Uploaded by kopyubo

Sucharithanarugse, W. (2006). Concept and Function of the ACMECS. South Asian Survey, 13(2), 285–294.

Concept and Function of the ACMECS/285
The end of the Cold War facilitated the expansion of the Association of Southeast Asian
Nations (ASEAN) to include Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV), all with
lower economic standards than the original six members. Within this expanded framework,
sub-regions have been formed, among them the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS), followed
by a Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam Development Triangle and now by the Ayeyawadi-Chao
Praya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS). The latter was initiated by
Thai Premier Thaksin Shinawatra. The Bagan declaration of 2003 sets out its aims. External
partners are there and now this forum resembles a mini-ASEAN, with the detailed programmes and schedules of meetings that it has. But the promotion of ACMECS also enriches
Thaksin’s business empire, while there is some hint here of Sino-Japanese rivalry. In a globalised world, ACMECS cannot afford to be a closed group and it will not be long before India
is invited to join.
THE IDEA OF forming a regional cooperation system within Southeast Asia has long
been entertained by various leaders of the region since the end of the Second World
War and the emergence of independent states in the region, in fact, running parallel
with the security system created by superpowers from outside, such as the Southeast
Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO). The Vietnam War, which involved superpowers
from outside the region, constituted the main worry and suspicion of leaders in Southeast Asia of outside interferences at the cost of peace and harmony. One way to stave
off outside intervention was the neutralisation of the region, an idea that prevailed in
Indochina in Cambodia and Laos. President Charles de Gaulle of France advocated
the idea in 1961. However, although Laos and Cambodia were accorded a neutral
status, this was meaningless due to the Vietnam War. Later occurrence saw attempts
to create regional cooperation among peninsular and insular countries. The attempts
to create a grouping within the region got started, resulting in the formation of ASEAN
in 1967. ASEAN comprised five nations to begin with, namely, Indonesia, Malaysia,
the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, with Brunei joining in 1986 after its independence in January 1984.
Withaya Sucharithanarugse is Academic Consultant, Southeast Asian Studies and Advisor, Institute of
Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand.
SOUTH ASIAN SURVEY 13 : 2 (2006)
Sage Publications Los Angeles/London/New Delhi/Singapore
Downloaded from sas.sagepub.com at UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN LIBRARY on March 18,
DOI: 10.1177/097152310601300209
The situation in mainland Southeast Asia changed dramatically in 1975 when
Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam were ruled by communist regimes. The subsequent
‘Cambodian conflict’ that started in 1989 dragged on until the Paris Agreement of
1991. The Khmer Rouge has plagued Cambodian politics and unity since 1989 and
has cost the country dearly in terms of retarding national reconciliation. The situation
after the 1998 elections became much better even though political bickering f lared
up every once in a while. It was within this broad frame of reference that ASEAN
leaders seriously considered the inclusion of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam
into the regional association. By the end of the Cold War, all three countries in Indochina
plus Myanmar embraced market/capitalist-driven economies. Export-driven economies forced the three Indo-Chinese states to look to market access outside Southeast
Asia as well as within the region, while Myanmar desperately needed foreign direct
investment to keep its economy going, particularly from members of ASEAN. With
no more war, with the shared idea of growth and market economy, ASEAN started
the process to include the four countries into ASEAN. Vietnam joined in 1995, Laos
and Myanmar in 1997 while Cambodia joined in 1999. It was only then that ASEAN
became truly an association of Southeast Asian nations.
The inclusion of new members was not without controversy. The United States
protested against the inclusion of Myanmar due to its brutal rule and disregard of
human rights (Than 2005). It was because of Thailand’s unhappiness with Cambodian
Premier Hun Sen’s ‘coup’ of 1997 that the membership of Cambodia was delayed
until 1999. Despite all this uncertainty and the seemingly unclear prospects after
joining ASEAN, none of the new members—in particular Myanmar—demonstrated
an inclination to leave the group.
The four new members are sometimes called the Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam
(CLMV) countries, taken from the initials of the names of these states. Because of their
lower economic standard compared with the original six members, ASEAN initiated
a programme to raise the economic standard of the new members. It was in this context that the Hanoi Plan of Action was launched for the 1999–2004 period with an
array of programmes and activities to boost the economies of the CLMV countries.
The Vientiane Plan of Action succeeded this for another six-year period.
