Category Archives: NEWS DIGEST

Regional Roundup for Week of 12.17.16

EXSE FOCUS

Today, our focus is on protests in Southeast Asia that are related to environmental concerns. In Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and China, civil society groups have made headlines for pressuring their governments to stop future environmental destruction or to address past destruction.  

Vietnamese Villagers Petition Local Government About Formosa Payouts—Radio Free Asia About 1,000 villagers from Thach Ha district in Vietnam’s north central coastal province of Ha Tinh on Monday submitted a complaint to the local People’s Committee office about what they consider to be unfair compensation for those affected by a Taiwanese steel plant’s toxic chemical spill.

Environmental Advocates Push for More Renewable Energy in Burma—The Irrawaddy Civil society organizations demand cleaner alternatives to planned coal and hydropower plants, which have been objected to by locals

Related: KNU Criticized for Lack of Transparency in Development Projects The Irrawaddy

Critics step up mining bill fight—Phnom Penh Post A network protesting against mining activities vowed Sunday to use every tactic at its disposal to overturn the National Legislative Assembly-approved mining law, saying it would destroy community rights.

China Has Made Strides in Addressing Air Pollution, Environmentalist Says—New York Times Ma Jun notes progress in acknowledging the scope of the problem, despite continuing constraints on public discussion that might stir social unrest.

Related: China’s Environmental Health Crisis: The International and Comparative Perspective—CFR

Related: Time-lapse: 72 hours of air pollution in Shijiazhuang

Related: Smog in China’s Sichuan Sparks Protests From Students, Elderly

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Where China stokes conflict, Vietnamese dissidents find opportunity—Southeast Asia Globe Vietnamese dissidents are using anti-China rallies as recruiting grounds for their cause//This is an interesting article that helps shed light on the complexities of Vietnam’s relationship with China.

If Donald Trump Pushes on Taiwan, How China Could Push Back—New York Times The president-elect has suggested that the “One China” policy could be used as a bargaining chip, but China has some leverage of its own.

Images show ‘significant’ Chinese weapons systems in South China Sea—The Guardian Washington-based thinktank says Beijing has installed anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems and guns on artificial reefs

‘There is nothing we can do’: Philippines powerless to stop China building in disputed waters, Manila says—South China Morning Post The foreign minister of the Philippines conceded Friday that it is powerless to do anything about China’s installation of weapons on disputed reefs in the South China Sea

Why does Indonesia cling to its plagued Chinese infrastructure projects?—South China Morning Post China’s signature US$5.1 billion Jakarta-Bandung high-speed rail project has been shelved for now. But Chinese infrastructure developers are still taking a dominant position in Indonesia’s ambitious 35,000MW electricity expansion.//As you would expect, it is because the Chinese infrastructure projects are faster and cheaper than the alternatives

Podcast: A Chinese Perspective on the U.S. Election—CFR On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, Chen Dingding, professor of international relations at Jinan University and the founding director of the newly established Intellisia Institute, offers his advice on how Chinese leaders should approach a Trump administration.

Southeast Asian Nations Assess Options Amid Trade-Deal Uncertainty—Wall Street Journal Southeast Asian officials hunkered together to assess where the region stands in the wake of global shocks, including the near-certain death of a trade deal with the U.S. following the election of Donald Trump as president.

SUSTAINABILITY AND NATURAL RESOURCES

Southeast Asia’s Haze Needs a Global Solution—The Diplomat The world community is a part of Indonesia’s haze problem. It can also be part of the solution.

Green groups raise red flags over Jokowi’s widely acclaimed haze law—Mongabay A crucial new government regulation on peatland management in Indonesia is spurring debate over whether the country is going far enough to prevent a repeat of last year’s disastrous forest fires.

Why is climate-conscious Vietnam choosing coal over nuclear?—South China Morning Post Vietnam’s decision to abandon its nascent nuclear power programme and turn back to cheaper, dirtier, coal says much about where the nation thought it was headed – and about where it has ended up.//One interesting angle to look at is how this affects cooperation between Vietnam and Russia, since according to one expert,“the Ninh Thuan-1 nuclear power plant was supposed to become one of the flagships of Russia-Vietnam cooperation. There was a lot of time and effort invested in the development of the project by Rosatom.”

ADB $400 Million Loan to Help Indonesia Meet Energy Demand—ADB ADB has signed a $400 million loan to help expand the Tangguh liquefied natural gas (LNG) production facility, one of the largest in Indonesia.

Mined-out cities: the true cost of coal—The Third Pole Many Chinese cities were founded on coal but are now being ruined by it. //Great photos in this article

A Glimmer of Hope for the Salween? | Myanmar Times—International Rivers China’s decision to shelve hydropower projects presents an important opportunity for Myanmar to re-evaluate their planned dams on the Salween.

Another victim of illegal logging and forest crime?—Mekong Eye The killing in Myanmar of a journalist who covered issues related to illegal logging in the country must be investigated thoroughly and all findings made public.

China’s clean-energy giants on an overseas shopping spree—Mekong Eye Chinese state-funded renewable energy firms are spreading the net overseas, as quality new projects become harder to come by at home, and have already been successful in snapping up some prime operational projects, while bidding for others, both in developed and emerging markets.

National environmental policy gets an update—Mekong Eye Myanmar will get a new national environmental policy in early 2017, say officials from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation. The retooled version will update the 22-year-old policy currently in place.

Launch of Open Data Portal Brings Environment and Development Data to Myanmar—Mekong Eye USAID-supported Mekong Partnership for the Environment (MPE) partners have launched an innovative data portal in Myanmar

Singapore, Malaysia must try to increase fresh water supply from Johor river: Masagos—Channel News Asia  Singapore and Malaysia need to look at ways to increase the supply of fresh water from the Johor River, even as a new barrage there is already helping to make a difference, said Singapore Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli on Friday (Dec 16).

CHINA

Caught in Quicksand’: Gay and HIV-Positive in China—ChinaFile China is a country with giant cities, huge skyscrapers, and the world’s second largest economy. But underneath its modern looking facade, the country is still very traditional; this is especially true of attitudes toward homosexuality.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Hun Sen and Duterte: strongmen plan crackdown on regional crime—Southeast Asia Globe Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, whose war on drugs has claimed almost 6,000 lives since July, touches down in Phnom Penh today

Related: A budding friendship Phnom Penh Post

Singapore expands its paternalistic policy on race—The Economist The president will now be chosen partly on racial criteria

Thai fishing industry: abuses continue in unpoliced waters, Greenpeace claims—The Guardian Report alleges exposure of human rights abuses including trafficking and labour exploitation has simply prompted move to more remote waters

A new chapter, but the same old story—New Mandala With the new Thai king crowned and his Privy Councillors appointed, Pavin Chachavalpongpun argues that cooperation between the monarchy and military will be closer than ever, in a blow for hopes of pro-democratic reform.

Sam Rainsy’s last stand?—Southeast Asia Globe After losing four elections and with cracks in his party widening, the 2018 general election could be Sam Rainsy’s last as the leader of the Cambodian opposition

Related: Interview: ‘Change is Imminent. Dictatorship Will be Uprooted’—Radio Free Asia//An interview with Sam Rainsy

A reforming minister tries to spur Indonesia’s economy—The Economist But the country’s growth remains disappointing

The rise of political Islam requires a balancing act from Indonesian President Joko Widodo—South China Morning Post As the ranks of protesters thickened in central Jakarta on December 2, turning into Indonesia’s biggest mass demonstration since the end of authoritarian rule in 1998, President Joko Widodo grappled with a dilemma: should he join the rally or stay away?

Related: Jokowi’s calculated soft approach to Jakarta’s radicals New Mandala

UN urges Suu Kyi to visit northern Arakan State—DVB The United Nations urged State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday to visit the country’s divided Arakan State to reassure civilians they will be protected amid accusations that soldiers have raped Rohingya Muslim women houses and killed civilians.

Myanmar’s Rohingya insurgency may have links to hardliners in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia—South China  Morning Post A group of Rohingya Muslims that attacked Myanmar border guards in October is headed by people with links to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said on Thursday, citing members of the group.

Myanmar government ‘following the law’ in Rakhine, probe panel says—South China Morning Post A commission set up by Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi to investigate attacks on border posts and the army’s brutal response on Wednesday said security forces had abided by the law in a Muslim-majority area of northwestern Rakhine State.

Related: Myanmar’s Rakhine Commission Wraps up Visit to Maungdaw as Grim New Report Surfaces—RFA

Members of Parliament to Study Chinese Language—The Irrawaddy ‘It is not a bad idea to learn Chinese since China is our neighbor and also a superpower,’ says Dr. Kyaw Than Tun.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has signed executive order to amend the constitution—South China Morning Post Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has set into motion a proposal to amend the 1987 constitution to set up a federal system of government to end conflict and give a further boost to the economy.

Standing Up to a Strongman—New York Times The people of the Philippines are taking to the streets to protest their brutal new president.

Related: ‘If You Resist, You Get Hurt, or Die’: Filipinos Praise Duterte’s Antidrug Campaign—New York Times

Philippine President Duterte Admitted to Personally Killing People—Foreign Policy “I was really looking for a confrontation so I could kill.”

