CHIANGRAI TIMES – Japan pledged $7.4 billion in development aid to support infrastructure projects in five Southeast Asian nations that share the Mekong River.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who met with the leaders of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar today in Tokyo, expressed appreciation for their self-help efforts, particularly Thailand’s contributions to the development of the Mekong region through bilateral and regional frameworks, according to an official statement issued after the summit.
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Laotian Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen committed their nations to use the Japanese aid efficiently and effectively to develop infrastructure that will contribute to economic activity and help ensure basic human needs, according to the statement.
Today’s gathering followed a November 2009 meeting in which then-Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama pledged at least 500 billion yen to spur development and address climate change issues in the region. Noda meets later to discuss debt relief with Myanmar President Thein Sein as he moves the country formerly known as Burma toward democracy.
Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in December agreed to ask the Japanese government to help assess the impact of planned hydropower dams along the Mekong. Laos agreed to suspend construction of a $3.7 billion dam on concern the project would hurt fisheries and rice cultivation downstream.
About 60 million people depend on the river and its tributaries for food, water and transportation.
The leaders also agreed to cooperate on disaster management, and continue efforts on environmental and climate change issues.
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