Category Archives: NEWS DIGEST

Regional Roundup: Week of 12.28.2014

In what is normally a festive time of year, this last week has been one of shock, grief and solemn remembrance for many in Southeast Asia. On December 26th, countries around the region marked the ten year anniversary of the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami with memorials, prayers and promises of renewed efforts to strengthen disaster infrastructure.

 Now, however, the region’s focus is on AirAsia flight QZ8501, which has been missing since yesterday morning. The flight, which was flying from Surabaya, Indonesia to Singapore, lost contact not long after taking off and after 30+ hours of search efforts, the worst is now feared. According to the head of Indonesia’s search and rescue agency, QZ5801 is now likely “on the ocean floor.” There were 162 people on the flight, with 155 Indonesian citizens. Despite rumors of wreckage found, there has been no news of any successful recovery efforts as of publishing time. The thoughts and prayers of all of us at ExSE are with the passengers’ loved ones in the wake of this tragedy.

ExSE FOCUS

Indonesia says missing AirAsia plane could be at ‘bottom of sea’ – Reuters A missing AirAsia jet carrying 162 people could be at the bottom of the sea after it was presumed to have crashed off the Indonesian coast, an official said on Monday, as countries around Asia sent ships and planes to help in the search effort.

Related: AirAsia Plane Missing After Takeoff From IndonesiaNPR

Related: Search resumes for missing AirAsia flightUSA Today

Related: Tony Fernandes, the millionaire entrepreneur behind AirAsiaThe Guardian

 Asia remembers devastating 2004 tsunami with tears and prayersReuters Memorials were held in the worst-affected countries – India, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia – where monks, imams and priests held ceremonies to honor those who perished. Hundreds gathered in Indonesia’s Aceh province, many bursting into tears as poems and songs were heard and a montage was screened showing the devastation from a disaster that killed 126,741 people in Aceh alone.

Laos to Break Ground on Don Sahong Dam in Early 2015RFA Formal construction on the much-criticized Don Sahong Dam in Laos will begin early next year, according to a Lao energy official, despite a host of concerns raised during an open consultation period with stakeholders. The controversial dam is being built by Malaysia’s Mega First Corporation Berhad (Mega First) on Southeast Asia’s key artery the Mekong River, just two kilometers (1.2 miles) north of Cambodia.

The project has sparked widespread concern among neighboring countries and environmentalists who say that it will block migratory fish routes, negatively affecting nutrition and livelihoods across regional boundaries.

Daovieng Phonekeo, deputy director general of the Lao Department of Electricity, told RFA’s Lao Service that full-scale construction of the 260-megawatt dam would begin shortly after the end of a six-month consultation process which began in July. “On Jan. 21, the consultation process will be completed, and after that we will begin construction during this dry season [which runs from January to May], because during the rainy season we can’t carry out the work,” he said. Opposition to dam still intense from Vietnam, Cambodia, int’l community. Highly-touted MRC consultation process doesn’t amount to much. Not really a consultation on whether to build the dam, more like a discussion on the effects. ExSE’s Brian and Will will be in the Siphandone area in the next few weeks. Look for reports in the new year.

 Related: Downstream Communities File Groundbreaking Complaint Over Don Sahong DamInternational Rivers

Related:  Vietnamese committee opposes Laos’ new damThanh Nien News

Related: Don Sahong dam in Laos: Energy at what cost?Mekong Commons

Rescuers struggle to reach flood victims in Malaysia as anger mountsThanh Nien News Rescue teams struggled Saturday to reach inundated areas of northeast Malaysia as victims accused the government of being slow to provide assistance after the country’s worst flooding in decades. Hopefully flooding will end soon, recovery efforts can get underway.2014 not a good year for Malaysia, here’s to hoping for a better 2015.

Related: Malaysia and Thailand flood crisisThanh Nien News

Gmail blocked in ChinaReuters Google Inc’s Gmail was blocked in China after months of disruptions to the world’s biggest email service, with an anti-censorship advocate suggesting the Great Firewall was to blame. Large numbers of Gmail web addresses were cut off in China on Friday, said GreatFire.org, a China-based freedom of speech advocacy group. Users said the service was still down on Monday. Rumors on Twitter that you can’t even send emails to Gmail accounts or company accounts that are hosted by Gmail from within China. If true, Chinese government is cutting off a major route to the outside world. What about Chinese companies communicating with foreign firms that have Gmail-hosted accounts? What about children of elite applying to Western universities with Gmail-hosted emails? Might be a good time to buy stock in Astrill, other VPN companies. 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Woman Killed While Protesting Chinese Copper Mine in MyanmarNYT Villagers said the 56-year-old was shot by security forces as the police and Chinese employees of the mine erected a fence after land had been seized to expand the project. An unfortunate death and probably not the last. Protests will continue if local communities aren’t included in decisions on large projects like the Latpadaung Mine.

Related: The Latpadaung Mine StoryDVB

Cambodia, Vietnam Vow to Boost Bilateral TiesThe Diplomat Vietnamese president’s state visit sees neighbors advance comprehensive cooperation

Malaysia’s Janakuasa, Vietnam reach deal on 1,200 MW power plantThanh Nien News Vietnam has reached a preliminary agreement with Malaysian company Teknik Janakuasa on a build-operate-transfer contract for a 1,200-megawatt coal-fired power plant, the country’s first such facility to use imported coal, Vietnam’s industry and trade ministry said. Despite all the talk of hydropower among SE Asia watchers, coal still rules the market and makes up more than half of the region’s energy profile.

SUSTAINABILITY & RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

U.N. Disaster Chief Warns of More Natural Catastrophes to ComeNYT Margareta Wahlstrom, the top United Nations official on disasters, said the frequency of global hurricanes, flooding and other natural events would continue to rise. On the anniversary of the 2004 tsunami, Thailand and Malaysia are struggling with the worst flooding in 60 years. Many parts of SE Asia aren’t prepared for natural disasters and will suffer the consequences as climate change effects worsen.

2015 Set to Be a Tough Year for CommoditiesThe Diplomat The region’s miners have had a year to forget. Will 2015 be any better? Much of the region’s economic growth based on resource extraction. Falling commodities prices aren’t a welcome sign in places like Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia.

Water From China’s South-North Transfer Project Flows to BeijingNYT Within days, Beijing’s faucets are expected to begin spewing water that has traveled hundreds of miles to the capital from Hubei Province via one of the world’s most ambitious, and controversial, engineering projects.

Financing Climate SafetyProject Syndicate When the global financial system works properly, savings are channeled into investments that raise living standards; when it malfunctions, savings finance real-estate bubbles and environmentally harmful projects, including those that worsen climate change. Next year will be a turning point in the effort to create a better system.

What happened to The Third Pole’s environment in 2014?The Third Pole The series of natural disasters that battered the Himalayan region and South Asia during 2014 threw in stark relief the region’s vulnerability to climate change as well as poor planning and development policies.

Police Chief, RCAF Official Arrested for LoggingThe Cambodia Daily A commune police chief and a Royal Cambodian Armed Forces border police commander were arrested in Ratanakkiri province on Friday for involvement in “forestry crime,” according to officials, who would not go into detail about what crime the pair had committed.

CHINA

The Elusive Chinese DreamNYT The Communist Party should be more confident than ever. So why is it so anxious?

 China to send 700 combat troops to South SudanThe Guardian Deployment marks shift in Africa policy and will be first Chinese infantry battalion to take part in a UN peacekeeping mission. China is to send 700 combat troops to South Sudan in what analysts describe as a significant shift from its stated policy of non-interference in African conflicts. The first Chinese infantry battalion to take part in a UN peacekeeping mission will be equipped with drones, armoured carriers, antitank missiles, mortars and other weapons, “completely for self-defence purpose”, state media reported.

China Urges Companies to ‘Go Global’The Diplomat Increasing China’s outbound investment is part of Beijing’s long-term economic and political strategy.

Chinese Hit Back Against a Foreign Intrusion: ChristmasNYT As some Chinese enjoy the trappings of Western-style Christmas, and retailers enjoy some of their highest sales in late December, others are calling for bans on any celebrations. Friends in the US – Has Fox News been reporting on this? Would make a great addition to the annual ‘War on Christmas’ story.

China’s Growth SecretProject Syndicate Many people are profoundly pessimistic about the Chinese economy’s growth prospects, owing to the emergence of massive debt, overcapacity, and excessive investment. But China’s flexible approach to institutional reform has imbued its economy with the capacity to overcome such challenges.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Koh Tao murder trial rescheduledThe Nation Court sets hearing dates from July; Myanmar embassy arranges bail guarantee money for the two suspects who allegedly murdered two British tourists earlier this year.

Landmark City Elections Underway in RangoonThe Irrawaddy Rangoon residents went to the polls on Saturday to elect a portion of their municipal government for the first time in more than 60 years, though initial reports indicated the landmark vote was under attended by an ill-informed electorate. 

Suu Kyi Says Wants West to Spur Reform not Reimpose SanctionsThe Irrawaddy Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Friday called on the West to encourage her country’s government to enter meaningful reform talks but told it not to reintroduce punitive sanctions even though democratic reforms were foundering.

Vietnam economic growth quickens on exports, beating targetThanh Nien News Vietnam’s economic growth accelerated in the fourth quarter as banks increased lending and rising foreign investment boosted exports.

Prem thanks Prayut for staging coupThe Nation Privy Council President Gen Prem Tinsulanonda Monday expressed appreciation to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and other military leaders, noting that they had done “a great thing” for the country on May 22. This is just Prem patting himself on the back, seeing as the Privy Council was a major driver of the coup in the first place. The military, Privy Council and His Majesty are what many Thais call ‘conservative forces’ and they’re thick as thieves.

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Regional Roundup: Week of 12.21.2014

The analysis is beginning to roll out from the Mekong River Commission’s Regional Consultation on the Don Sahong Dam in Laos – see below.  International Rivers, vehemently opposed to any damming on the Mekong released a series of op-eds on their blog this week – worth reading.  At the 5th GMS Summit this weekend, Chinese Santa delivered 3bn in development goodies to its Mekong neighbors to the south – at the same time its chief hydropower developer is considering to take over construction of the Don Sahong dam project.  Let’s watch carefully how this money is spent.  Would be interesting to look at the ROR on China’s overseas and cross border investment.  Much more including predictions for 2015….

 

ExSE FOCUS

 Parties polarized after consultations on Laos Don Sahong Dam – VOA Robert Mather, South East Asia head for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said there are serious questions about whether this evaluation process is worthwhile.”Three main issues – the timing of the process, the lack of clarity about really the limits of what the process is actually about and the lack of any real trans-boundary EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) discussions around, then I really don’t think you can expect the process to really yield anything meaningful,” said Maher.

Unquiet grows the Don – The Economist THE Mekong river, sustaining around 60m people, mostly rural and poor, is the world’s largest and most productive inland fishery. It is hardly surprising, then, that NGOs and downstream governments are fretting about the impact of yet another planned upstream dam. On December 11th the Mekong River Commission (MRC)—an intergovernmental body of the four riverside, or riparian, states (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam) along the lower Mekong—held a public consultation over Laos’s plan to dam the river two kilometres north of its border with Cambodia.

Along with Vietnam, Laos’s other downstream neighbour, Cambodia is unhappy with the Don Sahong dam project. Environmental NGOs, such as the WWF and International Rivers (IR), worry about the damage it could cause to communities and fisheries—particularly the Mekong giant catfish and the rare Irrawaddy dolphin. So Nam, who heads the MRC’s fisheries programme, said that there was still too little data on how the Don Sahong would affect Mekong fisheries. He also said that the engineers’ proposals to mitigate damage—diverting water away from the channel across which the Don Sahong will be built, and making two other channels wider and deeper—would fail to attract migrating fish.

The Vietnamese delegation to the MRC insists it will take five to ten years of study to know how the dam will affect fish migrating through the region. Other concerns raised include the Don Sahong’s blockage of sediment, used as fertiliser by downstream farming communities, and its effects on Si Phan Don, the tranquil archipelago in which it will be built. A lack of transboundary studies has impelled several regional NGOs to call for Laos to cancel the project.//great analysis from an old friend of the blog.  Correction: Laos currently has 23 dams on the Mekong tributary system and zero operating on the main stem.  The Xayaburi dam is about 30% complete but has not fully blocked the flow of the river..yet.

 Laos Dam Risks Damaging Mekong River, Igniting Tensions With Vietnam – The Diplomat Consultations on Don Sahong dam fail to bridge gap between Laos and neighboring states

 Opening Speech by CEO of MRC Secretariat – Regional public consultation on Don Sahong Hydropower Project – ADB

Fish migration, potential environmental impacts and transboundary effects took centre stage at MRC’s regional public consultation on Don Sahong hydropower project – ADB About 100 members of various stakeholder groups from the Lower Mekong Basin gathered in Pakse, Lao PDR for the Mekong River Commission’s (MRC) regional public consultation

 Is the Mekong at a Tipping Point? – International Rivers For thousands of years the mighty Mekong River Basin has served as a life-sustaining force, supporting the livelihoods and food security of more than 40 million people in the region. The river’s rich mosaic of ecosystems supports the world’s largest inland fisheries and exceptional riverine biodiversity that is only surpassed by the Amazon River. The Mekong provides ecosystem services on a scale so vast that it’s often called the mother of all rivers.

Dams and the Politicization of Science International Rivers For almost two years, the sensational water conflict brewing in Southeast Asia was a hot topic, drawing the attention of global leaders and major newspapers. Laos was planning to build the enormous Xayaburi Dam across the Mekong River, angering downstream countries that depend on the river for food security. Prominent global politicians, including Hillary Clinton, urged Laos to act in an environmentally responsible manner. Regional leaders, especially from Vietnam and Cambodia, called for a delay in the project. I was working for International Rivers at the time, and we were constantly responding to requests from journalists who wanted to gauge how far the conflict would go.

