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Cooperation among Mekong River countries needs strengthening

Big plans for Cambodian airport

Cooperation among Mekong River countries needs strengthening

Slow progress and Chinese dams a problem

Phitsanu Thepthong

China insists on constructing more dams along the Mekong River in its territory, although this will cause shallows and slow the flow in countries in the lower sections of the river.

Siriporn Chaimongkol, head of the Economic Relations Promotion Division in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ International Economy Department.

China claims that it must construct at least 10 dams, said Siriporn Chaimongkol, head of the Economic Relations Promotion Division in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ International Economy Department.

She said the countries affected will have to negotiate with China, asking for a halt to the construction because of the negative impact on their surroundings and environment.

Siriporn was speaking at the "Economy and Investments in the Countries located along the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS)" seminar on, arranged by Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Economy and the GMS Integrated Development Project, on June 17.

The development projects dealing with information technology, the economy, investment and trade in the sub-region located along the Mekong River affect Thailand and the neighboring countries of China, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

Ajarn Anek Nimmolrat of the Faculty of Economics said, "They need to be familiar with the relevant facts on the economy and investment in this sub-region and be ready to compete with economic rivals in the future." Siriporn, the Foreign Affairs Ministry official said cooperation was essential. "The problem seems to be the lack of technology in our neighboring countries - that is what is obstructing growth," she continued. "The GMS development plan was initiated in 1992, but it is still very slow going. However, Thailand has made great strides and can help its neighbors. Investment means more jobs, and this GMS cooperation is aimed at attracting more foreign investment in technology transfer and natural resource utilization," Siriporn noted.

She said that it seemed that the major developments at present concerned tourism, communications and transportation schemes. "Good cooperation can help boost good development and Thailand is pleased to be seen as their partners, not only a donor country."

Dr Somphob Manarangsarn, a specialist at the China Studies Center at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, added that the Quadrangle Economic Cooperation Plan, which can be implemented in the GMS area, offered further opportunities.

He said southern China’s Kwangsi province and Naming and Kunming in Yunnan province that have port facilities, railways links and other infrastructure, are getting ready for investment, trade and services.

However, he noted that he has received many complaints from the Yunnan delegation that the Quadrangle Economic Cooperation Plan has not worked out well, even though it was initiated several years ago.

Dr. Somphob said Mainland China was a very outstanding location because there are many opportunities for Thailand and other countries to invest there. "China is developing economically more quickly than Thailand, but is welcoming more foreign investment all the time," he observed.

Big plans for Cambodian airport

A US$5 million project to widen the runway at Phnom Penh International Airport (PNH) to accommodate regular flights of wide-body aircraft is due for completion by the beginning of July (2004).

Initiated in December 2003, the project to widen the single runway to 45m will upgrade the airport’s status to International Civil Aviation Organization category 4E and allow the handling of larger aircraft such as the Boeing 747, Airbus A330 and A340.

Work is being carried out between 21.00 and 06.00 hours, so normal operations and flight schedules will be maintained throughout the project.

Bangkok Airways now has three daily flights from Bangkok with B717 aircraft. Other airlines with international flights to PNH include Thai Airways International, Malaysia Airlines, Vietnam Airlines, Silk Air, EVA Air and Dragon Air. (TTG Asia)