Cambodia calls for unity among Mekong countries

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Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn during the sixth Mekong-Lancang Cooperation Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing. Foreign Ministry

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn urged all Mekong countries to join hands in tackling the Covid-19 crisis by ensuring that adequate supplies of vaccines and other vital medicines are available to their respective nations.

Sokhonn made the call at the sixth Mekong-Lanchang Cooperation (MLC) ministerial meeting on June 8 in the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing, where he also attended the special ASEAN-China foreign ministers’ meeting. The MLC member countries are China, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

“His Excellency Deputy Prime Minister Prak Sokhonn stressed that the MLC must continue to show solidarity in addressing this global health crisis and attach a high priority to ensuring adequate access to vaccines and medications as global public goods,” the ministry said in a press release on June 9.

Sokhonn spoke highly of China’s leading role in and commitment to providing important medicines, medical supplies and millions of doses of Covid-19 vaccines to the Mekong countries in a timely manner.

All of the ministers commended the MLC countries’ cooperative efforts as they worked together to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, the press release said.

They called for strengthening the joint cooperation on access to important medical supplies and vaccines, sharing their experiences with outbreak response and fully utilizing the MLC Special Fund for Public Health to address the current pandemic and any similar incidents that may arise in the future.

All of the ministers appreciated the MLC Special Fund’s support for over 500 projects in numerous areas of concern including water resources, agriculture, education, poverty reduction and public health since its establishment, the press release said.

“The ministers praised the six countries for making great effort towards implementing their projects during the pandemic, despite the added difficulties.

“The ministers welcomed the list of the projects supported by the MLC Special Fund in 2021, in which a total of 12 Cambodian projects were approved, accumulating to a total sum of 67 projects approved for Cambodia,” according to the press release.

In the third MLC leaders’ meeting that took place last year, Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed his gratitude for Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s proposal to import more quality agro-products and livestock from the Mekong countries.

“Recently, shipments of fresh mangos were exported from Cambodia to China in addition to existing shipments of other fruits and agricultural products,” the press release said.

At the sixth MLC ministerial meeting, all of the ministers agreed to adopt the initiatives aimed at deepening cooperation among the local governments of the MLC countries.

Other areas of accord were reached with joint statements issued on enhancing sustainable development cooperation and deepening cooperation on traditional medicines within the MLC framework.

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, told The Post on June 10 that the fight against Covid-19 necessitated international cooperation because the disease did not respect borders and it was a global crisis.

“Thus, the joint efforts of the countries in the region are necessary, including on vaccines and economic recovery,” he said.

Phea said China is still an economic locomotive for regional growth, especially in Cambodia, which has strong ties with China in terms of trade, exports and imports and investment.

In a bilateral meeting between Sokkhon and Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, the two ministers reaffirmed their commitment to work closely to strengthen their long-standing ties and friendly relations between their neighbouring countries.

Sokhonn praised Thailand for successfully producing vaccines and thanked the Thai government and the Thai private sector for their donations of assistance to Cambodia for controlling its Covid-19 outbreak. He also thanked them for taking good care of the Cambodian people who are working and living in Thailand.

In order to reach the two-way trade target of $15 billion set by Cambodia and Thailand’s two prime ministers at the third joint cabinet retreat, the two foreign ministers encouraged relevant parties on both sides of the border to redouble their efforts in facilitating the flow of trade through the border checkpoints, according to the press release.

“Both sides agreed to hold the 11th meeting of the joint commission for bilateral cooperation between Cambodia and Thailand later this year or early next year in Cambodia, and they hoped that it would be held face-to-face,” the press release said.