Thailand rejects China’s plan to open Mekong River


The Chinese-led plan to dredge the Mekong River to make room for large ship has been scrapped by Thailand, a government spokeswoman said earlier this week.

China initiated the project, under its Road and Belt Initiative, in 2001 to enable large ships to carry goods from its landlocked southern province of Yunnan to ports in Thailand, Laos, and the rest of Southeast Asia.

The plan had been opposed by conservationists and communities in Thailand living along the Mekong River. They feared it would harm the environment and benefit only China.

The Thai cabinet on Tuesday agreed to scrap the dredging plan during its weekly meeting.

“The communities affected and non-profit groups were against the plan, fearing it would affect the way of life, and China also had no funding for it … So we ended the project,” said Trisulee Trisaranakul, a deputy government spokeswoman.

“It didn’t take off yet. We were only doing environmental and social impact assessments,” she told Reuters.

The Chinese embassy in Bangkok was not immediately available for comment.

A Thai cabinet document said that China had in any case informed countries on the Mekong River last year that it was not planning to pursue the project, but work had continued on stretches of the river in Laos and Myanmar.

The Mekong flows from China, where it is known as the Lancang river, through five southeast Asian countries. (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)