Beijing has changed its mind and will station PLA troops in Macau when the enclave reverts to mainland rule in 15 months, Vice-Premier Qian Qichen announced yesterday. In a clear reference to the enclave's security problems, he said troops would boost social stability and economic prosperity and be a 'symbol of China's sovereignty over Macau'. The move starkly contrasts with past statements by senior mainland officials that there would be no garrison, and it reverses a tacit Sino-Portuguese deal ruling out deployment. Last year, the ex-head of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, Lu Ping, told European Union officials Macau was too small for a garrison. PLA expert Cheung Tai-ming said between 500 and 800 troops could be sent and would almost certainly come from the same pool of troops in the Hong Kong PLA Garrison in Shenzhen. Last night, Macau's Acting Governor Dr Jorge Rangel said he had not been given formal notification of the move. Portuguese government officials in Lisbon, told of the decision before Mr Qian's announcement, were said to be preparing a statement. The announcement, at yesterday's start of the third plenary session of the Macau SAR Preparatory Committee in Beijing, was largely welcomed in Macau. But a Democratic legislator called for the Macau Basic Law to be amended, claiming it did not state whether PLA troops would come under civilian laws. Legislator Antonio Ng Kuok-cheong said: 'I don't know if they should be involved in keeping public order. It will send a message to the triads but the Basic Law is not clear and needs to be amended.' Leading Preparatory Committee member and the man tipped to be the first chief executive of Macau, Edmund Ho Hau-wah, supported the move. The casino mogul, Stanley Ho Hung-sun, said: 'It's great. In the long term it will help solve the security problems but I doubt it will have any immediate effect.' Hong Kong and Macau police held a top-level meeting yesterday to plan simultaneous raids on triads in a possible joint fight against organised crime.