Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — Mekong River leaders said there is a need to promote its inner strengths, economic integration, as well as its vibrant market and young labour force to ride on the wave of the fourth industrial revolution, during a session on new vision for Mekong region within the framework of World Economic Forum on ASEAN (WEF ASEAN) on Wednesday in Hà Nội.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc called for deeper connectivity both in terms of physical infrastructure and digital infrastructure for the countries.
The Prime Minister emphasised Mekong countries are a part of the ASEAN grouping, who pride themselves on unity in diversity, a principle reflected clearly in the Mekong framework.
While having different starting points and historical experiences, the common points being the desire for peace, stability, deeper integration and common interests of businesses, will bring the five countries closer in the age of Industry 4.0, PM Phúc said.
The Vietnamese PM said Việt Nam is in favour of a flat roaming plan amongst the Mekong countries and then the whole of ASEAN, a step towards a “flat ASEAN” where the region’s people can enjoy the best telecommunication services with international roaming costing the same as domestic calls.
Cambodia’s newly re-elected Prime Minister Hun Sen reiterated his initiative to establish a rice association between the five Mekong countries to promote the agriculture sector and “the bowl of ASEAN.”
PM Hun Sen also suggested the Mekong countries sign an agreement on cross-border disaster management.
“For example, if one of our remote northern localities got hit by serious flooding, it might be faster to ask for help from the neighbouring Vietnamese forces, who would help evacuate Cambodian people into safer areas in Việt Nam,” adding that similar natural catastrophes such as wildfires “do not know borders”.
Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith agreed with his Vietnamese and Cambodian counterparts, saying that “We are good friends, we cherish the Mekong river that we share and derive benefits from.”
The Lao PM commented that competition within Mekong countries should be encouraged in a healthy way, in tandem with mutual support, especially in sustainability and environment protection issues.
Sharing the same sentiments, Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi remarked that “fear of [inner] competition was exaggerated” and common prosperity can be achieved through product diversity and free market.
Mekong leaders said they were acutely aware of the geo-political importance of the river.
Suu Kyi said there’s a “need to balance our friendship and relations”, while Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Prajin Juntong wanted the five Mekong countries to “act as the connector of regions, through physical, digital, and cultural connectivity”.
PM Phúc said whatever the case, the principles of respecting each other’s political system, sovereignty and territory must be upheld.
The Mekong region comprises five countries in Southeast Asia, namely Việt Nam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar, which have a combined population of 240 million people.
According to the WEF, if the Mekong was one country it would be the sixth biggest in the world and the total GDP of the five countries would reach US$800 billion, the equivalent of G20 economy.
Collective value of exports is $466 billion, making the region the ninth biggest exporter in the world. — VNS