China Sends Patrol Boats into Thailand to Retrieve Stranded Sailors

Posted October 13th, 2011 at 10:20 am (UTC-5)
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China has sent naval patrol boats into nearby Thailand to escort home sailors and ships stranded after 12 Chinese mariners were killed in an apparent hijacking last week on the Mekong river in northern Thailand.

The official Xinhua news agency said Thursday that 164 sailors and 28 cargo ships were stranded after Beijing ordered a halt to all Mekong shipping earlier this week. State television said the convoy and its escorts would likely return home Friday.

The Chinese shipping ban came days after two cargo boats were seized in the notorious Mekong drug trade region know as the “Golden Triangle.” Thai and Chinese authorities said the bodies of the sailors were recovered near the Thai river port of Chiang Saen with hands bound and eyes covered with adhesive tape. Police also recovered the hijacked vessels, killing one of the bandits in a shootout. Authorities say the others escaped.

In Beijing Thursday, Vice Foreign Minister Song Tao summoned diplomatic envoys from Thailand, Laos and Burma and urged them to step up investigations of the attack. Xinhua said the diplomat also asked the foreign envoys to provide help for the Chinese patrol craft in escorting the ships and sailors back into Chinese territory.


The Thai army told the Bangkok Post newspaper on Monday that a drug gang run by the notorious Shan supplier Nor Kham is thought to be behind the killings. It quoted Thai police as saying hijackers routinely demand protection money from the crews of hijacked vessels and kill crew members who refuse to cooperate. The bandits then use the seized boats to smuggle contraband.