"Friendship never ends if only Mekong River flows." For China, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, the four nations located along the upper reaches of the river, also known as the "Oriental Danube", that maxim has been living since ancient times.
Nowadays, as the quadrilateral cooperation on navigation, drug-suppression and tourism quickly growing, officials and artists from the four nations are co-holding the first-ever friendship concert between November 24 and 26 at the small border town in Thailand's northmost province of Chiangrai, some 1,000 kilometers north of Bangkok.
Nearby roads leading to the site of the event are heavily dotted with national flags of the four countries, banners of friendship and colorful flowers. At the gate to the concert, local young girls in costumes of various nationalities line up to give each guest a flower-bangle and a sweet welcome smile. Above the center stage, there is a big symbol of the concert, combining patterns of four national flags.
When the night fell on November 24, just before the opening show of the three-day concert, the riverside concert venue has already been filled up with large crowds of people, including locals, people travelling from China, Laos and Myanmar, and tourists from outside of the region.
"The town is becoming increasingly busy," a local shop-owner named Suvit said joyfully. A few months before this concert, the opening of commercial navigation of the Mekong River among China, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar has brought huge economic opportunities into the riverside town, situated at the joint point of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, and not far from China.
The move was widely hailed by economic analysts as "the advent of a new era" in the region's development.
Cooperation Enters New Phase
"Sharing a common river and strong cultural and ethnic ties, the four countries have continued their friendship throughout the history and the cooperation is entering a new phase," Thai Minister of Prime Minister's Office Somsak Thepsuthin said in his opening address at the concert.
Therefore, he said the organizing of the concert, the first-ever of its kind, is an admirable move to demonstrate the four-nation unity, which has contributed greatly to peace, harmony and socio-economic development in the region.
After receiving loud claps from the audience for his sincere words, Somsak, together with Chinese Ambassador to Thailand Yan Tingai, Chairman of Lao Tourism Authority Cheng Sayavong and Director-general of Myanmar Directorate of Tourism U Khin Maung Latt, co-rataplaned a huge drum, signifying the four nation's co-launch of the concert.
While sounds of drum still echoing around, a culture parade formed by four groups of artists from each of the four nations ascended the stage, displaying each nation's costumes, dances and other arts. More strikingly, every group unanimously carried banners with anti-drug slogans in their own languages.
"Choosing Golden Triangle, a front-line position of anti-drug campaign, to be the venue of the concert, will add a new momentum to our common war against drugs," an official from Thailand's Narcotics Control Bureau told Xinhua.
Indeed, the drug issue has become crucial in the cooperation among the four nations as they are facing the common menace. While joining efforts in broader regional anti-drug mechanisms, the four nations held their first-ever ministerial meeting on drugs last August in Beijing and endorsed a declaration to set new guidance for further cooperation.
Music of Friendship Lasts Forever
After showing various dances and songs of artists from the four nations, the concert bought a surprise to the audience -- a blonde singer from Switzerland who was invited to sing a local song and his Thai pronunciation was proved almost impeccable.
Asked by the compere how he could achieve that, the young singer, namely Jonas, said that is because he was fascinated with the land and people of this region. "I believe there is a wonderful prospect for the upper Mekong region and I am willing to live here for a long time."
Jonas' love-affair with the region is not alone these days. With expanding cooperation among the four countries, each year the region sees an increasing number of tourists, and some of them even decided to settle down here like Jonas.
It is estimated that this year the number of foreign tourist arrivals to this region could, for the first time, exceed 14 million.
In the end, when the night was coming to its depth, all the artists gathered at the stage hand in hand, performing a great chorus of friendship.
Accompanied by the music, four huge balloons, each carrying one of the four national flags, flew high into the night sky. Cheers and the friendship melody echoed around the small town and was being wafted to the full length of Mekong......
"The music tonight has not ended. We will hold similar events here every year, and our Oriental Danube will be echoing with the friendship music forever! " Thai Minister of Prime Minister's Office Somsak said.
(People’s Daily December 2, 2001)