Geopolitics plays out on the Mekong with doubts on dams and promises of cooperation

The geopolitics of the Mekong river continue to evolve, with key announcements from China, Thailand and the Mekong River Commission.


Recent weeks have seen new developments in the ongoing tension over the Mekong river and its waters, as the river basin faces ecological crises and its waters play an ever-larger role in geopolitics.

Thailand has announced that it is reconsidering its decision to purchase power from the planned Sanakham Dam, a large hydropower project on the mainstream of the Mekong in Laos. Tiếp tục đọc “Geopolitics plays out on the Mekong with doubts on dams and promises of cooperation”


By Satu Limaye, East West Center

HONOLULU (29 July 2020)—In recent years, relations with Southeast Asia have emerged as an important pillar of US engagement with the Indo-Pacific region. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is central to US foreign policy in the region, with a growing focus on the five countries bound together by the Mekong River—Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Fishing boats are unloaded on Tonle Sap Lake, which is fed by the Mekong River in Cambodia. Conservationists warn that dam construction on the Mekong could threaten the food supply of more than 40 million people who rely on fish from the river as an important source of protein. Photo: Jason South/Fairfax Media/Getty Images.

As they emerge from a tumultuous history, these countries must confront new elements of great-power competition even as their youthful populations push for economic growth and integration into the wider region and the world. Among other impacts, urbanization, infrastructure expansion, and climate change all affect the Mekong River, the natural resources along its banks, and the 240 million people who live in the region.


Laos to move on third Mekong dam project despite neighbours’ green concerns

FILE PHOTO: A local villager drive a boat where the future site of the Luang Prabang dam will be on
FILE PHOTO: A local villager drive a boat where the future site of the Luang Prabang dam will be on the Mekong River, outskirt of Luang Prabang province, Laos, February 5, 2020. REUTERS/Panu Wongcha-um/File Photo

BANGKOK: Laos is pushing ahead with a hydropower project on the Mekong River, despite reservations aired by neighbouring countries over its potential to harm fisheries and farming downstream, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) said on Wednesday (Jul 10.

The 1,400-megawatt (MW) Luang Prabang project will be Laos’s third and largest dam on the river, with construction originally set to begin this year. Tiếp tục đọc “Laos to move on third Mekong dam project despite neighbours’ green concerns”

Vietnam and the Mekong’s Synthetic Drug Epidemic


Mainland Southeast Asia remains a hotspot for illegal drug manufacturing, and Vietnam is emerging as a transit hub.

Although Vietnam has some of the world’s most stringent drug laws — those convicted of possessing or smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine face death – the country has also been facing the existence of a key smuggling and trafficking hub for illegal drugs around the Golden Triangle, at the intersection of China, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar. The Golden Triangle is the world’s second-largest drug producing region, and the effects are being felt in Vietnam.
Tiếp tục đọc “Vietnam and the Mekong’s Synthetic Drug Epidemic”

Critically Endangered Giant Fish on Menu at Luxury Restaurants

FROM THE OUTSIDE Nha Hang Lang Nghe, in Danang, looks like any other respectable restaurant in Vietnam. Tables are invitingly laid out in the shade of a lush garden, and festive traditional art lines attractive brick walls. Families laugh over hot pots, and businessmen clink glasses.

Yet the veneer of wholesome normality masks a dark truth: Critically endangered giant river fish are Lang Nghe’s signature dish. Although it’s illegal to sell them in Vietnam, signs at the entryway entice diners with photos of imperiled Mekong giant catfish (“tasty meat, rich in omega-3”) and giant barbs (“good for men”), while a video showing a 436-pound giant catfish being cooked and eaten plays on a screen inside. Advertisements on social media likewise boast of the delightful flavor of the enormous fish, and of their rarity.
Tiếp tục đọc “Critically Endangered Giant Fish on Menu at Luxury Restaurants”

The Unfolding Mekong Development Disaster –

Text Box: Diplomat April 2018 Mekong-Cuulong Blog

By Tom Fawthrop

The Mekong has long cast a mystical spell over adventurers, wildlife experts, and
scientists enchanted by its spectacular rapids and waterfalls, along with its endangered dolphins, giant manta rays, and Siamese crocodiles. The river’s biodiversity is second only to the Amazon.

