BEIJING (Reuters) - China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand have agreed to joint security operations to go after “criminal organizations” which operate along the Mekong River after 13 Chinese sailors were killed in the area this month, Chinese state media reported Monday.
The victims were crew members on two cargo ships attacked on October 5 in the “Golden Triangle,” where the borders of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos meet, a region notorious for drug smuggling.
Ministers from the four countries at a meeting in Beijing agreed to set up a law enforcement cooperation mechanism for the Mekong “to cope with the new security situation on the river,” Xinhua news agency said.
The four countries will share intelligence and run patrols to combat transnational crimes, Xinhua cited a government statement as saying.
All participants will “carry out coordinated special campaigns to eradicate criminal organizations which have long threatened the region’s security,” it added.
Thai police said Sunday that nine Thai soldiers had turned themselves in over the killing of the Chinese sailors.
“The participants agreed to take effective measures to step up efforts in joint investigation so as to uncover the full details of the case and bring the criminals to justice as soon as possible,” Xinhua said.
China’s growing presence in Asia, Africa and other parts of the world has prompted attacks, kidnappings and hijackings, and the issue has become a sensitive one for Chinese officials, who do not want to appear weak in protecting nationals.
The Mekong snakes from China into Southeast Asia, where it forms the border between Myanmar and Laos, and then Thailand and Laos. In 2001, the four countries signed an agreement to regularize shipping on the river.
The 4,900-km (3,050 mile) river also flows through Cambodia and Vietnam before reaching the sea.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Yoko Nishikawa