CHIANGRAI TIMES – A Chinese commercial vessel was attacked on Saturday by unidentified gunmen in the Mekong River’s deadly Golden Triangle region, known for its criminal activity.
The merchant boat Shengtai 11 was shot at by firearms from the Laotian side as it was returning from Chiang Saen Port in Thailand to Guanlei Port in Xishuangbanna of Southwest China’s Yunnan province at about 7:10 pm on Saturday, a police officer from the Yunnan provincial border defense corps, who did not want to be identified, told China Daily on Sunday.
The attacked boat, which was carrying timber, immediately sought help after the gunfire, he said.
Laotian police went to the scene by land to find the suspects while a Chinese vessel containing about 200 police officers from both China and Laos was sent to the spot to deal with the case, according to the insider.
“The ship was stopped at a safe place 2 kilometers away from the scene when the rescuers arrived early Sunday,” he said, adding that bullet holes could be seen on the windows, walls and doors of the vessel.
The five crewmembers on board were unhurt, he said.
“We saw bullets from the river bank shooting at us when we were driving the boat. Because it was evening, the bullets looked like fireballs,” Hu Tanyu, captain of Shengtai 11, told China Central Television (CCTV).
Hu then shut off the engine and lights, according to the CCTV report.
International transport on the Mekong River fully restarted after law enforcement agencies from China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand established a joint patrol on Dec 10 and cooperated to safeguard the safety of the river.
“Police in Laos are still searching for the gunmen,” said the unidentified police officer. “The river has been safer after the joint patrols, but in order to provide a thoroughly safe environment, we’ll increase the number of patrols in the future.”
However, Dai Peng, dean of the criminal investigation department of the Chinese People’s Public Security University, said he does not think increasing the frequency of patrols can solve such attacks once and for all.
The waterway along the Mekong River is always dangerous, so strengthening security in the four surrounding countries “may be the key to making the river safe,” Dai said.
“In addition, rescue operations for the attacked ships are likely to be delayed because the number of cargo vessels is much higher than the number of ships used for patrol,” he added.
Thirteen Chinese sailors aboard two cargo ships were shot dead by a group of gunmen on Oct 5 on a section of the Mekong River that forms the border of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, while four Chinese cargo vessels and a Myanmar patrol boat were attacked on Jan 4 at Wan Pung Port in Myanmar.
Chinese police conclude 2nd joint patrol along Mekong River
Chinese police on Monday concluded the second joint patrol along the Mekong River with their counterparts from Laos, Myanmar and Thailand, according to an official news release.
The patrol was aimed at maintaining security along the river, a major regional transportation route shared by China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand.
The joint patrol fleet arrived at Guanlei Port, located in Xishuangbanna prefecture in southwest China’s Yunnan Province, on Monday afternoon, accompanying a Chinese commercial vessel which was attacked by gunmen.
The vessel, Shengtai-11, was attacked by unidentified gunmen Saturday evening on the Mekong River in Laos. None of its crew were injured.
According to the news release, Chinese and Laotian police arrived on the scene and handled the crisis.
Moreover, patrol forces have acquired more experience in fleet sailing, early warning mechanisms, and coordinated fight plans, paving the way for future patrol missions along the Mekong river.
Official statistics show that Guanlei Port recorded more than 4,400 personnel exits and entries, as well as more than 13,400 metric tons of imported and exported cargo, between Dec 10 and Jan 13.
International transport on the Mekong River fully resumed after the four nations’ law enforcement agencies conducted a joint patrol on Dec 10 and stepped up cooperation to ensure the safety of the river.
Passenger services on the river were suspended for four months after tourists were robbed in the river’s “Golden Triangle” area in August. Shipping services were also halted after 13 Chinese sailors on two cargo ships were killed in the area on October 5.
Zhang Yan in Beijing and Guo Anfei in Yunnan contributed to this story.