Golden “Ghost” Triangle needs a facelift
By Li Hongmei
13 Chinese crew members have been confirmed killed after two cargo ships Hua Ping and Yu Xing were hijacked last Wednesday on Mekong River near Golden Triangle.
12 bodies were found near Chiang Rai in northern Thailand on Friday and Saturday. Another body was found in the same area early on Monday. Most of the victims had been bound, blindfolded and shot. The crew included two female cooks.
Thai army officials were cited as saying a gang run by ethnic Shan drug trafficker Nor Kham was suspected to be behind the attacks. It said the gang demands "protection money" from ships it hijacks on the Mekong and kills crew members who refuse to cooperate. The area is rife with gangs that constantly assault ships and pose a substantive threat to the seaway which still tempts sailors with tremendous commercial opportunities.？
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a passenger boat or a cargo ship. If you don’t pay them, you either get robbed or killed,” a Thai police official told The Bangkok Post newspaper.
In actuality, since the tragedy on Mekong River, a dozen Chinese boats have anchored along the Thai shore and refused to make the perilous trip back home.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told a daily news conference Monday that China had suspended shipping from Yunnan down the Mekong and had sent a team to help investigate the killings. He also said China had appealed to Thailand to boost security on the river.
The Golden Triangle, an area covering around？950,000 km square？and where the borders of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand meet, is notorious for the production and trafficking of heroin and other illicit drugs.
And the Mekong River, known as the Lancang in China, is the longest river in Southeast Asia. Originating from China's Qinghai Province, the Mekong flows generally southeast to the South China Sea, a distance of 4,200 km. The river crosses China’s Yunnan Province and forms the border between Myanmar and Laos and most of the border between Laos and Thailand, feeding over 60 million people.
Sailing along the Mekong could also meet with risks like assault and hijacking. Still, cargo boats would venture out to seek fortune down the sea.
In April, three Chinese boats and 34 crew members were taken hostage by pirates along the Mekong in Myanmar but were rescued within days.
To cement the regional cooperation and ensure a win-win channel to benefit all Mekong nations, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) was formed in 1995 involving Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. The MRC is an international, country-driven river basin organization that provides the institutional framework to promote regional cooperation. In 1996 China and Myanmar became Dialogue Partners of the MRC and the countries now work together within a cooperation framework.
The worst ever tragedy on the Mekong at the cost of 13 Chinese sailors again sound an alarm to security of Mekong shipping and safety of sailors. It is, therefore, desirable to establish a more effective and inclusive consultation mechanism, which should be a long-term one geared to laws and regulations of all the countries concerned, say, to make joint cruises along the river and jointly combat crimes at sea while ratcheting up efforts to protect ships and sailors of their own. ？？
The reason is simple -- only a secure and smooth sea passage can yield profits for all.？？