Water cooperation, security and international regimes: an analytical framework for the GMS
From 27 February to 10 May 1993, China, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar jointly surveyed the Mekong River, starting from Simao, to collect data for developing the river into a shipping route (Foreign Broadcast Information Service 1993a: 15). Eight days later, on 18 May 1993, oﬃcial trade at the Hekou-Lao Cai port of the Red River (Honghe/Song Hong) oﬃcially reopened after 14 years of blockade (Foreign Broadcast Information Service 1993b: 14-15). These are small examples of cross-border cooperation, which gained
momentum after the end of the Cold War. They are also examples of oﬃcial (as opposed to smuggling) small-scale cooperation, which had started during these times below the radar of the larger institution of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) and, since 1995, the Mekong River Commission (MRC). But what does the formation of the GMS mean for cooperation in the subregion? Cooperation within the GMS is clearly conceived long-term, given the importance countries attach to it, whether for security or economics, or both. How, then, is it organized? This chapter lays out a framework for analysis of the GMS on three layers of actors: state, substate and non-state, and their actions, which may be conducive for the creation of stable patterns of cooperation in an international regime.