Shipping to Resume in Mekong Region, Nations Launch Joint Patrol
China, Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar have cohesively launched joint patrols along the Mekong River to effectively secure the waterway. This effort is in response to the killing of 13 Chinese sailors in Thailand’s segment of the river. It has also reinstated international shipping services to the Mekong, which is one of the area’s busiest trade routes.
10 Chinese merchant ships have already been able to safely reach the Thai northern port, Chiang Saen, with the aid of five armed patrol boats from each nation. Patrol vessels are armed with heavy machine guns and thick walls; police escorts wear bullet-proof life jackets and carry automatic rifles.
Extreme precautions are taken mainly because the region has a reputation for being a narcotics trade hub. Unfortunately, three Myanmar soldiers have recently been killed during a joint patrol with Lao troops along the river by a suspected criminal gang. Government authorities are becoming increasingly concerned about the gang activity and supposed opium operations throughout the Mekong area. There have been some boat hijackings and ransom-for-crew activity.
Under the new agreement, the four regions will escort ships and share intelligence in protecting ships and sailors along the river. As they will be working closely with each other, each nation is to respect each other’s sovereignty, according to the Chinese ministry.