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Relatives of slain Chinese sailors hold memorial

By : China Daily|Updated: 2011-10-15

A relative of the victims is putting a sacrifice into a coffin. The family members of Chinese crewmen attacked in the Mekong River bowed and stood in silent tribute in a Buddhist temple in Chiang Saen of northern Thailand. According to local custom, Thai Buddhists chanted sutra for the victims. [China Daily]

CHIANG SAEN, Thailand - Family members of the Chinese sailors killed or missing in the attack on two cargo ships on Mekong River in northern Thailand last week have left Thailand for home, official said on Friday.

"The family members are boarding a ferry to cross the Mekong River for the neighboring Laos, through which they will return to China," said Shi Minghui, head of a team of officials dispatched by Yunnan provincial government to deal with aftermath of the attack.

On Oct 5, a group of unidentified gunmen attacked two ships on Mekong River, killing 12 Chinese sailors. Another Chinese sailor remains missing.

The 29 family members arrived in Chiang Saen district of northern Qiang Rai province on Thursday night to mourn for the victims and conduct DNA tests to verify the identities of the bodies.

Day of sadness

Bright crimson moonlight dappling the Mekong River mirrored the sadness of the relatives who were saying goodbye to the Chinese sailors killed after their cargo ships were attacked by suspected drug traffickers.

At the memorial service, the relatives of the 13 Chinese sailors gathered at the riverside in Chiang Saen district, burning joss paper and flying Kong Ming lamps and paper balloons to bid farewell to their beloved. In Chinese folklore, when one dies far away from home, part of his soul remains on the site, holding on for the last reunion with his beloved ones.

He Xilun, like others, came with an empty stomach, said: "My brother has not eaten anything for so many days. How can I eat, knowing that he's waiting for me right there?"

His elder brother He Xihang was among the 12 sailors slain during an attack.

The family members arrived from southwest China's Yunnan province at around 6 pm on Thursday after more than 10 hours of traveling by water and bus.

They declined a dinner arranged by Chinese officials and went for the memorial service without delay. The two cargo ships, Hua Ping and Yuxing 8, floated quietly at a small port. All the relatives burst into tears when they saw the ships, with some fainting.

"My dearest big brother (caring lover), how can you leave me like this? I'm lonely without you," wife of Cai Fanghua, a slain sailor on Hua Ping, sobbed out.

The family members also unrolled a banner at the site reading "find out the truth, punish the killers".

A working group dispatched by southwest China's Yunnan province has arrived in Chiang Saen County to assist the Chinese embassy in Thailand and the consulate general in Chiang Mai in dealing with the incident, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said on Tuesday.

Liu said Thailand has promised it will fully cooperate with China and do its utmost to ensure safety on the Mekong River to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

On Thursday, Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Song Tao summoned diplomatic envoys from Thailand, Laos and Myanmar and urged the three countries to intensify their investigation of the deadly attack.

Song said all three countries should "unearth the truth" regarding the incident as quickly as possible and provide China with timely reports during the investigation.

Song also said China has urged the countries to take effective measures to strengthen the protection of Chinese ships and sailors on the Mekong River and its surrounding waters.

Envoys from the three nations expressed condolence for the killed Chinese sailors.