U.S. Halts Aid Package to Philippines Amid Drug Crackdown—New York Times The decision reflected “significant concerns around the rule of law and civil liberties,” a spokeswoman for the American Embassy said.

Viet Nam Schools in a Class of Their Own—ADB The latest results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), published earlier this month, confirm that secondary schools in the southeast Asian country are in many ways in a class of their own.

Wildlife smugglers using Facebook to sell ivory and rhino horn—China Dialogue Wildlife traffickers from a small, sleepy village in Vietnam are using Facebook to offload large amounts of illegal ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts, an investigation has revealed.

Thailand to Resume Peace Talks with Muslim Separatists in Malaysia—The Irrawaddy ‘Our goal is to minimize losses and violence. Talks right now are at the trust-building stage,” says Thai negotiator.

 

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Regional Roundup for Week of 12.9.16

This week saw stories about natural disasters in Indonesia and Thailand, and human rights disasters in Myanmar and the Philippines. Also, Thailand has a new king, Cambodian opposition party vice president Ken Sokha is pardoned, and Trump continues to scare us all with his twitter account.

EXSE FOCUS

Thai Prince Becomes King—New York Times The prince, Maha Vajiralongkorn, accepted the invitation to be the king of Thailand in a ceremony on Thursday.

Related: Thailand’s long succession—New Mandala

‘They Are Slaughtering Us Like Animals’—New York Times Inside President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal antidrug campaign in the Philippines, our photojournalist documented 57 homicide victims over 35 days.//This is the most powerful piece of journalism that I have seen in a long time. The photos are very disturbing, but this piece effectively conveys the horror of Duterte’s “war on drugs.” The author writes, “I have worked in 60 countries, covered wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and spent much of 2014 living inside West Africa’s Ebola zone, a place gripped by fear and death. What I experienced in the Philippines felt like a new level of ruthlessness: police officers’ summarily shooting anyone suspected of dealing or even using drugs, vigilantes’ taking seriously Mr. Duterte’s call to “slaughter them all.”

Related: Duterte Says Trump Wished His Drug Crackdown ‘Success’

Confronting genocide in Myanmar –New Mandala Interethnic divisions in a young democracy cannot be downplayed or wished away, and it’s time Myanmar’s government and the international community acknowledge strong evidence that genocide is being perpetrated against the Rohingya and act to end it, Katherine Southwick writes.

Related: The Dark Depths of Myanmar’s Rohingya Tragedy—The Diplomat

Related: Killings, rapes, burnings: Rohingya describe their terror after fleeing Myanmar—South China Morning Post

Malaysian PM urges intervention in Arakan State—DVB Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak called for foreign intervention to stop the “genocide” of Rohingya Muslims in Burma on Sunday, as he joined thousands of Rohingya protesters in Kuala Lumpur.//One of the key features of ASEAN is its commitment to the principle of non-interference in the affairs of other states. The treatment of the Rohingya in Myanmar is once again putting this commitment to the test. Back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, human rights violations in Myanmar caused ASEAN to seriously reevaluate its principle of non-intervention for the first time since the Cold War. It was this that lead ASEAN to adopt the policy of “constructive engagement.” Read Amitav Acharya’s “Constructing a Security Community in Southeast Asia: ASEAN and the Problem of Regional Order” for more information on this.

Related: PM Najib leads Malaysian protest against ‘genocide’ of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar—South China Morning Post

Related: Malaysia, Don’t Use Burma to Distract from Disquiet at Home—The Irrawaddy

China transforms smaller Southeast Asian neighbours with railway, power plant and property investment—South China Morning Post China’s investment is transforming its smaller Southeast Asian neighbours like never before while helping turn Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar into bigger destinations for its exports.

Joy as China shelves plans to dam ‘angry river’—The Guardian Environmentalists celebrate as Beijing appears to abandon plans to build giant hydroelectric dams on 1,750-mile Nujiang.//The author argues that economics is the most important explanation for the decision. Phillips writes, “Waning demand for power, a consequence of China’s slowing economy, and the difficulty of transmitting electricity from remote regions such as Yunnan to the rest of the country, means many believe large-scale dams no longer make financial sense.” If this is the case, we are likely to see more Chinese dam projects abandoned in the future. However, Chinese dam developers will continue to search for financially viable projects in other countries.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Trump, Taiwan and China: The Controversy, Explained—New York Times No American president or president-elect is believed to have spoken with a Taiwanese president in decades — until a fateful telephone call on Friday.

What’s Behind Growing Japan-Singapore Relations?—The Diplomat As they celebrate 50 years of ties, the two Asian states are moving ever closer amid regional and global anxieties.

Pay Attention to Australia and Singapore’s Growing Defense Ties—The Diplomat The two states share a common vision for Asian security, and are increasing cooperation to that end.

Has China offered to bail out Malaysia’s 1MDB? At what cost?—South China Morning Post China’s economic largesse to Malaysia was back in the spotlight on Wednesday following an apparent renewed effort by Beijing to bail out the Southeast Asian country’s beleaguered 1MDB state investment fund.

Related: Singapore to Ban Former Goldman Banker in Connection With 1MDB Scandal—WSJ

Demise of TPP revives RCEP—Phnom Penh Post The announcement by US president-elect Donald Trump that he intends to pull the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement has breathed new life into the largely dormant Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a rival multilateral free trade proposal that puts China and ASEAN in leading roles.//Currently, RCEP is far less ambitious than the TPP, especially in terms of its depth of coverage on goods and services. It also lacks environment and labor standards, which were included in the TPP. For a comprehensive list of the similarities and differences, see this chart by the Asian Trade Centre.

SUSTAINABILITY AND NATURAL RESOURCES

Why the Mekong River Commission Matters—The Diplomat Despite its limitations, the body is key to ongoing efforts to save one of the world’s largest and longest rivers.

Burma Rivers Network Calls for a Halt to Dam Projects in Conflict Areas—The Irrawaddy Findings from BRN’s two-year documentation process indicate that completed and planned dam projects have diminished locals’ livelihoods and security.

Indonesia to Tackle Loss of Forests, Fires –The Irrawaddy Indonesia strengthens its moratorium on converting peat swamps to plantations in a move a conservation research group says will help prevent annual fires

Hydropower in Laos: An Alternative Approach—East by Southeast It’s time to take another look at the future of energy in Southeast Asia.

VN green energy gets strong tail wind—Mekong Eye Việt Nam is hoping to boost its renewable energy production, especially wind and solar energy, to more than 10.7 per cent of total generation by 2030, up from the previously planned 6 per cent.

How Big Banks Are Putting Rain Forests in Peril—New York Times Global lenders, sometimes flouting their own policies, have financed projects in Indonesia and elsewhere that destroy ecosystems and contribute to climate change.

“My spirit is there”: life in the shadow of the Mong Ton dam—Mongabay The Mong Ton is the largest of five dams planned for Myanmar’s stretch of the Salween River. If it is built, traditional ways of life, and areas of global ecological significance, will be gone forever.

Off-grid solar to help Myanmar bring electricity to all by 2030—The Guardian In a country where only 16% of rural homes have power a government-led scheme is bringing electricity to thousands of villages

CHINA

32 dead in China’s second major coal mine blast in a week—South China Morning Post Thirty-two miners were confirmed dead on Sunday in the second coal mine explosion in a week on the mainland, state-run media reported.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

The end of cheap labour in Southeast Asia?—Southeast Asia Globe As the International Labour Organisation kicked off its 16th annual Asia and the Pacific Regional Meeting today, Maurizio Bussi, director of the ILO country office for Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, spoke to Southeast Asia Globe about the challenge of turning the region’s economic growth into social progress

Burma suspends sending of migrant workers to Malaysia amid diplomatic rowDVB The Department of Labour in Naypyidaw on Tuesday ordered overseas employment agencies to temporarily stop sending migrants to Malaysia amid rising tensions between the two countries over the treatment of Rohingya Muslims in western Burma.

Related: Myanmar bans workers from going to Malaysia as Rohingya crisis grows—The Star

MYANMAR

Kofi Annan, in Myanmar, Voices Concern Over Reported Abuses of Rohingya—New York Times Mr. Annan, the former head of the United Nations who leads a commission that was formed to study conditions in restive Rakhine State, urged security services to follow the “rule of law.”

Related: Myanmar’s Leader Faulted for Silence as Army Campaigns Against Rohingya—New York Times

Related: Aung San Suu Kyi accuses international community of stoking unrest in Myanmar—The Guardian

Obama Lifts Some Sanctions Against Myanmar—New York Times The low-key announcement came despite the fact that Myanmar’s army is in the midst of a brutal campaign to drive out the Rohingya, a Muslim minority.

Shan State MPs vote to designate Northern Alliance ‘terrorists’—DVB In an emergency session on Wednesday, the Shan State legislature passed an urgent proposal to designate as “terrorist organisations” the four ethnic armed groups fighting with Burmese government forces in the state’s north.

Shan State Peace Talks Fall Apart—The Irrawaddy ‘Now let’s go back to our territory and launch this war again,’ says TNLA Col Tar Phone Kyaw, as talks fail to materialize.

THAILAND

Thailand to Investigate BBC over Profile of New King—The Irrawaddy ‘Authorities have to pursue the matter. It is their duty to pursue anything that is against the law,’ says Thai Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan.

