Lancang-Mekong Cooperation to develop closer regional ties

World Today

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks during the opening of the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation forum Leaders Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. Leaders of nations along Southeast Asia’s Mekong River gather Wednesday in the Cambodian capital amid a push by China to build more dams that are altering the water flow and have raised environmental concerns. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Leaders of the six countries along the Lancang-Mekong River are in Cambodia to discuss region’s development and nature preservation. They are working together to improve the management of competing demands ranging from power shortage to flood control.

CGTN’s Martin Lowe reports.
Follow Martin Lowe on Twitter @MartinLoweTV

At more than 45,000 kilometers long, the Mekong is the biggest river in Southeast Asia – and the most controversial. Governments build dams to harness its hydropower and produce electricity. They argued dams control the water, preventing flood or drought. But environmentalists claim they can interfere with fish stocks on which millions downstream depend for food, and reduce flow needed to irrigate the rice fields.

Managing these competing demands is a difficult job, but it’s one that the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation is tackling head on. Many said great progress has been made in a short time.

Looking to develop growing cooperation between Mekong nations is the Chinese premier Li Keqiang. He’s leading discussions in partnership with Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen. Government leaders from the remaining four nations are also attending the meeting in Phnom Penh.

In 2017, Chinese investment in countries along the Lancang-Mekong River increased by 20 percent, bilateral trade increased by 16 percent, and personnel exchanges increased by about 80 percent. The Lancang-Mekong Cooperation mechanism is pushing connectivity to a new level.

The LMC is a body initiated by China that includes all six countries the Mekong flows through: China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. After little more than two years of operation, the LMC has already brought Mekong countries closer together.

Reaching consensus is a key aim. A contentious move to dynamite rocks to clear a route for shipping has been put on hold, whilst more investigations take place.

Sourabh Gupta discusses the Lancang-Mekong Summit

For more on the Lancang-Mekong Summit, CGTN’s Elaine Reyes spoke with Sourabh Gupta, senior Asia-Pacific and International relations policy specialist at the Institute for China-America Studies. They discussed the priorities of the meeting, the environment and security, and how it all fits in to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.