Cambodia's Hun Sen to attend Mekong River Commission meet in Hua Hin

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010
The Nation

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen plans to make his first visit to Thailand since the two countries downgraded their diplomatic ties late last year.

Hun Sen is scheduled to attend the Mekong River Commission (MRC) meeting in Hua Hin early next month.

"We have received his confirmation for the meeting," Information Department deputy director-general Thani Thongpakdee said yesterday.

Cambodia and Thailand recalled their ambassadors last November, not long after Hun Sen appointed former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as his economic adviser.

The Cambodian premier also strongly criticised the Abhisit Vejjajiva-led government at the time.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti yesterday said the prime ministers of Laos and Vietnam had also confirmed they would be present at the MRC meeting.

"Burma and China will dispatch representatives to the meeting, too," he said.

The MRC member countries are Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Burma and China are dialogue partners.

MRC's mission

The MRC's mission is to promote and coordinate sustainable management and development of water and related resources for the countries' mutual benefit and the people's well-being.

The 4,350-kilometre-long Mekong is one of the world's major rivers. With its source in the Tibetan Plateau, the river runs through China's Yunnan province, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

In recent years, the downriver countries have lamented that China's dams along the Mekong caused abnormal changes in water levels.

Many Thais living along the Mekong complain the water level very often increases and decreases drastically in the space of a day.

Earlier this year, the water level in the Mekong was too low for cargo boats to use in Chiang Rai province.

Suwit Kularbwong, coordinator for the Human Rights Information and Peace Centre of the Northeast, said Thai, Lao and Vietnamese academics would discuss the state of the Mekong in their respective countries next Thursday.

"On April 2, another forum on the issue will be held, but participants will be locals, such as those from Chiang Rai," Suwit said.

He said about 300 demonstrators would gather in front of the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok on April 3 to submit a letter detailing how the dams in China had adversely affected people downriver.

"It's going to be a symbolic move," he added.

Minister Suwit yesterday expressed optimism about China's gesture in response to the plea from downriver countries.

"It has showed an intention to help ease the Mekong problems," he said.

China's Water Resources Ministry has agreed to provide the MRC secretariat with hydrological data from the hydrometeorological stations at Jinhong and Manan in Yunnan province during the severe drought season, as an emergency response to facilitate disaster relief in downstream countries.

"Data will be delivered every Monday from March 22 until the end of this year's drought season," Suwit said.


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