Related: Prayut takes aim at BBC Thai over report—Bangkok Post

Severe Flooding in Southern Thailand Kills 14—The Irrawaddy Severe flooding due to heavy rain in southern Thailand has killed 14 people, including five students.

PHILIPPINES

Philippine vice-president resigns, promises to lead opposition to Duterte policies—South China Morning Post Philippine Vice-President Leni Robredo vowed on Monday to spearhead national opposition to extrajudicial killings and other flashpoint issues surrounding President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial anti-crime crackdown.

Related: Philippines Vice-President resigns due to differences with Duterte administration—Investvine

Who built Marcos’ tomb?—New Mandala Asia’s oldest democracy is starkly divided, as Filipinos’ disappointment in post-EDSA democracy leads to disillusionment and, for some, a rise in authoritarian nostalgia, Cleve Arguelles writes.

Growing insecurity in Muslim Mindanao—New Mandala Five months into Duterte’s presidency, there are worrying signs that the long-running peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front may be off track, Nathan Shea writes.

CAMBODIA

Cambodia’s King Grants Royal Pardon to Kem Sokha—RFA Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha received a royal pardon on Friday, freeing him from serving a five-month jail sentence and setting the stage for an easing of a year of political tensions as the authoritarian Southeast Asian country heads into election in 2017 and 2018.

Boom built on ‘slavery’—Phnom Penh Post The use of debt bondage to trap workers in “modern day slavery” is widespread in many of Cambodia’s brick-making factories, indicates research by rights group Licadho, whose findings suggest the Kingdom’s recent building boom is built on the illegal practice.

Shifting Idylls: Urban-Rural Dynamics in Cambodia—The Diplomat A closer look at how the city and the countryside – and perceptions of them – are evolving.

MALAYSIA

Najib’s fear campaign—New Mandala The Malaysian Prime Minister’s ruthless tactics to hold onto power at all costs demonstrate that he is the one who is most afraid while his people are willing to fight on, Bridget Welsh writes.

Related: Why Malaysian PM Najib Razak is playing the race card—South China Morning Post

INDONESIA

Indonesia Earthquake Kills Almost 100 in Aceh Province—New York Times The temblor had a preliminary magnitude of 6.5 and struck while many were asleep.

Related: Indonesian government declares state of emergency after quake leaves thousands displaced in Aceh province—South China Morning Post

Indonesia Muslims Push to Jail Christian Politician Accused of Blasphemy—WSJ Conservative groups held the second mass rally in a month against the capital’s Christian governor for allegedly insulting the Quran, stoking tensions in a city on edge following recent arrests linked to Islamic State.

Related:  Has Jokowi handed a strategic victory to radicals?—New Mandala

Indonesia’s Inward Turn—The Diplomat The country’s focus on domestic priorities is a loss for ASEAN and the world.

Jokowi wakes up the leviathan—New Mandala Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo is turning state-owned enterprises into ‘strong buffaloes’ to drive his economic development strategy. But, not everyone is happy, not least the country’s private sector. Kyunghoon Kim explains why.

This week’s news digest was curated by Gabriella Neusner.

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Regional Roundup for Week of 12.2.16

This special News Digest compiles the major headlines from the past two weeks. Much to pay attention to in Southeast Asia during these weeks: Ethnic violence in Myanmar continues to worsen, eliciting responses from around the region, particularly in Malaysia and China. Also this week, commentary and criticism compounds around plans to dam and divert parts of the Mekong River. Finally, at the same time as China deepens its influence in a number of Southeast Asian countries, pockets anti-Chinese sentiment is rising such as tension between Chinese and Burmese residents of Mandalay and rising fearfulness of Indonesia’s Chinese population in the wake of mass protest against Jakarta’s Governor Ahok in the capital city.

EXSE FOCUS

Philippines to Declare Marine Sanctuary in South China Sea—New York Times President Rodrigo Duterte has proposed a no-fishing zone within Scarborough Shoal, a reef that China also claims — a change that may have little effect.//Protecting coral reefs and fisheries sounds good, but don’t get too excited. Authors say that China is unlikely to respect the unilateral fishing ban imposed by Philippines. Plus, according to a coral reefs expert, “the lagoon sanctuary would offer only marginal fisheries protection in the absence of a corresponding fishing ban along the shoal’s outer flanks.”

Related: Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte to declare no-fishing zone for all at disputed Scarborough Shoal—South China Morning Post

China’s Influence Grows in Ashes of Trans-Pacific Trade Pact—New York Times Countries around the Asia-Pacific rim are shifting allegiances as a China-led trade deal excluding the United States gains momentum.

Related: What’s in the TPP that has been omitted from the China-led free trade option?—South China Morning Post //Headline is somewhat misleading. Yes, China is part of RCEP and has a lot of influence in its negotiation process, but the negotiation is officially being led by ASEAN, not China. This is an important distinction.

Pacific Rim States Can (And Will) Move Forward on Trade Without the US—The Diplomat With TPP’s death, China will gladly take on the burdens and benefits of regional economic leadership.//and the US will almost certainly “miss out on considerably economic opportunity as it cedes regional economic leadership — and its accompanying benefits — to China”

Changing Mekong Currents Compound Dam Anxieties in Southeast Asia—The Diplomat Several factors are disrupting the terrain for investment in large hydropower dams, and governments should take note.//Amid the news of expanding dam construction on the Mekong River, the Stimson Center’s Courtney Weatherby explains that the political and financial risks of Mekong dam development have actually been increasing. An important read for those interested in Mekong hydropower. 

Will China Take the Lead on Climate Change?—ChinaFile At a time when the world is looking to China and the United States, the leading emitters of greenhouse gasses, to cooperate under the terms of the Paris Climate Change Agreement of 2015, will China now take the lead in fighting climate change?// This is great analysis from several experts. As of last Tuesday’s interview with the New York Times, Trump suggested that he might change his position on climate change, saying that “I think there is some connectivity” between humans and climate change. However, this does not change that fact the he has appointed a climate change denier as the head of the transition team for the EPA, the agency responsible for the Clean Power Plan.  As a presidential candidate, Trump’s constantly changing positions on key policy areas will continue to frustrate global leaders as they struggle to adapt to the US’s increasing unpredictability.

Related: China prepares to open national carbon market—China Dialogue//This will surpass the EU-ETS as the world’s largest carbon market. The author notes that gathering full and accurate carbon emissions data will be a major challenge

China, Asian Neighbors Step Up Drive to Curb Overuse of Antibiotics as Resistance Fears Grow—RFA Developing countries in East and Southeast Asia have been stepping up their efforts to address the growing global public health threat of the overuse and misuse of antibiotics that health experts say will increase deaths, strain health systems, and impose huge economic costs in the years to come.

‘It will blow up’: fears Myanmar’s deadly crackdown on Muslims will spiral out of control—The Guardian Generations of distrust between Rohingya Muslims and wider Buddhist population have boiled over into reprisals fuelling the spectre of an insurgency.//The escalation on violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state since early October is deeply troubling. There is a lot more on this and on violence in Shan state in the “Southeast Asia” section below. 

 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Moving beyond the Myitsone dam dilemma—New Mandala How a historical border treaty between China and Myanmar could keep both countries out of troubled waters when it comes to the controversial and stalled project.

China offers Myanmar support to end ethnic unrest near border—South China Morning Post China told Myanmar on Wednesday that the two nations should work together to stabilise their shared border, in the wake of a series of attacks by ethnic armed groups on Myanmese security forces and thousands of people crossing into China to escape the violence.//China has a long a complicated relationship with Myanmar. This Diplomat article from 2015 is still useful in understanding China’s tricky situation with regard to Myanmar’s domestic affairs.

China and Laos promise to deepen bilateral ties—South China Morning Post China and Laos pledged on Monday to step up military ties and international ­cooperation, marking the start of Laotian Prime ­Minister Thongloun Sisoulith’s first trip to China since taking ­office in April

China plans US$2 billion film studio and ‘One Belt, One Road’ theme park—South China Morning Post China’s government has announced plans to build a US$2 billion film studio as part of a national push to expand its cultural influence.

Vietnam expanding South China Sea runway, US analysts say—South China Morning Post Vietnam is extending a runway on an island it claims in the South China Sea in apparent response to China’s building of military facilities on artificial islands in the region, a US think tank reported on Thursday

SUSTAINABILITY AND NATURAL RESOURCES

Laos Dam Projects Put Entire Region at Risk | The Bangkok Post—International Rivers Construction is expected to begin in early 2017 on the Pak Beng Hydropower Project, located in the upper reaches of the Mekong River in Pak Beng district, Oudomxay province.

Related: Lao Dam Tests Regional Cooperation—RFA

Xayaburi dam: ‘Testing ground for untried technologies’—Mekong Eye “I miss the Mekong.” A sad smile flickered across the face of Thongkham Phalibai, a mother of two and owner of a grocery store in Luang Prabang.

Killing the Mekong, Dam by Dam—The Diplomat Regional governments have been underestimating the environmental and economic costs of Mekong dams.

Managing the Mekong’s Economy for Whom?—Mekong Eye “Water is liquid capital” proclaims the lead-out of World Wide Fund for Nature’s new report “The Role of the Mekong in the Economy.”

