Vietnam PM affirms policy of closer ties with Cambodia

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He and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday signed almost 20 agreements worth several billion U.S. dollars to develop the impoverished Southeast Asian country's infrastructure, agriculture and healthcare.

The world's 12th-longest river, the Mekong runs almost 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles) from the Tibetan Plateau down into mainland Southeast Asia before emptying into the South China Sea in Vietnam.

China is the largest trading partner of Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand and the second largest of Laos.

During his official visit in Phnom Penh, both sides inked agreements for Chinese loans for electricity and roadworks in Cambodia.

Yet control over its taps rests to the north with China, whose premier Li Keqiang will land in Phnom Penh on Wednesday to lead a new regional summit that could shape the river's future.

Reaching consensus is a key aim.

In recent months, Kem Monovithya has attended a panel meeting with the US and European Union permanent missions to the United Nations, where she requested that Cambodia's seat at the world body be withheld, called for economic sanctions against Cambodia's government, and requested visa restrictions be put in place to punish Cambodian officials responsible for curbing democracy in the country.

Leaders of the six riparian countries held their first meeting in China in 2016 and the next summit is to take place in Laos in 2020.

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China is the largest source of foreign investment for Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, and the third and fourth-biggest source for Thailand and Vietnam in 2017, respectively, according to China's Ministry of Commerce.

The Lancang-Mekong Cooperation was established by Beijing in 2015. They agreed that MLC needs to contribute more actively to the region's socio-economic development, narrow the development gap among the member countries, assist the building of the ASEAN Community, and cooperate with other mechanisms like the Greater Mekong Subregion and the Mekong River Commission.

During the summit, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc urged China to release sufficient water resources for the Lower Mekong countries, especially during dry season.

The administration of the river is also shared among all six countries, which are committed to deepening cooperation based on three pillars: politics-security, economy and sustainable development, and society-culture and people-to-people exchange.

Mekong-Lancang collaboration focuses on management of hydric resources, connectivity, increased productivity, cross-border economic cooperation, agriculture, and poverty reduction. After little more than two years of operation, the LMC has already brought Mekong countries closer together.

He also suggested developing completed and interconnected infrastructure systems to facilitate the movement of goods, services, capital and people.

The action plan states that "the Mekong-Lancang is moving towards a new sub-regional cooperation mechanism" that will in part support community-building and regional integration efforts of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which also includes Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore.

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