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Missing Mekong ministers mooted

How many foreign ministers must withdraw from a foreign ministers’ meeting before it ceases to be a foreign ministers’ meeting?

The answer, based on discussions during yesterday’s Mekong-Japan Senior Officials’ Meeting at the Peace Palace, is more than three.

That’s at least how many countries announced during the ASEAN event that their foreign ministers were unavailable for today’s 5th Mekong-Japan Foreign Min­isters’ Meeting – sending representatives into lengthy discussion about whether to drop “Foreign Ministers” from the title.

“It’s still the foreign ministers’ meeting,” the Cambodian delegation said.

Others agreed that yes, indeed it was, but a statement about today’s meeting, which was being looked over yesterday, should be accompanied by a list of the ministers’ replacements, they said.

“The statement should reflect what happened in the meeting,” Thailand said – a day before this afternoon’s actual meeting.

Parties did eventually agree that the Mekong-Japan Foreign Ministers’ Meeting would remain just that, but other issues were up for debate.

A draft action plan was handed out – and countries commented on commas, apostrophes and tense that didn’t sit right with them.

The spelling of Laos, Vietnam and Brunei – a country not even part of the meeting – were also topics of discussion.

One thing that didn’t feature was any talk of Laos’ Xayaburi dam, despite having every country potentially affected by the project in the same room.

Even Japan, which has agreed to help fund a study into the dam’s potential effect on downstream neighbours, has an interest in the subject.

So will the subject emerge today, now that the countries have agreed on the finer points of their diplomatic ties?

“Not really. [Only] in a broad sense and very general terms,” said Nguyen Quoc Dzung, director-general of the department of economics at Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, after the meeting.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shane Worrell at shane.worrell@phnompenhpost.com

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