Cambodia’s timber exports to Vietnam continue despite ban—Phnom Penh Post Despite the establishment of a dedicated anti-logging taskforce and the implementation of a ban on the export of logs, Cambodia exported $121 million of wood to Vietnam in the first nine months of this year, according to Vietnamese customs data shared with the Post by NGO Forest Trends.

Environmentalists, solar sector see hope in treaty—Phnom Penh Post A new treaty signed by Cambodia’s delegation to the COP22 climate conference in Marrakesh aims to bolster the country’s nascent solar energy industry, though some say substantial outside assistance is needed for solar to take off.

Related: Fledgling Cambodian solar industry sees glimpse of light—Channel News Asia

Vietnam abandons plan for first nuclear power plants—Channel News Asia Vietnam’s National Assembly voted on Tuesday to scrap plans to build two multi-billion-dollar nuclear power plants with Russia and Japan, after officials cited lower demand forecasts, rising costs and safety concerns.

Despite Climate Change Vow, China Pushes to Dig More Coal—New York Times China is reopening mines amid worries about power supplies, demonstrating how difficult it will be to wean its giant economy from coal dependence.

China to investigate illegal expansion in coal and steel sectors—South China Morning Post China will send inspection teams to investigate and severely punish illegal expansion by coal and steel firms as part of its efforts to slim down the two industries, the country’s cabinet said on Thursday

Migratory birds in peril from trappers—China Dialogue Autumn again and countless birds are preparing to fly south for the winter, unaware of what their journey will bring. During China’s National Day holiday in early October, volunteers took down two large swathes of illegal bird nets, stretching over 20 kilometres.

Despite tough talk, Indonesia’s government is struggling to stem deforestation—The Economist But the weather is helping a little//The author identifies a key challenge for combatting deforestation in Indonesia—lack of capacity at the district level to enforce national forestry regulations.

Overfishing, climate change threatens Thai fishermen—Bangkok Post Environmental groups warn that Thailand and its multi-billion-dollar fishing industry face a losing battle against the impact of overfishing and climate change.

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines unite against Abu Sayyaf—The Star Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have agreed to initiate joint army training to advance efforts to secure the Sulu Sea from rampant piracy.

Malaysia to Summon Burmese Ambassador as Protests Mount Over Treatment of Rohingya—The Irrawaddy Protesters across Southeast Asia demonstrate against the rising violence in Arakan State.

Related: Malaysia Calls on ASEAN to Review Myanmar’s Membership Over Rohingya Crisis

Malaysia plans pilot work scheme for Rohingya refugees—Bangkok Post The UN refugee agency said on Thursday it was working with Malaysia on a pilot scheme to allow refugees from Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya minority to work in the country, in a move that it described as a “win-win” solution.

MALAYSIA

Fresh clampdown on Malaysian activists reveals Najib’s ‘failed governance’, critics say—South China Morning Post Malaysia’s government is attempting to quash political activism through new security laws and fresh arrests. But its critics say the extreme measures only reveal the extent of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s authoritarian regime.

Thousands expected at Malaysian anti-government rally despite arrests—South China Morning Post Thousands of anti-government protesters are expected to gather in Malaysia’s capital on Saturday to demand the resignation of scandal-tainted Prime Minister Najib Razak, despite the arrest of activists and opposition leaders just hours before the rally.

Malaysia’s Najib warns of ‘nightmares’ if ruling party loses power in coming elections—South China Morning Post Scandal-tainted Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak vowed to fight to the end for Malays and Islam on Thursday, as he called on his ruling party to prepare for elections that are “coming soon”.

Crossing the line—New Mandala Are electoral boundaries being redrawn in Malaysia to stifle the opposition vote?

PHILIPPINES

Philippines’ Duterte Threatens to Quit International Criminal Court—Wall Street Journal President Rodrigo Duterte said he might withdraw from the International Criminal Court, where his critics say he could be charged over the thousands killed in his war on drugs.

Duterte’s bodyguards ambushed in southern Philippines on eve of president’s trip—South China Morning Post Seven military bodyguards of President Rodrigo Duterte and two other soldiers were wounded yesterday in an ambush by suspected Islamic militants on the eve of his planned visit to the southern Philippines

Hero or Villain? Burial Reveals Philippines’ Deep Divide on Ferdinand Marcos—The Diplomat Marcos’ burial at Heroes’ Cemetery points to a deep divide: Was the Marcos era the “good old days” or a reign of terror?

MYANMAR

Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar ‘turned away by Bangladesh’—The Guardian Border guards detain hundreds, says Amnesty, while others left in makeshift camps face shortages of food and water

Animosity in a Burmese Hub Deepens as Chinese Get Richer—New York Times The Chinese dominate the economy in Mandalay, Myanmar, a trading town known for dealing in minerals, timber and drugs.

Myanmar’s Opening: Doing Business in Asia’s Final Frontier-The Diplomat Myanmar looks to be on the path to a prosperous future and a fast-growing, dynamic economy.

One year after Myanmar’s historic elections, where is the country headed?—Southeast Asia Globe For decades, Myanmar languished under a military junta, decried as a pariah state by the international community. Following a historic election last November, the country has moved closer to democracy – but the process of real reform has only just begun

Hundreds of Rohingya cross into Bangladesh after fleeing violence in Myanmar—South China Morning Post Hundreds of Rohingya have arrived in Bangladesh after fleeing violence in neighbouring Myanmar, community leaders said on Tuesday, but border guards have pushed back hundreds more despite a United Nations plea to let them in.

Thousands flee to China during govt, militia clashes—South China Morning Post China is giving shelter to more than 3,000 people who have fled Burma after fighting between the government and rebels, and stray shells have fallen inside Chinese territory causing minor damage but no deaths, state media said on Tuesday.

Myanmar Urged by U.N. Expert to Let Aid Flow to Rakhine State—New York Times The expert also said the government should investigate allegations of military reprisals against Rohingya Muslims instead of brushing them aside.

Ethnic Armed Groups Launch Joint Offensive in Northern Shan State—The Irrawaddy Col. Tar Bong Kyaw of the TNLA says the attack came because of recent Burma Army offensives against the ethnic armed groups.

Related: Kachin Independence Army Teams Up with Other Fighters in Myanmar Attack—RFA

‘We are surviving without a dream’—New Mandala Helen Mears details the many hardships faced by Kachin refugees in Malaysia.

Busting the myth that Myanmar is a sanctions success story—New Mandala Engagement succeeded where sanctions failed in encouraging Myanmar’s political reform

Fire on the Salween: Dams in conflict zones could threaten Myanmar’s fragile peace process—Mongabay The five large hydroelectric projects planned for Myanmar’s stretch of the Salween River all fall in or near areas of contested governance. Pushing the projects through could undermine already troubled efforts to end decades of conflict in Myanmar’s ethnic border states.

THAILAND

Thailand seeks to tighten cyber security, raising questions about privacy protection—Channel News Asia Thailand’s military government, which has cracked down on online dissent since seizing power in 2014, is pushing ahead with cyber security bills that rights groups say could mean more extensive online monitoring, raising concerns over privacy protection.

Is there any hope for peace in Thailand’s troubled south?—Southeast Asia Globe Amid faltering peace talks between Thailand’s government and Deep South rebels, insurgents have begun targeting tourist areas and the capital in the hope of gaining leverage at the negotiating table

A Chance for Change in the New Thailand—Foreign Policy Now that the king is gone, can Thailand’s opposition come together to challenge the ruling military junta?

Thailand’s cabinet acknowledges appointment of a new king, paving the way for Rama X’s ascension—South China Morning Post Thailand’s cabinet on Tuesday acknowledged the appointment of a new king, Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said, more than one month after the death of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Thai human rights activists live in growing fear while fighting legal battles—South China Morning Post Leading Thai human rights defenders said there was a growing sense of fear in the country amid judicial and official harassment of activists in an effort to silence criticism.

INDONESIA

Who constructed LGBT identity in Indonesia?—New Mandala In Indonesia the State has shown its fierce opposition to homosexuality. But at the same time, they have helped move LGBT identities from the margins to the mainstream, writes Hendri Yulius.

Jakarta’s violent identity crisis: behind the vilification of Chinese-Indonesians—The Guardian The minority group has had a huge impact on Indonesia’s capital. But the success of its small elite has led to recurring discrimination and bloodshed – which has come to a head as Jakarta’s ethnic Chinese governor runs for election

Protests by Islamic hardliners against Indonesian governor awaken fears for ethnic Chinese—South China Morning Post The capital of Muslim-majority Indonesia is on edge ahead of what is expected to be a second massive protest by conservative Muslims against its Christian governor and no group more so than its Chinese minority.

Related: Fears Rise Among Indonesia’s Ethnic Chinese Amid Blasphemy Probe WSJ

Echoes of past violence haunt Indonesia—New Mandala The mass demonstration that gripped Jakarta earlier this month stirred up memories of the May 1998 riots, Danau Tanu writes.

What’s in your shopping basket? Top companies Kellogg’s, Unilever and Nestlé linked to ‘child-labour palm oil’—South China Morning Post Global firms behind popular brands such as Kit Kat, Colgate toothpaste and Dove cosmetics use palm oil produced by child workers in dangerous conditions, Amnesty International has claimed.

