Cambodia values China’s commitment to the establishment of the Mekong-Lancang Public Health Community and its leading role in providing medicines, medical supplies and millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses to the Mekong River nations, especially Cambodia.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn made the remarks in celebration of the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation (MLC) Week 2022.

MLC is a multilateral framework comprising the six Mekong nations – China, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam.

Sokhonn said that through the public health community, China had provided enough Covid-19 vaccines that enabled Cambodia to achieve its hugely successful vaccination goals – with over 92 per cent of the population now vaccinated. This accomplishment had enabled the Kingdom to reopen to the rest of the world.

“These accomplishments, among others, are strong testimony to the efficacy and relevance of the MLC framework,” he said.

According to Sokhonnn, through the MLC Special Fund, Cambodia has benefited from 67 projects – amounting to more than $20 million in funding – that supports a broad range of cooperative activities in the fields of rural development, poverty alleviation, water resource management, agriculture, air connectivity, education, cultural heritage preservation, as well as women’s empowerment.

He said the Mekong-Lancang region is growing into an important “growth pole” in the dynamic Asia Pacific region, thanks to its geo-strategic significance, economic weight, and enormous market potential.

However, he said more work is needed to ensure new sources of growth amid rapidly evolving global and regional economic conditions.

“We look forward to the realisation of the Mekong-Lancang Economic Development Belt and the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor to further boost and deepen regional integration efforts.

“We are mindful that our developmental needs will place a strain on our natural resources, and so we will combine our efforts to cooperate on the sustainable management of our water resources and on the management of flooding, drought and other extreme weather events,” he said.

In addition to the MLC, Sokhonn also expressed appreciation for other Mekong and sub-regional cooperative mechanisms, in particular the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy and the Greater Mekong Sub-region for driving sub-regional transformation and ASEAN community building efforts.

“As Cambodia holds the ASEAN chair this year, the MLC mechanism will certainly contribute a strong development component towards ensuring that ASEAN will continue to thrive – in the true spirit of a community with shared futures,” he said.

Ro Vannak, co-founder of the Cambodian Institute for Democracy, said that as there is geopolitical competition between China and the West, Cambodia should take the opportunity to gain benefits in the Mekong region, not only from China but from other countries like Japan and the US.

“In the context of Mekong-Lancang Cooperation – especially considering the vaccine aid received from China – Cambodia should urge China to build more factories in Cambodia and train Cambodian staff to become as competent as their Chinese counterparts. This would be a natural progression, due the ‘ironclad friendship’ between the two,” he said.