Message from the PresidentCambodia - Guangxi - Laos - Myanmar - Thailand - Vietnam - Yunnan
Daniel J. Mitterhoff, Esq.
China-Mekong Law Center
Why The Mekong Region?
The term “Greater-Mekong Subregion” (GMS) is a geographic-cum-economic concept first articulated by the Asian Development Bank in the 1980s. Consisting of two Chinese provinces–Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and the five countries of mainland Southeast Asia–Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam–the GMS is now considered an area of integrated development following broadly along the spine of the mighty Mekong river, which originates on the Tibetan plateau, traverses nearly 3000 miles across Southwest China (where it is known as the Lancang River) and through the heart of mainland Southeast Asia, emptying into the South China Sea via the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam.
The GMS is a region of enormous anthropological and environmental diversity. With a total population of around 325 million people, a portion of which are ethnic minorities whose communities often straddle national borders, inclusive development remains an imperative. The area is also one of amazing richness of flora and fauna (fish diversity is second only to the Amazon river basin), the preservation of which is important not only as global heritage, but because the livelihood of so many depends on the region’s ecological health.
Despite its huge economic potential, the GMS is extremely fragile, both socially and environmentally, plagued by an array of problems including, but not limited to, stateless persons; illegal drug trade and drug addiction; war and refugees; trafficking in persons; cross-border criminal enterprise; unequal access to social services and credit; exploitation of migrant labor; environmental degradation (over-fishing, over-logging and pollution); insufficient public participation in development decisions; disputes over water-use rights; and un-remedied injustice. In many parts of the GMS, there remains a dearth of political and judicial infrastructure to manage the resolution of disputes and dampen broader social tensions, further limiting regional potential.
At China-Mekong Law Center, we believe that well-written laws, stronger legal institutions and competent ethical lawyers can make a positive difference in the sustainable development of the GMS. This is why we have dedicated ourselves to training professionals to serve the needs of disadvantaged communities in the GMS. Our flagship project, the Mekong Region Legal Studies Program, endeavors to gather students from throughout the GMS into the same classroom for joint exploration of the laws and legal systems of mainland Southeast Asia, focusing on legal problems/solutions associated with development challenges in the GMS. We truly believe that graduate level law students–by sharing regional perspectives under the guidance of professors studied not only in their respective subject expertise, but the broader issues confronting the GMS-can ultimately emerge as a cadre of lawyers who understand the law, comparatively and internationally, and the “Mekong,” its peoples and its problems, possessing the skills to solve/mitigate these problems for the betterment of the entire region. We expect that these future professionals will represent vulnerable and disadvantaged stakeholders in the GMS, all with a deep commitment to the healthy, sustainable, fair and just development of the region.
From January-May 2016, China-Mekong Law Center launched a semester pilot of the Mekong Region Legal Studies Program bringing two students from China, two students from Myanmar, two students from Thailand and two students from Vietnam into the same classroom for study together in four intensive law courses: 1) Comparative Study of Mekong Region Legal Systems; 2) Introduction to the Chinese Legal System; 3) Comparative Government Procurement Law; and 4) Project Design and Writing Grant Proposals. A second pilot of identical courses attended by fifteen students representing all GMS countries followed in August-December 2018. China-Mekong Law Center is deeply pleased by the dynamic learning environment created in the Mekong Region Legal Studies Program and quite honored by the students’ praise of not only course quality, but also the international community created by the coming together of students from throughout the region. This cohort of regional lawyers remains in close contact and represents merely the start of China-Mekong Law Center’s efforts to build bridges among professionals in the Greater Mekong Sub-region with the goal of fostering mutual understanding, enhancing cross-border professional networks and developing shared solutions to common problems impacting the region.
The second pilot of the Mekong Region Legal Studies Program proceeded in cooperation with the Faculty of Integrated Social Sciences, Khon Kaen University, Nongkhai Campus in Thailand (KKU-FISS). With KKU-FISS, CMLC hopes to realize it’s dream of establishing a special English-language LL.M. degree program in Mekong Region Law, open to all students from the GMS interested in helping disadvantaged individuals and communities navigate the complex regional development process. KKU-FISS is fully committed to hosting a new regional LL.M. degree program of international and domestic public law courses which will equip students with the necessary knowledge and problem solving skills to make a difference in the lives of underserved individuals and communities in the GMS.
China-Mekong Law Center’s programs offer a unique opportunity to cultivate well-trained lawyers and legal advisors to serve vulnerable and disadvantaged populations in a rapidly changing environment. While the pace of change in the GMS will remain robust, we simply endeavor to ensure that such growth remains sustainable, fair, just and reasonable for the need of the peoples of the GMS. Please read more about the details about our Mekong Region Legal Studies Program and other our other projects. Please support us by clicking on the Donate link below and making a financial contribution towards the success of these important initiatives. Thank you.