Leaders from the six countries that the Mekong River runs through yesterday endorsed two key strategies at the latest summit of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC), which was held in Phnom Penh’s Peace Palace.
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The Phnom Penh Declaration was one of the documents approved, an action plan that focuses on four main areas: political and security cooperation; economic and sustainable development cooperation; socio-cultural and people-to-people exchanges; and cooperation support.
The second document was a five-year action plan for the LMC mechanism, which will cover the years 2018-2022.
The second leaders’ summit of the LMC focused on the development of the Mekong sub-region, particularly on maintaining peace, stability, sustainable development and prosperity for all the countries in the area.
Co-chaired by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang, the two-day meeting sought to put the spotlight on the importance of the socio-economic development of the region, particularly as it relates to enhancing the well-being of the people, narrowing the development gap between countries, supporting Asean and its initiatives and advancing South-South Cooperation to further contribute to the implementation of the United Nations 2030 agenda for sustainable development.
The meeting was held under the theme of “Our River of Peace and Sustainable Development”.
Launched in 2015, the LMC is a mechanism devised by China to bring to the table leaders from the six nations that the Mekong passes through – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and China.
The first leaders’ meeting took place in March 2016 in the Chinese province of Hainan.
The LMC is based on three pillars – political and security issues, economic and sustainable development and socio-cultural issues. There are also five key priority areas – connectivity, production capacity, cross-border economic cooperation, water resources and agriculture and poverty reduction.
“Cambodia is proud and indeed privileged to host this meeting at the important juncture, where we are about to move from a very humble nurturing stage to an expansion stage marked by an ambitious agenda of partnership and cooperation,” said Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“Geographically, indeed this river binds our countries together, but it is far more than a physical connection. This river has aspired us to forge our common destiny where friendship, good neighbourliness, shared peace and prosperity are the norms.”
The Cambodian premier added that during the third LMC foreign ministers’ summit, held last month, 132 projects were approved, making up the first batch of projects financed under the framework’s special fund.
An extra 214 projects have been submitted for evaluation, Mr Hun Sen said, adding that this emphasis on getting things done is what makes the LMC a “cooperation-based mechanism”, and not a mere “talk shop”.
“We have found great synergy in effectively mirroring the three key areas of cooperation of the LMC with the three pillars of the Asean Community. That is why we have gained much speed in making the LMC mechanism play a vital role in supporting the interests of the Mekong countries to extract maximum benefits from the Asean Economic Community, especially with China, which is already a strong supporter of Asean integration and global multilateralism,” Mr Hun Sen said.
Chinese premier Li Keqiang said during the following press conference that the LMC seeks to enhance peace and stability in the region, particularly by raising the living standards of those who are most in need.
“China created the mechanism to ensure the security and stability of the region,” Mr Li said. “We are all working together to reach our goals. We have consensus and a spirit of cooperation.”
On the sidelines of the meeting, Mr Hun Sen met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and later with Thailand’s General Prayuth Chan-o-Cha.
Trade between Cambodia and Thailand is expected to increase in the near future due to enhanced government cooperation on connectivity, including the opening of several border checkpoints, Mr Hun Sen said, noting that bilateral trade reached $5.5 billion in 2017, 10 percent higher than the year before.
Trade volume between Cambodia and Vietnam was valued at $3.8 billion in 2017, up 25 percent compared with a year earlier. The third LMC leaders’ meeting will take place in Vientiane, Laos, and will be co-chaired by Laos and China.