>5 SE Asian nations meet to boost cooperation

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L-R) Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh of Laos, Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia, Prime Minister Thein Sein of Myanmar and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung of Vietnam wait for the arrival of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat of Thailand for a meeting during the third summit of the Ayayewady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) in Hanoi November 7, 2008. REUTERS/Kham (VIETNAM)

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — The prime ministers from five Southeast Asian nations gathered in Hanoi Friday to boost cooperation in face of the global economic slowdown.

Their mutual efforts have become “extremely necessary” given the world’s financial troubles, said Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, speaking at the opening of the meeting, also attended by leaders of Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand.

With the exception of Thailand, the so-called Mekong nations are among the poorest in Asia.

Dung said the summit offered an opportunity for the member countries to “share experiences and help one another to cope with common challenges.”

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said boosting cooperation in trade, investment and tourism would help to “narrow the development gap and reduce poverty in the region.”

But he warned that a shortage of financing may hinder their cooperation.

Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat said member countries were all affected by the prevailing economic uncertainty.

“We are not immune to the recent global financial crisis,” he said “We have been affected by volatile oil and food prices as major commodity producers and exporters.”

The organization of five Mekong River countries was established in 2003.

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