China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand mark 10 years of joint Mekong River patrols

Representatives from China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand participate in the launching ceremony of the joint Mekong River patrol and law enforcement mechanism among the four countries, Dec. 10, 2011. (Photo by Wang Xiaoxue/People's Daily Online)

A video conference was recently held in Kunming, southwest China’s Yunnan province to summarize the experiences of the China-Laos-Myanmar-Tai joint Mekong River patrol and law enforcement mechanism achieved in the past 10 years.

The four sides all agreed to deepen cooperation and mutual trust, enhance friendly exchanges at all levels, show support on issues concerning each other’s core interests, and improve their cooperation mechanisms, so as to advance the building of a Lancang-Mekong community with a shared future.

The four countries carried out their first joint patrol on Dec. 10, 2011, which marked the official initiation of the law enforcement cooperation on the Mekong River, also known as Lancang River in China.

Over the past ten years, the four sides, upholding a vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, have consolidated and deepened the joint Mekong River patrol and law enforcement cooperation, and made innovations in and expanded service models and cooperation fields. They have developed a law enforcement cooperation mode that is more inclusive, a multilateral mechanism that is more effective, and regional cooperation that is more active.

On the section of the Mekong River in northern Thailand, commercial vessels are sailing orderly today after 10 years of the law enforcement cooperation, composing a harmonious picture with the chimney smoke curling up from the residential houses on the two banks of the river. Vessels would always sound their horns to greet each other when they meet.

“We sailing on the river are like families, as we all call the Mekong River home,” said a Laotian captain Somphong.

What Somphong feels is felt by many. Sailors from various countries have expressed their gratitude to the joint patrol and law enforcement mechanism, saying it has brought back both vitality and security to the river.

Over the past 10 years, law enforcement departments from China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand have carried out over 180 joint missions, clamped down on 36,173 drug-related crimes, seized 136.93 metric tons of drugs, and cracked down upon 66 human trafficking cases.

Meanwhile, they also offered huge assistance for the people along the Mekong River. They have rescued 130 commercial vessels and 536 crew members, and escorted thousands of commercial vessels, recovering losses of nearly 200 million yuan ($31.42 million).

At present, police vessels from the four countries are patrolling on the Mekong River 25 days each month on average. Police visibility stands at over 80 percent on ordinary days and may hit 100 percent on important dates. The cargo volume handled by ports along the river increased fourfold from ten years ago, and the number of tourists has been on a 20-percent rise each year.

The joint patrols have brought a sense of security to the people along the river and the commercial vessels passing through it, making the river prosperous again.

An official Phichai works at the port management bureau of Chiang Saen, Thailand told People’s Daily that the Thai government has built a new port in the district where cargos are no longer shipped in bulk, but in containers.

“The increased investment from the government and ship owners came from their confidence in the security on the Mekong River. The shipping business on the river will definitely become more and more prosperous,” the official explained.

The water police station of Wan Pong, Myanmar undertakes the joint patrol missions on the Mekong River. The head of the water police station Yewinoo said the river has witnessed an obvious traffic increase since the joint patrol mechanism was initiated. “The livelihood and economy in the regions along the river have greatly improved,” he said.

The four countries have enhanced communication and coordination in intelligence through joint patrol and law enforcement cooperation, which has resulted in fruitful outcomes in the combat against drug dealing, smuggling, and illegal immigration, said Wichai Chaimongkhon, Secretary-General of Thailand’s Narcotics Control Board. Relevant cooperation mechanisms among the countries along the Mekong River are becoming more and more diversified and effective, he added.

The joint patrols have become a force of justice that safeguards the stability and security along the Mekong River, and set an example of successful law enforcement cooperation among different countries, said Siphan Phutthavong, head of the border guard department of the General Staff of the Lao People’s Army.

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