by Staff Writers
Beijing (UPI) Oct 14, 2011
China's foreign ministry said it is working with Thailand, Myanmar and Laos to find a missing Chinese sailor after a deadly pirate attack on the Mekong River.
The incident, put down to drug traffickers, resulted in the deaths of 12 sailors, apparently killed by the traffickers after a shootout with Thai river patrol authorities.
China suspended its shipping on the Mekong River, fearful of further attacks, a report by China's state-run news agency Xinhua said.
The suspension has left 164 Chinese sailors and 28 cargo ships stranded in Chiang Saen Port in Thailand, an official from the Yunnan provincial government said.
Out of 130 ships engaged in international shipping on the Mekong, 116 are operated by Chinese companies, the Lancang River Maritime Affairs Bureau told Xinhua.
The attack was reported this week by Chinese and Thai media, saying the bodies of 12 Chinese crew members, believed to have been abducted and killed by drug traffickers who hijacked their boats, were found in the river near Chiang Saen.
Many of the bodies -- two of them women cooks -- had their hands tied or handcuffed behind their backs, were blindfolded with adhesive tape or had been shot, photos the victims' relatives sent to the China Daily newspaper indicated.
Local Thai anti-drug officers exchanged fire with men on boats on the section of the Chiang Saen section of the Mekong River.
The drug traffickers, who had hijacked the Chinese boats to smuggle their drugs into Thailand from Myanmar, are thought to have killed the crew, Thai Third Army Chief Wannathip Wongwai told the Bangkok Post newspaper.
Local authorities seized amphetamine pills worth around $3.2 million from the boats, which also carried garlic, apples and fuel.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said, during a regular briefing in Beijing, the ministry and the government of southwest China's Yunnan province are in contact with Thai authorities to ensure the safe return of ships and sailors stranded on the river.
Liu gave no other details of the incident, such as the size of the ships, their cargo and how many sailors were aboard.
The incident concerning the ships Hua Ping and Yu Xing 8 is under investigation and rescuers continue to search for the missing sailor. The governments of the three countries will aid Chinese patrol boats heading for the ships stranded in Chiang Saen.
The 3,050-mile Mekong River -- called the Lancang River in China -- is the world's 10th longest river and an important commercial and agricultural asset to the countries through which it runs.
Its source is high in Tibet and it flows through Yunnan province, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam to the South China Sea.
Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam set up the Mekong River Commission in 1995 to help manage flooding and agricultural issues in the river's massive flood plain, which encompasses most of Laos.
China and Myanmar became "dialogue partners" of the MRC in 1996.
More than 50 people, all family members, arrived in Yunnan's Xishuangbanna Dai Prefecture to prepare to enter Thailand to identify the bodies, an official from the prefecture government said.
The prefecture government is communicating with the family members and helping them process their visas, a report by China's state news agency Xinhua said.
"My father just came home for a short reunion during the National Day holiday. I did not know it would be the last time," said Qiu Jian, 29 and son of 58-year-old chief engineer Qiu Jiahai.
"Rumors said my father was shot by drug dealers. I hope the authorities will find out the truth as soon as possible," Qiu said.
Wen Daixu, the brother-in-law of Yang Deyi, the missing captain of the Yu Xing 8, said Yang has been a sailor for 18 years. He had his 18-year-old son with him on the boat and both are reportedly dead, Wen said.
21st Century Pirates
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China summons diplomats after deadly Mekong boat raid
Beijing (AFP) Oct 13, 2011
China said Thursday it had summoned diplomatic envoys from Thailand, Laos and Myanmar and asked them to speed up a probe into a raid on two Chinese cargo boats on the Mekong that killed 13 people. The attack on October 5 is thought to have been carried out by a notorious gang in the "Golden Triangle" area known for drug smuggling. One body was found on a ship while the rest were retrieved fr ... read more
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