Ladies and gentlemen,
I am greatly honored and pleased to join you all today in the opening of the 10th Ministerial Council Meeting of the Mekong River Commission.
On behalf of the people and the Royal Government of Cambodia, I warmly welcome all the distinguished Ministers and delegates from the MRC Member States, – from Lao PDR, Kingdom of Thailand, Socialist Republic of Vietnam and Kingdom of Cambodia, and the Representatives of the international organizations and civil society.
This 10th Annual Meeting is organized just a few days after Cambodian people across the country celebrated happily and successfully our King NORODOM SIHANOUK’s Birthday, the 50th Anniversary of the National Independent Day and the Water Festivals.
According to records, the Water Festivals are closely linked to water resource and religious beliefs of Cambodian people. I belief such festivities are also celebrated in other riparian countries of the Mekong River. It is indeed a reflection of the role of “water” in the social, economic and cultural, as well in the religious life of our GMS nations. These events are celebrated in the “conjunction” of Mekong at Phnom Penh where a natural phenomenon occurs each year, – the reversal of waters flowing back from the Great Lake (Beung Tonle Sap) into the Mekong and Basac Rivers. Thus, the celebrations are related to the ebb and flow of the Mekong and Tonle Sap as well as linked to the fish cultivation partern or the start of fishing season.
Moreover, the water festivities also represent the “expression of thanks” to the “guardian spirits” and the “mother of nature” for their kindness and the rich resource they offer to us, asking for blessings that wealth, good fortune and happiness will come again in the following year. As I was informed, this year the MRC Secretariat’s staff also took part in the boat races. Thus, I personally congratulate and thank for their participation!
The Mekong symbolizes the flow of millions of lives of people in the riparian nations of this great river. I learned from the report by HE Lim Kean Hor, Chairman of the MRC Council, that in this meeting you will discuss a number of critical issues in your agenda, and the main purpose is to help meet the needs of Mekong and people in the sub-region. Such great river like Mekong can tell many stories on the needs of people who live and earn their living depending on the riches and kindness of the “mother of water”. The people living in the sub-region need the development of safe transportation and traffics, they need peace and safety free from natural calamities, they need food security as well as tourist sites, entertainments and enjoyment with the nature and cultural wealth along the banks of the river.
The Mekong River, with 4,800 Km in length, is classified as the biggest river in Asia and is the richest with biodiversity (diverse flora and fauna) second after the Amazon in America. Nevertheless, we all are conscious that, for countries sharing the river together, the poverty reduction remains a top priority in their social, economic and environmental development policies. As in other tropical rivers, the cease of development in the Mekong’s basin is not a good option. The fast growing population and the current level of poverty will make sense for the development that it is increasingly becoming an important factor. To sustain the living of people and to provide real hope for their future, the riparian countries of the Mekong River must have the obligation to promote social and economic development in the way that it will effectively ensure the sustainability of the river. Therefore, we must consider and make decisions together, so that the development of the invaluable resource of this great river can go ahead, – thus ensuring the maximum benefits we will get for our nation and people, and a minimum level of negative impacts on the river and among our each countries.
Indeed, the lives of millions people depend on appropriate management of the Mekong River and close international cooperation. This is an important factor to prevent conflicts and guarantee sustainable social and economic development, thus improving the well-being of our people.
Thus, the establishment of MRC in 1995 by signing a new Agreement on Cooperation for Sustainable Development of Mekong River Basin was indeed a new turning point in the history of international cooperation, aimed at sustainable management and sharing of the river’s resource with harmony. The agreement requires all member countries to provide constructive cooperation with mutual benefits in the long-lasting development, management and the conservation of water and other related resources of the Mekong River Basin. To this date, the MRC has approached its 10 year anniversary, and it becomes more matured and modernized. I notice that the MRC’s Council and its Joint Committees have adopted and set out resolutions, programs and a number of projects to successfully implement the Mekong Agreement and the good practices of cooperation, as we call it the “Mekong Spirit”.
According the recently-published MRC’s report on the status of the river basin, I have noticed that the environmental condition of the Mekong River is relatively good compared to other big rivers. A number of studies and researches indicated and restated that the Great Lake “Tonle Sap”, the heart of the Mekong River’s system and Cambodia, would not dry up very soon as declared in several reports. This case proves how important the information and studies are in the planning, monitoring and decision-making process, which have to be based on appropriate and specific technologies.
In this respect, so far I observed that there has been a lack of appropriate information communication and technological grounds that has caused wrong conclusions and misunderstandings as well as lots of controversies. Thus, I appreciate in particular the efforts made by MRC in the establishment of a decision-supporting system based on sound knowledge and specific data, as well as in the promotion of cooperation at technical level through exchange of information and data among member countries and with the two upstream countries, China and Myanmar, which are the most important partners of the four lower stream countries.
As we all realize, Southeast Asia, especially the GMS, has moved to a more favorable stage of economic integration and regional cooperation in all sectors.
The six nations, the common masters of Mekong River, have been living together in peace and committed to cooperation for mutual benefits. Indeed, peace in the GMS sub-region would provide us with ample opportunity in bringing our countries closer toward realizing the GMS vision, – the region of prosperity and equity.
In this context, the MRC, one of the various international organizations/programs was established to promote regional cooperation in the development of Mekong basin. With good progress in the sub-regional cooperation, moving away from the negotiation and planning process toward cooperation in implementation the MRC has set out and implemented the sound legal framework and technical and scientific institutions, including the “1995 Mekong Agreement” and the permanent mechanism for constant dialogues and joint actions at the political and technical levels. All these are the strengths of the MRC.
At the same time, with increased number of forums and institutions for the development of Mekong River’s basin, the needs for cooperation and coordination among various mechanisms and programs are increasingly more important. Thus, I think the presence of representatives from ADB, ASEAN and other organizations has shown the recognition by all stakeholders of the importance and the need for the cooperation and coordination. Therefore, may I express my warmest welcome of the spirit of a highly responsible cooperation.
In closing, on behalf of Cambodian people and the Royal Government of Cambodia, I would like to express our firm commitment to supporting and enhancing regional and international cooperation, especially the cooperation among countries of the Mekong’s basin in all sectors.
Once again, I wish you all fruitful discussions and a wonderful and unforgettable stay in Cambodia, especially wonderful visit to Tonle Sap and other sites in our land of miraculous Angkor Wat!
The Mekong, the long lasting tie of our nations!
Working together for common progress!
With this spirit, may I declare the opening of the 10th MRC Ministerial Council Meeting. Thanks for your attention.