According to Xinhua news agency on Friday, the unidentified assailants attacked the Myanmar patrol boat and Chinese cargo ships with M-79 grenades in the early hours of Wednesday.It was not known whether the Myanmar troops on their patrol boat returned gunfires but no damage was reported aboard the Chinese cargo ships plying the Golden Triangle area.
Beijing had suspended Chinese shipping activity on Mekong River, following last Oct’s massacre of 13 Chinese crewmembers aboard two Chinese-flagged cargo ships where 950,000 tablets of methamphetamine were found and seized.
One Burmese patrol ship and four Chinese cargo vessels were attacked by missiles on the Mekong River on Wednesday, Chinese state media reported on Friday quoting a Thai official.
According to the Xinhua news agency report, an unknown group of assailants attacked a Burmese patrol vessel and four Chinese cargo ships near a Burmese port on the river with M79 grenade launchers in the early hours of Jan. 4.
According to the Thai source, it is unclear whether the Burmese patrol ship responded with gunfire. The cargo ships were reportedly undamaged in the attack.
A Burmese source confirmed to Xinhua that a total of five ships had been attacked, including one patrol vessel.
Wednesday’s attack came a day after the news agency reported the re-launch of passenger transport on the Mekong River with a picture of smiling Western tourists embarking on a boat tour from the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan to Thailand.
All transport along the Mekong River had been suspended after 13 Chinese sailors were killed in an armed attack on two Chinese cargo ships on Oct. 5.
China sent its vice minister of public security, Zhang Xinfeng, to Thailand to investigate the murders later in the month. Rogue Thai soldiers involved in drug trade were held responsible for the attack.
The riparian countries China, Burma, Thailand and Laos set up joint patrols along the Mekong River on Dec. 10 operating out of the small but prosperous Chinese border port of Guanlei.
On Dec. 12, three Burmese soldiers on patrol on the Mekong were killed in a clash with an unknown group of armed assailants.
Between 2005 and 2010, the Thai National Security Council reported only two attacks on the river. But the number of reported attacks shot up to 12 in 2011.
Most cargo ships along the Mekong carry the Chinese flag and operate between Chinese Guanlei and the Thai port of Chiang Saen.
In the early 1990s, Guanlei was a settlement of only 20 families. With reported investments of RMB 310 million (US $50 million) into the port infrastructure, according to 2008 figures, the town is booming and appears destined to increase in importance as China’s strategic trade hub in the Golden Triangle.
On Dec. 20, a decennial Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Strategic Framework was endorsed by the six GMS member countries China, Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam at their fourth summit held in the Burmese capital Naypyidaw.
The framework envisions further regional integration through joint projects improving transportation and energy supply routes along the Mekong River.