Is the world’s biggest dam builder willing to change? International Rivers Dam-builder Sinohydro has an opportunity to prove that it values its reputation and its role as an ambassador of the Chinese state more than the short-term profits of a destructive contract, says International Rivers policy director Peter Bosshard. Since the turn of the century, Sinohydro has become the world’s dominant dam builder. The company is engaged in an ongoing dialogue with International Rivers, and prepared a strong environmental policy framework in 2011. Yet Sinohydro now considers building of the Don Sahong Dam, which would threaten a vital fish migration path on the Mekong, and other highly destructive dam projects.

 China offers $3bn in aid and loans to neighbours Reuters China has offered more than $3 billion in loans and aid to neighbours Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand and Laos to improve infrastructure and production, and to fight poverty, state media reported on Saturday.

China plans to lead by example at GMS summit WantChinaTimes China will continue to play a leading role in pursuing inclusive and sustainable development of the Greater Mekong Subregion.

 China Is Handing Out Money To Its NeighborsBusiness Insider

Spotlight: GMS eyes better connectivity, China’s bigger role Xinhua

 Mekong countries plan $30bn links Bangkok Post

Thailand – China sign two MOUs ahead of 5th GMS Summit Thailand National News Bureau.

China, Thailand boost ties with deals for rail and riceReuters

 Other countries welcome to invest in three other rail routes: Prajin – The Nation Japan, South Korea and European countries still have an opportunity to invest in Thailand’s railway systems – despite the pending 867-kilometre double-track project being allocated to China, Transport Minister Prajin Juntong said yesterday.

 ADB President Calls on Greater Mekong Subregion to Build on Achievements ADB  The President of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Takehiko Nakao, completed a two-day visit to Bangkok today, where he participated in the 5th Leaders’ Summit of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) and met top officials of the host country to discuss ADB’s deepening partnership with Thailand.

 New Year’s Predictions for Southeast Asia – CFR Asia Unbound It’s that time of year again. Since I will be away between Christmas and the end of the year, this is the week for boldly making predictions about 2015 in Southeast Asia. At the end of 2015, just like this year, we can look back and see how many of my fearless predictions were right, and how many missed the mark.

 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

China’s Charm Offensive: A Temporary, Tactical Change The Diplomat China is playing nice for now, but there are cracks in its friendly smile.//Xi has done much to improve China’s soft power image in the last 12 months. He’d get receive even more global laurels if he showed up in a Santa suit for the Christmas day press conference in Beijing.

Can China’s Gwadar Port Dream Survive Local Ire? The Diplomat China wants the Gwadar port, but impoverished locals have no interest in foreign meddling.//next project, public opinion polls at all of China’s new trading/naval ports around the world. 

Thailand-Burma in border trade talks BANGKOK POST Thailand and Burma plan to have a joint trade committee meeting next month in an attempt to boost two-way trade and investment. The move is part of the countries’ strategy to drive overall border trade volume to reach 1.5 trillion baht (US$4.5 billion) next year. The first meeting will be chaired by Thai Commerce Minister Chatchai Sarikulya and his Burmese counterpart.

Burma Last in Asean to Join Regional Infrastructure Fund  The Irrawaddy  Burma has become a full member of the Asean Infrastructure Fund, the last country of the regional grouping to gain shareholder status, the fund announced on Thursday. “It [Burma] will be able to access funding from AIF for infrastructure projects, that will be how Myanmar benefits,” said Jin W. Cyhn, the principal economist of the Southeast Asia department of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which administers the fund.//Then again Burma was last to join every ASEAN institution. Perhaps the better headline is “Burma finally joins…”

Maritime Southeast Asia: A Game of Go? The Diplomat How much does the ancient game of Go, or weiqi, reveal about Chinese military strategy?

and A.: Bill Hayton on Growing Rivalries in the South China Sea NYT The BBC journalist’s latest work, “The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia,” addresses the history, politics and energy resources of the sea that has become central to China’s foreign policy.

Navy to sink two more illegal fishing boats – Jakarta Post Despite complaints from neighboring countries, Indonesia is set to continue sinking foreign ships caught fishing illegally in its territorial waters. The Indonesian Navy was scheduled to sink two more ships on Sunday at Laha, Teluk Ambon, Maluku, Navy spokesman Commodore Manahan Simorangkir said.

 Indonesia: Playing With Fire in the South China Sea – The Diplomat Indonesia’s new president could jeopardize bilateral relations and ASEAN unity with his maritime “shock therapy.”

 ASEAN Should Confront Laos On Rights Abuses: NGOs – The Diplomat Call issued on anniversary of disappearance of Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone. //The whole world should confront Laos on this atrocity. Google the writings of Sombath Somphone to see how generous, creative, and inspiring he is. 

Crimson tide Southeast Asia Globe After being destroyed by the 2004 tsunami, Banda Aceh’s Lampulo fish market was rebuilt and remains a hotbed of shark fin trading. Local fishermen trawl the seas, hauling in hundreds of thousands of the creatures each year to meet the demand for shark fin soup that flows out of China and Vietnam.

 Multi-country tourist visas stalled over security worries – The Nation The idea of tourists getting one visa for six destinations in the Mekong region is tough to achieve because nations are concerned about security, Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said yesterday.//This is a reflection of general anxiety regarding the AEC 2015.  Thailand has yet to sign the Cross Border Trade Agreement which will increase flows of regional goods – reasons same, Thailand is concerned about security.

Will we see an ASEAN Economic Community by 2015? ADB Launched as a political bloc and security pact in the aftermath of the Viet Nam War, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has evolved to embrace an ambitious economic agenda. Its latest project is to establish the ASEAN Economic Community by 31 December 2015. But is this likely?

Suu Kyi still negotiating China visit DVB Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is still discussing an itinerary for her planned visit to China this month. Suu Kyi’s spokesperson Phyo Zayar Thaw, himself an MP for the National League for Democracy (NLD), said: “Arrangements are still being discussed with Chinese officials. She won’t be leaving anytime soon.”

 Burmese soldiers reportedly killed near Chinese border – GoKunming  Seven soldiers were killed in an ambush near the Myanmar-China frontier last week, according to Burmese state media reports. The target of the attack was an army outpost inKunlong, a small town in the north of Shan State, located only 30 kilometers away from the border with Yunnan’s western Lincang Prefecture.

 US Congress in the Driver’s Seat on US–Burma Military Cooperation – Irrawaddy  Burma When it comes to foreign policy, among the most powerful words in any Congressman’s vocabulary are “none of the funds appropriated by this Act…” Congress used them, or a variation thereof, twice this week (Dec. 8-13) in connection with Burma policy.

Unlocking ASEAN’s Potential – Project Syndicate For decades, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has been asking whether ten countries with different cultures, political systems, and levels of economic development can act in concert to expand their collective potential. Judging by their leaders’ ambitious vision for cooperation, the answer may be yes.

Thailand Turns to China – The Diplomat With a post-coup cooling of relations with the West, Bangkok is looking to its largest trading partner.//China also turns to Thailand with the prospects of big changes in the year to come.  China always saw Thai democracy as a big obstacle to bilateral relations. 

 

SUSTAINABILITY & RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Asia’s fragile caves face growing development risks The Guardian The limestone caves of Southeast Asia and southwest China are home to scores of plants and animals, many of them rare. But a rise in tourism, mining, and other human activities is placing these biodiverse environments at risk, reports Environment360

Hainan gibbon ‘clinging on’ with 25 left in China The Guardian Scientists say a disease outbreak or typhoon could push world’s rarest ape species towards extinction. Scientists are racing to save a critically endangered ape species that lives only in the rainforests of southern China’s Hainan island. With 25 known individuals remaining, a disease outbreak or a strong typhoon could “massively impact” the species’s chances of survival, the scientists say.

Hu tieu, a Vietnamese dish spiced with prosperity and climate change – The Guardian The rice noodle soup, a specialty of the Mekong Delta, tells the tale of the changing economy and environment in the region. Is Vietnam becoming a victim of our appetites? On a visit last month to the town of My Tho, the capital of the Tien Giang province in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, I found a riverside restaurant that served the local specialty, a dish called hu tieu. It’s a delicious soup, dense with stretchy rice noodles and topped with succulent locally farmed shrimp.//The quickest way to understand climate change goes through the stomach. 

China’s farmers face major challenges adapting to climate change – ChinaDialogue China’s mainly small-scale agricultural sector, where the average farm is less than a hectare, needs significant investment and capacity building to adapt to climate change. In an interview with chinadialogue, Xu Yinlong, who is a member of the Scientific Steering Committee leading UNEP’s ‘Programme of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation‘, explains the government’s strategy.

Using local knowledge to recover fisheries in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam – Mekong Commons  Vam Nao village is located on the riverbank of Vam Nao River in the Mekong River Delta, Vietnam. The river plays a very important role in local community life, both for fisheries and agriculture. In the Mekong Delta, the Mekong River branches in to nine major rivers, and the Vam Nao River balances the water flows between two of these, namely the Tien River and the Hau River.

Greed and Resistance in Sarawak’s Rainforest – International Rivers Will dams flood out Sarawak’s indigenous cultures? Sarawak, the Malaysian province on the island of Borneo, has long been one of the six world regions with the highest biodiversity. An average hectare of Sarawak rainforest contains more tree species than all of Europe. The local Penan communities have names for more than 1300 of the plants they live with. The forest is also home to orang utans and tree leopards, hundreds of bird species, and frogs that can glide up to 20 meters through the air.

 Laos foots the bill for power-hungry Bangkok – Mekong Commons Seven months ago, in May, Bangkok’s latest shopping mall, Central Embassy, celebrated its opening with aplomb, attracting several thousand Bangkok celebrities to this glitzy affair. The 144 000 square-meter luxurious and futuristic-looking mall was described by Travel & Leisure magazine as a ‘monster of a shopping complex’. During the same month, theWorldwide Wildlife Fund warned that the construction of the Don Sahang dam in southern Laos would endanger the survival of freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins, and called for a suspension of the project.

The Oil Price Opportunity – Project Syndicate Though lower oil prices may boost overall global growth, with the oil-importing advanced economies gaining the most, the impact on efforts to combat climate change could be devastating. But this decline in oil prices could also provide a rare political opportunity to introduce an explicit carbon price.

 Why Are Commodity Prices Falling? – Project Syndicate Most dollar commodity prices have fallen since the first half of the year. Though a host of sector-specific factors are at work, the fact that the downswing is so broad – as is often the case with large price movements – suggests that macroeconomic factors are at work.

 

CHINA

Story Map: What is the impact of China’s mega water diversion scheme? – Third Pole China’s South-North Water Transfer Project – the world’s largest engineering project –  will eventually pump 45 billion cubic metres of water each year from the Yangtze to the Yellow River to feed the cities and coal fields of northern and western China, which are running out of water. The amount of water diverted every year will be equivalent to a second Yellow River.//great work from Beth Walker

Housing: Why grumble? The Economist JUST how bad is China’s housing bubble? One important measure—the most important for those trying to get a foot on the property ladder—is affordability. Many believe that Chinese housing prices have soared well beyond the reach of ordinary people. There is some truth to that. But a closer look at the data reveals a more complex picture. The Economist Intelligence Unit, our sister company, created a city-level index to track the relation between housing prices and incomes across China. Two points stand out.

China’s Housing Resists Efforts to Spur Market – NYT Property developers in China are struggling to unload unsold units as potential buyers try to decide if prices will continue to fall.

Tourists Behaving Badly: China’s Image Problem – The Diplomat There is a disconnect between China’s growing national power and the international image of the Chinese people.//I’m writing this on an AirAsia flight from Kunming to Bangkok – so far so good.  Even though Chinese tourists’ action often should stand alone along with the actions of businessmen and govt officials behaving badly we have to admit there’s a growing disconnect between how the West looks out for China and the international capabilities of China’s growing power. 

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

 Cambodia investigates suspected mass HIV infection Agence France-Presse Unlicensed doctor suspected of spreading virus through contaminated needles, leaving 106 people thought to be infected. Cambodia’s prime minister, Hun Sen, has ordered an inquiry into an apparent mass HIV infection believed to have been spread by contaminated needles, as the number of suspected cases passed 100.

Thai murders: Foreign Office blocking fair trial for Burmese migrants – lawyers The Guardian Lawyers representing men accused of murdering two British tourists in Koh Tao say information about case is being withheld. Lawyers representing Burmese migrant workers accused of killing two young British tourists in Thailand have accused the Foreign Office of being complicit in ensuring the men will not receive a fair trial after officials in London refused to share any information about the prosecution case.//Coup plus murdered tourists do not bode well for tourism to Thailand which accounts for a significant portion of GDP

Thai NGOs Call for Improved Social Benefits for Migrant Workers – Irrawaddy  Burmese migrants and NGOs supporting migrants in Thailand have called on the Thai government to reform its social security system so that legally registered Burmese, Laotian and Cambodia workers in the country can gain long-term benefits from the system. Brahm Press, the director of the MAP Foundation for the Health and Knowledge of Ethnic Labor, said the group, along with half a dozen other community-based organizations, had sent an open letter to the Thai Ministry of Interior’s office at Chiang Mai City Hall and to the Thailand’s Legal Reform Committee.

The Harsh Life of Thailand’s Migrant Workers – The Diplomat Two recent cases underscore just how difficult life is for migrant workers in Thailand.

Thailand’s Twelve Turbulent Months – The Diplomat Democracy in Thailand took about 12 steps backwards in 2014.//this fall at the annual Thai Studies Conference at UWisconsin, Thongchai Winichakul proclaimed the military coup set Thailand back 2-3 generations.

Samsung could double-down on Vietnam by 2017 – Thanh Nien News Samsung has offered to raise its investment in Vietnam to US$20 billion in 2017 if their existing business here goes smoothly, according to a new government report.//Interesting that Samsung’s largest cell phone factory is in Hanoi rather than the more productive HCMC – because lower wages or need to keep close to the state?

Faced with Russian tourist drop, Vietnam resort towns cut prices – Thanh Nien News Hotels, resorts and travel agencies in Binh Thuan Province, famous for its Mui Ne beach, have agreed to cut prices to fight a dramatic decline in Russian tourists’ bookings due to the ruble’s fall.//Tourism is likely down from Hainan all the way to Phuket this holiday season.

