Mekong river

A view of the Mekong between Don Det and Don Khon, Si Phan Don, Laos, May 2019. (Wikimedia)

American researcher: China's upstream dams threaten economy and security of Mekong region

China’s 11 hydropower dams built on the upper Mekong River held back massive quantities of water over the last two years, causing crop failure and depleting fish catches, and threatening the livelihoods of the 60 million people living downstream. Besides, China has financed half of Laos’ 60 dams on Mekong tributaries and two more on the mainstream, pushing Laos' debt levels to about US$17 billion in 2019, nearly equivalent to the country’s annual GDP. Furthermore, other projects in Thailand have been cancelled out of concern that it would give Beijing too much strategic and economic influence deep into mainland Southeast Asia. American researcher Murray Hiebert explains the situation.
A view of the Mekong river bordering Thailand and Laos is seen from the Thai side in Nong Khai, Thailand, 29 October 2019. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Role of Vietnam in Mekong: A middle power in another US-China geopolitical battleground

Hanoi is applying its South China Sea playbook to the Mekong. It is putting effort into enmeshing all stakeholders while carefully balancing relationships with major powers interested in the Mekong. What does this mean for Southeast Asia and the region's relationship with China and the US? RSIS graduate research assistant Phan Xuan Dung examines how Vietnam can make a difference.
US President-elect Joe Biden listens as he holds a video conference meeting with members of the US Conference of Mayors at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, US, 23 November 2020. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Now more than ever, Southeast Asia values a firm American security presence

President-elect Joe Biden will restore a more traditional style of diplomacy to the US, but domestic considerations will weigh heavily on American foreign policy — and Washington’s approach to Southeast Asia.
A view of the Mekong river bordering Thailand and Laos is seen from the Thai side in Nong Khai, Thailand, 29 October 2019. (Soe Zeya Tun/REUTERS)

Chinese academics: Mekong must not become second South China Sea

China said that it would share year-round hydrological information of the upper Mekong with downstream countries during the recently concluded 3rd Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Leaders' Meeting held via video conference. Will this help assuage fears that China is using the control of water flow in the Mekong as a lever, literally, to exert greater influence on the CLMVT (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand) countries in ASEAN? Chinese academics Zhai Kun and Deng Han warn that China and Southeast Asian countries must be wary of external forces politicising matters in the Mekong region.
Fishermen pull in their fishing nets as the sun rises over the Mekong river in Phnom Penh on 9 June 2020. (Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP)

Major powers react to rising Chinese influence in Mekong

In recent years, the Mekong subregion has seen a renewed engagement of external powers, particularly the US, Japan, and South Korea, mainly due to the China factor. This re-enmeshment signifies an intense power competition in Southeast Asia, in light of China’s increasing economic and political clout. Thai academic Pongphisoot Busbarat cautions that Southeast Asian states need to send a clear signal to external powers that increasing cooperation with them does not equate to choosing sides.
This aerial handout photo taken on March 18, 2020 and released by Thai volunteer group Jit Arsa shows a night time view of fires in Mae Rim district in northern Chiang Mai province, where the blazes have severely impacted air quality. (Handout/Jit Arsa/AFP)

Forest fires: Lancang-Mekong regional countries can work together to manage transboundary haze

With air quality in the Lancang-Mekong region entering the unhealthy range due to agricultural burning and causing air pollution in Chinese provinces, China academics Bi Shihong and Zhang Chengcen examine what countries in the Lancang-Mekong area can do to tackle transboundary haze.
A local villager drive a boat where the future site of the Luang Prabang dam will be on the Mekong River, outskirt of Luang Prabang province, Laos, February 5, 2020. (Panu Wongcha-um/REUTERS)

China-led Mekong project terminated as Thais protest: Participatory diplomacy in action?

Thailand has terminated a China-led project on the Mekong River, following resistance by locals and conservationists. ISEAS visiting fellow Supalak Ganjanakhundee explains how this will affect the future of the Mekong River.
The Mekong River at Sangkhom district in the northeastern Thai province of Nong Khai, with Laos seen on the right. The once mighty Mekong River has been reduced to a thin, grubby neck of water across Northern Thailand - record lows blamed on drought and a recently opened dam hundreds of kilometers upstream. (Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP)

The Mekong River’s future and the role of China

The Mekong river is ecologically rich, and a source of life in more ways than one. However, its system is being threatened by the construction of dams by China. Independent scholar Milton Osborne examines the impact of human activity on the Mekong delta.