Burma, China, Thailand and Laos have opened a forward command of an operations centre for criminal suppression and prevention on the Mekong River in northern Thailand’s Chiang Rai Province.
Pakorn Srichan-ngam, deputy secretary-general of Thailand’s National Security Council, yesterday hailed the centre as a success for the four nations in improving peace and security on the river, saying Cambodia and Vietnam are also expected to join the pact.
The idea of establishing the joint operation centre was implemented after a Chinese cargo boat was robbed about 25 km away from the Golden Triangle and the boat’s 13 crew members killed on 5 October 2011.
About six months after the boat robbery, Naw Kham, a drug trafficker from Burma and leader of a major drug trafficking gang in the Golden Triangle, was executed in China for killing the 13 Chinese sailors.
The centre has the resources and manpower to connect with other areas in the region and suppress trans-border crimes in the Mekong River, advocates say.
Advocates say it has managed to make a big dent in crime on the river, including intercepting drugs shipments.
Initially, the centre will have about 76 officers in charge of patrolling, on land and by boat, the long section of the river from Chiang Rai to the Thai-Burma-Laos border.
Pol Gen Wut Liptapallop, deputy chief of the Royal Thai Police, said the forward command is in the Chiang Saen District of Chiang Rai, which borders the Mekong River.
The main mission of the centre is to suppress and prevent crime, drug trafficking and other security threats along the river.
Chinese ambassador to Thailand Ning Fukui said Chinese security authorities, and the Chinese embassy in Thailand, see the new centre as a milestone in cooperation between the countries following the 2011 boat robbery.
Burmese consul-general to Thailand Kaung San Lwin said regional cooperation to fight crime on the river is going well. Cooperative ventures are needed, as the river stretches more than 4,300 km through six countries.