Vietnam’s rising debt a serious concern, economists warn – Thanh Nien News After Vietnam’s public debt hit US$70 billion in late 2013, economists began to express concerns about the country’s financial future.

Power-Grid Study to Tackle Supply Problems Cambodia Daily U.S. conglomerate General Electric on Thursday inked a $1 million deal with Cambodia’s state-owned Electricite du Cambodge (EdC) to conduct a six-month study to identify weaknesses in Cambodia’s electrical grid with the aim of enhancing the reliability of the power supply.//cost of electricity in Cambodia is among the most expensive in the world – a new grid is necessary.  Investors line up.

ADB, Cambodia Sign Loans to Boost Water Supply, Tourism and Financial Sectors ADB  Cambodia’s Minister of Economy and Finance H.E. Aun Pornmoniroth and ADB today signed loan agreements totaling $67 million for three support operations to improve water supply, tourism and financial sectors.

China to Build New National Police Headquarters – Cambodia Daily The Interior Ministry on Wednesday confirmed that China will construct a new head office for the National Police in Phnom Penh at no cost in order to accommodate the expanding duties of Cambodia’s domestic security operations.// yet another eyesore to mar the skyline of Phnom Penh.

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Regional Roundup for Week of 12.14.14

Will & Brian, ExSE founders, recently returned from an 18 day field trip to Thailand and Laos with many new stories to tell and much analysis to deliver to the readership.  By far the biggest topic heard far and wide while on the river was the run-up to last Friday’s regional consultation put on by the Mekong River Commission regarding the controversial 250MW Don Sahong dam on the Mekong in southern Laos. By most accounts the regional consultation is a step in the right direction, but it’s affect will likely be minimal and hosting the event after initial construction has already begun is out of step with the MRC’s mandate and obviously too late to have a meaningful impact.  What we did confirm on our trip to Laos was that the dam builder, Malaysia’s Megafirst, has subcontracted most of the dam’s work to Sinohydro, both China’s and the world’s largest hydropower developer – perhaps a good move for Megafirst, a firm that has never built a dam, but not a good move for China in terms of its regional image and soft power projection.  No major press releases were released on Friday’s findings, so keep your eyes posted to relevant news outlets like ones listed below as well as to ExSE for analysis on this controversial project by the end of the week.

EXSE FOCUS

Stop gambling with our future: Cancel the Don Sahong dam – The Nation Today, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) is holding its first regional public consultation on the Don Sahong Dam in Pakse. We believe the Don Sahong Dam poses an unacceptable risk to regional fisheries, food security and the future of the Mekong and, as such, should be immediately cancelled.

 Related WWF to Boycott Don Sahong Dam Meeting in Laos – Cambodia Daily The World Wildlife Fund on Thursday said it would boycott a regional public consultation today over Laos’ controversial Don Sahong hydropower dam, accusing those behind the project of ignoring the potentially devastating impact it could have on Cambodia’s communities, fisheries and endangered Irrawaddy dolphins.

 Related MRC will hold regional public consultation on Don Sahong Hydropower Project – MRC 12-Dec consultation and online feedback submission are among channels for stakeholders to participate in the project’s prior consultation.

 Wife of Missing Lao Civil Society Leader Vows to Keep Pushing For Answers – RFA  The wife of a missing prominent civil society leader in Laos vowed to continue pushing the authorities for answers over the disappearance of her husband, who vanished under mysterious circumstances in the capital Vientiane two years ago.//Sombath disappeared two years ago today.  Those who knew Sombath are celebrating his life and works this week on the Laofab gmail group.  For more information write laofab@gmail.com 

 Related Authorities look the other way as activists disappear in Asia – The Nation The wife of missing Laotian activist Sombath Somphone says his abductors still enjoy impunity two years after his disappearance – an ugly reality across a region where powerful business interests and murky state actors stand accused of routinely “disappearing” opponents.

 

Thai Princess, Queen-to-Be, Gives Up Title – NYT Princess Srirasm, mother of a presumed heir to the Thai throne, lost her title after the recent arrests of her relatives and amid King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s health problems.

Analysis What the Turmoil in Thailand’s Palace Means for Thai Politics (Perhaps) – CFR Asia Unbound As I noted last week, Thailand has been consumed by recent news that Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn appears to be on the verge of divorcing his third wife, Srirasmi, and erasing all remnants of her and her family from his life and from the royal palace. Of course, no Thai media are openly reporting this news, since saying almost anything at all about the crown prince or any other leading member of the royal family (or even about royal events that allegedly took place hundreds of years ago) can get one slapped with harsh lèse-majesté charges.//Josh Kurlantzick with interesting analysis gleaned from his SEA network as well as his reading of Andrew McGregor Marshall’s new book on the Thai royal family Kingdom in Crisis.  Essentially the crown prince’s divorcing of this third wife is a ploy to distance himself from the Red Shirt Thaksin clique (which by the way is not going anywhere anytime soon folks), and make good with the military and the  military led government.  Elite politics is on a continual slide to the conservative side in Thailand

The Year of Sustainable Development – Project Syndicate Next year represents this generation’s greatest opportunity to progress toward sustainable development. Three summits in the latter half of 2015 can reshape the global development agenda, and give an important push to vital changes in the functioning of the world economy.//by Jeffrey Sachs

 Global economy – a year of divergence looms – The Guardian The major players in the world economy all have the potential to grow at different speeds while taking divergent paths – policymakers should take note of the risks. In the coming year, “divergence” will be a major global economic theme, applying to economic trends, policies, and performance. As the year progresses, these divergences will become increasingly difficult to reconcile, leaving policymakers with a choice: overcome the obstacles that have so far impeded effective action, or risk allowing their economies to be destabilised.

 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

The Silk Railway: freight train from China pulls up in Madrid – The Guardian Madrid mayor welcomes first cargo train from China after epic 8,111-mile rail trip inaugurates the longest rail link in the world. The longest rail link in the world and the first direct link between China and Spain is up and running after a train from Yiwu in coastal China completed its maiden journey of 8,111 miles to Madrid.//Impressive, but how much did it cost?  Certainly the costs will be dropping into the future as long as the Sino-Russian relationship holds up.

World set for climate disaster, say activists, as Lima talks falter – The Guardian Proposals too weak to keep global warming to the agreed limit of two degrees above pre-industrial levels. Frustrated climate campaigners have claimed that the world was on course for an unsustainable four-degree rise in temperatures, as two weeks of negotiations for a climate change agreement headed for an unsatisfying conclusion.

Related Strange Climate Event: Warmth Toward U.S. – NYT

Related At Climate Meeting, China Balks at Verifying Cuts in Carbon Emissions – NYT

Related China pledges US$20 million a year to its new South-South Cooperation Fund – The Third Pole

 

Chinese tourists who scalded Thai stewardess with hot water, noodles to be punished – SCMP Chinese authorities vowed to severely punish Chinese travellers who threw hot water and noodles on a Thai flight attendant and threatened to bomb the plane.//Waiting for a US late night pundit to start a “Chinese people behaving badly” segment.  All jokes aside, what legal grounds does the Chinese government have to charge Chinese citizens with crimes and misdemeanors occurring over Thai airspace and on Malaysia’s property (AirAsia being Malaysian owned?)

Ancient Trade Route Delivers New Opportunities to Greater Mekong Subregion – ADB A modern highway and bridge connecting three countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion are reviving an ancient trade route and bringing new life to local communities

UN report: Golden Triangle opium trade still expanding –GoKunming  A report released this week by the United Nations shows opium production in Southeast Asia continues to rise despite eradication efforts in several countries. Demand for the drug and its derivatives, specifically heroin, remains highest in China and the vast majority arrives via Yunnan province.//Ancient trade route delivers ancient products – counter to headline above.  Blame the faltering peace process in Myanmar and big Yunnan agrobusiness for this – at least for resumed opium production in Laos.  Obviously the Chinese central government doesn’t want drugs flowing in from the Golden Triangle, but provincial Yunnanese agrofirms are buying huge tracts of land in northern Laos for rubber and banana plantation and driving small farmers off their land and into opium production.  5 years ago, opium production in northern Laos was negligible, but now is beginning to thrive again.   

Kunming to Vietnam border by rail soon to be reality – GoKunming  Yunnan’s newest railroad opened this week to test traffic, indicating work is all but finished following more than five years of slow and steady construction. Although more of an extension than a dedicated line, the Mengzi-Hekou Railway Line (蒙河铁路) will soon allow freight and passenger traffic from Kunming to travel uninterrupted to an international border.//this is a big deal.  It means that you can jump on a train in Kunming at noon and arrive in Hanoi by train at 5am the following morning. 100 years ago a rail line opened parallel to this one joining Vietnam’s Haiphong port to Kunming – that ride took nearly 5 days.  The old passenger line went out of commission 14 years ago. 

Searching for Burmese Jade, and Finding Misery – The Guardian A New York Times documentary and article look at mine workers in Myanmar struggling with poverty and drug addiction even as the country’s jade industry is booming because of demand from China.//this too slows the peace process in Myanmar.

Related: The Life and Times of an Addict in Myanmar – The Guardian

Related: An Addict on the Jade Trail to China – The Guardian

 Malaysian police detain 15 Burmese over series of gruesome murders – AFP Officials suspect killing of at least 18 Burmese nationals in Penang may be result of revenge attacks over violence at home. Malaysian police have detained 15 people from Burma over a series of gruesome murders in a popular tourist destination, and believe the killings are linked to ethnic unrest in their home country, reports say.

 India and China Slug It Out in South Asia – The Diplomat India-China competition in South Asia is as hot as ever, but India could be losing out to China in important ways.

Vietnam dismisses China’s position paper on East Sea claims Thanh Nien News Vietnam’s foreign ministry condemned Thursday a position paper China has used to outline its arguments against the jurisdiction of an international arbitration case which the Philippines has been seeking to challenge Beijing’s expansive maritime claims.

Related China’s Maritime Machinations: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – The Diplomat

 

SUSTAINABILITY & RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

European Union agrees to investigate Cambodian sugar industry – The Guardian Booming industry faces allegations of human rights abuses such as land grabs, forced displacement and child labour. The European Union has agreed to investigate forced displacement claims in relation to Cambodia’s troubled sugar industry. The move could see thousands of villagers compensated for illegally confiscated land and loss of earnings.

Traders welcome ‘Rubber Fund’ as good step to push up prices – The Nation Rubber traders yesterday welcomed the planned Bt420-million “Rubber Fund” as a good start to ensure a brighter outlook for their industry, hoping that it could help shore up prices of the commodity.//entire mountainsides of rubber production will go online in 2015-16 as trees reach maturity in southern Yunnan and northern Laos.  Look for a spike from the fund and then another dip when those trees go online.  The falling price of oil also further promotes the production of synthetic rubber.  

 

CHINA

Hong Kong Protesters Lose a Last Bastion, but Vow to Go On – NYT Even in their defeat, the protesters, mostly college students, left with a new sense of political identity and a willingness to challenge the power holders in Beijing.

Related: The Guardian view on the final dispersal of the Hong Kong protests | Editorial – The Guardian

 Liu Xiaobo sends message to the world: pay attention to other Chinese activists – AP Jailed Nobel peace prize winner tells friend he is doing well, has been reading and thinking and is convinced he has no enemies. The jailed Chinese Nobel peace prize laureate Liu Xiaobo has told an overseas friend that he is relatively healthy but wants the world to pay more attention to other Chinese activists

Allen Grane: Combating the African Wildlife Trade in China – CFR Asia Unbound Recently, the Animal Planet aired a documentary entitled “Saving Africa’s Giants with Yao Ming.” The show, developed in conjunction with the environmental non-governmental organization WildAid, depicts Yao meeting with wildlife conservationists to discuss the future of African elephants and rhinoceroses.

China’s water diversion project starts to flow to Beijing – The Guardian  £48bn scheme may provide relief to the parched north, but at what cost to the drought-ridden south and its displaced farmers? On Friday afternoon, China quietly inaugurated one of the biggest engineering projects of all time: the South-North Water Diversion, a £48bn, 2,400km network of canals and tunnels, designed to divert 44.8bn cubic metres of water annually from China’s humid south to its parched, industrialised north.

Chinese Health Care Draws Investors NYT Despite the system’s challenges, the sector is becoming one of the most popular for those seeking the next great untapped market.

A Top Target of China’s Graft Purge Gets Life in Prison NYT Liu Tienan was one of the first and most visible targets of the push by President Xi Jinping to take down both “tigers” and “flies” — powerful and minor officials.

China Announces Record Trade Surplus, Helped by Weak Oil Price – NYT The Shanghai stock market rose sharply after the data was released and has now climbed 26 percent since a rate cut on Nov. 21.

China Sets Economic Reform Targets for 2015 Diplomat The Central Economic Work Conference gave an overview of China’s economic goals for 2015. Topping the agenda: reform.

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

How can ‘carpocalypse’ be avoided in Hanoi? The Guardian Vehicle ownership is status symbol in Vietnam, but congested streets are making the city unliveable. What will turn the tide?  The everyday commute in Hanoi is a test of endurance; it requires perseverance and concentration, and involves pollution, bizarre noises, and mysterious aromas. Traffic lights act more like loose guidelines for the flow of traffic, and with busy crowded streets, public buses are the most feared among bicyclists for their accelerator-happy feet.//We’ll be posting a similar article on Kunming’s traffic problems later this week.

Vietnamese blogger arrested for ‘anti-state articles’ The Guardian Press freedom group says charges are bogus. A blogger was detained in Vietnam on Saturday on anti-state charges for postings deemed critical of the government, reports the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

World’s largest cave in Vietnam threatened by cable car – The Guardian Vietnamese are protesting plans to build a cable car through remote Phong Nha-Ke Bang national park that could carry 1,000 visitors an hour to Son Doong cave.  Plans for a cable car in Vietnam’s Unesco-listed Phong Nha-Ke Bang national park would open up the world’s largest cave to mass tourism. But Vietnamese are protesting the project, and experts warn the environmental impact could be devastating.

