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Passenger services restored on Mekong River after deadly attacks

(Xinhua)

09:42, January 04, 2012

KUNMING, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) -- Passenger services on the Mekong River were restored on Tuesday as the first group of 14 tourists sailed into the troubled waters of the Golden Triangle area from Jinghong, a port city in the southwestern province of Yunnan, the local government said.

The 14 Australian tourists and a travel agency employee would arrive in Chiang Saen of Thailand about 10 hours after the ship set sail at 8 a.m., said a statement released Tuesday by the information office of the Xishuangbanna prefecture government.

Passenger services had been suspended for four months after tourists were robbed in the Golden Triangle area in August. Shipping services were also halted after 13 Chinese sailors on two cargo ships were killed in the area on Oct. 5.

In December, Chinese police started joint patrols with their counterparts from Laos, Myanmar and Thailand to maintain security along the Mekong River. Shipping services were restored at that time.

According to the prefecture government, freighters and passenger ships should notify the joint-patrol headquarters before setting out so the headquarters can take measures to protect them.

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 before spilling into the South China Sea.

The river plays a crucial economic role throughout the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). It also serves as a major bond of the economic cooperation between China and the GMS nations and one of the key transport passages in the China-ASEAN free trade zone.

The river, however, has witnessed increasing drug, weapon and ammunition smuggling, as well as more and more attacks on boats in recent years.

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