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United States Commits $153M for Mekong Development

A fisherman pulls his net from the Mekong river in Wiang Kaen, a district in the northern Thai province of Chiang Rai bordering Laos. Photo: AFP/Chrisophe Archambault. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

VIENTIANE, Sep 16, 2020, The Laotian Times. The U.S. State Department has pledged approximately $153.6 million for cooperation programs throughout the Mekong region, including crime prevention, data sharing, and emergency relief, The Laotian Times reported.

The commitment was made at the first Mekong-U.S. Partnership ministerial meeting, held via video conference between U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun and foreign ministers from five Southeast Asian countries along the Mekong River.

The State Department said it would spend USD 55 million to combat cross-border crimes across the Mekong region and USD 1.8 million to support the Mekong River Commission (MRC) in sharing water resource data for policy planning.

The remainder of the funds is to be spent on disaster relief programs and promoting multilateral development policy dialogs throughout the Mekong region, according to a press release from the Vietnam Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Mekong-U.S. Partnership (MUSP) was announced at the ministers meeting and is based on the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) initiated by the U.S. in 2009. The objective of MUSP is to promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the region, as well as helping to realize the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the 2025 ASEAN Community Vision.

The first Mekong-US Partnership Ministerial Meeting was chaired by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy PM Phạm Bình Minh and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun.

“The Mekong-U.S. Partnership can contribute to the sustainable development of the Mekong sub-region and help Mekong countries narrow the development gap, seize new opportunities and overcome challenges,” said Vietnam’s foreign minister Pham Binh Minh in a report by Reuters.

Participants at the meeting included ASEAN Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi, and the foreign ministers of Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand.

“Countries of the Mekong region have undergone an amazing journey in the last few decades. They deserve good partners. Through the Mekong-U.S. Partnership, we look forward to many more years of collaboration to ensure a peaceful, secure, and prosperous Mekong region,” wrote Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State, in a press statement.

Last year witnessed a record drought with Lower Mekong river levels at their lowest in decades.

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