Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul Saturday proposed joint escort operations from China, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar on Mekong River to ensure shipping safety after at least 12 Chinese sailors were hijacked and killed by suspected drug traffickers.
“Joint escorts of commercial ships on Mekong River by vessels from the four countries could be a good solution to the problem,” the Thai foreign minister told Xinhua.
Thailand is willing to escort the ships if asked to do so, he said, adding that he will discuss the issue with his Myanmar counterpart in a visit on October 24.
At least 12 Chinese sailors on two cargo ships were killed in an attack by unidentified armed people on October 5 on a section of Mekong River that forms the border of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. One Chinese sailor is still missing.
Surapong said the Thai government attaches great importance to the deaths of Chinese sailors and shipping safety on Mekong River. “This is a matter of great magnitude, it concerns the safety of sailors and also affects trade in the region.”
Thai-Chinese trade in Chiang Saen district has halted after the killing of Chinese sailors, costing a loss of 2 billion baht ($66 million) a month in bilateral trade via the Chiang Saen Customs House, said Surachart Chantawatcharakorn, an officer with the customs house.
Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Friday that the Thai government will cooperate with China in investigating the deaths of the sailors.
A team of officials from China’s ministries of foreign affairs, public security and transport arrived in Chiang Rai Province in north Thailand. Surapong said the Thai government will give convenience to the work of the Chinese team in Thailand.
He said the Thai government has already been giving convenience to the work of Chinese authorities, including admitting and escorting the victims’ family members. A total of 29 family members of the killed and missing sailors arrived in Thailand Friday night to morn the victims and conduct DNA tests. They left here for home on Saturday.