CAMBODIA

Achieving sustainable, inclusive growth—Phnom Penh Post Cambodia is a fast-growing, highly open economy, and just attained lower-middle-income status this year.

Cambodian court upholds life sentences for Khmer Rouge leaders—The Guardian Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan – first leaders of murderous regime to be jailed – lose appeal against conviction over deaths of two million Cambodians

VIETNAM

Privatizing State-Owned Enterprises in Vietnam: Government Dilemmas—The Diplomat “Stalled growth through the failure of SOEs is a threat to political stability.”

Vietnam vows full speed ahead with economic reforms, with or without the TPP—South China Morning Post As Donald Trump prepares to kill the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 12-nation trade pact is helping to spur the biggest overhaul of Vietnam’s economy in decades.

This week’s news digest was curated by Gabriella Neusner.

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Regional Roundup for Week of 11.19.16

Last week, the Trump headlines that dominated most newspapers and news sites were simply too upsetting to engage with in any depth. This week, we’re diving head-first into the fallout from the US election and finding absurd headlines that would have seemed unthinkable a couple of weeks ago.

EXSE FOCUS

As Jakarta governor faces trial for insulting Islam, is Indonesian stability about to unravel?—South China Morning Post Indonesia’s decision on Wednesday to proceed with investigating Jakarta’s popular ethnic Chinese and Christian governor over a controversial allegation of insulting Islam could hurt nearly two decades of peace building between the country’s majority Muslims and its minorities

Related: Jakarta’s ethnic Chinese governor ‘Ahok’ named suspect in blasphemy case that sparked mass protest—South China Morning Post

Related: The perils of a protest—New Mandala //More analysis of the Jakarta protests is in the “Southeast Asia “ section below

Another blow to Obama’s TPP after Vietnam says it won’t ratify trade pact—South China Morning Post Vietnam’s government has stopped seeking the National Assembly’s ratification of the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact, as conditions are not sufficient following changes in the United States, the country’s prime minister said on Thursday.

Related: How TPP Can Survive Trump—The Diplomat It’s too early to declare the agreement dead, and countries are already weighing alternatives.//Someone still has hope! Article suggests that TPP may move forward without the US, and the US coming on board later. Many hundreds of hours of labor hav gone into negotiating this agreement, so hopefully this work will not go to waste.

Related: Shinzo Abe and Najib Razak team up to keep their TPP ambitions alive—South China Morning Post

Southeast Asia Responds to the U.S. Election—CFR Asia Unbound While the incoming U.S. presidential administration focuses on domestic issues that drove the presidential campaign, from health care to tax reform, U.S. relations with Southeast Asia are likely to be mostly forgotten. 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Climate change a Chinese hoax? Beijing gives Donald Trump a lesson in history—The Guardian China points out to global warming denier and president-elect that Republicans under Reagan and Bush actually put global warming on international agenda// As with the US abandonment of the TPP, a US failure to fulfill the promises that it made in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement would dramatically damage the credibility of the US around the world. Climate change skepticism in the US government is one of the most dangerous forces affecting US leadership abroad.

Related: China tells Trump that climate change is not a   China Morning Post

Related: Will China take the lead if Trump pulls out of climate change treaty?—South China Morning Post

China threatens to cut sales of iPhones and US cars if ‘naive’ Trump pursues trade war—The Guardian President-elect ‘will be condemned for his recklessness, ignorance and incompetence’ if he imposes tariffs, says Communist party-controlled paper

Should China’s Neighbors Rely on the U.S. for Protection?—ChinaFile President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on a platform of neo-isolationism that could see many traditional U.S. allies in Asia left without Washington’s support in the newly roiled waters of the South- and East China Seas.

Myanmar Government, Anti-Muslim Leaders Alike Congratulate Trump—RFA Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi sent a letter of congratulations on Wednesday to U.S. president-elect Donald Trump, expressing her hope that the two countries maintain and strengthen their ties, while anti-Muslim leaders in the Southeast Asian nation did the same but for different reasons.//The new leader of the United States is receiving praise from the enthno-centric Arakan National Party in Myanmar because of his anti-Muslim rhetoric. Let that sink in.

CPP sees parallels with protests in America—Phnom Penh Post If Prime Minister Hun Sen was not already adequately pleased with Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election last week, officials from his party have this week found one more reason for him to grin: the post-election protests in America.

Trump change ‘points to calmer waters’ on South China Sea horizon—South China Morning Post The transition to a new administration in Washington and stronger ties between Beijing and Southeast Asian nations are expected to calm waters in the troubled South China Sea in the near term, observers said.

Is China Getting Better at Charming Southeast Asia on the South China Sea?—The Diplomat Beijing looks to be getting better at how it uses soft power in the region.

Philippines’ Duterte makes U-turn on US order for 26,000 rifles—South China Morning Post The Philippines police will push ahead with the purchase of 26,000 assault rifles from a US supplier, the police chief said on Monday, following an about-face by President Rodrigo Duterte, who previously said the deal would be scrapped.

Asia Trade Focus Shifts From U.S. to China-Led Accord—Wall Street Journal Malaysia pins its hopes on Beijing-led free-trade area after Trump election sinks hopes for American-led one

Related:Australia signals support for Chinese-led trade deals to replace TPP—The Guardian

Cambodia signs MoU with China for tourism—Phnom Penh Post Chinese and Cambodian officials have signed a memorandum of understanding to increase exchanges of investment and training for tourism, the Ministry of Tourism said in a press release yesterday

As Malaysia PM Najib visits, Japan to compete with China for high-speed rail project—South China Morning Post Japan will pitch for a lucrative high speed rail project linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, as Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday for a three-day visit.

Japan to Give Malaysia 2 Large Vessels During Najib Visit—The Diplomat New deal could be inked later this week.

SUSTAINABILITY AND NATURAL RESOURCES

Experts question praise of China’s ‘drought relief’—Phnom Penh Post The Mekong River Commission, in a missive posted on their website on Monday, credited China’s “emergency water release” from its Mekong dams with successfully helping to alleviate the drought in the Mekong River Basin earlier this year, a claim disputed by experts

Indonesia Tries New Tactics to Douse Annual Firestorms—Wall Street Journal The Southeast Asian country is confronting one of the world’s worst deforestation problems, one fueled in large part by global demand for some of its major exports: palm oil, pulp and paper.

Wildlife smugglers using Facebook to sell ivory and rhino horn–The Guardian An investigation reveals the social media site is acting as a shopfront for a multimillion dollar trade in animal parts, centred in a small village outside Hanoi

How China’s bid to curb coal output has backfired, encouraging production and increasing mining accidents—South China Morning Post Government efforts to curb coal production capacity in China have backfired, according to analysts, driving up prices, encouraging production and increasing the risk of mining accidents in the rush to produce more of the fuel

Govt to Resume Harvesting Timber—The Irrawaddy The government will resume the harvest of aged timber in northern Burma but will keep a moratorium on harvesting timber along the Pegu mountain range.

Illegal logging ‘ravaging’ Myanmar’s Indawgyi Lake Wildlife Reserve—Mongabay Monitoring by conservationist group Fauna & Flora International indicates widespread logging activity in or near the sanctuary as recently as October 2016.

Vietnam scraps plans to build nuclear power plants—Investvine Vietnam has decided to ditch plans to build two nuclear power plants in its southeastern Ninh Tuan province owing to soaring costs and safety concerns.

Vietnam reduces number of hydropower plants in its Power Development Plan 7—Mekong Eye Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) today said it will remove 471 small and cascade hydropower plants from its Power Development Plan 7 (PDP 7) that would have had a combined installed capacity of 2,059 MW.

KLCM: Sucking Blood from Earth – Thailand Diverts the Mekong River and Threatens Its Water Security—Mekong Eye

Incomes of Thousands of Cambodian Villagers to be Harmed by Don Sahong Dam—Mekong Eye The lives of the Preag Romkil villagers have turned to grief since Laos started building the Don Sahong Dam on the other side of the border.

Official speaks out against coal power—Mekong Eye If the people say “no” to coal, so do we, say government officials. In an interview with The Myanmar Times this week, a deputy permanent secretary of the Electricity and Energy Department has confirmed that the government has no plans to pursue coal-based energy.

Vietnam Cracks Down on Dissenters—RFA The Vietnamese government is escalating a nationwide crackdown on human rights activists and people critical of the government’s handling of the chemical spill that devastated the country’s central coast, according to Amnesty International and other reports.

Open Letter to the Developers of the Don Sahong Dam—Mekong Eye//Not a new trend, but still interesting to see how Vietnamese NGOs under the umbrella of government control (Vietnam River Network and WARECOD) have signed this letter. It shows that some forms of protest are permitted in Vietnam, so long as they do not threaten the legitimacy of the government

Laos dam projects put entire region at risk—Bangkok Post Almost two weeks ago, Laos notified the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Secretariat of its intention to develop the Pak Beng dam on the mainstream Mekong River, following its previous notifications on the controversial Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams.

