IN THE NEWS: 'Why the Mekong matters'



By Sam Geall [The Third Pole, 1 November 2018]

The countries of the Mekong should build a “community of shared future”, said China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in December last year. The Lancang-Mekong Cooperative Framework (LMC) is “practical and highly effective”, he said. “We do not go after a high-profile ‘talk shop’, but a down-to-earth ‘bulldozer’”.

China has managed to cement its influence over the transboundary river in recent years, in a move that has important implications for the riverine environment and the people that rely on its resources. Its primary vehicle, or “bulldozer”, the LMC, will drive dam and development projects, special economic zones and trade.

It also illustrates China’s changing approaches to Southeast Asia – the central topic addressed recently in a policy forum The Third Pole and chinadialogue co-organised with the Centre for Social Development Studies (CSDS) and the Faculty of Political Science at Chulalongkorn University, in Bangkok.

Read more at this link here

UPCOMING INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE SESSION: "Sustainable Transboundary Governance of the Environmental Commons in Southeast Asia" [Singapore, 1-2 November 2018]

Sustainable Transboundary Governance of the Environmental Commons in Southeast Asia is a workshop organised by the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. This multi-disciplinary workshop will explore key issues in sustainable development with particular reference to the ecological commons in Southeast Asia from a transboundary governance perspective.

For more details about the workshop, please visit this link.

Panel 7 - Transborder Governance Frameworks

15:30 - 16.30, November 2, AS8 Level 4, Seminar Room 04-04, National University of Singapore, Singapore

How East Asian Regional Economic Integration Teleconnects and Transforms Wetland Commons and Community Vulnerability in Japan and Thailand

  • Carl Middleton, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand

  • Takeshi Ito, Sophia University, Japan

Global and regional economic integration teleconnect distant places not only economically but also ecologically. Japan is a key exporter of capital and aid provider to Southeast Asia, catalyzing industrialization and new flows of trade and investment. Whilst much emphasis has been placed by governments and transnational corporations on the economic benefits of regionalization, research has also revealed impacts to local environments including enclosure of commons and differentiated changes for communities’ vulnerabilities

For more details on this session, please take a look at the abstract here.

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UPCOMING PUBLIC SEMINAR: "Understanding the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Framework and China’s role in the Mekong Region" [Bangkok, 3 September 2018]

09.00 - 17.00, Monday, 3rd September at Alumni Meeting Room, 12th Floor, Kasem Utthayanin Building (อาคารเกษม อุทยานิน), Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand

Co-organized by chinadialogue, The Third Pole, Earth Journalism Network, and the Centre for Social Development Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok

The Mekong region is facing a period of rapid change shaped by a significant shift over the past decade in its relationship with China. New pathways of regional integration and intergovernmental cooperation have emerged, including through the Belt and Road Initiative and the Lancang Mekong Cooperation Framework. Associated with these shifts have been deepening trade between China and the Mekong Region, and growing flows of investment from China into a range of projects including large dams, railways, and industrial projects. Whilst these trends reflect a geo-economic shift, longstanding challenges on environmental sustainability, social equity, government-investor accountability to the public and public participation remain. Inevitably it seems, China, as a powerful country, will play a key role in shaping the future path of the Mekong Region.

This public forum will bring together experts and journalists from China and lower Mekong countries to discuss the geopolitical implications of Chinese investment and regional initiatives in the Mekong Region. It will address the Belt and Road Initiative; the challenges and opportunities in transboundary water governance under the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Framework, together with other emerging cooperation issues; and debate by regional journalists about the trends, challenges and successes for Southeast Asia’s media on reporting on China’s role in the Mekong Region.


Program and List of Panelists:

08.15 - 09.00  Registration

09.00 - 09.15  Welcome remarks by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ake Tangsupvattana, Dean of Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

09.15 - 10.45  Session 1: The Belt and Road Initiative:  Geopolitical implications for Asia

Moderator: Asst. Prof. Dr. Carl Middleton, Center for Social Development Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

  • 'Geopolitics and Geoeconomics of the Belt and Road Initiative' by Dr. Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Institute of Security and International Studies (ISIS), Chulalongkorn University

  • 'The Belt and Road Initiative: A Perspective from China' by Mr. Li Hong,Permanent Mission of the People's Republic of China to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (UNESCAP)

  • 'What does the Belt and Road Initiative mean for US-Thailand relations?' by Benjamin Zawacki, Independent Analyst

  • 'Debt Diplomacy?: The experience of Sri Lanka' by Amantha Perera, Journalist

10.45 - 11.15  Coffee break

11.15 - 12.45  Session 2: Transboundary Water Cooperation – Progress and Challenges

Moderator: Dr. Ukrist Pathmanand, Mekong Research Center, Institute of Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University  

12.45 - 13.30  Lunch

13.30 - 14.45  Session 3: Rise of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Framework: Emerging cooperation issues

Moderator: Kamol Sukin, China Dialogue

14.45 - 15.15  Coffee Break

15.15 - 16.45  Session 4: Reporting on the Mekong and China’s role: Trends, challenges and successes for Southeast Asia’s media

Moderator: Sim Kok Eng Amy, Earth Journalism Network

16.45 - 17.00  Closing Reflections

  • Dr. Sam Geall, China Dialogue

  • Professor Surichai Wun’gaeo, Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, Chulalongkorn University


*This event will be broadcasted on Facebook Live:


To register for this forum, please e-mail us your name, organisation, and position to  Anisa Widyasari (CSDS) at The seat is limited and registration will be accepted on first come first served basis.

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COLLABORATION: Sustainable Governance of the Transboundary Environmental Commons in Southeast Asia

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The Sustainable Governance of the Transboundary Environmental Commons in Southeast Asia (TECSEA) project is a new multi-disciplinary five year project based at the Asia Research Institute (ARI), National University of Singapore (NUS). Led by Professor David Taylor and Professor Jonathan Rigg, it’s goal is to further understanding of key issues in the sustainable development of the ecological commons in Southeast Asia from a transboundary governance perspective, with a focus on air and fresh water.

The research project involves a team spanning the region, including the Center for Social Development Studies as a collaborator in Thailand. We are very excited to contribute to this project, in particular on its fresh water component. With growing pressures on commons ranging from the local to the national and transnational scale, this project will contribute new insights and policy guidance at a critical decision-making juncture.

For further details on the project, visit the project’s website. An introductory article on the project is published in ARI’s March 2018 newsletter (#41) which can be downloaded here.

Contact at CSDS: Dr. Carl Middleton (

Peatland in Jambi, Indonesia | Photo credit: David Taylor

Peatland in Jambi, Indonesia | Photo credit: David Taylor