Wednesday, 08 February 2012 18:50 Mizzima News
The Mekong Riverine Operation Unit (MROU) will be beefed up to better contribute to the joint patrols with China, Laos and Burma, navy chief Admiral Surasak Roomruangwong said in an article published by the Bangkok Post on Wednesday.
The Thai navy now has 200 navy personnel, three river patrol boats and eight assault boats conducting joint river patrols with the other participating countries.
Surasak said the MROU is responsible for protecting the country's sovereignty along the river in addition to suppressing smuggling and that clashes and losses could be inevitable, the newspaper quoted him saying.
Since December 10, the four-nation river patrols have involved three boats from China, one from Laos, one from Burma and one from the Thai marine police.
The patrols begin at Kuan Lei port in China and end after entering Thai territorial waters. The MROU takes over the patrol from the Thai point of entry.
In the fall of 2011, three crewmen of a Chinese boat were killed on the Mekong River. Nine Thai soldiers of the Pha Muang force have been charged in connection with the murders.
Rear Admiral Sorracha Sornprathum, the MROU commander, said boats along a stretch of more than 150km of the Mekong River also have been attacked and robbed by groups of 20 to 100 bandits under No Kham, a Burmese bandit who formerly worked for Khun Sa, the well-known drug lord.
Sorracha told the newspaper that more personnel are needed to stem the flow of drugs, mostly methamphetamine, crystal meth (ice), and contraband smuggled along the Thai-Lao border.
The Thai navy patrols the Mekong River along more than 900 km of the river using four main bases – at Chiang Rai, Nong Khai, Nakhon Phanom and Ubon Ratchathani with a total of 14 boat stations.