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China-Laos-Myanmar-Thailand joint patrol on Mekong River

By Luo Zheng (China Military Online)

09:18, February 06, 2013

The Mekong River, meaning "mother" in Cambodian, is the biggest river in Southeast Asia with a length of 2,139 kilometers. But on October 5, 2011, this river witnessed a world-shocking tragedy in which a total of 13 Chinese crew members were brutally killed.

According to statistics, a total of 35 cases of various types against Chinese merchant ships happened in the Mekong River from 2007 to 2011, killing 15 persons, injuring 31 persons and causing more than one-million-yuan economic losses.

The four countries, namely China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand, started their joint patrol law enforcement 66 days after the "October 5" tragedy took place. With various questions such as "How are the law enforcement personnel on duty? " and "What improvement in security has been made on the Mekong River in the past one-odd year?" in mind, the reporter joined the joint patrol law enforcement ship formation and experienced its 8th patrolling voyage.

After boarding a merchant ship with the law enforcement personnel, the reporter chatted up with Li Gang, captain of the merchant ship. Recalling the time when the case on October 5, 2011 happened, Li Gang said he was too frightened to continue his work on the river for three months and thought about selling his merchant ship. "Are you frightened now?" asked the reporter. Li Gang smiled and replied that: "Not anymore. We feel secure with the protection of the joint patrol law enforcement ships".

What he saw and heard during the few days of the joint patrol on the Mekong River filled the reporter with full of various feelings. The patrol on the Mekong River is neither like the peacekeeping task in war area nor like the naval escort mission against pirates in the Gulf of Aden more than ten thousand kilometers away from China, however, it also plays a great role in safeguarding the regional stability, protecting the safety of the ships passing through the Mekong River and the people living in the drainage area. In addition, the patrol tasks in the Mekong River are not less risky than the above-mentioned peacekeeping tasks and naval escort missions.

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