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Money talks on the Mekong

Editor’s note: Last week, WorldNetDaily international
correspondent Anthony C. LoBaido documented Southeast Asia’s monetary
and social meltdown.

In this report, LoBaido shows how the upcoming Mekong Delta Navigational
Agreement may work to resurrect the region economically, much to the
benefit of communist China. The report also reveals, for the first time,
why communist China, as well as Thailand, are so eager to ride roughshod
over the region’s Christian hill tribes like the Karen and the

By Anthony C. LoBaido

© 2000, WorldNetDaily.com, Inc.

HAUY XAI, Laos, PDR — At 4,800 kilometers, the Mekong ranks as the
longest waterway in all of Southeast Asia, flowing from China’s Qinghai
province, which borders Tibet, through no less than six countries.

Mekong River sunset as seen from Thailand, with Laos on the
opposite shore.

And while most of these nations — China, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia
— are communist, that won’t stop the non-communist nations in the region
— including Thailand and Burma — from signing an historic agreement
with their communist neighbors next month that will transform the

After more than four years of negotiations, these countries are
likely to ink a Mekong Commercial Navigation agreement that will
increase sub-regional trade, boost tourism and dramatically raise the
level and quality of transportation throughout Southeast Asia.

For instance, the agreement, WorldNetDaily has learned, will allow
commercial shipping vessels to sail from the Simao region in lower
mainland China all the way to Luang Prabang, Laos without transit fees.

Capsized boat near Thailand’s Kho Pi Pi island. Improved
shipping conditions will be welcomed in Southeast Asia.

Customs procedures, port and cargo services, navigation rules, vessel
safety, docking, launching and traffic regulations, as well as currency
conversion from proceeds acquired en route, will be streamlined and
unified under the agreement as well. Many other issues, legal
agreements, computer software and the like, are being ironed out.

Other nations that are a part of the Association of Southeast Asian
Nations, or ASEAN, include Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and
the Philippines. These nations, along with the communist states of
Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and China, all stand to benefit from increased
trade in the region brought about by the Mekong development scheme.

While Singapore and Brunei are extremely wealthy nations, even by
Western standards, other Southeast Asian states are not so well off.
Burma for example, has a per-capita gross domestic product of $172.
Yunnan province in southern China has a per-capita GDP of $479, while
Vietnam’s is $330, Laos’ $357 and Cambodia’s a dismal $282.

These poorer nations hope to gain the most economically from the
proposed development scheme. The citizens of Burma, Laos, Cambodia and
Vietnam have little purchasing power, and will need training to acquire
job skills needed to work at the factory jobs sure to be created by the
economic development and linkage of the region.

The Japanese connection

As the region’s major source of development financing, and the
richest nation in all of Asia, Japan has stepped into the fray with the
promise of injecting funds to develop the Mekong Basin as a whole.
Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, speaking in Bangkok at February’s
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, or UNCTAD, said he
will raise “the need for human resource development in the Mekong
sub-region at the July G-8 summit in Okinawa.”

Thais burn Uncle Sam in effigy to protest the International
Monetary Fund at the recent United Nations Conference on Trade and
Development conference held in Bangkok. Photo by Anthony LoBaido.

“The Mekong Basin is the last development frontier in the region,”
added Obuchi.

The upcoming G-8 summit will have the Mekong Basin Development
Project at the top of its agenda. Also to be discussed are issues like
human resource development, coordinating the global financial system and
dealing with issues arising from massive and rapid globalization.
Preventing another 1997-style Asian meltdown will also figure
prominently in the discussions, say Western financial analysts based in

While Cambodia and Laos are among the poorest nations on earth, the
region is rich in natural resources, including rice and other
agricultural products, oil and gas (including offshore deposits),
lumber, rubber, gems and jade. Not to be overlooked are the drug profits
from the Golden Triangle, which reach into the tens of billions of
dollars annually.

“The development of the Mekong river system will no doubt increase
the flow of drugs within the region,” conceded one Thai officer with the
National Drug Suppression Unit.

Opium from Burma is passed on to Communist China, which refines
heroin for sale to America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. China
also passes on heroin to North Korea for sale to the West.

Japan has seconded Thailand’s proposal to focus all available
financial resources on developing an “east-west corridor” along the
Mekong. The east-west corridor refers to the transport of manufactured
goods and natural resources from Japan and Southeast Asia (and Southern
China) to ports on the Indian Ocean in Burma/Myanmar.

“The Burmese hill tribes like the Karen in Eastern Burma, currently
fighting for their freedom, Christian religion and autonomy, are in the
way of this development scheme,” said Sudatip Puckhorn, a Thai relief
project manager who works with some of the 100,000 Karen refugees living
in western Thailand. These Karen refugees have fled the brutal genocide
waged against them by the fascist Burmese junta. The junta is armed
primarily with weapons from communist China.