Contact between nations has taken varied forms in the past: wars, trade, cultural
activities, robbery, smuggling, illicit trafficking, border incursions and territorial claims,
and disputes. Although nations have learnt to live with each other over the centuries,
the intensity of such incidents has always been accentuated by political factors.
Common causes that can enhance good relations between nations such as ethnicity,
religion, culture or geographical factors have always existed. Obviously, these commonalities can be turned into negative elements depending on the prevailing situation
at the time. Countries on mainland or peninsular Southeast Asia are no exception.
Although Malaysia
Singapore atare
from sas.sagepub.com
on March 18, on ASEAN,
Concept and Function of the ACMECS/287
both countries have in fact invested and traded heavily with the four new members
of ASEAN. Both Malaysia and Singapore have also offered aid and assistance. Yet, it
is true that the collective cooperation that ASEAN has been undergoing does exclude
the two states; the reason for which will emerge only through discussion. As such,
discussion here deals with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. The
term ‘sub-regional cooperation’ hereunder refers to these five countries.
France started the process of colonisation of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in 1863
and completed it in 1887, when all three countries were under the Indochinese Union.
During 1945–54, the French created what was known as the French Indochinese
Federation. After 1975, Vietnam was accused of harbouring colonial ambitions because
it tried to reconstitute this federation and through special relationships with Laos
and Cambodia, even though tensions occasionally flared up between Cambodia and
Vietnam based mainly on anti-Vietnamese nationalist sentiment in Cambodia.
The most significant geographical feature of intense political utility is the 4,800 km
long Mekong River. Rising from Rupsa La Pass in eastern Tibet at a height of 5,100
metres, the Mekong meanders through Southern China (Yunnan), Myanmar, Laos,
Thailand, Cambodia and empties into the South China Sea in Vietnam (Osborne
2000). During the Cold War period, the United Nations created a special agency
known as the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE), now renamed
as the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). In 1957,
the ECAFE created the Committee for the Coordination of Investigations of the Lower
Mekong Basin, known commonly as the Mekong Committee, comprising Cambodia,
Laos, South Vietnam and Thailand. The United States supported this initiative, as it
was keen to develop it as a tool to fight against the expansion and influence of communism in the region. The lower Mekong River basin agency, with its secretariat in
Bangkok, studied the hydrography of the Mekong region. However, when it came to
engaging in the construction of a series of dams along the river and its tributaries, the
effort failed. The notion of dam building has been linked closely to economic development and the clearing of land for the production of cash crops. Energy consumption
for industrialisation and urbanisation has prompted the building of dams that has
led to greater deforestation, human relocation and rural poverty. The United States
was in full support of dam building in the Mekong River basin, such as the Pa Mong
Dam. However, the Vietnam War from the early 1960s to 1975 made it impossible
to build any dam. Only twenty years later, in April 1995, was the Mekong Committee
reconstituted as the Mekong River Commission comprising again Cambodia, Laos,
Thailand and Vietnam, with its headquarters in Phnom Penh.
Yunnan Province of China has been one of the poor provinces. The provincial
authorities of Yunnan have been greatly motivated and active in developing the province. In 1984, the central government of China began to build the Manwan dam
on the Mekong River and completed it in 1993. The dam generated electricity of
1,500 megawatts for Kunming, the capital of Yunnan. In 1996, another dam downriver from Manwan was begun at Daochaoshan. In fact, China made it known that
a ‘cascade’ of dams
be built onat the
River within
its territory.
from sas.sagepub.com
on March 18, The Chinese
exploitation of the river caused great concern among the riparian countries downstream, including Myanmar, as these countries feared that the water level of the Mekong
would affect natural habitat as well as human lives. Yunnan was interested in finding export outlets to the south by using the Mekong River as a navigation route. The
Chinese are keen on having a commercial navigation route from Simao port in Southern Yunnan to Vientiane. This project will involve blasting narrow gorges and shoals
along the Mekong. China has succeeded so far in making Myanmar, Laos and Thailand
agree to its scheme, despite the occasional protest. As it stands now, a medium-sized
cargo boat from Simao can reach Chiang Saen in northern Thailand during high water
level period. Therefore, the Mekong River management cannot leave China out.
