Journal of Social Sciences

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This research studies international governance design of the 1995 Mekong Agreement. It aims to explain why the lower Mekong basin states could reach an agreement despite their divergent interests and preferences. The upstream state like Thailand preferred water allocation rules that allow it to use tributary water in its state boundary autonomously and to use mainstream water with least limitations. Meanwhile, the downstream states preferred some rules for controlling Thailand's water use and coping with externalities and uncertainties resulting from the upstream countries' water utilization. But such a strong governance implies a reduction in riparian states' sovereignty and policy autonomy and delegation of basin management to international bodies. The research finds that both Thailand and the downstream states, i.e. Cambodia, Vietnam; and Lao PDR as their ally; value sovereignty preservation over gains from externality mitigation so they agree to design the Mekong governance as soft law: a legally-binding international agreement that contains some imprecise provisions on the states' rights and obligations, no enforcement mechanism and no power delegation to international bodies in basin management so as to cut sovereignty costs and preserve their autonomy.

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