New chapter for Mekong region
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New chapter for Mekong region

Leaders of six member countries of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation attend the Second Mekong-Lancang Cooperation (MLC) Leaders' Meeting in Phnom Penh in 2018. (Photo Government House)
Leaders of six member countries of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation attend the Second Mekong-Lancang Cooperation (MLC) Leaders' Meeting in Phnom Penh in 2018. (Photo Government House)

This year marks the 7th anniversary of the launch of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation understanding. As a new sub-regional cooperation mechanism jointly established by the riparian countries of China, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam, the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation has developed rapidly and achieved remarkable results in the past seven years, making it a veritable "golden example" of regional cooperation.

Over the past seven years, the six member countries have worked together to make the area a place of robust growth for development while jointly advancing the Belt and Road Initiative.

In 2022, bucking the impact of the pandemic, China's trade with the other five member countries reached US$416.7 billion (14.3 trillion baht). The China-Laos Railway opened to traffic, transporting 417,300 passengers and 647,700 tonnes of goods in January-February 2023, a year-on-year increase of 256.2% and 320% respectively while improving regional connectivity.

All parties have worked together to address the threats and challenges to traditional and non-traditional security in the Lancang-Mekong Sub-region; maintain the security of the regional industrial chain's finances and energy; create a big market for the Lancang-Mekong River area with extensive participation and shared benefits, and promote the pilot area of the Global Security Initiative.

Six major plans benefiting the Mekong countries have been launched to deepen agricultural cooperation, public health, poverty reduction and disaster alleviation, as well as people-to-people and cultural exchanges, including the "Hundred, Thousand, Ten Thousand Action Plan on Lancang-Mekong Agricultural Cooperation", the "Plan on Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Benefiting the People", the "Lancang-Mekong Talent Plan" and the "Lancang-Mekong Public Health Cooperation Plan", bringing tangible benefits to the people of the six member countries.

Thailand is the main initiator of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation mechanism and is set to take over as a co-chair this year, playing an increasingly prominent role as a partner within the mechanism. Thailand has actively participated in the use of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Special Fund.

So far, 59 projects of Thailand's have been approved, receiving more than US$16 million of support from the budget. The fund has promoted the implementation of a large number of high quality, "small yet beautiful" projects that benefit people's livelihood, covering areas such as water resources, cross-border trade, poverty reduction through agriculture, health and environmental protection, youth development, all while making important contributions to the improvement of Thai people's livelihood and their economic and social development.

President Xi Jinping's visit to Thailand last year pointed to the way forward for the future development of bilateral relations, and also injected a strong impetus into the deep and solid development of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation.

Guided by the important consensus of the two leaders, China and Thailand need to speed up the building of a community with a shared future for the two countries and jointly advance the high-quality building of the Belt and Road Initiative. Along with cooperation in traditional fields, we need to deepen practical cooperation in various fields -- with an eye to expand cooperation in the digital economy, green economy, and in the new energy industry.

China has advanced technology and advantageous production capacity in industries such as intelligent manufacturing, 5G technology, e-commerce, electric vehicles and photo-voltaic products. Cooperation between China and Thailand will help promote the economic development of Thailand, as the country has the potential to become a new highlight and the growth driver of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation.

At present, China is marching with confidence on a new journey of building a modern socialist country in all respects, striving towards its second centenary goal, and making strides in the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts through a Chinese path to modernisation.

China will firmly adhere to the basic national policy and the win-win strategy of opening up, promoting high-quality development and fostering a new development paradigm.

With the well-being of the people of the six member countries in mind, China stands ready to work with the other Lancang-Mekong countries, including Thailand, to seek cooperation persistently, promote development wholeheartedly, build a more resilient Lancang-Mekong economic development belt and a closer Lancang-Mekong community with a shared future, paving the way for a new chapter in Lancang-Mekong cooperation.

Han Zhiqiang is Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to the Kingdom of Thailand.

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