Choking off the Mekong—Bangkok Post The Mekong, Asia’s third-longest international river, is increasingly dammed, notably by China in its upper part and Laos in the lower stretches./ The authors  make several recommendations, including this interesting one: “Thailand, as a key power importer from Laos, can do more by lowering its projected electricity demand to a more realistic level to avoid power reserve surpluses.“

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Jakarta Protest, Tied to Faith, May Have Deeper Links to Secular Politics—New York Times Analysts say politicians are exploiting religious fervor to challenge the capital’s governor and his close ally, President Joko Widodo.

Ahok, the FPI and PilPres 2019—New Mandala The angry protests against Ahok weren’t about his race. Instead they were aimed at bringing him down for his efforts against religious groups and their illegal cash flows, writes Russell Dunne.

Violence Escalates Between Myanmar Forces and Rohingya—New York Times After two soldiers were killed by attackers, troops of the Buddhist-majority government burned villages in Rakhine State close to the Bangladesh border.

Related: Burma Army Says 86 Killed in Fighting in Arakan State—The Irrawaddy

Related: What is Happening in Western Myanmar?—CFR Asia Unbound

Hundreds of Rohingyas flee to Bangladesh—DVB Hundreds of Rohingya Muslims are fleeing a military crackdown in western Burma to Bangladesh, trying to escape an upsurge of violence that has brought the total number of dead confirmed by the army to more than 130.

ASEAN lawmakers call for Arakan probeDVB A group of parliamentarians from member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are calling on Burma’s government to investigate alleged abuses in northern Arakan State as a military lockdown in the region continues in the wake of a series of attacks on border police early last month.

Govt Refutes Human Rights Report on Arakan State Violence—The Irrawaddy The govt refutes a Human Rights Watch report that said more than 400 buildings in three Rohingya Muslim villages in Maungdaw Township were burned.

Burma’s Abused, Intimidated LGBT People Long for Acceptance in New Era—The Irrawaddy One year after the election that brought the NLD to power, many LGBT activists are disappointed by a lack of progress toward ensuring their rights.

Myanmar struggles to control tumbling currency—Investvine Myanmar’s central bank has increasing difficulties to prevent the depreciation of the country’s currency, the kyat, which has reached new record lows these days.

One year later, Rainsy’s ‘escape’ remains divisive—Phnom Penh Post A year ago today, opposition leader Sam Rainsy turned his back on a promise to return to Cambodia and face down a two-year prison sentence for defamation revealed while he was abroad.

Malaysia Silences 1MDB Whistleblower in Blow to Rights—The Diplomat The sentencing of an opposition politician is just the latest attempt to cover up a deepening 1MDB scandal.

Anti-Najib alliance brings Anwar Ibrahim back into the crosshairs—Southeast Asia Globe The case of jailed opposition heavyweight Anwar Ibrahim has never been far from Malaysia’s consciousness, but a new pact with former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has returned him to the spotlight

Mahathir Mohamad urges Malaysians to join protest rally against Prime Minister Najib Razak as tension grows—South China Morning Post Former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad on Wednesday threw his weight behind a massive rally planned for this weekend to demand that scandal-tainted Prime Minister Najib Razak resign, with clashes feared between protesters and pro-government groups

Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste Prepare for Strategic Elections—The Diplomat Elections in the two countries could determine their future interactions with ASEAN neighbors.

Got milk? Demand for dairy soars in Southeast Asia—Southeast Asia Globe Thanks to rapid urbanisation and rising incomes, Southeast Asia is consuming dairy at one of the fastest-growing rates in the world

Thai company ordered to pay Burmese workers—DVB Over 180 Burmese migrant workers who were left unpaid by their employer in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai were awarded more than five million baht (US$140,000) in compensation by the Chiang Mai Labour Protection and Welfare Office on Monday.

Lao Lawmakers Approve Restrictive Amendment to Media Law—RFA Lawmakers in Laos have approved an amendment to the country’s media law that further tightens the government’s control of reporters, ensuing that they disseminate the policies of the ruling communist party in a country where press freedom is already nonexistent.

Duterte’s Descent into Authoritarianism—New York Times Who will stop him? And what will he stop at?

When A Populist Demagogue Takes Power—The New Yorker Since Rodrigo Duterte was elected President of the Philippines, in May, more than three thousand people have been killed in a vicious drug war.

BOOK REVIEWS

Charting conflict and peace in a new Myanmar—New Mandala Michael Wesley reflects on a new volume examining Myanmar’s path to peace and political transition.

This week’s new digest was curated by Gabriella Neusner.

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Regional Roundup for Week of 11.13.16

R.I.P. US Rebalance to the Asia Pacific

EXSE FOCUS

 Asia, a Target of Trump’s Criticism, Greets His Election With Caution—New York Times Donald J. Trump has had harsh words for China and other nations, but the question for the region now is how much of that rhetoric he will act on.// We cannot know what to expect in terms of how the US’s role in Southeast Asia will shift. What is likely is that the TPP will not survive and that China will take on a larger role in the region.

Related: ‘An epochal change’: what a Trump presidency means for the Asia Pacific region—The Guardian

Related: President Trump and Southeast Asia—New Mandala

Related: Trump Wins: Implications for US Allies and Partners in Asia—The Diplomat U.S. allies will face new levels of uncertainty (and anxiety) under President Trump.

Laos pushes ahead with plan for third contentious dam on the Mekong—South China Morning Post Laos has notified its Southeast Asian neighbours that it’s moving ahead with a third contentious hydro dam on the Mekong River’s mainstream. The MRC is now under a lot of pressure. The failure of the first two consultation processes lead to a feeling of pessimism surrounding the utility of the entire consultation process. Unfortunately, the reputation of the MRC has also been too closely linked to the success or failure of these consultation processes. No changes have been made to date to the MRC’s Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement since they were first agreed upon. However, more research on the cumulative impacts of hydropower construction on the Mekong mainstream has been completed since the first consultation was done for the Xayaburi dam in 2010.

Related: Press Release | Flawed Prior Consultation Cannot Legitimize New Mekong Dam

International Rivers

Related: Laos Submits Mekong Dam Proposal—Mekong Eye

Myanmar’s plan to arm, train non-Muslims in Rakhine ‘recipe for disaster’, watchdog says—South China Morning Post Myanmar’s plans to arm and train non-Muslim residents in the troubled north of Rakhine State is likely to “aggravate an already dire human rights situation”, the International Commission of Jurists, a human rights watchdog, has said

Land grabs on the rise as Burma pushes for peace—DVB Land conflicts in Burma have escalated in recent years, with military and armed groups driving people from their land, and new laws failing to protect farmers, a rights watchdog said on Thursday.

 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Rodrigo Duterte Plays U.S. and China Off Each Other, in Echo of Cold War—New York Times The Philippine president’s strategy of balancing between the powers by threatening to change loyalties was used successfully by leaders throughout the era.

Trump Election Kills TPP—The Diplomat President-elect Donald Trump promises to roll back free trade, starting with aborting TPP and killing NAFTA.

The End of American World Order—The Diplomat Insights from Amitav Acharya

ASEAN’s Mekong Potential the Focus in Vietnam Meeting—The Diplomat The recent WEF-Mekong meeting in Hanoi was a useful reminder of the subregion’s significance.

Unshackling ASEAN—Project Syndicate The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is required to make decisions by consensus, which unites disparate member states, while allowing them to protect their national interests. But this provision also limits ASEAN’s effectiveness in addressing emerging regional security threats, not least China’s territorial claims.

Malaysia Is Not Pivoting to China With Najib’s Visit—the Diplomat Suggestions of a dramatic shift are grossly exaggerated and not grounded in reality.

Philippines’ Duterte hails Trump, wants no more quarrels with US—South China Morning Post Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte congratulated Donald Trump on his election win and said on Wednesday he now wished to stop quarrelling with ally the United States

Trump Business Partner Is Philippines’ New Trade Envoy to U.S.—New York Times The chairman of the company that is building the Trump Tower in metropolitan Manila will be the special envoy for trade, investment and economic affairs.

 

SUSTAINABILITY AND NATURAL RESOURCES

KNU Signs Forestry Memorandum with WWF—The Irrawaddy ‘The objective is to protect and restore forests and wildlife in KNU areas’ says KNU forestry department.

Can Myanmar’s hydropower study truly be for the people?—Myanmar Times In recent weeks, violent clashes in Kayin State have further disrupted Myanmar’s fragile peace process.

A call for basin-wide energy plans—Mekong Eye Preparatory work for the next big dam on the Mekong — Pak Beng — in northern Laos has begun.

Pak Beng – The Third Domino in The Series of Mainstream Dams on The Lower Mekong in Laos—Mekong Eye According to MrViraphonh Viravong, Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines of Laos, Pak Beng is one of the five hydropower dam projects on the mainstream to be built in North Laos in the district of Pak Beng, Oudomsay Province.

Ministry of Environment issues island protection decree—Phnom Penh Post A new decree has been issued by the Ministry of Environment in regards to the protection and preservation of nature within the Kingdom.

Ministry plans wildlife corridors to boost Cambodia’s biodiversity—Phnom Penh Post Cambodia’s Ministry of Environment gathered a network of government and civil society representatives on Tuesday to begin planning the creation of a biodiversity conservation corridor that would make it easier for wildlife to thrive.

