ish writhe frantically in the shallow pool, as their schoolmates stranded on the exposed sandbar breathe their last. It is November, the end of the monsoon season, yet the water in the Mekong river is perilously low. On this stretch, in north-eastern Thailand, the bank is so parched the earth has cracked, and once-leafy bushes are bone dry. Visitors have flocked to the desiccated river bed to catch the trapped carp with their bare hands, but their delight does not diminish the disquiet of locals. “These fish were parent fish,” says Ormbun Thipsuna, a local fish farmer, recalling the scene. “No life any more,” she sighs.