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The Mekong is one of the world's great rivers. It is the world's 10th-longest river[1] and the 7th-longest in Asia. Its estimated length is 4,909 km (3,050 mi),[1] and it drains an area of 795,000 km2 (307,000 sq mi), discharging 475 km3 (114 cu mi) of water annually [2].

From the Tibetan Plateau this river runs through China's Yunnan province, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam established the Mekong River Commission in 1995 to assist in the management and coordinated use of the Mekong's resources. In 1996 China and Burma became "dialogue partners" of the MRC and the six countries now work together within a cooperation framework.

The extreme seasonal variations in flow and the presence of rapids and waterfalls in this river have made navigation extremely difficult.



In English the river is called "the Mekong River", derived from "Mae Nam Khong", a term of both Thai and Lao origin. In the Lao-Thai toponymy, all great rivers are considered "mother rivers" signaled by the prefix "mae", meaning "mother", and "nam" for water. In the Mekong's case, Mae Nam Khong means Khong, Mother of Water[3]. "Khong" is derived from the Sanskrit "ganga", meaning the Ganges. Many Northern Thai and Laos locals refer to it as the "River Khong". Such is the case with the Mae Nam Ping in Chiang Mai which is known as the "Ping River". The Tonle Sap in Cambodia is a similar example – where Tonle translates as "Great lake or river", making the Tonle Sap River an unnecessary repetition of what is in fact the "Sap River".

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