Vietnam Scraps Plans for Its First Nuclear-Power Plants—Wall Street Journal Vietnam’s government has decided to scrap its long-delayed plan to build the country’s first nuclear-power plants because other energy sources have become cheaper and power demand has slackened due to slowing economic growth.

Parents who say Indonesia’s haze killed their children testify in citizen suit—Mongabay The father of a little girl who died during Indonesia’s 2015 fire and haze crisis testified on Thursday as part of a legal challenge to the police’s closing of cases against 15 companies alleged to be complicit in the burning.

 

CHINA

China’s new cybersecurity law sparks fresh censorship and espionage fears—The Guardian Legislation raises concerns foreign companies may need to hand over intellectual property and help security agencies in return for market access// The new cybersecurity law is significant not only for foreign companies, who will face tough choices on how much information they are willing to provide to the Chinese government in order to do business there. It is also an important change for Chinese citizens, since the new law has provisions for greater censorship of the internet in China.

Related: China Approves Cybersecurity Law—Wall Street Journal

Hong Kong Elected 2 Separatists. China Took Drastic Action.—New York Times By acting against two dissident lawmakers, Beijing is asserting an authority to set policy in the territory, challenging its semiautonomous status.

Related: Clashes, Pepper Spray in Hong Kong Amid Angry Protests Over China’s Intervention—RFA

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Bersih and the battle to unseat Najib Razak—Southeast Asia Globe For the past decade, Malaysian protest movement Bersih has been demanding sweeping political change. But Prime Minister Najib Razak is unlikely to feel threatened as long as the country’s opposition remains weak and fragmented

Philippines, Malaysia agree to cooperate on tackling Abu Sayyaf kidnappings—South China Morning Post The Philippines on Thursday agreed to allow Malaysia and Indonesia to carry out “hot pursuits” in its territorial waters, as the three nations look to tackle kidnappings and piracy by Islamist Abu Sayyaf rebels.

Philippine agency files corruption, narcotics charges against key Duterte critic—South China Morning Post A Philippine law enforcement agency filed bribery, graft and drug-related complaints against a senator and former minister on Thursday, in the first step towards prosecuting the biggest critic of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs

Islamists March in Jakarta, Demanding Christian Governor Be Jailed—New York Times Tens of thousands of Indonesians marched in Jakarta on Friday, demanding that the city’s first Christian governor in decades be jailed for blasphemy.

Related: Hard-Line Strain of Islam Gains in Indonesia—Wall Street Journal

Related: Indonesia’s president blames ‘political actors’ for stirring Muslim protest—South China Morning Post

Indonesia’s Challenge to Radical Islam—The Diplomat The country is emerging as a champion of tolerance amid the rise of the Islamic State.

Stuck in the immoderate middle—New Mandala Recent protests and riots have put a sharp focus on sectarianism, political opportunism and Jakartans’ grievances against their Christian-Chinese governor, Ahok. But a lot of this opposition is being spurned on by Indonesia’s Muslim middle class.

Islamic rage and identity politics in Indonesia—New Mandala How Jakarta’s 4 November protest will impact on Indonesia’s democratic consolidation and the Jokowi presidency.

Political actors suspected of behind violence on Friday’s protest in Jakarta—Thai PBS Indonesian national police have launched an investigation into President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s suspicions that political actors were behind the eruption of violence of the otherwise peaceful protests by Muslim hardliners in Jakarta last Friday

Controversial Jakarta land reclamation project gets legal go-ahead—Mongabay The developers behind Islet G, a small artificial island off the coast of Jakarta, may have finally been given the legal green light to continue the project, which has been stalled since April of this year.

Aid to Resume in Northern Arakan—The Irrawaddy Diplomatic mission returns from two-day visit to area under military lockdown, calls for ‘independent and credible investigation.’

HRW: Peace Process Exposes Farmers to New Glut of Land Seizures—The Irrawaddy Burma’s peace process opens up access to ethnic areas and leaves farmers vulnerable to powerful interests ‘gaining land through questionable means.’

The Public Loves Myanmar’s New War on Muslims—Foreign Policy One year after a historic election put a civilian government in charge, the country’s army is using brutal methods to regain its popularity.

Myanmar Government Takes Measures to Prevent Spread of Zika—RFA Myanmar’s health and sports ministry is warning women not to travel abroad where cases of the Zika virus have been reported, as the country battles its own recent outbreak of the disease.

Who buried The Brunei Times?—New Mandala More bad news for press freedom in Southeast Asia.

Cambodia’s Hun Sen Calls on the Military to Suppress ‘Color Revolutions’—RFA On the same day jailed opposition party activists called on Cambodia’s political leaders to set aside their differences for the sake of the nation, Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a call to the nation’s armed forces to put down any so-called “color revolution.”

Thai junta offers farmers $514 million in rice loans—DVB Thailand‘s rice committee announced new loan schemes worth US$514 million on Monday to help rice growers struggling with falling prices as farmers of the grain become the new battleground between the junta and the opposition ahead of 2017 elections.

Politicising rice can be a worthy cause—Bangkok Post The regime’s responses to plummeting rice prices have been both disappointing and disastrous to it and farmers

Related: Band-aid solutions hide real rice problems—Bangkok Post

 

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Regional Roundup for Week of 10.23.2016

EXSE FOCUS

In Western Myanmar, a Lockdown and Fears of More Violence—New York Times Aid work has ceased in the north of Rakhine State after attacks on police officers, and videos purporting to show local Muslims urging jihad have added to fears of unrest.

Related: Violence Erupts in Myanmar’s Rakhine State—The Diplomat

Related: New fears of communal violence in Myanmar—The Economist

Vietnam gives thumbs-up to US regional role as pivot stumbles—South China Morning Post Vietnam supports US “intervention” in the Asia-Pacific if it helps keep peace and stability, the defence ministry said, in a timely endorsement of a continued U.S. presence amid uncertainty over Washington’s faltering “pivot”

What’s going on in Thailand?—New Mandala With the passing of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX, his son and heir apparent, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, should have been named King Rama X. He hasn’t.  As Andrew MacGregor Marshall writes, Thailand’s succession struggle isn’t over yet.// New Mandala has published several excellent articles in the past week that provide in-depth analysis of the political situation in Thailand following the death of King Bhumibol

Related: Thailand Looks to Likely Future King With Apprehension—New York Times

Related: Thailand is on tenterhooks over the king’s health—The Economist

Thai people encouraged to ‘socially sanction’ critics of monarchy—The Guardian Justice minister appears to back vigilantism which has risen in wake of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s death

Related: Thailand to ask other countries to extradite suspected critics of royal family—South China Morning Post

Philippines’ Duterte praises China on Beijing visit—Channel NewsAsia Visiting Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had praise for China on Wednesday, setting aside a maritime dispute as the combative leader reconfigures his country’s diplomatic alliances.

Related: Philippines’ Duterte Not Planning to Raise South China Sea Disputes in China Visit—WSJ

Related: South China Sea dispute to ‘take back seat’ in talks with Xi, Duterte says—South China Morning Post

Related: Rodrigo Duterte arrives in China with ‘make friends, not war’ message—The Guardian

In China, Rodrigo Duterte and Philippines May ‘Pivot’ Away From U.S.—New York Times The Philippine leader’s talks in Beijing are likely to signal how far he is willing to go in building closer ties with China and reducing American military influence at home.

Related: Duterte’s pivot—The Economist

Related: Rodrigo Duterte and Xi Jinping Agree to Reopen South China Sea Talks—New York Times // Duterte’s remarks have left many American officials puzzled. State Dept spokesperson, John Kirby responded saying, “We are going to be seeking an explanation of exactly what the president meant when he talked about separation from us…It’s not clear to us exactly what that means and all its ramifications (via inquirer.net)

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Indonesia President Steers Cautious Course in Tense South China Sea—Wall Street Journal

President Joko Widodo wants to keep the sprawling archipelago out of an intensifying great-power conflict while he tries to revitalize ambitious economic plans that have so far fallen short.

Is the Belt and Road Initiative Globalizing China’s National Security Policy?—The Diplomat Chinese security policy experts use potential threats to BRI projects to highlight the necessity of a globalized security posture.

Makers of Agent Orange to be tried for ‘war crimes’ by a people’s tribunal—Southeast Asia Globe Five decades after being commissioned to produce Agent Orange, which the US military dropped on Vietnam with devastating effects, a people’s tribunal is putting Monsanto ‘on trial’ for war crimes.

Rainsy says China aid to blame for rights abuses—Phnom Penh Post Days after signing a statement welcoming Chinese President Xi Jinping to Cambodia, opposition leader Sam Rainsy took to Radio Free Asia to slam China for enabling human rights abuses in the Kingdom with no-strings-attached loans.

China to help Cambodia modernise its armed forces, officials say—South China Morning Post China has agreed to help modernise Cambodia’s military, Cambodia’s defence minister said on Monday, after the two countries signed new agreements to boost military aid.

Judges and Rice: Cambodia’s Expanding Reliance on China—The Diplomat Is there a limit to Beijing’s largesse for its southern ally?

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

China Using Ecological Protection to Boost Claims in Disputed Waters –VOA China’s public order to keep away from a rare, environmentally unique ocean sinkhole in the Paracel Islands signals a new effort to tighten its grip on a tract of water disputed with Vietnam and monitored by the United States.//This is ironic, considering that China’s activities in the South China Sea have caused catastrophic damage to coral reefs and fish stocks in the region. See this report by Yale Environment 360 for more information on this.

