Several journalists from the Mekong region who attended last week’s three-day journalism workshop on their role in the reporting of Mekong River-related issues have announced that they intend to establish a network. The network will enable them to cooperate and work together for better understanding.

The workshop, which was co-organised by the International Relations Institute of Cambodia (IRIC) of the Royal Academy of Cambodia and the Cambodia Club of Journalists (CCJ), invited more than 60 journalists from the region to participate.

Thirteen journalists from media organisations in China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam were in attendance, along with many representatives of the Cambodian media scene. They enjoyed courses in a wide range of topics, ranging from politics, environmental and human rights, to economic development.

Liam Lee, chief international desk correspondent with the Ta Kung Pao Daily, first visited the Kingdom seven years ago to cover stories. He considered the workshop a brilliant networking opportunity.

“I will help to set up a network for us, because the Mekong River, which originates in China, is something we all share, in addition to our shared desire for peace,” he said.

“I think this network will provide me with very valuable experience,” he added.

He said that during the last section of the workshop, he was very pleased to hear the perspective of Minister of Environment Say Samal, who highlighted the ministry’s work to protect the beauty of the Mekong River and how the ministry cooperates closely with the media.

Pratch Rujivanarom, a journalist with the Bangkok Post, agreed, saying the three-day course had been an invaluable networking opportunity for him.

“It was definitely very useful and has provided me with many valuable resources. The best thing about the workshop was the chance to meet so many other journalists,” he added.

Nguyen Tat Dat, a Vietnamese journalist, said the training provided an excellent platform for regional journalists to learn from each other.

“It was a rare opportunity for all of us to share points of view from our own respective countries and felt like the beginning of something new.

“The Mekong is a very important part of Asia and this community is likely to be of great help in resolving any future issues,” he said.

Kin Phea, IRIC general-director, drew attention to the fact that since 2019, some countries outside the region have continuously hyped up Mekong River resource management issues, provoking regional altercations and attempting to turn the Mekong into the “Second South China Sea”.

“The dispute over the South China Sea is a territorial claim, while the debate on the Mekong is about different development models, with essential differences between them. The governments of the six countries along the Mekong have seen the economic benefits of developing Mekong resources – they don’t want to be left behind in terms of investment and benefits from the development of hydropower,” he said.

“They have always persisted in consultation and dialogue, an exchange of experiences and project cooperation. Enhancing mutual benefit and trust, and further consolidating cooperation, instead of being caught in the senseless debate provoked by the outside world, are hallmarks of the region. This definitely applies to the secret manipulation of issues which is designed to mislead public opinion,” he added.