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Watchful eye on Mekong River drug trade

(Global Times)

10:35, October 16, 2011

The tragedy of the 13 Chinese sailors killed on the Mekong River illustrates the new risks Chinese people face in the Golden Triangle region as the China-ASEAN trade relationship expands. The region has been known for drug trafficking for centuries.

The Golden Triangle and surrounding areas are strategically located. The railway and highway system linking China and Southeast Asia, as well as some oil pipelines, pass through there. The Mekong River is a major regional transportation route.

The instability of the Golden Triangle has clouded the prospects of a thriving Asian artery. The trouble is furthered by complicated relations among minorities. Many have taken up arms in their struggle for independence. Local people in Myanmar and Laos are living in poverty, leading them to grow crops for drugs and smuggling in recent years.

The Golden Triangle is still the most dangerous source of drugs coming into China. The drugs seized and related violence are increasing, highlighting the urgency of joint efforts from neighboring countries.

The brutal killing of the Chinese sailors further exacerbates the seriousness of the situation. The image and authority of China in Asia, as well as the development of the Sino-ASEAN relationship, is linked to the ability of China to solve the drug problem in the Golden Triangle.

Striking at drug trafficking rings does not go against China's diplomatic principle of non-interference in internal affairs. The situation requires China to establish a more effective information sharing system with neighboring countries to facilitate accurate strikes on smuggling organizations. China should also reserve the rights to launch countermeasures against the killing of Chinese citizens.

A long-term solution lies in helping improving life in the Golden Triangle, freeing local people from their dependence on growing and producing drugs. This is where China can offer more help. Joint actions by the police forces of relevant countries can effectively deter drug smugglers.

The drug problem severely challenges China's cooperation with neighboring Southeast Asian countries but this is also an opportunity to shape the country's authority in the region.

The proper settlement of this tragedy will test the Chinese government's ability to protect its overseas interests, and may reshape China's stake in the region.

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