Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam happen to all be connected through the Mekong river and because of this they have the 1995 Mekong Agreement. This agreement says that:
“Under its terms, the countries that share the Mekong agree to prior consultations on the possible cross-border impact of any development on the river before deciding to proceed.”
What Laos doesn’t seem to understand is that consultation consists of in a way, asking for the others permission. When Thailand approached Laos about building a dam over the Mekong at Xayaburi, they of course were okay with it.
“Landlocked Laos is one of South-east Asia’s poorest countries and its strategy for development is based on generating electricity from its rivers and selling the power to its neighbours,” says the BBC’s Jonah Fisher in Bangkok.
But the two other members of the Mekong Agreement did not feel the same. Cambodia and Vietnam felt that the dam should wait until proper research had been completed, and feared that the dam could pose danger to fish migration and the flow of sediment downstream. Though Cambodia and Vietname voiced concerns, Laos not only gave a nod towards the dam but decided to announce it the first day of the Asia-Europe meeting that they were hosting!
“Bold, brave or perhaps a good way to bury the news? The Laos government chose to announce the dam would go ahead on the day it hosted one of the biggest summits in its history.”
The general consensus is that Laos thinks that they followed the 1995 Mekong Agreement because they heard what the others had to say and “brought in their own contractors” to fix any problems. But skeptics say the changes have not been tested and that it could cause problems. Who knows if this will cause problems environmentally or if it will cause problems between the countries on the Mekong river…probably both.