US Sends Mixed Message to Burma Military –  DVB  Human rights advocates and some lawmakers say the United States is sending the wrong signal by opening the door for broader engagement with Burma’s widely criticized military just weeks after President Barack Obama assured opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi that closer ties weren’t going to happen soon.

 Survey Finds Waning Confidence In Direction Country Is Headed – The Cambodia Daily Just 32 percent of Cambodians believe the country is headed in the right direction, down from 81 percent a decade ago, according to a report released on Wednesday by the U.S.-based Asia Foundation.

Cross-Border Energy Trade Powers Development in Cambodia – ADB A Greater Mekong Subregion project helps builds a transmission line from Viet Nam to Cambodia to provide a steady supply of electricity to communities and industries in the southern part of the country.

Through the eyes of a killer – SEA Globe The Look of Silence is Joshua Oppenheimer’s second film about Indonesia’s communist purges of the 1960s. The first film, the Oscar-nominated The Act of Killing, was centred on the murderers; this time the focus is shifted to the victims, who have been afraid to raise the matter for half a century.//If you haven’t seen The Act of Killing yet, do so soon.  Netflix carries it.  

Fighting fire with fire – SEA Globe One of the region’s longest-running and most intractable conflicts continues to smoulder in Thailand’s deep south. The new military government has promised peace, but one of its first moves was handing out military-grade weapons to locals

Education in Indonesia: School’s in – The Economist WITH roughly 55m students, 3m teachers and more than 236,000 schools in 500 districts, Indonesia has the world’s fourth-largest education system. But the system does not work nearly as well as it should. The country’s new president, Joko Widodo, generally known as Jokowi, hopes to change that with help from his new education secretary, Anies Baswedan, a former university president and creator of a programme that sends graduates to teach in remote areas.Like so much else in the sprawling archipelago, nothing is simple.

Malaysia Airlines appoints Aer Lingus boss as first foreign chief executive – SCMP Malaysia’s government has picked Christoph Mueller, the chief executive of Ireland’s Aer Lingus, as the new head of its beleaguered flag carrier, Malaysia Airlines.

Tourist Influx Helps Rural Lao PDR Thrive – ADB  Completion of the last overland link in the North-South Economic Corridor brings prosperity to poor provinces in the Lao PDR, a landlocked country that lies at the heart of the Greater Mekong Subregion.

 

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Regional Roundup for Week of 11.16.2014

The APEC meeting in Beijing has come and gone and the world is a better place for it.  No one can deny (well Mitch McConnell can) that both China, the US, and the Sino-US relationship are better off than 10 days ago.  While Obama and Xi Jinping (and Putin’s coat on Peng Liyuan’s shoulders) stole the show in Beijing, we need to keep watching for pronouncements and agreements signed between China and Southeast Asian states as well as between the US and Southeast Asia in an effort to strengthen the US rebalance to the Asia-Pacific.

EXSE FOCUS

Obama Offers Assurances of U.S. Shift Toward Asia NYT Visiting Australia, President Obama said the United States could be a force for order as Asia faced threats like a nuclear-armed North Korea and disputes between China and its neighbors.

The Beijing APEC Summit in Review The Diplomat David Shambaugh on China’s ultimate goals in the region and how the APEC summit outlined this ‘Asia-Pacific dream.’

U.S., China announce deal to break climate gridlock Politico President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping jointly pledged Wednesday to slash or limit carbon emissions over the next two decades in a bid by the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas polluters to kick-start global talks to combat climate change.// Biggest headline this week by far.  This is a big step in the right direction, but for China to meet these carbon reduction requirements, more hydropower projects must be built.  Goodbye carbon footprint, and so long to the ecology of China’s rivers.  

Related: The Domestic Politics of the U.S.-China Climate Change Announcement China File

Related:  Obama’s Big China Win at APEC: Not What You Think Asia Unbound

Related: Reaction: US-China climate pledge The Third Pole

 

 REGIONAL RELATIONS

China Offers $20 Billion in Loans to ASEAN The Diplomat China offers increased economic incentives for its Southeast Asian neighbors to overlook territorial disputes.//Let’s see ‘the old throw money at the problem’ solution.  Hmm, what’s the track record on that one?  One thing to watch as well is the rise of joint investment vehicles between China and Southeast Asia funded by private investment – not state sponsored money.  

Related: Bangkok supports China’s Asian infrastructure investment bank The Nation

The New Silk Road: Hardly an oasis The Economist  Now the Russians are gone and the Kazakhs, flush with oil money, have plans almost as vast as their country. Hitching their future to the wagon of the new regional superpower, Kazakhstan is building a dry port and rail yard at Khorgos, in the desert on its eastern border with China, that will help to realise China’s multibillion-dollar plans for a “New Silk Road”

India’s north-east: Missing link The Economist FOR the past quarter of a century Indian policymakers have talked of a “Look East” policy. This involves boosting trade, investment and incomes in the landlocked north-east by engaging with nearby countries. The state of Manipur, on the border with Myanmar, hopes to be India’s gateway to South-East Asia.

 

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

China commits to continue and enhance cooperation with the MRC Mekong River Commission China’s Vice Minister of Water Resources, H.E. Mr. JIAO Yong, yesterday expressed the goodwill of his country to continue and enhance the cooperation between China and the Mekong River Commission (MRC)//This is absolutely necessary.  However, China’s strengthened observer status will not help the MRC find its teeth.

China Reforms National Parks to Improve Environmental Protection ChinaFile China’s central government is reforming the way major tourist attractions are run. It plans to create a unified national parks management system in a bid to halt environmental damage within its protected areas. The new, unified system will cut across the local and departmental interests of existing operators in an attempt to ensure that these parks are run for the public benefit.

Tibetan plateau faces massive “ecosystem shift” China Dialogue Tibetan plateau will experience significant “ecosystem shift” due to climate change and human activities, reducing future water supply to China and South Asia//Kudos to ExSE’s good friend Ed Grumbine for revealing these significant findings.    

Landmark Meeting Calls for Trans-Boundary Salween Collaboration The Irrawaddy  Environmental experts have urged the governments of Burma, China and Thailand to lead the formation of a Transboundary River Management Committee to handle environmental and social issues along the Salween River, East Asia’s second longest waterway.//This would be a step in the right direction.  Perhaps a way to bolster this would be to allow transboundary resource management classes to be taught in China’s universities.  Currently college courses with the word “transboundary” in its title are not permitted in PRC. 

 

CHINA

Hong Kong protest leaders prevented from travelling to Beijing The Guardian Cathay Pacific airline staff at Hong Kong’s airport told Nathan Law, Eason Chung and Alex Chow of the Hong Kong Federation of Students that the Chinese government had cancelled their travel permits and refused to issue them with boarding passes for their flight to Beijing.

Related: Appeal court denies hearing, clearing way to end Occupy Central protests SCMP

Related: Hard lessons of the Occupy protests SCMP

 China and Japan: Out of the deep freeze The Economist A “four-point agreement” comes as a welcome signal that tensions between Asia’s two biggest powers might, at least for now, begin to ease.The thorn in the side of relations is Japan’s Senkaku islands, which China claims and calls the Diaoyus. Chinese aircraft and coastguard vessels have greatly raised tensions from 2012 onwards, by making incursions around the Senkakus. So it is progress that Japan and China now acknowledge “the emergence of tense situations” there.

US, China to extend visas for short-term business travelers, tourists, and students GoKunming Starting November 12, the United States and the People’s Republic of China will reciprocally increase the validity of short-term business and tourist visas and student and exchange visas issued to each other’s citizens.//Applause. Overseas Chinese and frequently returning businessmen will benefit most from the extended visa durations.

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Obama and Aung San Suu Kyi Meet Again, With Battle Scars NYT President Obama met with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in a show of support for Myanmar’s reform process, despite evidence of the nation’s backsliding.//They kiss with their eyes open.

As Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej ails, thoughts turn to what will happen after his death SEA Globe After spending almost five weeks hospitalised for stomach inflammation in September, Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej was readmitted early last month in order to receive an operation to remove his gall bladder.

Related :‘A Kingdom in Crisis’ book banned in Thailand The Nation

UN sec-gen urges Rohingya rights DVB UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke out in support of Rohingya rights to self-identification and dignified treatment on Wednesday, advising “the leaders of Myanmar [Burma] to uphold human rights, take a strong stance against incitement, and ensure humanitarian access to Rohingya [who] are living in vulnerable conditions.”

Missing: nine million people SEA Globe When Myanmar’s controversial census – its first in 30 years – revealed its population is 51 million and not the previously cited 60 million, it engendered widespread amazement: How could a nation fail to notice that nine million people did not, in fact, exist?

Grading Jokowi’s First Month Asia Unbound Slightly less than a month into Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s term in office, a few aspects of how Jokowi will govern are coming into focus. And since he promised major change in the first hundred days of his presidency, it is fair to analyze how he has done to this (short) point in time. Let’s run down how the former Jakarta mayor, who never held national office before, is doing in several key areas.

Laos Plans to Allow Foreigners to Purchase Land in Controversial Move RFA The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is drafting an amendment to a land law allowing foreigners to purchase land for investments of at least U.S. $500,000 in the country, a high-ranking ministry official told RFA’s Lao Service.//When you read ‘foreigners’ in this title, don’t think Western expats, think of the Lao PDR’s best friends, the Chinese and the Vietnamese.

 

YUNNAN PROVINCE

Growth slowing in Yunnan and Kunming, economy still deemed healthy GoKunming Quarterly provincial financial reports used to be cause for celebration across China — a way to tout the wonders of Socialism with Chinese characteristics. The days of double-digit growth have seemingly passed, but much of the country still lays claim to some economic indicators that would make other nations jealous. Among these places is Yunnan, which this year is on track to post strong, yet simultaneously disappointing, year-on-year (YoY) gross domestic product growth. So far in 2014, the province’s economy is valued at 821 billion yuan, which puts it on track to increase by roughly eight percent over the first three quarters of 2013. //Sadly most of this economic growth is coming from the 100 or so real estate projects that have destroyed the view of the sun setting over the mountains in Kunming.   

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Regional Roundup for Week of 11.9.2014

EXSE FOCUS 

US-China Relations: Attitude and Attitudes The Diplomat Obama’s second trip to China is a good opportunity to set a new course in bilateral relations.

 Defining a ‘New Type of Major Power Relations’ The Diplomat Heading into the APEC Summit, the U.S. and China may need to narrow their interpretation of the concept.

 Obama, Asia, and Democracy Asia Unbound It’s nice, in a way, to see issues one has worked on appear in major, globally important publications. This past week, just before President Obama’s trip to Asia, the Banyan column inThe Economist, a column that focuses on Asia, detailed the Obama administration’s general disinterest in issues related to democracy and human rights in Asia.

 To China, Shift in Obama’s Political Fortunes Eclipses U.S. Economic Gains NYT When President Obama visits China on Monday, authorities there are likely to dwell more on his electoral reversals than on the robust American economy, analysts say.

 The U.S. and China’s Competing FTA’s During APEC The Diplomat The U.S. is uninterested in ceding power in a more comprehensive regional trade agreement.// Interesting to look at the TPP from a strategic perspective. Many potential Asian members (Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Japan) have territorial disputes with China, conspicuously absent in the negotiations. Meanwhile, the US is the TPP cheerleader this side of the Pacific. 

 Beijing attempts to cut air pollution for APEC summit Guardian Factories, schools, offices and building sites to be closed and cars part-banned as city hosts world leaders including Obama and Putin. To Beijing’s 21 million residents, the city’s air pollution is a health hazard. To the city’s leaders, it’s an embarrassment. So as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit (Apec) begins this week in the city, authorities have been scrambling to keep the air clean, temporarily restricting the operation of cars, factories, construction sites and even crematoriums. 

So Long Deployment, Hello Employment: Redefining the Rebalance to Asia The Diplomat John Kerry’s definition of the U.S. rebalance to Asia is far different from Hillary Clinton’s original description.

 The New Silk Road: China’s Marshall Plan? The Diplomat China’s plan for massive investments along the New Silk Road and Maritime Silk Road is a bid for diplomatic clout.//China’s int’l economic development plan is certainly attractive, and not just for countries like Nepal or the Maldives. Indonesia just joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank this week, much to the US’s chagrin.

 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Authorities break up China-Vietnam telecom scam GoKunming During a time of tense and increasingly complicated political relations, China and its southern neighbor Vietnam are still finding ways to cooperate, at least in the realm of law enforcement. Police from both countries announced Tuesday they have jointly broken up a cross-border telecommunications swindle that bilked its unwitting victims out of at least two million yuan.

The Tyranny of SE Asia’s Establishment The Diplomat The “old middle class” in Southeast Asia is turning against democracy in a bid to protect its interests.

China’s Uighur Unrest Is Opportunity for Afghans NYT With new aid and investments, Beijing seems to be coming to grips with Afghanistan’s role in its national security.

China and Japan, in Sign of a Thaw, Agree to Disagree on a Disputed Island Group NYT The countries’ leaders gave the first public declaration they are trying to roll back a long standoff that has inflamed nationalist sentiments and damaged economic ties.

Chinese President’s Delegation Tied to Illegal Ivory Purchases During Africa Visit NYT At a time when China says it is trying to root out corruption, a report accuses President Xi Jinping’s delegation of colluding with corrupt Tanzanian officials to smuggle ivory.// You won’t find this coming from Xinhua. Awful if true. Local friends often talk about how Xi’s clique is just as corrupt as the rest – this is a pretty shocking example.

Mexico revokes multibillion-dollar rail contract with China Reuters Mexico has sought closer ties with China but the revocation of the project is an embarrassment ahead of a state visit next week. Mexico has revoked a contract for a multibillion-dollar, high-speed passenger rail link from a Chinese-led consortium after its uncontested bid sparked complaints, souring a state visit to China next week by President Enrique Peña Nieto.

 

SUSTAINABILITY & RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

China’s EIA Industry Rife with Fraud ChinaFile A farce played out at an environmental impact assessment (EIA) firm in the southern city of Shenzhen when inspectors called round in early October, this year. //The Sino-Burmese pipeline’s EIA is a complete sham in addition to the refineries and side projects that come with it.

