Thailand Touted for Rare Move to Drop Chinese Plan for Mekong River


Rights groups and researchers have welcomed Thailand’s decision to cancel a Beijing-backed project to dredge and blow open a shallow and rocky stretch of the Mekong River along the Thai-Lao border.

The move is a rare victory for groups and communities fighting to save Southeast Asia’s most important river from overdevelopment.

Beijing’s plan — endorsed by Laos, Myanmar and Thailand in 2000 — was to make the stretch of rapids navigable for larger cargo ships hoping to ply the Mekong between China’s landlocked Yunnan province and the busy trade routes of the South China Sea. Rights groups and local communities feared it would destroy critical fish habitat and their way of life.

Thai government spokeswoman Trisulee Trisaranakul said the cabinet scrapped the plan Tuesday.

“The reasons is …China does not support the project anymore and it affects the people of Thailand, because Thai people do not want to make it happen,” she told VOA.

Pianporn Deetes, Thailand campaign director for International Rivers, which advocates for sustainable riverine management, called it “a momentous win for the Mekong.

Were the project to move forward, it “would transform the river from a life-giving watershed [in] to an industrial corridor where transnational corporations profit at a staggering cost to local livelihoods and biodiversity, rivaled only by the Amazon,” she said in a statement.

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