River Commission Moving Its Offices to Laos

The Mekong River Commis­sion Secretariat announced plans to relocate from Phnom Penh to Vientiane by June 2004, keeping its promise to rotate headquarters every five years to another member country.

The MRC—an intergovernmental organization formed in 1995 by Cambodia, Laos, Thai­land and Vietnam to oversee de­velopment of the Mekong Riv­er—moved to Phnom Penh in 1998 from Bangkok, where it was founded and first located.

When it packs up and moves to Laos, the MRC will empty the Monivong Boulevard building where 125 employees work. MRC employees will have the op­tion to relocate to Laos, communications officer Delia Paul said.

The move “reflects the ownership member countries feel” toward the organization, she said.

The MRC announced intentions to move following Friday and Saturday’s 17th annual meeting of its joint committee, the multinational body that oversees its operations.

Also during the meeting, the com­mittee agreed to establish a Regional Flood Management Center in Phnom Penh. The new center, estimated to cost $12 million in its first six years of operation, is intended to expand flood forecasting and flood management for the region. The MRC is still working to secure complete funding for the project and is unsure where the center will be located. Paul said the flood center grew out of “more recognition that floods need to be managed on a regional level.”

To ensure villagers are prepared for floods, she said, the  center would work to establish building standards in flood-prone regions and develop community-based warning systems.

The MRC was originally established in 1995 by the Agreement on the Cooperation for Sustain­able Development of the Mekong River.

In addition to development, it works on issues of water quality, fisheries management, agricultural development and hydropower planning.

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