I have given my presentation (by Skype) at the ARI workshop on Sustainable Transboundary Governance of the Environmental Commons in Southeast Asia (Date:01 Nov 2018 – 02 Nov 2018) (more here: https://ari.nus.edu.sg/Event/Detail/fcafab62-88d7-4fdf-8995-64c73d2d494a). The paper, co-authored with Dr. Nittana Southiseng, was entitled Managing at a Distance: Cross-Border Land Control in the Greater Mekong Subregion.
In order to capture the economic benefits of differing cross-border conditions and access to resources, investors – mostly but not exclusively Chinese – are enforcing control of land in the Greater Mekong Subregion countries. This has included the building and maintenance of an oil pipeline from Kyaukphyu special economic zone to Kunming, the operation of casinos and related resorts and the provision of security in the amber and jade market enclave at Jiegao, among other examples. In addition to the land involved, these projects require not just land but water, electricity and telecommunications services and involve people who live in conditions that are not regulated by standard legal protections. Governance of such areas varies from strict control of valuable resources and access to them through uneven application of factory regimes through to cowboy capitalism. The ability of observers to monitor conditions is hampered by the degree to which investors and their stakeholders are willing to keep their actions obscure. Is it possible to quantify the impacts of these operations and assess the impact on the human and physical environments? This paper uses a case study approach to investigate the sustainability issues related to the Kyaukphyu pipeline project, the Jiegao market and the Poipet casino complex. Information on these projects can be difficult to obtain and it is necessary to make some approximations of impacts. Governance systems are identified and suggestions are made from various perspectives as to how to impose more transparency onto them.
Keywords: cross-border land control, environmental impacts, Greater Mekong Subregion, special economic zones, sustainability
Nittana Southiseng, SME Development advisor, GiZ, Vientiane, Lao PDR
John Walsh, RMIT, Vietnam (John.firstname.lastname@example.org).