Counting the Varied Costs of China’s Dependence on Coal NYT A report by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Chinese partners puts a monetary price on the problems created by the energy source, like air pollution.

China and Russia Said to Block Creation of Antarctic Marine Reserves NYT International talks in Australia on establishing two marine reserve areas, each larger than Texas, in the waters around Antarctica ended in failure on Friday.

China-based companies turn blind eye to water risks third pole Big companies are more aware of water risk but are still not doing enough about it, and companies in China are falling behind. Companies based in China lag behind global counterparts in terms of addressing water risks, according to CDP’s annual water survey based on data supplied by big companies worldwide.

Snails devour paddy fields in Irrawaddy delta DVB A plague of imported snails has destroyed more than 1,000 acres of rice fields in Irrawaddy Division’s Dedaye Township, farmers told DVB this week.

Japan-China relations strained over illegal coral poaching Guardian Tokyo presses Beijing to act on poaching near Ogasawara islands, warning that Chinese boats will not be allowed to shelter there from coming typhoon

 

CHINA

Investment flows: Going out Economist A big reason for its fast economic growth is that China has been a magnet for the world’s investment capital. Over the past two decades, China attracted more foreign direct investment (FDI) than any country save America. So the recent prediction made by the Centre for China and Globalisation, a Beijing think-tank, that this year China’s outbound investments would exceed its inbound ones, is noteworthy.

China’s Questionable Economic Power Project Syndicate The World Bank recently announced that China’s economy will surpass that of the US this year, measured according to purchasing power parity. But this is far from a holistic depiction of China’s global economic standing. //It’s much better to be a healthy economy than a large one, though ‘healthy’ isn’t an adjective that could be used to describe either country right now.

In Beijing, Clearer Views Hide Real Life NYT Determined to show a cleaner version of Beijing, the Chinese authorities have ordered dozens of temporary changes that are upending daily life.

Britain soft on China over Hong Kong crisis, says Chris Patten Reuters Territorys last British governor says Beijing is being allowed to spit in the face of handover pact because of trade fears. Britain is not putting enough pressure on China to stick to its side of an agreement on the transfer of Hong Kongs sovereignty because it is worried about damaging trade links, the former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten has said.

 

NEWS FROM SOUTHEAST ASIA

 Festival ends on a high note Phnom Penh Post Third day of races wrapped up the formal part of Cambodia’s Water Festival yesterday – and a number of high-ranking officials were left enjoying the spoils of success after vessels they sponsored were winners.

 On the River, CPP Bosses Become Racing Rivals Cambodia Daily The captain blew his whistle, startling his oarsmen out of their resting places, and ordered them to gather under a ragged tarpaulin strung between three trees in the mud. Here they would discuss Water Festival racing tactics for Srey Mao Kraing Yov, the boat named and sponsored by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Cambodian-American Wins US State House Seat Phnom Penh A former refugee whose family fled the Khmer Rouge regime became the first Cambodian-American legislator in the U.S. after being elected as a state representative in Massachusetts Tuesday.

 Thailand: Man Gets Over 2 Years on Charge of Defaming King AP A Thai court sentenced Akkaradet Eiamsuwan, 24, to two and a half years in prison on Tuesday for posting a message on Facebook that the court said insulted King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Suu Kyi calls for critical eye on reforms DVB Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Wednesday that the country’s reform process has stalled.

Myanmar Policy’s Message to Muslims: Get Out NYT A government plan to resettle Muslim minorities who cannot meet strict standards for naturalized citizenship has spurred a major exodus, rights groups say.

Myanmar Not Yet Attracting U.S. Companies Asia Unbound As President Barack Obama arrives in Myanmar next week for the East Asia Summit, he will find less optimism not only about the political situation but also about Myanmar’s economic future. As I noted last week, when Obama first visited Myanmar in 2012, it was at the height of the country’s political reform process. Since then, the process of political reform has deteriorated, so much so that President Thein Sein last week held a kind of emergency summit with top civilian and military leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi. //Promised political and economic forms are all fine, but if you’re persecuting a minority to no end, still fighting a civil war and your country lacks basic rule of law, businesses might be hesitant to invest.

Burma’s state security forces profit from trafficking Rohingya Muslims Guardian Authorities are earning $7,000 per boatload in exchange for passage out to sea. Burmas state security forces are profiting directly from the trafficking of stateless Rohingya Muslims, earning up to $7,000 per boatload in exchange for passage to sea, a human rights group has found.

Laos’ Internet Law Undermines Free Speech Diplomat It appears the law gives the government broad scope to treat legitimate criticism as criminal.

On permanent parole Economist A FOUR-YEAR battle ended yesterday, when Singapore’s highest court upheld the constitutionality of Section 377(a) of the country’s penal code, which renders any man convicted of committing “or abet[ting] the commission of…any act of gross indecency” with another man liable to two years in prison. Tan Eng Hong first challenged the law in September 2010, after he was charged under 377(a) for having oral sex with another man in a public-toilet stall.

 

YUNNAN

Child trafficking ring uncovered in Yunnan GoKunming Over the weekend, authorities working in Yunnan took dozens of people suspected of being involved in a large-scale child trafficking ring into custody. While conducting raids, police also rescued 11 youngsters presumed by officers to be on their way to China’s east coast, where they would be sold to new families.

 

 

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Regional Roundup for Week of 11.2.2014

The EXSE weekly news digest is back after a long hiatus – and we have a new look!  Our revamped digest is more concise and follows the general format of the website focusing on what we do best: regional relations, sustainability and resource management, Yunnan province, and book reviews.  Below you’ll see that we’ve also maintained focus on domestic issues in China and Southeast Asia.  Enjoy! Look forward to more posts this coming week on corruption in Yunnan and the engineering the Southern Silk Road.

EXSE FOCUS

What Should Obama and Xi Say to Each Other at APEC? ChinaFile Next week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing (November 5-11) between Presidents Xi Jinping, Barack Obama, and other leaders from around the world, is billed as the Chinese capital’s highest-profile international event since the 2008 Olympics. Local law enforcement have warned people they face arrest for wearing Halloween costumes on the subway as it may cause crowds to gather and create “trouble.” Hopes are high that the leaders of the world’s two largest economies won’t scare each other off

 Related: What Beijing Wants From APEC The Diplomat

Related: What Beijing Wants From APEC Asia Unbound

 The Guardian view on the Asian Infrastructure Bank: the US should work with it, not oppose it | Editorial the Guardian It’s no surprise that China is promoting a solution to the shortage of infrastructure capital in Asia. It is an exaggeration to talk of the pace of reform at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, for there has been almost none to these, the so-called Washington institutions that, together with the US Treasury, have both sustained and constrained the global economy since 1945. How to reflect the changing balance of economic power has been endlessly discussed but rarely implemented.

 Related: Australia won’t join Asian infrastructure bank ‘until rules change’ Guardian  

 Obama Prepares to Travel to Myanmar at a Critical Time Asia Unbound In November, President Obama will travel to Myanmar to attend the East Asia Summit, which brings together a broad range of nations from across the Pacific Rim. It will be the president’s second trip to Myanmar, following his landmark 2012 trip, which was the first by a sitting U.S. president to Myanmar since the country gained independence six decades ago. During the East Asia Summit, Obama almost surely will hold bilateral meetings with Myanmar President Thein Sein and other senior Myanmar leaders, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Related: Listening Post: On Visit, Obama to Face a Backsliding Myanmar NYT

 Mapping the flow SEA Globe An interactive map released by campaign group Global Financial Integrity (GFI) reveals the staggering speed illicit financial outflows – illegal movements of money or capital from one country to another – are leaving developing world countries. The information is compiled from a December 2013 report “Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries: 2002-2011”

 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Banyan: The city on the hill Economist WHEN Barack Obama ducked out of two summits in Indonesia and Brunei a year ago, the credibility of the “pivot to Asia” he had proclaimed, giving the region greater importance in American foreign policy, took a big knock. This month he is due to show up at back-to-back gatherings in Beijing, Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar, and Brisbane in Australia, giving him a chance to hammer out the dent. It will be a struggle. The centrepiece of the economic aspect of the pivot, a regional free-trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), is still not a done deal.

The U.S. Should Not Fear Competing With China The Diplomat With the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the U.S. should not be afraid of a little healthy competition.

Not U.S. Isolationism, But a Rebalancing of Priorities and Means Asia Unbound  The Chicago Council on Global Affairs 2014 survey released last month entitled “Foreign Policy in the Age of Retrenchment” reports that over 40 percent of Americans believe that the United States should “stay out” rather than take an active part in global affairs. But the survey also shows that over four-fifths of Americans believe that the United States should continue to show strong leadership in world affairs. Possibly the strongest counter-arguments for smart American leadership versus isolationism and retrenchment are expressed in poll results regarding American attitudes toward its alliances in Asia. This is an important finding because it shows growing American understanding of the importance of Asia and growing support for the strategic value of the U.S. rebalance to Asia.

US-Philippines Defense Ties Under Fire The Diplomat A U.S. Marine accused of murder has called broader U.S.-Philippines cooperation into question.

Can China and Vietnam Overcome Their Territorial Disputes? The Diplomat Yang Jiechi’s visit to Vietnam was full of optimism, but the China-Vietnam relationship remains fragile.

How Vietnam Woos China and India Simultaneously The Diplomat In managing relations with India and China, Vietnamese diplomacy has grown dynamic and creative.

 

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Tibetan Plateau Faces Massive ‘Ecosystem Shift’ China File Large areas of grasslands, alpine meadows, wetlands, and permafrost will disappear on the Tibetan plateau by 2050, with serious implications for environmental security in China and South Asia, a research paper published by scientists at the Kunming Institute of Botany has warned.

Beijing Zeroes In on Energy Potential of South China Sea NYT Much of the muscle-flexing over disputed waters in the region is political. But China is also interested in the oil and natural gas that might lie below the waters.

 Dam could sound death knell for dolphins Phnom Penh Post Ahead of crucial discussions about the future of Cambodia’s wetlands this month, residents of a globally significant area of the Mekong River fear an environmental catastrophe if hydropower plans go ahead.

 China’s obsession with vertical cities Guardian By the end of next year one-in-three of the worlds 100m+ skyscrapers will be in China, as its state-orchestrated urbanisation drive prompts a megacity building bonanza

Tuna firm’s bungled IPO exposes China’s flouting of global fishing rules Guardian  Draft IPO sends a reporter down a rabbit hole to find shell companies and shady dealings in the world-wide fishing industry. Reporting on international fishing can often feel like investigating organized crime. Everyone knows how things are run, but the truth is obscured by shell companies, back-door dealings, and plausible deniability.

Growth in the New Climate Economy Project Syndicate Action to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions and mitigate climate change has long been viewed as fundamentally opposed to economic growth. But a recently released report concludes that efforts to combat climate change could boost growth considerably – and soon.

 

CHINA

China upholds death penalty for three who led mass stabbing in Kunming AFP  A Chinese appeal court has upheld death sentences for three people convicted over a mass stabbing this year in which 31 people were killed, say state media. The higher peoples court of Yunnan province rejected Hasayn Muhammads appeal and upheld the penalty meted out by the Kunming municipal intermediate peoples court last month, Xinhua said in a dispatch from Kunming.

Taiwan Leader Stresses Support for Hong Kong Protests NYT President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan said that he supported Hong Kong protesters’ democratic ideals, but would still pursue trade agreements with China.

Corruption in the housing market: To those that have The Economist OFTEN the trickiest part of being a corrupt bureaucrat is not how to find new ways to extort money or accept bribes, but how to hide the ill-gotten gains. No one wants to end up like “Uncle House”, as a district official in the southern province of Guangdong was dubbed by internet users. He was outed two years ago by online anti-corruption activists after acquiring 22 properties that on his salary he clearly could not afford.However, research by Hanming Fang of the University of Pennsylvania, and Li-An Zhou and Quanlin Gu of the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University suggests that the housing market is a source of illicit riches, as well as a place to park them

China’s 4th Plenum: Rule of Law Under the Party The Diplomat U.S. editors Ankit Panda and Zachary Keck are joined by Shannon Tiezzi to discuss China’s fourth plenum.

China to put decorated general on trial over corruption Reuters A once-powerful retired Chinese military officer has confessed to taking vast amounts in bribes and will be prosecuted in court, the official Xinhua news agency said on Tuesday.General Xu Caihou, a former vice-chairman of the powerful central military commission, was court martialled in June. He has been stripped of his title and expelled from the military, Xinhua said, citing army lawyers.

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA 

UN Rapporteur: ‘Backtracking’ could undermine Burma’s reforms DVB UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee has expressed concern about “possible signs of backtracking” that could undermine Burma’s reform process, according to a UN press statement released yesterday which highlighted some key points of Ms. Lee’s speech to the UN General Assembly about Burma’s human rights situation.

Burma considers altering law that bars Aung San Suu Kyi from being president AFP Burmas parliament will consider amending the countrys constitution which currently bars the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, from becoming president before crucial elections next year, an official said on Friday. Suu Kyi is trying to change key sections of Burmas charter ahead of 2015 polls that are widely expected to be won by her National League for Democracy (NLD), if they are free and fair, after decades of military rule.

US Blacklists Burma Ruling Party Lawmaker DVB  The U.S. Treasury on Friday blacklisted a hard-line lawmaker of Burma’s ruling party, accusing him of undermining political and economic reforms.

The Rise of Public Opinion in Cambodia’s Politics The Diplomat The ruling elite can no longer simply ignore the opinions of the Cambodian public.

After Budget Released, Cambodia’s Opposition Blasts Process Cambodia Daily With the release of the government’s 2015 draft national budget Thursday, the opposition CNRP, whose 55 lawmakers joined the National Assembly in August, called Cambodia’s budget-drafting process “disgusting and unbelievable” on Friday.

Malaysia: A lousy sequel Economist FOR 16 years Anwar Ibrahim, leader of Malaysia’s opposition, has battled dodgy charges of sodomy and corruption designed to keep him from power. One way or another, a court hearing which began on October 28th looks like the end of the road. As The Economist went to press Mr Anwar (pictured above, with his wife) was reaching the conclusion of his final appeal against a five-year prison sentence, imposed in March, for allegedly having sex with a male aide (sodomy is illegal in Malaysia).

