CHIANG RAI – For years, the Mekong River has served as a large conduit for trade. But itâ€™s also been a hotbed of trafficking and crime. Thai and Chinese border police including Myanmar and Laos have stepped up security, conducting more than 40 joint patrols along the river since 2011. The monthly practice has improved maritime safety and slowed the movement of drugs throught the golden triangle.
Getting ready to safeguard the golden triangle waterway, Chinese border police set sail from Guanlei Port on the Lancang River, on the upper reaches of the Mekong. This joint routine exercise aims to rule out potential risks.
â€œWe conduct joint patrols and law enforcement exercises with police officers from Thailand, Laos and MyanmarÂ to maintain maritime safety along the Mekong River, and to safeguard the properties and lives of the people living there.
We are also committed to ensuring a smooth operation of the golden waterway,â€said Xiao Yongyi deputy leader of water division of Yunnan border police. The chinese patrol team will travel more than two hundred kilometers, all the way to Chiang Rai’s Golden Triangle.
A cross-border region notorious for drug production and smuggling.
In 2013, a joint patrol by China and Laos found about 580 kilograms of methamphetamine hidden in a cargo ship.
The case was handled following a pre-set procedure.
â€œThere are basically two ways to handle a case. One, the police responsible for a particular area will take charge of the case, since the waters have been divided into different regions. Two, the country where the arrest happens will take control, and the origin country of the criminals will take a subordinate role,â€Xiao said.
The multinational police operation helps root out organized crime along the Mekong. The decision to work together came after 13 Chinese sailors were murdered in October 2011.
To eradicate such crimes along the waterway, a coordinated effort is needed. â€œIn the following joint patrols, we will work under a cooperative framework and expand the scope and field of cooperation. Specifically, we will improve the coverage of the joint patrols, include more items on our agenda, and introduce more exchange and training programs,â€Xiao said.
Navigating on the Mekong is difficult.
On top of the potential crime, the extreme seasonal variations in flow, as well as rapids and submerged rocks pose threats to the passing ships.
Police bases are now in place along the river to help out those in urgent need. The joint patrol continues from dawn till dusk. But no matter how challenging the situation is, the golden waterway has to be free from dangers and threats.