China pushes security in Mekong meeting with Southeast Asian leaders – South China Morning Post

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Beijing will push for stepped up security operations targeting cyber scam syndicates and illegal gambling, among other crimes, as a key area of cooperation along the Lancang-Mekong River region, Chinese Premier Li Qiang told his Southeast Asian counterparts on Monday.

“We should strengthen governance about security, deepen the progress of security operations along the Mekong, and strike hard against cyber crimes like gambling and fraud,” Li said via video-link to the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) Leaders’ Meeting, which he jointly hosted with co-chair, Myanmar’s military government leader Min Aung Hlaing.

The summit took place amid a push by China to crack down on the cross-border crimes mainly along the Mekong River basin, targeting Chinese nationals in particular.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet, Laotian Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone, Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh also attended the event.

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The meeting was a fourth summit for the grouping since it was established seven years ago as a regional forum that China uses to engage with the five Southeast Asian nations along the Mekong river, known as Lancang for the upper stream section in China.

“Positive progress has been made in building a community of shared destiny among the Lancang-Mekong countries. We should persistently promote this common cause,” Li said.

Li said all the countries should together explore a basin-wide governance of the Mekong, as China has been criticised for the amount of water that its 11 hydropower dams withhold upstream during dry seasons.

“We should fully respect the legitimate rights and interests of countries to develop and use the water resources [of the Mekong] in a reasonable manner,” he said.

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Lost Lands: Mining the Mekong

Lost Lands: Mining the Mekong

Li suggested further cooperation in infrastructure connectivity, trade, manufacturing capacity, agriculture and artificial intelligence, as all the five Mekong basin countries are part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and key partners of the projects.

The six leaders issued a joint declaration, outlining a five-year cooperative action plan for the five years ending in 2027 and a joint initiative to build a regional innovation corridor, according to Chinese state media reports. Thailand will co-chair next year’s summit.

From earlier this year, China has highlighted its agenda to eradicate the cross-border crime syndicates running gambling, cyber scams and human trafficking in Myanmar, Cambodia and Thailand.

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At least 120,000 people in Myanmar and roughly 100,000 in Cambodia “may be held in situations where they are forced to carry out online scams”, the United Nations human rights office said in a report in August.

China has offered rewards of up to 500,000 yuan (US$70,000) for information leading to the capture of crime syndicate ringleaders based in northern Myanmar. And in last month alone, Myanmar handed over 31,000 telecom fraud suspects to China, including some of the wanted suspects.

In the meantime, Myanmar’s junta is facing its biggest battlefield challenge since its 2021 coup with insurgency erupted on multiple fronts. Beijing said it mediated a peace talk and ceasefire between Myanmar’s government troops and the rebel forces, but the battle continued in northern Shan state bordering China’s Yunnan province.

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