ASEAN’s informal summit in Kuala Lumpur on 15 December 1997 enunciated a
document named ASEAN Vision 2020, which envisaged ‘a concert of Southeast Asian
nations, outward looking, living in peace, stability and prosperity, bonded together
as partnership in dynamic development and in a community of caring societies’ (ASEAN
1997). The Hanoi Plan of Action (HPA) was conceived in Hanoi in 1998 with the
specific aim of hastening the economic development of the CLMV countries within
ten categories of main activities. The economic cooperation in the Greater Mekong
Sub-region (GMS) was well-documented by the 6th ASEAN Summit at Hanoi in
1998. Besides, ASEAN also created the ASEAN-Mekong Basin Development Cooperation (AMBDC) at the ministerial meeting in Hanoi in 1998.
The framework of cooperation of the GMS followed that of the HPA. The area of
cooperation comprises (1) communication and transportation, (2) energy, (3) tourism,
(4) telecommunication, (5) human resource development, (6) trade facilitation and
(7) investment. The GMS represents an operational area of ASEAN to accelerate
economic development of the CLMV countries. The ASEAN Mekong Basin Development Cooperation (AMBDC) is a mechanism overseeing these development activities.
The GMS activities get support from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on road
linkages and networks. It is through ASEAN programmes on the GMS that insular
ASEAN countries are engaged with their counterparts on the mainland.
However, this is not without problems. Indonesia, under Abdurrahman Wahid’s
administration, was not very happy with the attention ASEAN gave to the GMS. In
their effort to generate economic development and cooperation, some ASEAN members formed a special economic development area, commonly known as the ‘growth
triangle’. The best-known example is the cooperation between Indonesia, Malaysia
and Singapore on Batam Island industrial zone; another is the Growth Triangle of
Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand (GT-IMT). For the CLMV, the proposal was of a
Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam Development Triangle, plus the Diamond Triangle proposed
by Cambodia that includes Laos and Thailand.
When applied to ASEAN, what this effort means is that multi-cooperation through
the ASEAN mechanism can be reinforced by small multilateral arrangements exemplified by the growth triangle. In this manner, other forms of multilateral cooperation
can emerge. The HPA represents a series of action plans to help accelerate economic
development Downloaded
of the from
of roadLIBRARY
March 18,
Concept and Function of the ACMECS/289
linkages between Laos and Yunnan can help in transforming Laos from being a landlocked country to a land-bridge country linked to Vietnam and Thailand. Merchandise
from Yunnan and China now reaches Laos very easily, although border checkpoints
have to be upgraded. Chinese goods are available at a low price in all the major Laotian
Malaysia and Singapore have invested in a big way in all CLMV countries. Singapore,
in fact, led all ASEAN countries by investing in the CLMV long before the GMS
and the HPA. Both Malaysia and Singapore offered special training programmes for
CLMV officials. It was Singapore that proposed a rail link from Singapore to Yunnan,
which was later accepted. Hosting ASEAN Summits in Hanoi, Phnom Penh and
Vientiane has helped boost morale, prestige and earnestness of being proper ASEAN
members. Although the CLMV countries do not intend to weigh down ASEAN, undoubtedly their ability to perform varies. They all have their own national development
plans and projects which need to cater for particular local needs. The CLMV’s projects
under the HPA supplement and boost economic development of all four countries.
Certainly, there is no rule forbidding bilateral and multilateral activity among and
for the CLMV states. Thailand took the initiative to contribute more to the development of the CLMV by setting up a framework for closer cooperation between the
CLMV countries and Thailand in mid-2003, via the Economic Cooperation Strategy
(ECS) mechanism.
Thailand has engaged in the development of its neighbourhood through trade, investment, tourism, cultural and academic exchange and aid. Incidents along the border,
misunderstanding fuelled by media misrepresentation and political machinations
often create irritants in bilateral relations. The perceptions of leaders and government
policy invariably have an adverse impact on bilateral reactions. In the late 1980s, the
administration of Chatichai Choonnhavan and its celebrated policy of ‘turning battlefield into trade venue’ oriented Thailand to take an energetic approach in economic
relations with Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. This volte-face displeased
ASEAN, as it had not been forewarned about which Cambodian conflict was being
solved. Domestically, Thai businessmen had their own problems as they invested with
the mentality of getting rich quickly but with no public sector guidance.