 

YUNNAN PROVINCE

Official: Yunnan will have two bullet trains by 2016 Go Kunming Announcing specific completion timetables for infrastructure endeavors is a dicey business in China. If a project suffers setbacks and deadlines pass without completion, officials can lose their jobs. This reality makes it maddeningly difficult to guess with any accuracy when work on a given venture might actually conclude.

A quick glimpse of Yunnan’s ancient salt towns GoKunming  Exploring Yunnan is not fully completed unless one visits at least one of the three ancient and historically important salt towns in southwest China. Heijing (黑井), Nuodeng (诺邓) and Shiyang (石羊) are three often undiscovered pearls of the province, and can provide travelers with a rare view of China from another time.

Online rumor spurs closure of ‘wild animal bazaar’ GoKunming Here at GoKunming there are several not-yet-dead horses that we routinely beat. Among these, news stories regarding the environment, wild animals, officials behaving badly and bizarre, often vague, trending internet tropes tend to receive the most user feedback. Rarely, however, has one news item rolled all of these themes into a nice compact ball exemplifying many of the challenges facing Yunnan. That is, of course, until this week.

Related: Seafood banquets put tropical reef fish at risk The Third Pole

 

REVIEWS

Hun Sen’s Cambodia: A Review Asia Unbound A new book by Cambodia-based journalist Sebastian StrangioHun Sen’s Cambodia has set the standard for compelling and accessible histories of modern-day Cambodia. In particular, the book is the first to offer an accessible but thorough biographical portrait of longtime Cambodian prime minister—and strongman—Hun Sen. Strangio details in compelling form how Hun Sen rose from a skinny, totally uneducated and unworldly senior official in the Vietnam-installed post-Khmer Rouge regime into a smooth autocrat who has dominated the country for decades. Over time, Hun Sen also has become fabulously rich and has become an increasingly powerful player in Southeast Asia, due to Cambodia’s membership in ASEAN, Hun Sen’s longevity, and Hun Sen’s ability to play his patrons Vietnam and China off of each other.

From the Ruins of Empire…arise the nation-state Jottings from the Granite Studio One of the best books on empire, colonialism, and de-colonization I have read in the past few years is Pankaj Mishra’s brilliant From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia. It’s a sprawling story told through the biographical sketches of major Asian intellectuals such as Liang Qichao, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, and Abdurreshi al Ibrahim, near contemporaries who witnessed the crumbling of empire and worried about what might come next in a world still dominated by North Atlantic states and Western value systems.

What China’s Reading: ‘Broken Dreams, USA’ China File As a kid, I couldn’t understand why Chinese people flocked to the United States when the policemen there were so cruel, the crime rate was so high, and the food was so unpalatable. Later I realized that it’s because in America there are cars, concrete jungles and skyscrapers, and color televisions. How we used to admire and worship such a country, America. But now it seems the old “American dream” is too plain for Chinese people’s desires…

 

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Regional Roundup for the week of 7.18.14

The top stories this week included the formation of a $100 billion BRICs development bank in a major play to reshape investment in Asia and challenge Western-dominated financial institutions like the World Bank. It will be based in Shanghai and managed by India for the first five years, followed by Brazil and Russia.

In Cambodia, opposition politicians were detained and charged with insurrection following an altercation between protestors and security forces on Tuesday. The arrests come just before the anniversary of disputed elections.

Thailand has allowed former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra to leave the country on the premise of joining her brother Thaksin Shinawatra (another ousted prime minister living in exile) in Paris for his birthday.

China has moved a contentious oil rig from disputed waters in the South China Sea, although tensions remain high in the region. See Brian Eyler’s analysis of how trade between China and Vietnam is likely to decrease in the coming months as an impact of these tensions.

ExSE FOCUS

Brics countries create $100bn bank to ease western grip on global finances | Guardian –The leaders of the Brics emerging market countries have launched a $100bn (£58.3bn) development bank and an emergency reserve fund in their first major step towards reshaping the western-dominated international financial system. The Brics group comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The bank, aimed at funding infrastructure projects in developing nations, will be based in Shanghai, and India will preside over its operations for the first five years, followed by Brazil and then Russia.

Cambodia: Opposition Politicians Are Charged With Insurrection | NYT — Six Cambodian opposition politicians were charged Wednesday with leading an insurrection movement after a clash with security forces who prevented their followers from rallying in a public park.

Cambodia: Protest Turns Violent | NYT — Opposition demonstrators disarmed Cambodian security forces and beat them with batons and flagpoles on Tuesday, two weeks before the anniversary of a disputed general election.

What Does Indonesia’s Election Standoff Mean for Indonesia’s Next President? | Asia Unbound — As I have previously blogged, unless Prabowo Subianto is able to steal four to six million votes in the days before the official vote tally is released, an unlikely possibility, Jakarta governor Joko Widodo will be declared the winner of the presidential election sometime next week. However, Prabowo is not going to go quietly.

Thai junta allows ex-PM Yingluck Shinawatra to leave country | Guardian — Thailand’s junta has given permission to ousted former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra to leave the country for the first time since the 22 May coup, a military spokesman said on Thursday. Yingluck is expected to travel to Paris next week to attend the 65th birthday party of her elder brother, the fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Chinese Oil Rig Near Vietnam to Be Moved | NYT — A Chinese energy company said it would move a giant oil rig from disputed waters off the coast of Vietnam, two months after its arrival raised tensions.

Stronger than the bullet | SEA Globe — Southeast Asia is a vast and complex region, comprising countries with remarkably diverse histories and cultures. Against the backdrop of rapid economic development and social transformation in several countries, some nations have adopted democratic institutions, while others have maintained stable authoritarian systems or accepted communist regimes./Great infographic of registered voters, political turnout and number of political parties across ASEAN nations./

Yunnan to spend 70 billion on infrastructure in 2014 | GoKunming — Yunnan lawmakers were busy over the past seven days, earmarking billions of yuan for building projects across the province. The vast majority of the money will be used to fund the ongoing construction of 26 major highways. Other money has been set aside for waterway maintenance and “disaster mitigation” projects.

Typhoon Kills at Least 38 in the Philippines, Heads for China | Irrawaddy — Typhoon Rammasun, the strongest storm to hit the Philippines this year, was heading towards China after cutting a path across the main island of Luzon, shutting down the capital and knocking down trees and power lines, causing widespread blackouts.

CHINA

Russian Reliance on Chinese Loans May Blunt the Impact of U.S. Sanctions | NYT — Energy companies form the backbone of the Russian economy, and they increasingly turn to China when they need cheap capital.

Star Anchor’s Real Sin May Have Been Hypocrisy | NYT — Liberal intellectuals are offended by the detained CCTV anchor Rui Cheng’s grandstanding manner of touting the Chinese system while cozying up to Westerners.

In Expansion, BMW to Make China-Only Models | NYT — The carmaker plans to double the number of models produced in China, for a total of six, and increase capacity in the country, its biggest market.

Note to Cadres: Hands Off the Black Audi and Chauffeur | NYT — As part of its drive against corruption and waste, the Chinese Communist Party said it would stop allowing dedicated official vehicles for all but the highest-ranking government staff.

Chinese Company Wins Court Case Against Obama | Diplomat — The case sets an important precedent for Chinese companies interested in investing in the United States.

Report: China ‘hungry for drones’ | GoKunming — The United States’ extensive use of drones may capture headlines around the world, but many other countries are aggressively looking to develop their own, domestic forms of the technology. China is no exception, encouraging and increasingly funding small start-up companies in an attempt to foster innovation, China Daily is reporting.

Education in China | ChinaFile — This week on Sinica, Kaiser Kuo and David Moser are joined by Jiang Xueqin, deputy principal of Tsinghua Fuzhong Affiliated High School and author of Creative China, for a discussion of the education system in China.

Soccer on the Silk Road | ChinaFile — As the World Cup draws to a close, we present a photo essay by Chinese photographer Zhang Xinmin exploring the game of soccer along the Silk Road in Xinjiang, where it has a special place in Uighur education and culture. China’s forays into international soccer competition have been disappointing, at best. But, as Zhang explains below, a new generation of Uighur players traces its passion for the sport to forebears.

The 2008 Milk Scandal Revisited | Asia Unbound — Six years ago today, sixteen infants in China’s Gansu Province were diagnosed with kidney stones. All of them had been fed milk powder that was later found to have been adulterated with a toxic industrial compound called melamine. Four months later, an estimated 300,000 babies in China were sick from the contaminated milk, and the kidney damage led to six fatalities. The Sanlu Group, one of the largest dairy producers in China, was identified as the chief culprit. But as the scandal unfolded, more Chinese dairy firms became implicated.

Chinese farmers quit fields to build giant Transformers models | Guardian — The success of the new Transformers film in China has been staggering, becoming the country’s highest-grossing film ever in a matter of days. And with that success comes a thriving cottage industry: a group of farmers who have exchanged ploughs for welding equipment in order to build gigantic models of the robots from the film./Weird headline of the week./

REGION

Kerry Assures China That the U.S. Can Have Many Allies in Asia | NYT — The secretary of state sought to highlight commonalities between China and the United States after the Chinese dismissed assertions that hackers had infiltrated federal computer systems.

Vietnam’s Overdue Alliance With America | NYT — Ho Chi Minh always wanted a close relationship with Uncle Sam.

Despite oil rig removal, China and Vietnam row still simmers | Guardian — Withdrawal of rig welcomed by Hanoi and Washington, but observers still fear escalation of conflict over South China Sea./See ExSE analysis of cooling of trade relationship between China and Vietnam  stemming from SCS dispute./

Thailand’s pledge to repatriate 100,000 Burmese refugees sparks concern | Guardian — Thailand’s military government is to deport 100,000 refugees who have been living in camps along the border with Burma (Myanmar) for more than two decades, a move rights groups say would create chaos at a tense time for both countries.

Bit by bit | SEA Globe — Southeast Asia sprints toward economic unification with the highly anticipated Asean Economic Community (AEC) next year, there is little in the way of monetary policy that binds its respective member countries together. However, entrepreneurs posit that in lieu of a single legal tender, there is a new system that could make cross-border exchanges cheaper and easier than ever – digital currency.

Pakistan and China: A Precarious Friendship? | Diplomat — In contrast to the public posturing, the relationship on the ground is more complex and multilayered.

China’s Role in the Middle East | Diplomat — Dr. John Calabrese on what’s at stake for China in Iraq and Beijing’s strategy for Middle East engagement.

China-Africa relations hurt by bad Chinese behaviour, says ambassador | Guardian — China’s foreign ministry has condemned the behaviour of some Chinese citizens in Africa following its ambassador to Tanzania giving an uncommonly frank newspaper interview in which he decried the “bad habits” of his compatriots.

CAMBODIA

Cambodia’s politics: The vision thing | Economist — A YEAR after a general election which the opposition said was stolen, the stand-off continues. On July 15th protests turned violent when demonstrators against the government of Cambodia’s strongman, Hun Sen, attacked security forces. Three leaders from the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) were arrested and denied bail. They face charges of insurrection.

Will Adidas garment workers share in its World Cup profit? | Guardian — With Adidas set to make 2bn from football related sales, the Cambodian garment workers behind its merchandise are still fighting for a fair wage.

Roll out the red carpet | SEA Globe — Southeast Asia’s rapid economic development has generated a wealthy elite with an appetite for high-end luxury products. These hungry consumers exist even in Cambodia – one of the world’s poorest countries. “Why Cambodia? We had this inherent demand that already existed here for Rolls-Royce and it got to a scale where it was so big that we had to act,” said Paul Harris, Asia-Pacific regional manager for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. “Otherwise, we would have dissatisfied our clients,” he added./The base model retail price starts at $450,000, including taxes./

INDONESIA

Indonesia’s election: The quick count and the long | Economist — On July 9th, for just the third time in the country’s history, voters directly chose their president, in the world’s largest single-day election. […] In the end, however, nothing is certain until the election commission releases the official results. The process could stretch out even beyond July 22nd, if the election is challenged the court has until August 22nd to announce its ruling.

MYANMAR/BURMA

Daily Report: A Tech Scene Develops in Myanmar, Using the Cellphone Grid | NYT — Limited telephone and Internet infrastructure, and decreasing smartphone costs, mean most of Myanmar’s 60 million people will experience the Internet first through cellphones.

Mandalay’s Chinese Muslims Chilled by Riots | NYT — The historical tolerance shown by bygone Buddhist rulers is unraveling in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second largest city, as antipathy between Buddhists and Muslims continues to spread.

Myanmar Court Sentences Journalists to Prison and Hard Labor | NYT — Burmese journalists said the jail terms in connection with an article about possible chemical weapons production were a blow to recently won freedoms.

THAILAND

Thailand: Celebrated Elephant Killed | NYT — Poachers have killed and sawed the tusks off a 50-year-old elephant that performed in Thai royal processions and was featured in Oliver Stone’s 2004 movie “Alexander.”

VIETNAM

Strategic Trust, an Oil Rig and Vietnam’s Dilemma | Diplomat — Vietnam is forced to decide between territorial integrity and its relationship with China.

World Cup Postcard From Hanoi | NYT — In Hanoi, a government-imposed midnight curfew made it difficult to find a place to catch the day’s action as it began to unfold in Brazil, where it is 10 hours earlier. But the curfew could not deter die-hard fans, and bettors.

Here is da news: how rappers hope to switch on Vietnam’s young generation | Guardian — Despite government suspicions, a Hanoi-based hip-hop band is taking a novel approach to broadcasting current affairs bulletins.

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Regional Roundup for the week of 7.9.14

Indonesians go to the polls today to elect a new president, choosing between populist governor Joko Widodo and former army general Prabowo Subianto to lead the world’s 3rd largest democracy.

China has detained 3 Vietnamese fisherman in the South China Sea, further souring relations this summer. China has also attempted to gain leverage with Myanmar, the current chair of ASEAN, ahead of a planned meeting  this month with ASEAN and Chinese diplomats.