“To me, the economic integration of the region as an economic block
serves as a large step toward world government. It is far easier, I
think, to merge ten regional economic or regional blocks into one world
government, than it is to merge, say, almost 200 separate nations.”

Show me the money

Thailand has set aside $350 million for Greater Mekong Sub-region
(GMS) development in the year 2000. Despite the 1997 Asian economic
meltdown, which had its genesis in Bangkok, Thailand’s trade with its
Mekong neighbors is up almost 30 percent per year since 1993. However,
though boasting a population of over 60 million, Thailand has a
per-capita Gross Domestic Product of only $2,543, and last year provided
a negative growth rate of -0.4 percent.

Satellite dish atop roof of Laotian hotel. Photo by Anthony

Thailand’s GMS budget makes provision for building new airports in
the Loatian French colonial paradise of Luang Prabang, as well as in
northern Burma. Additionally, the budget will provide funds for the
construction of a road linking Thailand’s eastern border all the way to
the Burmese capital of Rangoon. (Burma is also known as Myanmar).

The construction of this roadway is significant in that it is the
first step in the completion of a GMS roadway system that will link
Rangoon with Thailand, Laos and Vietnam by the year 2003.

The proposed road will cut through Laos’ rice bowl near Savannakhet,
and continue on to Vietnam’s Danang port on the South China Sea.
Upgrading the port at Danang is seen as a critical link in the
development scenario. The reason is simple: Danang would then serve as a
lynchpin for the import and export of goods between the proposed ports
to be build on the Indian Ocean in Burma and Vietnam — not to mention
everything which lay in between.

“The economic corridor concept is very important. We simply cannot
fail in our plans to implement it,” said Toru Tatara, a researcher of
the Greater Mekong Sub-region project at the Manila-based Asian
Development Bank.

Moreover, building massive hydroelectric plants to provide
electricity for the GMS region’s 250 million inhabitants will also be a
top priority. Government and the private sector are expected to work
hand-in-glove to ensure the GMS project’s goals are reached within the
aforementioned framework.

Monk in Vientiane, Laos, speaks on the phone. Adding
telecommunications infrastructure to the Greater Mekong Sub-region is an
expensive but important part of development. Photo by Anthony LoBaido.

Working quietly behind the scenes, the Asian Development Bank, United
Nations, IMF, World Bank, General Motors, General Electric and the
American Investment Group or “AIG” have engaged in stealthy discussions
with GMS nations over the financial commitment they will make to finance
the infrastructure development of the region.

The Nature Conservancy, a U.S.-based
environmental organization has joined with the Yunnan region government
in communist China to set up a natural park in southern China. The
stated purpose of the park would be to preserve a part of the
environment that is sure to be annihilated once the GMS region is linked
and developed.

While there are many issues that must be resolved in the drive toward
economic development of the Greater Mekong Sub-region, other peripheral
issues — including the survival of certain ethnic and religious groups
— will likely be overlooked.

One very real issue will be how the upgrade in transportation
infrastructure in the region will allow for the increased mobility of
communist China’s People’s Liberation Army within the region. Already
Japan and the West are concerned about a possible move of China into a
fractured Burma.

Another concern is the increase in the drug trade that the
development scheme will ensure. This currently includes the passing on
of Burmese heroin to the West via China, Vietnam, Laos, and to a lesser
extent, North Korea.

Finally, the fate of the indigenous hill tribes in the region,
including the Hmong
and the Karen
will soon be sealed forever. Both populations stand in the way of the
proposed development scheme.

A Hmong baby in Laos. Like the Karen of Burma, the Hmong have
been victims of a brutal genocide directed by China. These hill tribes
and others seeking autonomy stand in the way of the grand design of the
Greater Mekong Sub-region Development Plan. Photo by Anthony LoBaido.

The Japanese and Western corporate elite are within striking distance
of realizing their dream of linking all of Southeast Asia via an
east-west corridor. Once completed, this corridor will stretch from
Vietnam and the South China Sea to Burma and the Indian Ocean.

This vast sea, air, rail and land link will cut through many cultures
and national boundaries. However, at the crossroads of Thailand, Laos,
Burma and Vietnam sit indigenous hill tribes like the Christian Hmong
and Karen. Already these groups have been marginalized from their own
nations due to their embrace of Christianity and their resolute
resistance to Stalinism, Marxism and fascism.

Many roads and railways are slated for construction across the lands
these people now occupy. Moreover, new drug-smuggling routes will be
needed in eastern Burma, which some say is the real reason behind the
recent massive relocation of the Shan, Wa and Karen hill tribes of
Myanmar/Burma. These factors, in addition to the dislocation involved in
commercial development, with its deforestation, pollution and
environmental degradation, are expected to result in the loss of these
peoples’ traditional culture — and maybe even their lives.

It is a great price the hill tribes must pay as they are sacrificed
on the altar of a growing world economic system.

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