Mekong River security

Updated: 2011-11-02 08:02

(China Daily)

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THE AGREEMENT REACHED AMONG CHINA, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand to jointly crack down on cross-border crime and secure transportation along the Mekong River is a timely decision and will be welcomed by the 70 million people living in the river valley. It will help secure a safe waterway for passengers and cargo ships traveling along the river too.

The decision was made at a one-day law enforcement meeting held in Beijing on Monday among senior cabinet members from the four nations.

Their renewed efforts to work even more closely on the Mekong's security have come in the wake of worsening security situation in the "Golden Triangle" area, where the borders of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand meet. A region that is notorious for its drug production and trafficking.

Under the new framework, the four countries will build sub-mechanisms for intelligence exchanges, patrolling and law enforcement, as well as for tackling major problems jeopardizing public order, combating transnational crimes and dealing with emergencies.

The results embody the four nations' commitment to building the Mekong, especially its "Golden Triangle" area where the security situation is most precarious, into a peaceful waterway free of security risks. Of course, to translate the political will into action, more efforts will still be needed to develop the legal and institutional framework.

At China's suggestion, the four nations have conducted cross-border cooperation aimed at stepping up security along the river since 2001 when transnational commercial shipping was regularized.

The Mekong, dubbed the "Oriental Danube", is an important shipping route linking China to Southeast Asia. Handling about 10 billion yuan ($1.57 billion) worth of cargo goods each year, it plays a growing role in regional trade.

However, in recent years, the smuggling of drugs and weapons along the river has also been on the increase, and crimes such as blackmail, piracy and armed robbery occur frequently and endanger people's lives and shipping.

In the latest case less than one month ago, 13 Chinese sailors were brutally killed in a deadly boat raid. Thai Deputy Prime Minister Kowit Wattana has pledged a fair and just trial of a group of suspects in connection with the killings. According to the official, the suspects are Thai servicemen, and the Thai police are still investigating the incident.

In a joint statement issued after Monday's meeting, the quartet has "agreed to take effective measures to step up efforts in the joint investigation so as to uncover the full details of the case and bring the criminals to justice as soon as possible".

Given to the complex situation in the "Golden Triangle" area, transnational investigation and coordination is essential.

For justice to prevail, the perpetrators and instigators must be ferreted out and dealt with by law. The case should be handled with due diligence and through close cooperation among the nations involved.

(China Daily 11/02/2011 page8)