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Mekong youths show vivid ideas, strong responsibility
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Dozens of simple paintings mostly featuring water, trees and wild animals, and colorful photos glorifying landscapes and daily life by children were luring viewers outside, while 37 youths from six Mekong countries were making recommendations for their countries' experienced leaders inside the conference room.

The 37 boys and girls, including six from Laos, China, Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand each and seven from Cambodia, are especially chosen for the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) Youth Forum in the capital city to put forth practical and feasible solutions to the prime ministers of the six nations in the form of a collective message.

"We're discussing a 3-C approach, namely connectivity, competitiveness and community for better future of the GMS. We're asking our nations' leaders to center on such issues as fostering the sub-region's physical connectivity, expanding access to modern information and communications technology and healthcare services, especially for youths in rural and remote areas, and empowering young people by creating more education, training and employment opportunities," a Chinese girl named Fang Min told Xinhua.

"We're also asking our leaders to consider more policies to better protect our environment, support and promote traditional cultural values and identities, as well as maintain and protect cultural diversities," said the 27-year-old girl, who is studying laws in Shanghai after four years of working as a reporter in the Chinese biggest city.

Another forum delegate, Nguyen Ngoc Quynh from Vietnam, echoed Fang's statement, saying that she wants the leaders to pay more attention to youths' aspirations, giving them more assistance in various spheres.

"Youths are not only the future, but also the present, because they have already played an important role in both public and private sectors", said the 25-year-old girl, who is working for the State Bank of Vietnam.

The 37 youths started on March 22 their five-day journeys on three caravan trips along the GMS's North-South, East-West, and Southern economic corridors, experiencing firsthand "the 3 Cs" of connectivity, competitiveness, and community, before their Sunday meeting with GMS leaders in Vientiane.

The leaders walked past the painting and photo exhibitions christened "My World, My Home" and "My Mekong", beautified with cleverly-connected bunches of fresh flowers to meet the 37, who and their peers in the sub-region are expected to become policy- makers or law-makers.

"The youth of the sub-region are the well-spring of our future leaders, decision-makers and workers. They will carry on the responsibility of nurturing to greater heights the sense of unity, shared interests, and common destiny that we have painstakingly built block by block over the past years. We are looking forward to see these young people become future leaders and productive citizens with a strong sense of sub-regional community," Lao Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh said at the meeting of the GMS leaders and Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Haruhiko Kuroda with the GMS youths.

During the two-day 3rd GMS Summit in Vientiane from March 30-31, GMS leaders and representatives from international organizations like the ADB are to touch upon connectivity and competitiveness issues such as the establishment of transport corridors, power interconnection systems and telecommunications networks, improvement of infrastructure links, and measures to facilitate the cross-border movement of goods and services.

The six countries sharing the Mekong River in 1992 kicked off their GMS Program which involves planning and implementing sub- regional projects in nine areas: transport, energy, telecommunications, tourism, environment, human resource development, agriculture, trade facilitation, and private investment.

(Xinhua News Agency March 30, 2008)

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