Mekong murders tragic lesson for law enforcement on margins

Source:Global Times Published: 2012-7-18 20:00:05

Chinese State Councilor and Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu recently paid a second visit to the site on the Mekong River where 13 Chinese sailors were killed nine months ago.

The general public and families of the victims are still not satisfied with the results. They hope the criminals can be tracked down soon. However, in fact, the case still hasn't been properly resolved.

The unsatisfactorily slow process in the investigation and prosecution of these crimes shouldn't be blamed on China. It was China's resolute attitude of pursuing the murders that makes it possible for the facts of the case to be dug out. After the Mekong River tragedy, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao attached great importance to this issue, and Meng instantly rushed to Thailand.

The Ministry of Public Security has dispatched working groups to Laos and Thailand several times. This demonstrates China's resolute will.

It wouldn't have worked if China had just taken unilateral actions without cooperation from neighboring countries. Without permission from the local government, Chinese detectives cannot investigate criminal cases in other countries.

Under the joint security cooperation launched by China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand, the alleged main perpetrator of the Mekong case, Naw Kham, has been arrested and extradited to China for investigation.

Some critics argue that seizing criminals in Laos and Thailand is stepping out of the boundaries of China's power. For example, after the capture of Naw Kham, some Thai people argued that he should be tried in Thailand instead of China. They wondered whether China felt it could act as it pleases due to its rising strength.

Generally speaking, states can exercise jurisdiction in several ways in accordance with international law.

One way is territorial jurisdiction, where a country exercises jurisdiction over cases happening in its own territory or places under its control.

Then there is personal jurisdiction, over a country's own citizens.

Another type is protective jurisdiction, which means that under circumstances where nationals of one state are injured on the territory of another country, the state of nationality of the victims could exercise jurisdiction over the perpetrators of the crimes. Therefore Naw Kham can be tried in China.

Although Naw Kham has been arrested, the security problems along the Mekong River have not been solved yet.

Naw Kham is neither the largest drug trafficker nor the only drug trafficker in the Golden Triangle. There are still many other drug traffickers who we don't know or who haven't offended Chinese citizens yet.

They mainly engage in drug trafficking in Thailand and Myanmar. As it is very difficult to wipe out domestic trafficking groups in one country, cross-border crimes will make the situation even worse.

Moreover, the residents in the Golden Triangle have been living in reduced circumstances. The local governments cannot solve the problem of poverty. Local residents may make reckless moves under this desperate situation.

Chinese influence is very weak in marginal areas. The Golden Triangle is not under the jurisdiction of China. The cost is too high to carry out joint law enforcement everyday.

The Mekong River murder tragedy is unlike anything we have encountered before. The miserable tragedy was even worse than in the Manila hostage crisis in 2010, and the reasons for the murder are quite different.

Currently, China lacks experience in preventing or dealing with such events.

With its rapid economic development, China's position on the international stage is getting more and more important. China has an expanding foreign interests. More challenges and unexpected problems will emerge. How should we deal with this kind of cases in future?

Under these circumstances, we should focus on previous case studies as well as learning from other countries. China should also solidify cooperation with surrounding countries and strengthen the joint law enforcement to maintain security in the Mekong region.

The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Shu Meng based on an interview with Zhu Zhenming, professor with the Institute for Southeast Asian Studies at the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences.

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