In recent years, however, this great international river – which flows through six countries – has increasingly grabbed the attention of engineers, technocrats, and energy consultants on a very different kind of mission: to exploit its roaring currents in pursuit of hydropower.

Any idea of environmental protection for the wonders of the Mekong has been marginalized by China’s grand Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with its focus firmly fixed on trade, infrastructure development, and, along the Mekong, dam construction. Tiếp tục đọc “The Unfolding Mekong Development Disaster –”

Powering Up: Mekong Basin Connect

stimson_logo_blue 3  Announcement

Powering Up: Mekong Basin Connect

Countries in the Mekong Basin need a strategic, basin-wide approach to efficiently develop the basin’s water and energy resources in ways that protect the natural productivity of the river system. Otherwise, poorly coordinated hydropower planning on the Mekong mainstream and its tributaries will lead this resource rich region into a water and food security crisis.

In 2017, Stimson’s Energy, Water, and Sustainability program launched the Mekong Basin Connect Initiative, led by the Stimson Center, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), UC Berkeley’s Energy Resources Group, and The Nature Conservancy, to identify and promote new and pathways to achieve this ambitious goal. Click on the image below to learn more about Mekong Basin Connect.

Click to view Field Notes

Field Notes — Tonle Sap Lake

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Field Notes — Tonle Sap Lake

Stimson Southeast Asia program director Brian Eyler recently visited Plov Tuok, a community of 800 floating homes atop of Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake — the largest lake in Southeast Asia and the world’s largest inland fishery. The visit was facilitated by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and Brian witnessed first-hand the progress of fish conversation zones that were established by local villagers and IUCN in 2014.

Click to read his Field Notes.

Power stacked against Southeast Asia’s poor as China dams Mekong


Communities along the mighty Mekong blame China for their shrinking catches. (Photo: AFP/TANG CHHIN SOTHY)


KANDAL, Cambodia: Cambodian fisherman Sles Hiet lives at the mercy of the Mekong: A massive river that feeds tens of millions but is under threat from the Chinese dams cementing Beijing’s physical – and diplomatic – control over its Southeast Asian neighbours.

The 32-year-old, whose ethnic Cham Muslim community live on rickety house boats that bob along a river bend in Kandal province, says the size of his daily catch has been shrinking by the year. Tiếp tục đọc “Power stacked against Southeast Asia’s poor as China dams Mekong”

Is Mekong River set to become the new South China Sea for regional disputes?

The Beijing-led Lancang-Mekong Cooperation mechanism was set up to help ease tensions over development projects, but environmental groups are yet to be convinced

 South China Morning Post PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 January, 2018, 9:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 January, 2018, 12:09am

Foreign ministers from the six countries through which the Mekong flows met in southwestern China last month to approve a draft of a five-year development plan for the river. But as state leaders prepare to finalise the proposal at a meeting in Cambodia later this month, environmental groups have expressed concern over what it could mean for Southeast Asia’s longest waterway.

Tiếp tục đọc “Is Mekong River set to become the new South China Sea for regional disputes?”

Regional countries agree on safe labour migration

Last update 16:31 | 03/08/2017

VietNamNet Bridge – Ministers of labour from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam (CLMTV) – agreed to improve their migration management system and share responsibilities in contributing to safe labour migration.

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A welder work at a mechanical workshop. Ministers of labour from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam agreed to boost safe migration workers among countries in a conference in Da Nang. Photos: Cong Thanh/VNS

The reaffirmation was included in the CLMTV joint declaration on safe labour migration at the 2nd Ministerial Conference on Labour Co-operation in CLMTV in Da Nang yesterday.

The ministers also committed to boosting information exchanges, and encouraging legal cross-border workers and employment through bilateral agreements among the five countries. Tiếp tục đọc “Regional countries agree on safe labour migration”