Home Asia Cambodia To Cut Shipping Through Vietnam By 70% Via New Mekong Canal

Cambodia To Cut Shipping Through Vietnam By 70% Via New Mekong Canal

Cambodia, Vietnam
Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister Sun Chanthol speaks during an interview with Reuters in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, May 6, 2024. REUTERS/Chan Tha Lach

Cambodia plans to lower shipping through Vietnamese ports by 70 per cent due to a $1.7 billion renovation of a canal connecting the Mekong River basin to the Cambodian coast funded by China.

Deputy Prime Minister Sun Chanthol dismissed environmental concerns about the Funan Techo canal, expected to be built later this year, and called it ‘baseless’ to think that Chinese warships may utilize it to get access upriver.

The project, to be finished by 2028, has the ability to rekindle hostilities between Vietnam and Cambodia, who are close allies but have frequently clashed.

Conservationists and Vietnamese authorities have expressed concern over possible harm to the already vulnerable Mekong Delta, a vast rice-producing area that sustains millions of people in Vietnam downstream.

While Chanthol said that fishing and agriculture on land would also be facilitated by the canal, he also stated that the amount of water diverted would be “a drop in the bucket”. He claimed that less greenhouse gas emissions will result from the canal’s shorter path to the sea for barges and ships transporting raw materials and textiles from and to Phnom Penh.

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He said that although Cambodia has informed the Mekong River Commission (MRC), an intergovernmental body responsible for the cooperative management of the basin, it will not engage with other nations in the area regarding the project. He further stated that although Cambodia was not required by law to share more information with the MRC, it would if asked.

The MRC informed that despite repeated requests and two official letters delivered in August and October, Cambodia had not released the feasibility assessment for the canal.

In a statement, an official from Vietnam’s ministry of foreign affairs expressed her expectation that Cambodia would cooperate and exchange data with Hanoi in order to evaluate the project’s effects.

Currently, as per Chanthol, around 33 per cent of cargo to and from Cambodia use Vietnamese ports for their global trade by shipping them through the Mekong River, noting that with the extended canal the goal is to reduce that to 10 per cent, which would imply a 70 per cent decrease in current shipping volumes.

(With inputs from Reuters)