Five years after the economic crisis of 1997, Thaksin Shinawatra’s administration
and his Thai Rak Thai (TRT) Party with the support of smaller parties became popular
due to their populist policies and down-to-earth approach to politics. A shrewd businessman himself, Thaksin gave favours to big business and facilitated them in their
aggressive business undertakings, which also saw the Prime Minister’s own business
empire flourishing. Thaksin’s success was well-reflected in the early general elections in
2006 that witnessed a landslide victory for the TRT. The premier boasted of 19 million votes of support, thereby forming a single party regime, a rarity in Thai politics.
Thaksin’s first project was the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) launched in 2002.
This was quiteDownloaded
and Thaksin
did not
hesitate to embrace
it. It18,would appear
from sas.sagepub.com
LIBRARY on March
that both Thaksin and Surakiart Sathirathai, then Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs,
had an eye on making their presence felt in a domain far larger in scope than a subregion such as Southeast Asia. Thaksin himself did not try to get well-acquainted
with other top leaders of ASEAN. The idea behind the ACD was the difficult political
situation in East Asia (on the Korean peninsula, the Taiwan issue and the sour relations
between Japan and China). Also, it was unlikely that the leaders of South Korea, Japan
and China would support any other initiative. Furthermore, Malaysian Prime Minister
Mahathir’s project of creating an East Asia Economic Cooperation (or Caucus) was
likely to fail due to U.S. and Australian opposition. Thaksin also lamented the absence
of an organisation like the African Union, NAFTA or EU-type organisation in Asia.
He suggested the Asia Bond worth US$1 billion in 2003, which was agreed upon by
the East Asia and Pacific central banks. By 2005, ACD had 28 members with a population of more than 3.2 billion and listed 19 areas of cooperation. For observers, the
ACD was a mere talking shop which regional leaders were obliged to attend out of
courtesy. China seemed to be the principal supporter of the ACD; China’s leadership
role in the Asian region is unmistakable and China’s participation in such organisations
helps neutralise the China threat.
It was in mid-2003 that Thaksin initiated the Economic Cooperation Strategy
(ECS) comprising Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. Thaksin raised the issue
with the three countries in Bangkok during the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) meeting on 29 April 2003. Myanmar hosted the first ECS summit at Bagan
on 12 November 2003. Vietnam joined the group only on 10 May 2004. The exclusion
of Vietnam in the first place is not well understood. It might be the result of old
sentiments of rivalry between Thailand and Vietnam over Cambodia and Laos. However, by 2003 Thai-Vietnamese relations became better after Thailand assured Vietnam
that it was not behind the activities of the Vietnamese dissident groups from the United
States. Thaksin dealt with the Vietnamese concerns by arranging a joint cabinet meeting between Thailand and Vietnam in Hanoi and Udornthani province in northeast
Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar need special attention from Thailand. Besides, the
idea of ‘prospering thy neighbours’ or the new phrase of ‘partner in progress’ is appropriate for Thailand as it has a higher rate of economic growth and is more developed
than its neighbours. Bilateral relations between Thailand and each of these neighbouring countries are good. Thailand invests heavily in Laos, considerably in Cambodia
and Myanmar. However, critics will point out the fact that Thaksin’s telecommunication investment in Myanmar and Cambodia benefits his communication empire. By
2005, the name of the ECS was changed into Ayeyawadi-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS).
The Bagan Declaration of 12 November 2003 sets forth the principle and mode
of operation of the ACMECS. It refers to the existing good neighbourliness, similar
cultural and historical heritage, same religion and mutual benefits; affirmed further
by the strong desire and determination among members to build a strong foundation
for cooperation
and from
and prosperity.
affirm the
March 18,
Concept and Function of the ACMECS/291
commitment to enhancing understanding, confidence and good neighbourliness within a stable political environment that is necessary for sustainable economic cooperation.
The declaration stresses the cooperative effort based on a spirit of equality and partnership to build a strong foundation for a prosperous and peaceful community of nations.
The desire is to create regional prosperity with increasing solidarity, mutual respect,
close friendship, good neighbourliness and active cooperation among members so
that the immense potential of the economy can be utilised to promote sustainable
economic development to uplift the welfare and quality of life of their people. The
document specifically mentions the plan to transform the adjoining border areas
into a stable, peaceful area of growth in order to enhance social progress and prosperity
of the peoples as well as to integrate local national and regional interests for mutual
benefits and wealth.
The Bagan Declaration (2003) spells out the aims of ACMECS:
1. promote ability of competitive advantage and to create more growth along the
2. facilitate transferring of agricultural industry and production to areas with
competitive advantage;
3. create job opportunities and to reduce differences in income among members;
4. promote peace, stability and sustainable mutual prosperity.
