Four nations start Mekong river patrol

December 11th, 2011 - 10:28 am ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Dec 11 (IANS) China has begun a joint patrol on the Mekong river with three other countries to beef up security in the region.

The patrol launched by China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand Saturday marked the restoration of international shipping services on the river that was suspended after deadly attacks on cargo ships Oct 5, Xinhua reported.

Ten cargo vessels, escorted by five patrol boats, set sail from the Guanlei port in southwest China’s Yunnan province after the ceremony Saturday.

The patrol officers are equipped with automatic rifles and bullet-proof vests. The boats also have heavy machine guns.

The Mekong river, known as Lancang in China, rises on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau and flows through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam before spilling into the South China Sea.

It is one of the key transport passages in the China-ASEAN free trade zone. In the recent past, the river witnessed drugs and weapons smuggling, as well as attacks on boats.

The patrol headquarters was set up in Xishuangbanna in China, while liaison offices were set up in the other three countries to share intelligence and coordinate operations.

China has deployed over 200 officers for the purpose.

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