Xi Jinping visited South Korea this past week in a state visit regarded as a move to counterbalance American influence and further distance South Korea’s relationship with Japan.

ExSE FOCUS

All aboard | SEA Globe — The planned high-speed railway between Singapore and Kunming in China could be the catalyst for even greater Chinese influence in the region.

China Reaches Out to Myanmar on Maritime Dispute | NYT — Myanmar is enjoying some new diplomatic clout, leading China to court the country as Beijing presses its territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Burmese hardwoods logged to brink of extinction | GoKunming — While swaths of virgin rainforests have been cleared to feed China’s growing appetite for luxury wood, there are some regions, like Myanmar’s remote northern forests, that have remained heretofore intact. This is about to change, predicts a new study, as loggers advance on the “final frontier” for tropical hardwoods in Southeast Asia.

The Victims of China’s Soil Pollution Crisis | ChinaFile — Soil pollution has received relatively little public attention in China. Despite the fact that it poses as big a threat to health as the more widely covered air and water pollution, data on soil pollution has been so closely guarded that it has been officially categorized as a “state secret.”

Shadow of Brutal ’79 War Darkens Vietnam’s View of China Relations | NYT — Memories of a short but ferocious conflict between Vietnam and China in 1979 permeate the current sour relations between the two Communist countries now at odds over contested waters in the South China Sea.

An Online Shift in China Muffles an Open Forum | NYT — A turn from the microblogging service Sina Weibo to the Facebook-like WeChat has reoriented the nation’s social media landscape from public to semiprivate communication.

China’s Fallen Mighty | ChinaFile — The fallen are sorted into three levels based on their positions within the Politburo—the highest leaders, including Hua Guofeng, Hu Yaobang, and Zhao Ziyang; members of the Politburo Standing Committee, including Wang Dongxing and Hu Qili; and ordinary members of the Politburo, including Wu De, Chen Xilian, Ji Dengkui, Chen Yonggui, Chen Xitong, Chen Liangyu, and Bo Xilai. Skip to the interactive timeline

The final countdown | SEA Globe — After ten years of stability, including President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s two terms in office, voters in the world’s third-largest democracy will head to the polls on July 9 for a single-round presidential election that will decide Indonesia’s next leader.

Indonesia: A Bigger Role in the South China Sea? | Diplomat — As Indonesia goes to the polls, the expectations of its international partners are growing.

ISIS: A Threat Well Beyond the Middle East | Diplomat — The success of militants in Iraq may be inspiring radicals in Southeast Asia.

Kunming Railway Station attackers charged in mass stabbings | GoKunming — In March of this year, a group of men and women armed with knives descended on the crowded Kunming Railway Station. Their ensuing rampage left 29 civilians dead and 143 injured in what is one of the most violent coordinated attacks to occur in China in recent memory. Four people accused of perpetrating the violence have been formally charged and will soon stand trial, Xinhua is reporting.

CHINA

Peripheral diplomacy: Balancing act | Economist — CHINA’S dilemma in Asia is how to balance the peaceful rise it says it wants with its desire for more regional influence.

Scorn for ‘Tiger Xu,’ From Official and Unofficial Sources | NYT — Chinese state-run newspapers and social media users alike are expressing contempt for Xu Caihou, a retired senior general expelled from the Communist Party over corruption allegations

China Expels 3 Officials in Corruption Inquiry | NYT — The expulsions of the three men, who had ties to the former Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang, were the latest sign that officials may announce charges against Mr. Zhou himself.

What About China’s Selfless Officials? | Diplomat — The same system that fostered heroically selfless Chinese officials also creates an atmosphere for corruption.

US academic barred from China after speaking out over detained scholar | Guardian — Elliot Sperling, a Tibetologist at the University of Indiana, was turned back on arrival at Beijing airport this weekend and ordered to board a flight returning to the US. No reason was given for the cancellation of his 90-day tourist visa, but he believes his vocal support for Tohti was responsible.

World Briefing: China Sentences 113 to Prison in Xinjiang Region | NYT — Courts in the western region of Xinjiang sentenced the defendants for a wide range of crimes, including organizing and taking part in terrorist organizations, state media reported.

Ramadan, Beijing style | Economist — In China Ramadan this year comes against the backdrop of increased violence perpetrated by Uighurs and a government line which more strongly than ever attributes it to radical Islam and international jihadism. In Xinjiang, authorities have reportedly taken steps, as they have in years past, to discourage Ramadan fasting among ordinary people and ban it outright for many party members, government workers and school children.

China’s Christians fear new persecution after latest wave of church demolitions | Guardian — Once a hub of Christianity, worshippers in Wenzhou fear their faith is facing its biggest threat since the Cultural Revolution.

China Takes Step Toward Freeing Currency from State Control | NYT — Beijing has let banks set their own exchange rates for the renminbi in over-the-counter transactions.

Memo From Hong Kong: Uphill Fight for a Territory’s Democracy Movement | NYT — Hong Kong’s huge pro-democracy march underscored the determination of many of its residents to preserve their freedoms but also brought some challenges to light.

Hard Choices for Family Planners and Parents | ChinaFile — As the adjustments take full effect and the nation’s dandu—the Mandarin word meaning “family in which either parent is an only child”—exercise their newly acquired freedom of choice, unexpected challenges to the government’s family-control policies are starting to emerge.

Why Are Chinese Cyberspies Targeting US Think Tanks? | Diplomat — Chinese hackers broke into U.S. think tanks to access information about U.S. plans for Iraq.

Economic Scene: China’s Hurdle to Fast Action on Climate Change | NYT — The existential question in Beijing remains whether China can simultaneously cut carbon emissions while pursuing strong economic growth.

Pangolin and porcupines on sale in Chinese market despite jail threat | Guardian — Porcupines in cages, endangered tortoises in buckets and snakes in cloth bags are among the rare wildlife on open sale at a Chinese market, despite courts being ordered to jail those who eat endangered species.

REGION

China Detains 6 Vietnamese Fishermen | NYT — The detention of the six fishermen in waters claimed by China and Vietnam comes as tensions continue to be high over the disputed waters.

Q. and A.: Lyle Goldstein on China and the Vietnamese Military | NYT — With friction rising in the South China Sea, Professor Goldstein, of the China Maritime Studies Institute at the Naval War College in Rhode Island, discusses the current state of Vietnam’s military and Chinese perceptions of it.

Chinese President’s Visit to South Korea Is Seen as Way to Weaken U.S. Alliances | NYT — The visit to Seoul by President Xi Jinping of China appears to be aimed at disrupting the alliances the United States has developed in the region.

China Woos South Korea With Pandas | Diplomat — Two pandas accompanied Xi Jinping on his visit to South Korea.

China’s Charm Offensive Toward South Korea | Diplomat — China’s charm offensive toward South Korea could have implications for the U.S.-ROK alliance.

Brides for sale: trafficked Vietnamese girls sold into marriage in China | Guardian — When Kiab turned 16, her brother promised to take her to a party in a tourist town in northern Vietnam. Instead, he sold her to a Chinese family as a bride. The ethnic Hmong teenager spent nearly a month in China until she was able to escape from her new husband, seek help from local police and return to Vietnam.

CAMBODIA

Virginity for sale: inside Cambodia’s shocking trade | Guardian — On the margins of the sex industry, an ugly market in virginity has emerged in Cambodia in which rich and powerful men coerce desperate mothers into selling their daughters’ innocence.

Cambodia Heads Upmarket with Style and Hun Sen | Diplomat — The threat of losing access to designer retail is not enough to win back Cambodia’s voters for the prime minister.

Stuck in the middle with you | SEA Globe — Cambodia’s struggle for self-assertion is a balancing act, with parallels to the 1960s when Prince Sihanouk tried to safeguard his nation’s neutrality in the Vietnam War.

Second fiddle: Kem Sokha | SEA Globe — Kem Sokha has been a prominent human rights activist and head of his own party, but will his biggest challenge be as second-in-command to his former political rival?

INDONESIA

Indonesian Candidate Masters a System He Is Said to Disdain | NYT — For a candidate accused of questioning the value of democracy, Prabowo Subianto appears to be a highly efficient campaigner.

After Barrage of Personal Attacks, Indonesian Presidential Election Tightens | NYT — As voters prepare for Wednesday’s election, the race between a populist governor and a former army general is considered too close to call.

World Briefing: Indonesia: Life Sentence for Ex-Justice | NYT — The former chief justice of the Constitutional Court was sentenced to life in prison for corruption, the heaviest sentence ever for graft in one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

LAOS

Rocket Festival of Laos | Diplomat — The annual Laotian Rocket Festival is colorful, explosive, and occasionally dangerous.

MALAYSIA

Malaysia Is Sending More Ships to Search for Jetliner | NYT — The Malaysian government said Sunday that it would step up efforts to search the southern Indian Ocean for Malaysia Airlines’ missing Flight 370.

MYANMAR/BURMA

In Myanmar, the Euphoria of Reform Loses Its Glow | NYT — More than three years after Myanmar’s ruling generals propelled the country on an ambitious journey toward democracy, security forces are back on the streets.

Buddhist-Muslim Mayhem Hits Myanmar’s No. 2 City | NYT — The authorities in Mandalay imposed a curfew after a surge in religious violence, incited by reports that a Muslim man had raped a Buddhist woman.

Expect Skepticism as Thein Sein Pledges to Act Against Riot Instigators | Irrawaddy — In a speech broadcast on state radio Monday night, Burmese President Thein Sein vowed to take action against the instigators of recent riots in Mandalay, but the pledge will be met with a cautious reception. This skepticism is understandable as the president and government failed to take action after previous violence that rocked major Burmese cities Meiktila, Lashio, Pegu and Sittwe.

Jade Mines to Resume Operations in Kachin State: Burmese Govt | Irrawaddy — In northern Burma, where the vast majority of the world’s jade is produced, mining companies will soon be allowed to resume operations, following a two-year hiatus due to armed conflicts.

PHILIPPINES

Aquino: The First Filipino Nobel Laureate? | Diplomat — The Philippine president has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Not everybody is happy about it.

THAILAND

Leaning on Thailand’s Junta | NYT — Sanctions against the junta could prove surprisingly effective in the push to restore democracy.

VIETNAM

Agent Orange Legacy Scourges Vietnam | Diplomat — Decades after the Vietnam War, victims wither away with scant efforts being made to tackle the deadly chemicals.

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Regional Roundup for the Week of 6.28.14

Not a good week to be a top official in China — three more high-ranking officials have come under investigation for corruption, including: Liu Tienan, former head of the National Energy Administration; Wan Qingliang, the Communist Party chief for Guangzhou; and Su Rong, Vice Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

The Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) joint naval drills began this week in Hawaii, with China taking part for the first time. Easing tensions and enhancing cooperation between navies is one of the major objectives of RIMPAC, however China’s recently updated map of the South China Sea and continued scuffles with both Vietnam and the Philippines may undermine these goals.

EXSE FOCUS

China Unveils New Map of South China Sea | NYT — A vertical map representing China’s claims in the South China Sea shows two disputed clusters of islands entirely within Chinese territory.

China-Philippines Duel Over a South China Sea Code of Conduct | Diplomat — Both countries are developing their South China Sea strategies, neither of which has much to do with ASEAN.

Naval gazing: Sea change | Economist — China has sent ships to Hawaii to take part in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) military drills for the first time. RIMPAC, which began on June 26th, is the largest naval exercise in the world, with 25,000 personnel from 23 countries, including America, Australia, India, Indonesia and South Korea.

Champion of Chinese farmers’ rights jailed for forging official documents | Guardian — Villagers pack the court to applaud woman given two years in prison for trying to prevent land grabs and illegal demolition.

Hekou’s 600 million yuan “boondoggle” | GoKunming — The media in Yunnan, and around the country, is often overly fond of splashy headlines containing enormous investment figures. The articles that follow are generally paeans to a modernizing society and the wonders of Chinese-style capitalism. Failure is rarely chronicled. That is far from the case in Hekou (河口), which is currently receiving plenty of negative journalistic buzz due to a development project provincial officials have deemed an embarrassing and costly “boondoggle”.

Chinese minister makes first visit to Taiwan | Guardian — China has sent a ministerial-level official to Taiwan for the first time, for four days of meetings to rebuild ties with the self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its own.

Uighur Scholar Will Fight Charges of Separatism in China, Lawyer Says | NYT — Ilham Tohti, a critic of Beijing’s policies in the ethnically divided region of Xinjiang, said through his lawyer that he was innocent.

New Signs That China Is Scrutinizing Foreign NGOs | NYT — A notice that briefly appeared on a local government website describes a “penetrating” security review of foreign nongovernmental organizations in China.

Chile Scraps Dam Project in ‘Greatest Triumph of the Nation’s Environmental Movement’ | Common Dreams — The rejection of the project follows an 8-year campaign led by the Patagonia Defense Council (PDC) coalition, which includes International Rivers, the Natural Resources Defense Council and local citizens and community groups and had highlighted the risks of the project and need for Chile to choose a truly sustainable energy future. Incredible story out of Chile. Many environmental advocates in SE Asia might look to the PDC as an example of how international NGOs and local stakeholders can cooperate for a sustainable energy policy. 

CHINA

China’s Anticorruption Campaign Moves to a Powerful Party Seat | NYT — The Communist Party chief of Guangzhou, who wields considerable influence, has been held for investigation by the disciplinary commission.

Former Top Official in China to Face Graft Trial | NYT — Liu Tienan, who headed the country’s energy administration, is the latest target of President Xi Jinping’s moves against corruption.

Top Political Advisor Investigated for Graft | ChinaFile — A vice chairman of the country’s top political advisory body is being investigated for “serious violations of discipline,” the Communist Party’s anti-graft fighter says. The Central Discipline Inspection Commission (CDIC) did not provide details of Su Rong’s alleged crimes, but the phrase usually means graft.

Antarctica via France, and Other Tales of Official Expense-Padding | NYT — An Antarctica tour that somehow included visits to Chile and France was among the infractions described in reports on 37 Chinese government departments and agencies released this week by the National Audit Office.

