World / Asia-Pacific

Lancang-Mekong Cooperation leaders' meeting 'golden opportunity': Cambodian experts

(Xinhua) Updated: 2016-03-18 15:13
PHNOM PENH - Ahead of the inaugural Lancang-Mekong Cooperation leaders'meeting scheduled to open next week in China, scholars in Cambodia are saying the summit will provide a "golden opportunity" for leaders to enhance cooperation toward building a region of shared prosperity and common destiny.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is due to meet with the leaders from the Mekong River countries -- Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam -- on March 23 in Sanya city in south China's Hainan province, and attend the Boao Forum for Asia on March 24.

Joseph Matthews, director of the Phnom Penh-based ASEAN Education Center, said the forthcoming summit would be a"golden opportunity"for the leaders to work toward boosting cooperation in economy, security and infrastructure development in the region.

"The Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Mechanism is in compliance with ASEAN Economic Community integration, so it will push further economic development in the sub-region," he told Xinhua.

He said all the six countries are naturally, economically, socially and geopolitically interdependent on each other one way or another, so cooperation and collaboration between and among partners are inevitable.

"I believe that this is the first and biggest sub-regional forum based on cooperation and common interest in the world today," he said.

Meanwhile, the Indian-born expert also hailed China's active role in supporting infrastructure development in the Mekong River countries.

"Under the Maritime Silk Road Initiative, China has been working and funding initiatives to connect the region through rail, road, sea and air ways," he said.

"Without infrastructure development and connectivity, economic development in the region will be just a dream or fantasy."

Mey Kalyan, senior adviser of Cambodia's Supreme National Economic Council, said Lancang and Mekong sound like two rivers, but in fact, it is only one river basin, and the people of all six countries drink water from the same source.

"It is extremely important to have an effective mechanism to manage this river basin," he said.

"So far, management of this basin has been too patchy and divided based on each country's interest, so it needs to be upgraded to meet a common interest."

Kalyan said Cambodia will definitely benefit from this cooperation because most of Cambodia's territory is in the Mekong basin, so the country's destiny is inextricably linked to the health and wealth of the Mekong.

"An effective mechanism to manage the river will benefit Cambodia in every aspect, particularly agriculture, fishery, transport, environment, water use, and tourism,"he said."An unhealthy Mekong will make it difficult for Cambodia to survive."

Chheang Vannarith, chairman of the Cambodian Institute for Strategic Studies, said the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Mechanism is an important sub-regional cooperation, which will contribute to regional connectivity and socio-economic integration.

"Under this mechanism, Cambodia will gain access to development assistance, trade and investment opportunities, tourism promotion and human resources development," he said.

The expert said the key challenges for the Lancang-Mekong cooperation are economic inequality, environmental degradation, food-water-energy security nexus, climate change and natural disasters.

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