The Declaration specifies that the activities of the ACMECS are
compatible and reinforcing the existing bilateral and regional cooperation;
practical and with concrete result based on each country’s competitive advantage;
realisable and agreeable with the country concerned;
voluntarily and equally sharing the benefits; and
with consensus of all countries involved.
The areas of cooperation specified by the Declaration comprise
trade and investment facilitation;
agricultural and industrial cooperation;
transport linkages;
tourism cooperation; and
human resource development.
At the ministerial meeting of the ACMECS at Siem Reap, Cambodia on 5 August
2005, Thailand proposed public health as another area of cooperation, which was
later accepted.
As for the mechanism of the ACMECS, it was agreed that there would be a summit
every two years. The second summit was held in Bangkok during 1–3 November 2005.
While the ministerial
is anatannual
Downloaded from
on March
is to be held every six months. A working group meeting in coordination with embassies of other members in Bangkok was to be held every two months along with
meetings of the working group on specific areas. The Economic Cooperation Strategy
Plan of Action (ECSPA), now called ACMECS-PA, was adopted as a first series of
action with a time frame of 10 years, that is 2003–2012, to be reviewed every two
years. Programmes, projects and cooperative arrangements will be of three categories:
immediate-to-short term, medium term and long term. The ECSPA has seven annexes
specifying details of areas of cooperation, giving details of bilateral projects between
At the ministerial meeting on 10 May 2004, development partners of ACMECS
were invited to participate, such as Japan, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, France,
Germany, Canada, the European Union and the ADB. Private/business sectors were
also mobilised, particularly at the second summit. Annex I of the ACMECS-PA describes the common projects, programmes and cooperation arrangements. Initially
there were 46 items of cooperation, among which are: (1) the establishment of wholesale and export markets at border areas, (2) one-stop service on trade and tourism,
(3) encouragement of increased use of local currencies for border trade transaction,
(4) implementation of account trade system, (5) contract farming in agricultural
products (6) facilitation of subcontracting in manufacturing sector, (7) additional
routes and corridors connecting China and India, (8) training programme provided
by Thailand and Vietnam, (9) cross-border overland tours and (10) 100 scholarships
for general education in schools and universities in Thailand. It is interesting to note
that bilateral cooperation between Thailand and other members has more detail and
consists of longer lists of activity.
Obviously, ACMECS has adopted the norms, practice and structure of ASEAN,
making it look like a mini-ASEAN. Although there is no secretarial office, Bangkok
maintains the website for the group. On the Thai side, a public organisation called
the Office for Economic Cooperation with Neighbouring Countries was created on
16 May 2005 in order to facilitate financial support from Thailand. On 18 July 2005,
the Committee for Economic Cooperation with Neighbouring Countries was created
to propose and decide on policy, plans and programmes of cooperation. It is not
known whether Thailand informs other ASEAN members about what it wants to
achieve. ACMECS-PA supplements the HPA/VPA, which is an ASEAN collective
programme. As a sub-regional collective effort, ACMECS can pick specific areas of
cooperation with direct impact on the economy and people. The HPA, as an area of
collective ASEAN action, has to take into consideration the whole of ASEAN’s interest, while that of ACMECS is limited to only half the ASEAN members. Whether
ACMECS-PA will compete for funds with the HPA/VPA is a moot point; HPA/VPA
is in a better position to attract funding. The problem is who will push for more
funding; in the case of ACMECS, Thailand will be the main instigator. For example,
in mid-October 2005, Thailand made it known before the first ministerial meeting
of ACMECS on trade and investment facilitation, that the value of current trade
Downloaded from sas.sagepub.com at UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN LIBRARY on March 18,
Concept and Function of the ACMECS/293
among the five countries was US $2 billion per year. Trade was expected to rise up to
50 per cent more if the project could be successfully completed, although a time
frame was not given.
Thailand’s role in helping neighbouring countries was underscored in the report
on ‘Global Partnership for Development: Thailand’s Contribution to the Millennium
Development Goal 8’. This report was released in September 2005 ahead of the UN
World Summit by the UNDP. The report said 93 per cent of the US $1.65 billion in
official development assistance (ODA) provided by Thailand in 2003 went to neighbouring countries comparing with the 33 per cent of the ODA of the OECD countries
directed to least developed countries. In 2003, Thailand contributed 0.13 per cent of
gross national income (GNI) to least developed countries, slightly behind Japan’s
figure of 0.20 per cent and the U.S. figure of 0.15 per cent. Thailand seized this
opportunity to promote ACMECS as a vehicle to increase the competitiveness of
Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam in agricultural and manufacturing industries
(Chongkittavorn 2005).
