Meeting for Mekong River security

Updated: 2011-10-31 07:25

By Cui Haipei (China Daily)

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Nine Thai troops surrender over deaths of 13 Chinese crew

BEIJING - Premier Wen Jiabao on Saturday urged Thailand to conduct a speedy trial of nine Thai soldiers who killed 13 Chinese crew members of two cargo ships on the Mekong River.

In a phone conversation with his Thai counterpart Yingluck Shinawatra, Wen urged the Thai government to punish the criminals according to the law.

The soldiers turned themselves in to police on Friday, Thai police said on Sunday.

The two Chinese ships, the Hua Ping and Yu Xing 8, were attacked on the Mekong River near the Thai-Myanmar border on Oct 5.

The premier also called for the establishment of a joint law enforcement and security mechanism between China, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, to ensure navigational safety on the Mekong River.

Yingluck expressed sorrow over the murder of the crew members and promised that her government would find out the truth about the tragedy and hold the killers accountable.

The Thai leader added that Thailand is willing to work with China and other countries to enhance security on the Mekong River.

The suspects, including a major and a lieutenant, were servicemen of the Third Military Command of the Thai army, which guards the country's northern border.

Wang Ronghua, captain of the Chinese ship Jiafu 3, told China Daily on Sunday that he was shocked that it was Thai soldiers who pulled the trigger and killed the 13 crew members.

"We demand that the murderers are severely punished, and we will only return to the Mekong River when our safety is protected," Wang said, adding that his losses had reached 100,000 yuan ($15,700) since shipping along the river was suspended after the attack.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung said police had "solid evidence" suggesting that weapons were fired from Thailand at the Chinese cargo ships, the Bangkok Post reported on Sunday.

A background check on the victims shows they had no convictions for drugs offenses, said Chalerm, who oversees the national police, the paper reported.

But Chalerm distanced the army from the attack, adding that the incident was "personal" and had nothing to do with the Thai army, the newspaper said.

China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand will hold a meeting in Beijing on Monday to discuss establishing a joint law enforcement and security mechanism between the four countries, in a bid to maintain order on the Mekong River.

Defense Minister Liang Guanglie met in Beijing on Sunday with Laotian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Douangchay Phichit, saying that the two countries will enhance their cooperation in law enforcement and security on the Mekong River.

Liang expressed gratitude for Laos' support in helping stranded Chinese ships and crewmen return to China safely.

Reuters, Xinhua contributed to this story.