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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs     11 October  2011                    

China halts Mekong shipping

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China on Monday suspended shipping on the Mekong after 11 sailors were killed on two cargo ships attacked last week in the Golden Triangle where the river runs through China, Myanmar, Thailand and Laos.

The halt in boat traffic was announced by the ministry of foreign affairs and reported by the official Xinhua news agency, citing maritime officials in southwest China's Yunnan province.

Two Chinese sailors remain missing after the cargo ships "Hua Ping" and "Yu Xing 8" were attacked on October 5, foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said at a regular press briefing.

However, Xinhua reported that all 13 Chinese crewmen were dead, citing Thai authorities who identified their killers as members of a drug trafficking ring operating on the Mekong.

The Mekong, known in China as the Lancang River, rises on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau and flows through southwest China's Yunnan province, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam to the South China Sea.

Out of 130 ships engaged in international shipping on the Mekong, 116 are operated by Chinese companies, according to the Lancang River Maritime Affairs Bureau, Xinhua reported.

Some Chinese ship operators have asked their Chinese crew to return to China overland from Thailand despite pending deliveries.

Maritime officials in Yunnan have begun to help Chinese crewmen return home safely and have adopted "proper measures to protect Chinese ships on the Mekong River", Xinhua said.

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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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