2nd Lancang-Mekong Cooperation leaders' meeting kicks off

2nd Lancang-Mekong Cooperation leaders' meeting kicks off”

Leaders of the six countries sharing the Mekong River on Wednesday adopted a five-year plan of action on sub-regional cooperation.

Initiated by China in 2014, the LMC consists of six countries - China, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

He made the statement during a working session in Phnom Penh on January 10 with his Cambodian counterpart Samdech Techo Hun Sen on the occasion of his trip to Cambodia to attend the second Mekong - Lancang Cooperation Summit.

With the theme of "Our River of Peace and Sustainable Development", the meeting drew the participation of leaders from six members: Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

According to United States-based environmental group International Rivers, China has already built eight dams upstream in Lancang and is planning 20 more in Yunnan, Qinghai and Tibet.

Priorities in the short term should include increasing sharing information and hydro-meteorological statistics, cooperating in response to drought and flood, conducting joint scientific studies, and considering the building of regulations on inter-reservoir operations along the Lancang-Mekong River, the Vietnamese leader said. The Mekong-Lancang countries should be assisted to make use of opportunities from Industry 4.0 through sharing experience, knowledge and technology to promote industrialisation in the member nations; developing businesses and training skillful labourers; attracting resources into infrastructure development and creating conditions for projects to tap their potential and strength; providing jobs for people; enhancing cooperation in researching and transferring technology to develop agriculture, especially hi-tech organic farming.

When asked if the two schemes overlap or compete politically and economically, Sok Siphana, advisor to the Cambodian government who is in charge of both schemes, said they instead complement each other.

Mr Li added that the LMC forum would complement Asean as well as other regional cooperation frameworks.

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The Phnom Penh Declaration was one of the documents approved, an action plan that focuses on four main areas: political and security cooperation; economic and sustainable development cooperation; socio-cultural and people-to-people exchanges; and cooperation support.

"Cambodia is proud and indeed privileged to host this meeting at the important juncture, where we are about to move from a very humble nurturing stage to an expansion stage marked by an ambitious agenda of partnership and cooperation", said Prime Minister Hun Sen.

At more than 45,000 kilometers long, the Mekong is the biggest river in Southeast Asia - and the most controversial. The river's basin is home to up to 1,700 fish species, making it the most diverse basin after the Amazon and Congo.

"If any project has a regional dimension to it, some kind of impact on all six countries, all six countries need to have a say", Mr Pou Sothirak, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, told The Straits Times.

China is the driving force behind numerous projects, having already built eight dams on the river since the 1990s and now building or planning more than a dozen more.

China is also seeking to have parts or the river dredged or rapids cleared so that large cargo ships can navigate.

"In recent years China has benefited enormously from the peaceful and stable environment of our neighboring countries, and we are more than willing to shoulder the responsibility to lend support to them and develop hand in hand", Li said.

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