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12 Chinese confirmed dead on Mekong River: FM spokesman

(Xinhua)

10:47, October 12, 2011

BEIJING, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- China's Foreign Ministry confirmed on Tuesday that 12 Chinese were killed and one remains missing after two cargo ships, the Hua Ping and Yu Xing 8, were attacked and hijacked by an unknown group of armed men on the Mekong River on Oct. 5.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said that China and Thailand have maintained close communication and cooperation in handling the incident.

A working group dispatched by southwest China's Yunnan province has arrived in Chiang Saen County to assist the Chinese embassy in Thailand and consulate general in Chiang Mai in dealing with the aftermath of the incident, Liu said.

He said that both China and Thailand attach great importance to the incident. The Chinese embassy in Thailand has repeatedly asked the Thai side to make every effort to investigate the incident and inform China of the results, facilitate the investigation and offer necessary assistance to Yunnan's working group and take action to ensure the safety of Chinese cargo ships and sailors stranded in Chiang Saen.

Thailand said it will fully cooperate with China and do its utmost to ensure safety on the Mekong River in order to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future, Liu said.

China has also asked Myanmar and Laos to help investigate the incident.

As of Tuesday, more than 50 family members of the victims have arrived in Yunnan's Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture to prepare to enter Thailand to identify the bodies, according to an official from the prefectural government.

The government is communicating with the family members and helping them process their visas.

"My father just came home for a short reunion during the National Day holiday (Oct. 1 to 7). I did not know it would be the last time," said 29-year-old Qiu Jian, son of 58-year-old Qiu Jiahai.

Qiu Jiahai was the chief engineer of the Hua Ping, starting his sailing career after graduating from school.

"Rumors said my father was shot by drug dealers. I hope the authorities will find out the truth as soon as possible," Qiu said.

Qiu said his greatest wish is to see his father for the last time in Thailand and to take him home.

Wen Daixu, the brother-in-law of Yang Deyi, the missing captain of the Yu Xing 8, said Yang has been a sailor for 18 years and that he took his 18-year-old son with him wherever he went. The father and son were both killed in the attack, Wen said.

Three of the victims were from neighboring Guizhou province. Their families have also arrived in Yunnan to prepare to enter Thailand.

Cai Mei, daughter of murdered sailor Cai Fanghua, said she arrived in Jinghong County on Sunday with another 20 people from Guizhou and has been waiting for more information.

"Dad always kept everything in his heart, rather than speaking out about it. I often asked him if his job was dangerous, and he always said no," Cai said.

"Dad always called us to tell us he was safe, but this time, I didn't get his call," Cai said.

Local government officials have visited the deceased sailors' families to try to comfort them.

Shipping on the Mekong River has been suspended after the attack. One hundred and sixty-four Chinese crewmen and 28 cargo ships are currently stranded in Chiang Saen Port, according to an official from the Yunnan provincial government.

A total of 116 of the 130 ships engaged in international shipping on the Mekong River are operated by Chinese companies, according to the Lancang River Maritime Affairs Bureau.

The provincial maritime affairs department, along with relevant non-governmental organizations in Yunnan, have begun to help Chinese crewmen return to China safely and adopt proper measures to protect Chinese ships on the Mekong River.

The Mekong River, known in China as the Lancang River, rises on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and flows through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam to the South China Sea. It plays a crucial economic role among the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) countries.

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