Managing the Mekong River Conflicts: Political Stability at the Cost of Local Communities
The Mekong River, one of the great rivers of the world, travels from the Tibetan Plateau through six countries before flowing into the South China Sea. It crosses a region highly diverse and rich in cultural and environmental terms. The diversity and wealth provide a potential for both conflict and cooperation, as the different countries have different kinds of plans and needs in relation to the river and its resources. This chapter focuses on the conflicts that take place at different levels and among different types of stakeholders in the Mekong River Basin and identifies three types of incompatibilities that exist in these conflicts: (1) incompatibilities between China and the Lower Mekong Basin countries, (2) incompatibilities among the Lower Mekong Basin countries themselves and (3) incompatibilities between local communities and development interests. The chapter first discusses that the Mekong River Commission, the only intergovernmental organization dedicated to the sustainable management of the resources of the Mekong River, possesses the limited capability to effectively and fundamentally address the incompatibilities. It then examines the ways in which the three types of incompatibilities have been handled. As a result, a pattern of incompatibility management in the Mekong River conflicts can be identified. Namely, incompatibilities at the interstate level tend to be manoeuvred around and side-lined, while incompatibilities at the local level are envisaged to be absorbed by local communities and dissipate. In this manner, the political stability of the Mekong River Basin may be achieved, but it is at the cost of the local population and natural environment. The main challenge for incompatibility management in the Mekong River conflicts is to enhance the capability of the decision-making process that would be highly sensitive and responsive to the voices of the population at the local level.
KeywordsMekong River conflicts Mekong River Commission-China ASEAN way of conflict management Manoeuvring around Absorbing incompatibilities
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