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Cambodia keen on Mekong diplomacy across entire region

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A fisherman throws his fishing net into Mekong river in Phnom Penh.

Cambodia keen on Mekong diplomacy across entire region

Cambodia is committed to reinforcing the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation (MLC) diplomatic mechanisms for the benefit of all six member states.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn reaffirmed the stance in a press statement on March 24.

“Let me reiterate Cambodia’s commitment to reinforcing the MLC mechanism, so that it can deepen the bonds of friendship and mutual support between the Mekong countries and China, in the spirit of promoting sustainable development, social and cultural ties between our peoples,” he said.

Comprising six members – Cambodia, China, Lao, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam – the MLC was established in 2015 with a focus on diplomacy, cooperation and support between the nations that share the Mekong River waters.

Through open consultations, Sokhonn said the MLC had delivered concrete results in terms of its contribution to the socio-economic development of the countries in the sub-region, all the while strengthening ASEAN community building efforts.

The minister noted that one crucial area the MLC helped address was water resources cooperation, having led to increased sharing of hydrological data to ensure water resources sustainability and deepen regional cooperation on emergency management of floods, droughts and other disasters.

To ensure a promising post-pandemic socio-economic recovery and to address the severe impacts caused by Covid-19, Sokhonn said the member states had resolved at last year’s meeting to upgrade cooperation on public health by establishing the Mekong-Lancang Public Health Community.

They had also committed to tackling other global and regional development issues by securing new sources of growth through the Mekong-Lancang Economic Development Belt and by promoting synergy with the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor.

“I am particularly impressed by the unique features of the MLC which are characterised by its . . . tangible benefits in enhancing the livelihoods and wellbeing of our citizens,” Sokhonn said.

He noted that Cambodia had thus far benefited from 55 MLC projects that supported a broad range of cooperative activities in the fields of rural development, community business creation, water resources, agriculture, air connectivity, education and cultural heritage.

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said the MLC was vital for problem solving efforts in the region and would only become more so in the future.

“When China needs water it will close its dams and fill its reservoirs and then the countries downstream will experience water shortages. And then if heavy rains fall in China, they will have to open up their floodgates to relieve pressure on their dams – potentially causing flooding in the downstream nations.” This problem has to be addressed somehow,” he said.

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