News / Asia

    Cambodia, Vietnam Voice Concern at Mekong River Commission Meeting

    Gabrielle Paluch
    Representatives from Southeast Asia countries are meeting in Laos this week to discuss development projects on the Mekong River. A key issue for the Mekong River Commission has been evaluating a planned hydropower dam in Laos that environmentalists worry could damage river ecosystems that millions of people downstream depend on.
     
    During this weeks talks, representatives from Vietnam and Cambodia objected to how Laos carried out the consultation process before starting construction on the Xayaburi dam - the first to obstruct the main stem of the Mekong river.
     
    Officials from the nations are not commenting on the record, but others who attended the talks say Vietnam requested a 10-year moratorium on decisions over mainstream dams, saying authorities have not sufficiently studied how they can impact people downstream.
     
    Construction on the Xayaburi dam was officially announced last November, more than a year after actual construction had begun - without member state consensus, and in violation of the 1995 Mekong agreement
     
    Pianporn Deetes is the Thailand campaign coordinator for International Rivers, a non-governmental organization that monitors the Mekong.

    “Concerns raised by member countries have not been addressed comprehensively. Important to also recognize the concern raised by affected communities which represent 60 million people in all four countries," he said. "It's not just lives of a few people but 60 million and we applaud Cambodia and Vietnam for upholding their responsibility in the 1995 Mekong Agreement."
     
    Although the Lao government has grand plans to become the "battery" of Asia, and the power produced by the $3.5 billion hydroelectric dam would mean critical income for an economy with an annual GDP of roughly $8 billion, environmentalists worry the project could threaten the lives and livelihoods of communities downstream.
     
    International Rivers estimates over 70% of the protein consumed by Cambodians is sourced in the Mekong River.
     
    Former Thai MP Kraisak Choonhavan believes the responsibility for the rush to construction lies with Thai corporations who have chosen to disregard the social impacts of their investments.  "The Xayaburi project is all financed by Thais and Thai banks and Thai construction and Thai corporate interests. That is putting Laos on the brink of a social disaster. Tens of thousands of people have been moved and there's no representation," he said.
     
    Although Thailand's demand for electricity, and the economic benefits of the dam are undeniable, activists believe it is not yet too late to halt the project.
     
    Mark Goichot, who works for the World Wildlife Fund on sustainable hydropower projects in Laos, says the Lao government may not fully realize the impact this dam could have on its ecosystem and neighbors, but that the Vietnam and Cambodian governments have made demands that cannot be denied.
     
    "Yes in principle it would be difficult not to follow this very strong recommendation. It will go on unless studies demonstrate that the impacts are significant," said Goichot. "We do not think it is too late to stop it. Concerns are growing and opposition is still very strong to the project so it is more and more difficult to justify it."
     
    Donors and member countries of the commission visited the construction site of the Xayaburi dam Friday to inspect its progress. In the past, the MRC has been criticized for lacking the means or the ability to make the Lao government adhere to the organization's recommendations

    You May Like

    Multimedia Obama Calls on Americans to Help the Families of Its War Dead

    In last Memorial Day of his presidency, Obama lays wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conferencei
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    May 30, 2016 5:11 PM
    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora