Murderous attack still shadows Mekong River’s commercial prospects

By Zhu Zhenming Source:Global Times Published: 2012-10-8 19:35:04

One year has passed since the deadly attack on the Mekong River on October 5, 2011, in which 13 Chinese sailors were killed.

Last month, the suspected drug lord Naw Kham and other defendants faced trials in Kunming, Southwest China's Yunnan Province. The criminal group allegedly headed by Naw Kham has been destroyed and, if convicted, the criminals will soon be punished accordingly by Chinese courts.

In order to crack the case as soon as possible, China and relevant countries in the region have carried out joint transnational law enforcement. This is a result of the special environment in the Mekong region.

The criminal group allegedly led by Naw Kham was notorious for its illegal activities and bitterly hated by people in the region.

As a result, cracking down on the criminal gang has won massive support from the public opinion in the region. 

The increased international prestige and influence of China is a positive factor in the success of joint law enforcement. With the growth of China's national strength, the country can now play an important role in regional affairs.

The traditional friendship and good relations between China and other countries in the Mekong region also provide a foundation for the cooperation. China's proposition of joint law enforcement received support from local officials and politicians, thanks to the sound relationships and political mutual trust. 

However, it's noting that such a model may not be applicable to guarding the rights of Chinese citizens in other regions.

Nowadays, protecting China's overseas interests has become a new and urgent topic, but safeguarding the overseas interests should explore different security models based on the local conditions. 

It's also notable that the collapse of the criminal gang doesn't guarantee the future security of the Golden Triangle region which spreads over Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. The local inhabitants are very poor and critically under-educated, which facilitates the formation and development of criminal gangs. In fact, the Naw Kham group is only one of the weapon and drug smuggling groups in the region.   

Shadowed by last year's deadly Mekong attack, navigation on the river hasn't resumed the levels before the incident.

Even after the joint patrol along the river by China, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar, there are only around 60 ships transporting goods along the river. At least one-third of the ships that previously used the Mekong have changed their route.

According to the statistics from customs, the volume of exports and imports of Guanlei Port, Yunnan Province, between January and August has decreased by 35.5 percent compared with last year. 

It will be a long-term task to resume people's confidence in Mekong security and maintain the normal navigation of the river.

There is still a long way to go for China and other countries in the region, and the new model of joint law enforcement needs to endure the test of time.

The author is a researcher with the Institute for Southeast Asian Studies at the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences.

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