On the Mekong, Khon Pi rapids saved – for now

The Interpreter –

Just over a year ago, I reported on the uncertain future of the Khon Pi rapids, located near the Thai town of Chiang Khong and lying in the riverbed between Thailand and Laos. At issue was the desire of a Chinese company to blast the rapids and thus open the course of the Mekong for commercial navigation between Southern Yunnan province and the former Lao royal capital of Luang Prabang.

My post noted the very active local opposition to this Chinese plan because of the part the rapids played in fish spawning and harvesting, as well as the cultural significance the local population attached to the rapids. I also raised the question of what lay behind the Chinese hopes to inaugurate commercial navigation as far as Luang Prabang, suggesting that if navigation were established it would be Chinese vessels that would benefit, as opposed to Thai or Lao craft. Since this was so, and in the light of the limited profitable backloading that could be expected from Luang Prabang, I further suggested that Chinese interest should properly be seen in terms of a desire to project influence, rather than an undertaking conceived in commercial terms.

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