers arrested. (They assert their innocence.) The murders finally prompted an agreement between the four nations in Beijing on 31st October.

The launch of these joint patrols is part of a plan to increase security in the increasingly busy river and shipping lane. They have set a precedent for more transnational cooperation in security issues in the region. On the first venture out, on 10 December, five armed police boats escorted 10 Chinese cargo ships along a stretch of the Mekong from China's southwesterly Yunan province to Thailand's Chiang Rai, heavily armed with machine guns and hundreds of soldiers.

The four nations will patrol 24 hours a day and provide convoy escort for cargo ships in an area that is rapidly becoming an important trade route for regional trade. One enthusiastic English-language Chinese newspaper called the plan 'a blessing to the 70 million people living in the river basin and the international commercial vessels travelling along the river.'

For more news and expert analysis about Vietnam, please see Vietnam Focus.

© 2012 Menas Associates

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