PM leaves Hanoi for Mekong-Lancang Cooperation Summit

Cambodian women cutting the heads of fish as a fisherman pulls his net in the Mekong River in Kanal province January 5

The world's 12th-longest river, the Mekong runs almost 5,000 kilometres from the Tibetan Plateau and down into mainland Southeast Asia before emptying into the South China Sea in Vietnam.

Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc left Hà Nội on Wednesday morning for Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to attend the second Mekong-Lancang Cooperation (MLC) Summit.

The leaders of those nations (Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam) are meeting here in Phnom Penh under the slogan "Our River of Peace and Sustainable Development" to tune up their collaboration mechanism on the territories bathed by the colossal stream.

Cambodia and China on Thursday signed almost 20 agreements worth several billion dollars to develop the impoverished Southeast Asian country's infrastructure, agriculture and health care.

They have also implemented projects like those dealing with the exchange of officials, free eye surgeries, women's cooperation forums and collaboration among tourist cities.

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Its objectives are deepening all aspect of friendly cooperation among the countries through which the river runs, boosting global growth in the sub-region, promoting regional integration and strengthening the construction of the ASEAN community. The river's basin is home to up to 1,700 fish species, making it the most diverse basin after the Amazon and Congo.

In return, Cambodia supports China in worldwide forums, including Beijing's ongoing dispute with Southeast Asian countries in the South China Sea.

Despite the show of unity between the Mekong leaders, campaign group International Rivers said there were major concerns about the future of the river, with 20 dams planned on the upper Mekong in addition to eight already built.

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

In the two years since the forum's establishment, China has set aside billions of dollars to support 45 projects including water resource research centers and cooperation on connectivity projects, industrial capacity, border trade, agriculture and poverty alleviation.

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