Mekong River Basin Regional Legal Framework

  • Huynh Tien Dung
Reference work entry


The Mekong River is a transboundary river in Southeast Asia draining a basin covering approximately 800,000 km2. At an estimated length of 4,350 km, it is the world’s 12th longest river and the 7th longest in Asia. The river rises on the Tibetan Plateau and runs through China’s Yunnan province, Myanmar, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam where it discharges into the South China Sea. The origins of transnational and transboundary management of the main channel and its tributaries date from the late 1950s, culminating in 1995 with the signing of the Mekong Agreement by Thailand, Lao PDR, Vietnam, and Cambodia. The agreement codified principles of regional cooperation and established the Mekong River Commission (MRC). Under the agreement, MRC member countries agree to cooperate in all fields of sustainable development and in the utilization, management, and conservation of water and related resources in the Mekong River Basin. The MRC has a three-tiered institutional structure comprising a Ministerial Council, a Joint Committee, and a Secretariat.


Mekong River International agreement Transboundary management Transnational cooperation 


  1. Bearden BL. The legal regime of the Mekong River: a look back and some proposals for the way ahead. Water Policy. 2010;12(6):798–821.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Campbell IC. Perceptions, data, and river management: lessons from the Mekong River. Water Resour Res. 2007;43(2).Google Scholar
  3. Hirsch P, Jensen KM, Carrard N, FitzGerald S, Lyster R. National interests and transboundary water governance in the Mekong. Australian Mekong Resource Centre, in collaboration with Danish International Development Assistance. 2006.Google Scholar
  4. Keskinen M, Mehtonen K, Varis O. Transboundary cooperation vs. internal ambitions: the role of China and Cambodia in the Mekong region. International water security: domestic threats and opportunities. 2008. 79–109.Google Scholar
  5. Mekong River Commission (MRC). Annual Report of the Mekong River Commission. 31pp, MRC: Phnom Penh, Cambodia & Vientiane, Lao PDR. 2012.Google Scholar
  6. Mekong River Commission (MRC). State of the Basin report 2003. MRC: Phnom Penh, Cambodia & Vientiane, Lao PDR. 2003. 300pp.Google Scholar
  7. Sneddon C, Fox C. Rethinking transboundary waters: a critical hydropolitics of the Mekong basin. Polit Geogr. 2006;25(2):181–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.WWF VietnamHanoiVietnam

Personalised recommendations