The Mekong River Commission

The Mekong River Commission (MRC), established with the signing of the 1995 Mekong Agreement by the four Lower Mekong Basin countries - Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, was meant to signal a new era of cooperation and a commitment to sustainable development, environmental protection and management of the Mekong River for a wide range of users.

More than a decade later, however, there is little, if any, indication that the MRC has moved any closer to becoming an '‘international river basin organisation’ capable of protecting the river from severe ecological damage or responding to the diverse needs and interests of people in the basin. Despite receiving millions of dollars from donors annually, the MRC remains largely ineffective in resolving conflicts arising from transboundary impacts of developments in the basin, as exemplified by the case of the Yali Falls dam on the Sesan River and downstream impacts of dams on the Lancang-Mekong in China.

The MRC has not been able or willing to respond to concerns by dam-affected communities or civil society groups. This highlights a fundamental problem, in that the MRC considers itself only accountable to its member states and not the people of the Mekong basin. Meanwhile, the MRC member states have all but abandoned the Agreement as they push forward with plans to dam the Mekong and its tributaries, with little regard for the environment and communities that depend on the basin’s abundant resources for their livelihoods.

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