Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and China have agreed to beef up their coordination efforts to crack down on illegal drug trafficking along the Mekong River.
The four countries have set up the Safe Mekong Coordination Centre to strengthen their information exchange and have carried out inspections to observe anti-drug trafficking efforts along the river. The move comes after authorities from the four countries acknowledged that the drug problem on the Mekong affects their national security and stability.
Chief of Bokeo provincial Police Headquarters, Colonel Lamphay Yotpaphay, told Vientiane Times on Monday that the centre will enable authorities in the four countries to consolidate their efforts to combat the drug trade.
According to a Chiang Rai Times report, millions of methamphetamine pills are transported yearly along the Mekong.
Chief of the Mekong Riverine Unit in Chiang Rai province, Capt Phanu Rattanananthawathi, said the number of arrests in the area was quite low because authorities in each country patrol their own territorial waters.
Capt Phanu said drugs are mainly smuggled in from these countries on cargo ships. Couriers smuggled between 200 and 300 million speed pills and 3,500 kilogrammes of crystal methamphetamine just last year.
Personnel stationed at the centre will start their patrols at the same time on each section of the Mekong. Along an 85 kilometre section of the river there are 10 spots which need special attention.
The main focus areas are Chiang Rai's Golden Triangle, an area near the borders of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand, the fourth Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, which connects Chiang Rai's Chiang Khong district and the Lao town of Houayxay, and ports along the river such as Chiang Saen, Hiran Nakhon and Lan Chang.
Representatives of the four countries meet every six months to review their cooperation and set plans for the year ahead.
Colonel Lamphay said “We met in Bokeo province last month to discuss how we could strengthen our cooperation and better deal with drug issues in our region.”