Yet, as critics are quick to point out, through ACMECS Thaksin was able to enrich his business empire by making Myanmar accept Thailand’s package loan to develop Myanmar’s communication system. In return, Myanmar has given concessions
on satellite systems in lieu of Thaksin’s business enterprises (Chongkittavorn 2005).
Of course, Thailand is in a better position to expand industrial investment into the
other ACMECS members where cheap labour and an abundance of raw materials
will reduce Thailand’s cost of production. It is because of this that Thailand must
be very careful and must proceed strictly along the path already agreed upon in the
Bagan Declaration and subsequent guidelines. Another risk is Thaksin’s close
association with ACMECS, which will squarely affect ACMECS in a negative way.
This needs to be borne in mind particularly in light of the September 2006 coup that
resulted in the overthrow of Thaksin Shinawatra.
The peninsular countries of Southeast Asia (minus Malaysia and Singapore) use the
Mekong River as a tool for economic cooperation and development. After the Cold
War, the Greater Mekong Sub-region was constituted in 1992 with support from the
ADB with the main focus on road and transportation linkages between the six members. ASEAN initiated the Hanoi Plan of Action in 1998 (now Vientiane Plan of Action)
to accelerate economic transformation of the CLMV countries. In 2003, Thailand
pushed for Economic Cooperation Strategy (ECS), now ACMECS with itself as its
host. This threefold structure can be confusing for unaware observers. The question,
however, is whether this triple arrangement will reap three times the success. By normal standards, all programmes, projects, arrangements need outside funding and the
funds will come if the activities are attractive to invest in. Yet attractiveness should
not be seen only in economic terms. It can be purely political, although the combination of the two is the most satisfactory arrangement. The development partners of
Downloaded from sas.sagepub.com at UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN LIBRARY on March 18,
the ACMECS, that is France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the ADB
are represented in the GMS as well. With the GMS, China has been very keen to
play a dominant role, yet within the GMS framework, the Chinese push has been
Since October 2005, Japan has engaged in regular meetings with the economic
ministers of the CLMV and it was reported that this reflected a growing interest
among Japanese business in the region as a promising destination for development.
On the other hand, it is also interpreted as an attempt to counter the growing economic
and political role of China over the region. In actuality, the ADB funding for the
projects of the GMS comes from Japan. It was at the first GMS summit in Phnom
Penh in November 2002 that the Chinese premier Zhu Rongji unveiled a package of
financial programmes. In 2004, Beijing set up a special $20 million fund within the
ADB to alleviate poverty in the region. China also organised the second GMS summit
in Kunming on 5 July 2004 (Richardson 2005). Competition between China and
Japan over the GMS and ACMECS can adversely affect both if good diplomacy is
lacking. At the present, India’s role is not clear within the ACMECS; however, it will
not be before long that India will be invited to step in. In a globalised world, ACMECS
cannot afford to be a closed group, especially as it has both regional as well as interregional dynamics.
ASEAN. 1997. Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ‘ASEAN Vision 2020’, 15 December, Kuala Lumpur,
accessed from http://www.aseansec.org/1814.htm.
Bagan Declaration. 2003. Kingdom of Thailand, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ‘Bagan Declaration’, 12 November,
accessed from http://www.mfa.go.th/web/1655.php.
Chongkittavorn, Kavi. 2005. ‘Regional Perspective: Thailand Relishes in its New Image: Donor Country’,
The Nation, 31 October: 10A, accessed from http://www.nationmultimedia.com/search/page.arcview.
Osborne, Milton. 2000. ‘The Strategic Significance of the Mekong’, Contemporary Southeast Asia 22 (3),
December: 429–444.
Richardson, Michael. 2005. ‘China’s Growing Role in Mekong Politics’, The Nation, 19 August: 10A,
accessed from http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2005/08/19/opinion/data/opinion_18381075.html.
Than, Mya. 2005. Myanmar in ASEAN: Regional Cooperation Experience. Singapore: Institute of Southeast
Asian Studies.
Downloaded from sas.sagepub.com at UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN LIBRARY on March 18,