Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - China’s sway clear at Mekong summit

China’s sway clear at Mekong summit

Representatives at the opening of the Mekong River Summit in Siem Reap, where management of the waterway is under discussion. Mekong River Commission
Representatives at the opening of the Mekong River Summit in Siem Reap, where management of the waterway is under discussion. Mekong River Commission

China’s sway clear at Mekong summit

China's ever increasing influence over the Mekong River Basin was apparent on the first day of a Mekong River Commission (MRC) summit on Monday, where cooperation between the MRC and the Chinese-backed Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) mechanism was floated.

The two-day conference brings together government representatives, civil society groups and researchers to discuss the latest data on the Mekong basin and submit recommendations to the MRC member states: Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. A two-day meeting of the countries’ leaders will follow, which is expected to result in a declaration on management of the Mekong. Also at the summit are the two MRC “dialogue partners” – China and Myanmar.

In 2015, China established the LMC, which includes sustainable management of the Mekong River, but it hasn’t been clear if it would challenge the MRC’s turf. As the most prolific builder of hydropower dams in the region, China’s potential stewardship of the Mekong River has been met with concern.

On Monday, however, both sides presented overtures to the other. “We should sit together for our shared future,” said Zhong Yong, Secretary-General of the Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation Center, the newly minted Beijing-based water management arm of the LMC established last year.

“We should have idea of reciprocity – upstream countries should listen to downstream countries, and downstream countries should listen to upstream countries. We should learn from each other,” Zhong added.

Danilo Türk, chair of the UN’s highest water management body, the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace, described transboundary water cooperation as “necessary for humankind” and also encouraged cooperation between the two bodies in his remarks.

“The increasing involvement of China and the growing importance of the LMC mechanism offers an important opportunity for the future of the week’s outcomes,” he said.

“An increasing exchange of data would go a long way to making a coherent process of making policy.”

MRC CEO Pham Tuan Phan also reached out to the LMC on the sidelines of the conference, saying he would “very much like” cooperation.

See our interview with Pham Tuan Phan here:


Brian Eyler of the think tank Stimson Center noted that for now the LMC’s Water Cooperation Center appears not to have a clear vision or policy aims, adding that it would be prudent not to assume too much about China’s intentions with the body.

“It was revealed quite clearly [at the summit] that Beijing isn’t quite sure what’s happening yet,” he told The Post. Nonetheless, he said there is still “no evidence” China is changing course on hydropower development, which is predicted to have severe consequences on the fish and agriculture productivity of the Kingdom and other lower basin countries.

Brian Eyler of the think tank Stimson Center speaks to The Post:


Videos by Keo Ratana

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro

  • ACLEDA, WU to enable global money transfers

    Cambodia's largest commercial bank by total assets ACLEDA Bank Plc and global money transfer firm Western Union (WU) have partnered to offer customers cross-border money transfers to 200 countries via “ACLEDA mobile” app. In Channy, president and group managing director of ACLEDA, said the June 22 agreement

  • Aeon, Micromax partner again for third mall

    AEON Mall (Cambodia) Co Ltd and a locally-owned Micromax Co Ltd have entered into a partnership agreement to develop fibre optic infrastructure for $200 million Aeon Mall 3, which is expected to be opened in 2023. The agreement was signed on June 20 between Masayuki Tsuboya, managing director of

  • Walmart plans to diversify stock of Cambodia goods

    Walmart Inc, the world’s biggest retailer, on June 22 reiterated recent plans to scale up and greatly diversify its purchases of Cambodian products, according to the labour ministry. This came during a virtual working meeting between Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Samheng and