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International water issues

The Mekong River Commission (MRC) came into existence on 5 April 1995 on agreement between the governments of Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Thailand and Viet Nam. These four countries signed the “Agreement on the cooperation for the sustainable development of the Mekong River Basin” and agreed on joint management of their shared water resources and development of the economic potential of the river. The MRC was established on the foundation of nearly 50 years of knowledge and experience in the region, starting in 1957 as the United Nations-founded Mekong Committee. In 1996, China and Myanmar became Dialogue Partners of the MRC and the countries now work together within a cooperation framework.

The proposed Hatgyi and Tasang dams would generate electricity that would mostly be bought by Thailand, and Thai and Chinese companies are involved in the construction. The construction of the dams in Myanmar on the Thanlwin river could displace thousands of ethnic minorities (Karen), which might have to flee into neighbouring Thailand. Damming the Thanlwin has also raised environmental concerns, both in Myanmar and in upstream China. It is said that the projects would threaten one-third of the 75 fish species in the river. In 2004, China announced the suspension of all projects on the upstream Nu river pending further scientific study.


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