China, Neighbors Plan Armed Security Force for Mekong Region

Posted November 9th, 2011 at 2:50 am (UTC-5)
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Chinese officials say China and several of its neighbors will soon begin armed patrols in an area of the Mekong River where 13 Chinese crewmen were killed by suspected drug traffickers last month.

State-controlled media quoted a Ministry of Public Security official Wednesday saying the special force will begin the patrols next month. Shipping executives and analysts described the creation of the force, comprising five ships and almost 1,000 armed officers, as a milestone in China's relations with its neighbors in Southeast Asia.

China did not identify the other countries that will participate in the force. However, officials from Thailand, Burma and Laos — which border the Golden Triangle area where the killings took place — all attended a special Mekong security meeting in Beijing last week.

Commercial traffic on the key waterway was halted after the October 5 attacks on two Chinese cargo boats in the Golden Triangle, an area notorious as a haven for drug traffickers.

Thai authorities have detained nine soldiers on murder charges in connection with the attacks. The nine are suspected of involvement with drug traffickers based in the region.

The Golden Triangle lies astride the planned route of a proposed high-speed rail line that would link southeast China to several countries in the region, boosting trade and other forms of cooperation.