Official suicides: Unnatural deaths | Economist — On June 24th Wei Jianghong, chairman of a large state-owned copper smelter and a delegate to the national legislature, jumped to his death from a building in Anhui province. It was at least the 62nd publicly known “unnatural” death of an official or employee of a state-run entity since the beginning of 2013, according to Chinese media reports, and at least the 32nd suicide among those deaths.

China sends dissidents on free holidays | Guardian — As top Communist leaders gathered in Beijing the veteran Chinese political activist He Depu was obliged to leave town on an all-expenses-paid holiday to the tropical island of Hainan, complete with police escorts. It is an unusual method of muzzling dissent, but He is one of dozens of campaigners who rights groups say have been forced to take vacations sometimes featuring luxurious hotels beside sun-drenched beaches, trips to tourist sites and lavish dinners courtesy of the authorities.

32 Terrorist Groups Smashed in Xinjiang, China Says | NYT — A crackdown that began in May in the far western region of China has resulted in hundreds of terrorism suspects being sentenced, state media reported.

Chinese Involvement in Global Jihad | Diplomat — Interactions between Uyghur militant groups and other terrorist networks pose a growing concern for China.

Hong Kong’s Democracy Supporters Chafe at Inequality and Beijing’s Sway | NYT — An informal vote on how to select Hong Kong’s leader reflects resentment that the Beijing-oriented political-business machine is rigged against the people.

China’s Growing Hegemonic Bent | Diplomat — More and more, China is engaging in the same kind of hegemonic actions it has always denounced in others.

The Debate Over Confucius Institutes | ChinaFile — Last week, the American Association of University Professors joined a growing chorus of voices calling on North American universities to rethink their relationship with Confucius Institutes, the state-sponsored Chinese-language programs whose policies critics say are anathema to academic freedom. We asked contributors to discuss the debate.

Meet the Chinese women standing up to inequality | Guardian — In the past couple of years, performance-art style actions often cheeky or humorous, always eye-catching have raised awareness of the challenges facing women in China. Twenty-somethings staged Occupy the Men’s Toilets to challenge the lack of female facilities, shaved their heads to highlight higher college admission requirements for female applicants, and donned wedding dresses daubed with red to focus attention on domestic violence.

Chinese dog-eating festival backlash grows | Guardian — Number of animal rights activists descending on Yulin may be small, but opposition against eating dog meat has broadened.

World Cup Scores Big in China | Diplomat — Despite an awkward time difference and the absence of a Chinese team, the World Cup is drawing a huge audience in China.

Obituary: Yang Qinglong, China’s original oil baron | GoKunming — Although perhaps little known to the public, Yang Qinglong (杨庆龙) was a giant in the world of Chinese energy. His outsized reputation as an indefatigable international power broker and eccentric bureaucrat has been described by those he worked with as “legendary”. Reuters China has reported Yang passed away on June 22, following a fight with cancer. He was 62 years-old. A member of the Bai nationality, Yang was born in Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture in 1951. He graduated from Yunnan University with a degree in Chinese Language at the age of 23. Rising steadily through the ranks of the provincial bureaucracy, Yang was named Shenzhen section chief of the government-controlled firm Yunnan Electronics in 1988.

REGION

Mapping the Risk of Bird Flu’s Spread | NYT — The H7N9 strain of avian influenza poses a threat to several other parts of Asia, including the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh and India, according to a new study.

Changing Dynamics in Myanmar Impact Bangladesh’s Geopolitics | Diplomat — Myanmar’s opening to democracy and investment are changing Bangladesh’s economic and security strategy.

U.S. Catfish Program Could Stymie Pacific Trade Agreement | NYT — Ten Asian and Pacific nations have complained that the Agriculture Department’s catfish inspection program, which was added to the 2008 farm bill, violates international law.

U.S. Chided for Delays Over Treaty on Weapons | NYT — Though the United States is the biggest contributor in helping to rid land mines from old conflict zones, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines said it still has not signed an international treaty.

China and the US: Destined to Cooperate? | Diploamt — Geography, economics, and energy will all push America and China closer together.

CAMBODIA

Jump right in: Ratanakiri | SEA Globe — The cool night air of Ban Lung, Ratanakiri’s provincial capital, provides a pleasant reprieve from Cambodia’s balmier climes. Sandwiched between borders with Vietnam and Laos, the Kingdom’s northeastern frontier is home to some of its most untamed countryside, and its sparsely populated villages are a far cry from the crowded streets of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

MALAYSIA

Malaysian Jet Was in Controlled Flight After Contact Was Lost, Officials Suspect | NYT — Investigators now believe that altitude data that guided earlier searches was unreliable and that the plane was likely not seriously damaged before its final descent.

Arrests at Malaysian Rare Earths Refinery Protests | Diplomat — Locals and activists fear the refinery, operated by an Australian company, will generate radioactive waste.

Ann Osman: Goddess of War | SEA Globe — Three years ago, 27-year-old Ann “Athena” Osman, a Muslim from Malaysia’s Sabah state, started training in mixed martial arts (MMA). Since then, she has joined the roster of ONE Fighting Championship, Asia’s largest MMA organisation, and is fast becoming an inspiration in her home country

MYANMAR/BURMA

In the Darkness of Myanmar’s Camps, Lighter Moments of Life | NYT — Adam B. Ellick, a senior video journalist at The Times who made a documentary with the columnist Nicholas Kristof about Myanmar’s oppressed Muslim minority, found a few uplifting moments.

Religious Extremists Target Myanmar Film Festival | Diplomat — Organizers withdraw a documentary about a friendship between a Buddhist and a Muslim following threats.

Burma to Purchase Chinese-Pakistani JF-17 Fighter Jets | Diplomat — According to local media, Myanmar will become the first foreign purchaser of the Sino-Pakistan jointly produced fighter.

PHILIPPINES

U.S. Phasing Out Its Counterterrorism Unit in Philippines | NYT — American Special Forces will continue to help Philippine security forces counter a smaller, lingering Islamist threat, but the size of the mission will drop to a dozen or so advisers from its current 320 service members.

Corruption in the Philippines: Over a barrel | Economist — The Philippine police had clapped two senators in jail by June 26th and had two secure hospital rooms ready for a third as they began rounding up politicians accused of stealing public funds. The round-up is rocking the political establishment. It appears to reinvigorate President Benigno Aquino’s campaign against corruption.

THAILAND

Prison threat from Thai junta for Dr Pavin Chachavalpongpun | SEA Globe — Along with other prominent Thais who live outside the country and are critical of the military junta who took over the government of Thailand in a coup d’état on 22 May, Dr Pavin is wanted by the regime and has been threatened with two years in prison if he does not surrender.

Is the Thai Junta Targeting Cambodian Migrants? | Diplomat — The military could be cracking down on illegal migrants as part of a wider program.

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Regional Roundup for the week of 6.23.14

Top links this week include international scrutiny on Thailand, beginning with the military junta. In addition to increasing pressure on activists, the government has cracked down on illegal labor, prompting a reverse flow of migrants back to other parts of Southeast Asia and Cambodia in particular. Thailand’s fishing industry remains under fire for slave labor and human trafficking problems, causing the U.S. to downgrade Thailand’s status and raising the possibility of economic penalties.. Major agricultural conglomerates Tesco and CP have so far refused to boycott Thai fishmeal producers.

ExSE FOCUS

U.S. Gives Thailand and Malaysia Lowest Grade on Human Trafficking | NYT — A State Department report released Friday ranks the two Southeast Asian countries with North Korea, Iran and Zimbabwe.

CP Foods condemns slavery and human trafficking in fishing industry | @guardianletters | Guardian — As chairman of Charoen Pokphand (CP) Foods, I want to confirm our position regarding Thai fishing boats supplying fish for the production of fishmeal to the feed mill industry, including CPF (The supermarket slave trail, 11 June).

Thai Police Detain 8 Anti-coup Protesters | Irrawaddy — Police in Thailand arrested eight people on Sunday for demonstrating against the nation’s increasingly repressive military junta, including a man who was dragged away by undercover officers for reading a copy of George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” outside one of Bangkok’s most luxurious shopping malls.

Laos extradites drug suspects to Yunnan | GoKunming — Yunnan has long been the country’s main entry point for illegal drugs. Despite increased interdiction efforts, international law enforcement cooperation and recent large-scale busts, it appears the province’s ‘Drug War‘ is becoming more costly and having only a small effect on the overall flow of narcotics across the border.

CHINA

World Briefing: China: Police Kill 13 in Attack in Xinjiang Region | NYT — Police officers shot dead 13 attackers on Saturday who rammed a vehicle into the main police station in the region of Xinjiang, according to media reports.

Sinosphere Blog: The Latest Icon in Artistic Rebellion: A Cabbage | NYT — There’s a reason the Chinese authorities are not known for their sense of humor. They even stopped the artist Han Bing when he went to Tiananmen Square with the latest trendy object in the Chinese art world — a pet cabbage.

Leaning In … to Corruption | ChinaFile — It’s no secret that graft is an essential part of climbing the Chinese Communist Party ranks. Now, according to Chinese state media, ambitious female cadres are increasingly being caught taking bribes and trading favors.

From Half the Sky to ‘Leftovers’ | ChinaFile — “There’s very little evidence that urban women have turned their scarcity into economic gain,” former journalist and sociologist Leta Hong Fincher writes in Leftover Women, the result of three years voluminous research towards a Ph.D. at China’s prestigious Tsinghua University, which will be released on May 1 in the United States by Zed Books.

In Hong Kong, an Unofficial Election Draws Beijing’s Ire | NYT — More than 350,000 Hong Kong residents voted Friday in a nonbinding referendum on how their next leader should be chosen. The Chinese government called it “illegal and invalid.”

Chinese Government Tightens Constraints on Press Freedom | NYT — China announced restrictions Wednesday requiring reporters to receive permission from employers for investigative work and banning personal websites.

China’s Retiring Migrant Workers Have No Place to Call Home | ChinaFile — A generation of Chinese people from rural areas who moved to the big cities to find work is reaching retirement age, but many are finding they have been left outside the country’s urban pension system despite extensive reforms in recent years.

Tibet: Taming the west | Economist — WHEN it opened eight years ago, the railway from Golmud to Lhasa was one of the most ambitious rail ventures ever attempted. This September, an extension of the line will open from Lhasa to Shigatse, the first part of a further plan to knit Tibet into the rest of China.

REGION

In Push to Assert Rights, China Plans to Send 2nd Oil Rig to Waters Near Vietnam | NYT — Even as the two countries are in dispute over a Chinese oil rig in the South China Sea, Beijing is pressing ahead with new plans to assert its rights there.

To Bolster Its Claims, China Plants Islands in Disputed Waters | NYT — China is moving sand onto reefs and shoals to add new islands to the contested Spratly archipelago, alarming Vietnam, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations that claim sovereignty over it.

China Sends Top Diplomat to Begin Talks With Vietnam | NYT — A senior Chinese official will meet with Vietnam’s deputy prime minister in the first high-level discussions since tensions between the countries escalated in May.

Fearing a Junta Crackdown, Cambodian Workers Stream Out of Thailand | NYT — In a chaotic exodus, tens of thousands of Cambodians have left the country, apparently driven by fears of a crackdown on illegal laborers by the military junta that seized power last month.

A Largely Indian Victory in World War II, Mostly Forgotten in India | NYT — The memory of the bloodiest battle of the war there, a 1944 encounter that cost the Japanese much of their best army in Burma, is complicated by India’s colonial past.

CAMBODIA

Cambodia blames Thailand as 220,000 migrant labourers cross border | Guardian — Cambodia has blamed Thailand’s military junta for a mass exodus of migrant workers that has seen 220,000 labourers flee the country and allegedly claimed the lives of several people amid fears of a crackdown on illegal labour.

The Cambodian People’s Party: A Deficit of Leadership | Diplomat — The party needs to allow its members to speak freely if it is going to make the reforms it needs to survive.

INDONESIA

Political Upstarts Work to Propel Change in an Indonesia Tired of Corruption | NYT — A small but growing group of political upstarts is emerging and its members seem united in a belief that the Indonesian public is fed up with the level of corruption in the nation.

A Contest to the Death in Indonesia | Irrawaddy — The Pasola festival on the Indonesian island of Sumba is a ritual confrontation of spear-wielding warriors on horseback that occurs annually. Two clans line up some 20 horsemen, who each attempt to prove their bravery by attacking members of the opposing clan on a sacred field.

LAOS

The disappeared | SEA Globe –The whereabouts of renowned Lao development worker Sombath Somphone remain unknown and the case has become a cause célèbre. Southeast Asia Globe spoke to his wife, Shui Meng, about the man behind the media attention.

MYANMAR/BURMA

Myanmar Camps Denounced | NYT — A senior United Nations aid official said Tuesday that in camps for the stateless Muslim group known as the Rohingya, in Myanmar, she witnessed the worst human suffering she had ever seen in such places.

Burma Gas Exports Worth $3.3Bln Last Year After Slight Drop | Irrawaddy — Burma’s earnings from natural gas exports fell in the last fiscal year as more of the resource was consumed domestically but shipments of greater volumes to China as a new pipeline comes up to speed are expected to boost earnings this year.

PHILIPPINES

US-Philippines to Hold South China Sea Naval Drill | Diplomat — Later this month, the U.S. and Philippine Navies and Marines will hold a joint drill near the Scarborough Shoal.

THAILAND

What Will Thailand’s Post-Coup ‘Democracy’ Look Like? | Diplomat — When democracy does return to Thailand it will surely be very unlike anything the country has seen before.

Thai Telcos ‘On Hold’: Interventionist Junta’s First Economic Casualty | Irrawaddy — Thailand’s telecoms sector is fast emerging as the first economic casualty of an interventionist junta in a country that has swung between democratic and military rule more times than any other nation in Southeast Asia.

The family | SEA Globe –When it comes to wealthy Thai families, none can compete with the Chirathivats. Not many can compare when it comes to business nous either. Busaba Chirathivat, Thailand’s queen of retail, sits down with Southeast Asia Globe to discuss family ties, shopping malls and equal opportunities.

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