Beating the bully
Re: "Spare the Mekong", (Editorial, Dec 30).
I fully concur with your editorial. The probable blasting of rocks in the Mekong River will further exacerbate the suffering of local people in the countries of the Lower Mekong Basin (Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam) whose livelihoods very much depend on the Mekong's ecosystems.
During the past decades, China has solely controlled the water source of the Upper Mekong River through its large-scale hydropower dams (some reports reveal that China has planned construction of 11 large-scale hydropower dams on the Mekong, seven of which are in operation).
China regulates the flow of the Mekong according to its needs for power generation and irrigation without taking into consideration potential negative effects on downstream countries.
In other words, droughts and floods in the Lower Mekong Basin are dictated, to a large extent, by China.
The flow of the Mekong is no longer natural, seasonal and predictable as it had been, which inevitably aggravates the plight of local people and causes vast negative impacts on the ecosystems.
The governments of those Lower Mekong countries should pay more attention to the pleas of their own small people and civic groups than China.
Regrettably, it is a hard reality that China will not shut down those dams. Therefore, concerned governments should unite with a political will to negotiate with China on sound management of the Mekong for mutual benefits through existing forums such as The Greater Mekong Subregion and the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation Mechanism.
Even though the natural features and complexity of the Mekong and the South China Sea are different, the Mekong countries, all of which are members of Asean, could make use of experiences from Asean's ongoing negotiations with China on the code of conduct in the South China Sea.
Moreover, the Mekong countries and Asean should take advantage of a potentially new geopolitical landscape in East Asia and Southeast Asia as US President-elect Donald Trump has openly challenged China on trade and security issues, including China's role in the South China Sea.
It would be a significant political gain for China to be magnanimous in cooperating with Mekong countries and Asean on those issues, otherwise China will be viewed as the "big bully" in the neighbourhood.
Pointedly, it is preferable for Asia as a community to iron out common problems among themselves rather than inviting another "big bullies" from other neighbourhoods, such as the US, to confront China in these areas.
Retired Thai ambassador
Quality not quantity
A lot of ink has been flowing following the accident between a van and a pickup truck on the N311 in Chon Buri. Most PostBag writers, but also the minister of transport, see the solution in technical improvements. Others say passenger vans should stop completely.
So far none have mentioned the social aspect of the business.
It appears that whether the drivers own their van or drive the van for a company, their income is based on the number of trips they make and the number of passengers they carry. The result is overloaded vans and increased numbers of trips per day. Unless they exceed the number of allowed passengers and exceed the imposed speed limits to make more trips, these drivers cannot earn a decent living.
Such a salary structure is in most countries in Europe not allowed under international labour laws. A driver needs to be paid a decent daily and weekly salary. Bonuses are not based on the numbers of trips and passengers, but are a compensation for safety, punctuality and good behaviour towards passengers. This is where the real problem starts, and the Ministry of Labour should in fact be the first authority to remedy this deplorable situation.
Harry Na Klongtoey
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