News / Asia

US Assistance Aims at Preventing Cross-Border Conflict in Mekong Region

Mekong River and tributaries sustain tens of millions of people in Southeast Asia, but river is also site of several controversial new hydropower projects.

A Cambodian man walks on a bridge from his fishing wooden boat at Mekong river bank near Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 27, 2011
A Cambodian man walks on a bridge from his fishing wooden boat at Mekong river bank near Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 27, 2011
Brian Padden

Although the dispute about conflicting claims in the South China Sea took center stage at the recent ASEAN security forum, U.S. officials also focused on addressing another potential conflict relating to Asia’s growing energy needs. The Mekong River and its tributaries sustain tens of millions of people in Southeast Asia, but the river is also the site of several controversial new hydropower projects. 

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came to the recent security forum of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Bali to say the United States intends to remain engaged in the political and economic development of the region. As part of that effort, she talked about how Washington is fostering responsible development through a $221 million U.S. assistance program in the Lower Mekong River Basin.

The money will used to fund education, environment, health and infrastructure programs in underdeveloped areas in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN David Carden says the United States is concerned about the impact of several large hydropower projects that some environmental groups have warned could seriously affect key waterways in the region.

“The dams that are being proposed and some that have already been built have not at this juncture been fully vetted as to what their scientific impact is," he said. "And it is not only this region but indeed in the interest of the world for food security purposes, for environmental purposes, for peace and security purpose, for the development of the Lower Mekong to happen intelligently and consistent with the best science that can be brought to bear on it.”

More than 60 million people live in the Lower Mekong Basin, an area of more than 600,000 square kilometers. It is the world's largest inland fishery. Rice farmers also depend on water and sediment from the river to irrigate and fertilize their crops.

But there is growing concern that the construction of hydroelectric dams in China and plans for more dams in Laos and Cambodia could cause significant environmental and economic damage in lower Mekong countries like Vietnam.

Ambassador Carden says the U.S. assistance is broadly aimed at providing aid to help maintain peace and security in a region where there is a potential for cross border conflict.

“I think that the simple truth is, whatever any motivations anybody wants to attribute to these efforts, I think it is clearly the case that the world, not just the region, the world recognizes the need for all of us to work together to address these border-less problems,” said Carden.

But Milton Osborne, Southeast Asia analyst with Australia's Lowy Institute for International Policy says the U.S. engagement in Asia is motivated in large part by concern about China's growing influence.

“The continuing rise of China in economic terms is clearly a concern for the United States and this is one, the Mekong initiative is one of several ways the United States is making clear that it is continuing to have a broad interest in this part of the world,” said Osborne.

Osborne says the aid money does not give U.S. officials access to negotiate in any Mekong delta development negotiations, but it shows the United States is committed to play a constructive role in Asia's future.

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid