Mekong Institute (MI) was established based on a concept developed by Khon Kaen University, after the visit in 1994 of the then Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr. James B. Bolger. Their original idea was to create an institution regionally situated in the Greater Mekong Sub-region to provide trainings for its middle to senior level officials and managers.
In 1995, after the approval from the governments of New Zealand and Thailand, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn laid the foundation stone of the MI building – now known as the Mekong Institute Residential Training Center.
On August 28, 1996, an MOU between the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Thai Department of Technical and Economic Cooperation was signed. This was to establish an institute for economic development and cooperation for the Greater Mekong Sub-region – Mekong Institute. Its first training course was on “Economies in Transition” (February 24 – March 14, 1997).
Until 2003, MI primarily conducted trainings to assist the transition of the GMS countries into the market-economy. However, recognizing the changing needs of the region, MI shed its development assistance tag and signed the MI Charter, enabling it to develop into a non-profit autonomous organization. Since then, MI’s programs and services gravitated towards cross-border issues with a focus on rural development, good governance, and trade and investment facilitation.
In November 2009, with the Bill for the Protection of the Operation of the Mekong Institute and a royal decree signed by the King of Thailand, MI matured into a recognized intergovernmental organization (IGO) focusing on providing human resource development and capacity development learning programs to enhance regional development, cooperation, and integration. It has become a GMS-based institute owned and supported by the six GMS governments: Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of P.R. China.
In 2011, MI organized the first ever Mekong Forum – an event that brings together senior policy makers, business and civic leaders, academia, and development practitioners interested and involved in the development of the GMS and its integration into the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). This event, which serves mainly as a platform to discuss and learn about opportunities in the region, still continues today and will be organized annually.
In 2012, MI celebrated its 15th anniversary. Today, roughly 18 years later and with the new MI Annex, MI stands as an autonomous international institution with wide network alumni. MI has continued to evolve according to the needs of the sub-region and its people for regional integration to bring about more equitable and inclusive economic growth.
MI constantly adapts to the challenges that the region is facing while it also makes certain that it is a GMS-based knowledge-center of excellence. With increased institutional capacities to perform policy research and recommendation services related to economic integration and development disparities, MI is increasingly expanding its focus and programs together with its regional development partners and local public and private sector organizations. As it looks forward to its 20th anniversary, MI strives to enhance its own operational systems to ensure the most effective and efficient delivery of its services.