Speaking Of Asia

Avoiding a South China Sea trap on mainland South-east Asia

The Mekong offers an opportunity for cooperation involving China, US, Japan and India, avoiding turning another waterway into an arena for great power rivalry

A month ago, the Third Mekong River Commission (MRC) Summit was held in Siem Reap, Cambodia, with the Lao, Thai and Vietnamese premiers joining host Prime Minister Hun Sen. As in the previous meetings, China, the upstream nation, was present, but only as a dialogue partner. So, too, Myanmar.

Established in 1995, the MRC is an intergovernmental organisation for regional dialogue and cooperation in the lower Mekong river basin based on the Mekong Agreement between Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. It serves as a regional platform for water diplomacy as well as a knowledge hub of water resources management for the sustainable development of the region. The commission looks across all sectors, including maintaining the freedom of navigation and flood management.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2018, with the headline 'Avoiding a South China Sea trap on mainland S-E Asia'. Subscribe