BANGKOK (Reuters) - China is ready to share data on water flows into the Mekong River, a longstanding request of downstream Southeast Asian countries, a Thai foreign ministry official said on Friday.
Control of the waters is politically sensitive, and many farmers’ and fishermen’s livelihoods depend on the river. A report published by a U.S. research company this year accused China of holding back large amounts of water during a drought last year, a finding Beijing disputed.
China has no formal water treaties with the lower Mekong countries - Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam - and is currently only sharing limited data during the monsoon season on flows to what it knows as the Lancang River.
“China stressed that it is ready to share information with us in a clear, meaningful and transparent way throughout the year,” Nikorndej Balankura, a senior Thai foreign ministry official told reporters. “Information will be shared seamlessly.”
China’s Foreign Ministry said in response to a request for comment that it did not want to pre-empt an online summit on Monday of leaders of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) group, which includes China and the Mekong countries.
Lower Mekong countries already share water data through the Mekong River Commission (MRC), an intergovernmental body with headquarters in Vientiane in Laos. The LMC water center is based in Beijing.
The MRC this month called for better data-sharing between countries and companies that operate hydropower dams along the Mekong as flows hit record lows for a second consecutive year.
Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um in BANGKOK and Gabriel Crossley in BEIJING; Editing by Hugh Lawson
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