CHIANG RAI – Thailand and Lao, two of the countries that are collaborating in the â€œSafe Mekong Coordination Centreâ€ anti-drug operation, have announced their plans to invite Cambodia and Vietnam to join their fight against the drug trafficking problem along the Mekong River.
Pakorn Srichan-ngam, deputy secretary-general of the National Security Council, yesterday hailed the centre as a success for the four nations(Thailand, China, Laos and Myanmar) in improving peace and security on the river.
The Safe Mekong Coordination Centre was created after a Chinese cargo boat was robbed and the boat’s 13 crew members were killed about 25km away from the Chiang Rai’s famous “Golden Triangle” on Oct 5, 2011.
Naw Kham, a Myanmar drug trafficker and leader of a major drug trafficking gang in the Golden Triangle, was captured in Laos and extridited to China, he was later executed after being found guilty for ordering the killings of 13 Chinese sailors.
The Safe Mekong Coordination Centre has the resources and manpower to connect with other areas in the region and suppress trans-border crimes in the Mekong River.
General Paiboon Koomchaya, Thailandâ€™s Justice Minister, told the press that the center 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-Myanmar-Lao 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.
Currently, only Thailand, Lao, China, and Myanmar are fighting this campaign and if Cambodia and Vietnam agree, this will mean that all the countries bordering the Mekong River will be enlisted to stamp out drug trafficking activities along the river.
The Mekong is the longest river in Southeast Asia, spanning over 4,350 km across six countries. The vastness of the river has made it hard to monitor for drug trafficking, especially if the effort is concentrated in one region. Drugs often smuggled along this route include Yaba and crystal meth.
At the 15th bilateral meeting between Lao and Thailand, General Paiboon Koomchaya, Thailandâ€™s Justice Minister, discussed ways to eradicate drug trafficking which includes reinforcing patrols in red zones that are prone to heightened levels of drug trafficking activities.
While the Lao delegation suggested that they might set up floating stations on the Mekong to monitor illicit drug activities.
We certainly think that with the inclusion of Cambodia and Vietnam, a more complete drug control policy can be developed to tackle the illicit drug activities along the river with joint efforts by the different countries. However, it will take more than just setting up anti-drug coordination centers along the Mekong.