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China deploys patrol boats on Mekong: state media
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Dec 10, 2011

China has deployed more than 300 armed police to patrol the Mekong river in boats in collaboration with Myanmar, Thailand and Laos after a deadly attack in October, state-run media said on Saturday.

Two months ago, 13 Chinese sailors were killed on a section of the river south of China's border, raising concerns in Beijing for the safety of crews and cargoes sailing south through an area rife with drug warfare and smuggling.

Citing officials, the official China Daily newspaper said that Chinese police would escort 10 private cargo ships, including the boats that were attacked on October 5 by what is thought to have been a drug gang.

"The special force will serve as the first joint-patrol law enforcement team of the national border defense department, committed to safeguarding the international waterway," said public security deputy minister Meng Hongwei.

The Mekong flows through China's southwestern province of Yunnan into Southeast Asia, serving as a major trade route through several countries including Cambodia and Vietnam.

China reacted angrily to the October attack, sending patrol boats down the Mekong to retrieve 164 stranded Chinese sailors and 28 cargo ships and calling on diplomats from Thailand, Laos and Myanmar to speed up investigations.

Since then, police in Thailand have detained nine soldiers who are suspected of killing the Chinese sailors and are also thought to have links with a Myanmar drug kingpin.

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