A plan to save the Mekong Delta—Mongabay This is the final installment of an in-depth, four-part series exploring threats facing the Mekong Delta and how they might be addressed.

Government urged to work with Cambodia on solutions to water resources—Mekong Eye Scientists have urged the Vietnamese government to cooperate with Cambodia and draw up a plan to take full advantage of water resources.

Will Hydropower Turn the Tide on the Salween River?—Mekong Eye Both history and future development plans point to risks for the Salween River and its eco-systems and communities. Over-development, lack of public consultation and the appetite for energy threaten Asia’s last free flowing, international river.

Vietnam playing ‘key Mekong sub-region role’—Mekong Eye Vietnam has been making practical contributions to turning the Mekong sub-region into a dynamic and prosperous economic area via two crucial cooperation frameworks.

Manila is set to agree on joint petroleum exploration with Beijing—Thai PBS The Duterte administration is set to enter into an agreement with China to jointly explore energy sources in the disputed West Philippine sea

On the Role of Chinese Religion in Environmental Protection—New York Times In an interview, Prasenjit Duara, an Indian-born historian of China, discusses how traditional values can be a force motivating people to action.

As China Shifts From Exporter to Importer, Fortunes Change—New York Times The country’s energy sector has gone through a major reshaping, perhaps nowhere more so than in the city of Daqing, home to China’s biggest oil field.

Biomass power plants affect health: study—The Nation A recent study on health risks from biomass power plants in Surin province has confirmed that nearby residents are being exposed to tiny dust particles in amounts that exceed the level recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Chinese nationals nabbed for mining sandstone in Shan State—DVB Chinese nationals allegedly caught mining sandstone without official permission in Shan State’s Muse District were apprehended by local villagers on Monday.

Production Slowing at Wa Tin Mine—The Irrawaddy Output from a mysterious Burma tin mine that has disrupted the global market in the metal is falling sharply and deposits could be depleted in “two to three years”

Company Accused of Bribing, Misleading Locals to Build Coal-Fired Power Plant—The Irrawaddy Questions were raised in the Rangoon Division parliament about an unnamed company using underhanded methods to induce locals of Zweba Kone village, in semi-rural Kyauktan Township on the outer fringes of the city, to consent to the building of a coal-fired power plant.

Hanoi Moves to Derail Drive to File Lawsuits Against Formosa in Vietnam—RFA The Vietnamese government is attempting to prevent Catholic parishioners from filing more lawsuits against the Taiwan-owned steel company responsible for a chemical spill that devastated the country’s central coast,

Laos Orders Factory to Stop Recycling Spent Beer Malt Over Pollution Concerns—RFA The Lao government ordered a factory in the capital Vientiane that recycles 80 tons of spent beer malt a day to shut down after its owners failed to control pollution from the process, RFA’s Lao Service has learned.

To Fix the Mekong, Just Look at the Evidence: Q&A With Dr. John Ward—Mekong Eye Dr. John Ward is a research scientist at the Mekong Region Futures Institute specializing in integrated natural resource management. He spoke with VOA’s Neou Vannarin about the future of the Mekong, the effects of climate change, hydropower development, and the impact on the environment and people of the region.

Xi’an Under Security Alert After Thousands Protest Incinerator Plant—RFA Authorities in the northern Chinese city of Xi’an have issued a security alert after thousands took to the streets this week at the weekend over a waste incinerator plant planned for their neighborhood.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Thailand’s New Uncertainty—Project Syndicate Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s death, though long anticipated, still came as a profound shock to the country. Following the death of a unifying – if not always pro-democratic – political leader who reigned for 70 years, what comes next for Thailand and its military junta is unclear.

Thailand Bids Farewell to Beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej—Time Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej was the superlative monarch.//A particularly good obituary of King Bhumibol with photo series and video

Related: Over 500,000 gathered to see royal procession—The Nation

Related: Bhumibol, a King of the People, Leaves Them to the Generals—New York Times 

A Serious Concern Over the First Use of E-Voting in Thailand—The Diplomat If not implemented transparently, the initial e-voting system in Thailand may trigger internal political conflict.

Vietnam floods: deaths reported, tens of thousands of homes destroyed—The Guardian Local authorities mobilise army and police to rescue trapped residents in central Vietnam following torrential rain

ADB approves $230 mln loan to help Vietnam improve power transmission—Mekong Eye The Asian Development Bank on Thursday signed a loan agreement of $231.31 million with the Vietnamese government to help build and upgrade the transmission networks in the southern region.

Malaysia’s Growing Crackdown on Dissent—The Diplomat A new report sheds light on a disturbing trend.

Supertyphoon Haima slams into northern Philippines; following hard on typhoon Sarika —South China Morning Post Super Typhoon Haima slammed into the northeastern Philippine coast late Wednesday with ferocious winds and rain that rekindled fears and memories from the catastrophe wrought by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

Jakarta offers $1.50 reward for each rat as it launches massive rodent hunt—South China Morning Post The Indonesian capital Jakarta, one of the world’s most overcrowded and polluted megacities, has launched a new bid to rid its streets of vermin – by offering residents $1.50 for every rat they catch. //Interested to see how effective this policy is. The rat race is on.

Indonesia tracking dozens of militants returned from Syria, police chief says—South China Morning Post Dozens of Indonesians who joined Islamic State in Syria have returned home with combat experience and pose a major threat to the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation, the police chief said on Monday.

90 refugees set to return to Karen State next week—DVB Ninety residents of the Nu Po refugee camp in Thailand’s Tak Province are set to return to Burma next week in the first round of official repatriations for refugees since a peace deal was struck late last year.

UN aid not reaching Arakan, as lockdown continues—DVB Violence in a Muslim-majority region of Burma is stopping aid agencies from delivering food and medicines

Related: NGOs Face Difficulties Getting Aid to Maungdaw Residents in Myanmar’s Rakhine State—RFA

End To US Sanctions a Boon to Burma’s Economy, But Woes Remain—The Irrawaddy KFC’s grinning Colonel Sanders and his goatee are among the few prominent signs of US brands or business in Burma’s biggest city, Rangoon.

Philippine Police Van Rams Protesters at U.S. Embassy, Hurting Dozens New York Times Dozens of protesters were hurt on Wednesday after a Philippine police officer used a van to ram into them during a demonstration against the United States in the capital.

Duterte administration to seek loan from AIIB for infrastructure projects—Thai PBS The Duterte government is gearing up for the Philippines to formally join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in time for President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to Beijing this week

Kem Ley’s Spirit Still Powerful in Cambodia—RFA The spirt of slain government critic Kem Ley still casts a shadow over Cambodia as thousands of people clogged the main roads on Sunday for the close of his 100-day ritual ceremony and some of his former students began selling a compilation of his political essays.

Cambodia worst in region for rule of law: report—Phnom Penh Post Cambodia ranked 112 out of 113 countries surveyed globally and dead last in the East Asia and Pacific region when it comes to the perceived rule of law, a new report released today states.

Failure of dams leads to flooding in Phnom Penh, Kampong Speu—Phnom Penh Post Thousands of homes in Phnom Penh and Kampong Speu have been flooded after three dams were seriously damaged following two weeks of torrential rain and warnings from government officials.

Singapore Unveils New ASEAN Cyber Initiative—The Diplomat City-state steps up efforts to promote regional cooperation in the cyber domain.

 

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Regional Roundup for Week of 10.13.16


Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) passed away this afternoon at Bangkok’s Siriraj Hospital. The 88-year-old monarch led Thailand for 70 years. Prime Minister and military junta leader Prayut Chan-ocha said that Thailand will hold a one-year period of national mourning and that flags will fly at half-mast for the next month. Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn was named as successor in the early 1970s and is expected by many to ascend the throne.

The East by Southeast team extends our sincere condolences to our Thai contributors and all of our Thai readers. 

King Rama IX oversaw great changes in Thailand over his seven-decade reign. He was seen domestically as a stabilizing force in the country during its many periods of political turbulence and multiple coups, the most recent coming in 2014. However, critics argue that the palace has played a central role in the country’s coups and human rights abuses.

King Rama IX’s death opens the door for a long-feared period of instability in the kingdom. The king’s health has been deteriorating for years and questions over his eventual death and the succession plan swirled in the background of the 2014 military coup. The Crown Prince is largely disliked by Thais and whether or not he will actually succeed the throne is still unknown. Prime Minister Prayut was quoted as saying the Crown Prince did not want to be proclaimed king immediately, first desiring “to take some time to mourn, together with the people of Thailand.”

This delay has raised questions over succession plans. Powerful members of the royal advisory Privy Council are known to find the Crown Prince unfit to rule and his sister, Crown Princess Sirindhorn, is seen by many as a more popular choice for the next monarch or regent. The following few months will be crucial for the future of Thailand and the region and a smooth transition of power, while desirable, is not entirely likely. 

EXSE FOCUS

What now?—New Mandala With news of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s ailing health, Llewellyn McCann outlines three key developments to watch after his reign ends.

Related: What the Death of Thailand’s King Means, and What’s Next—The New York Times

Related: PM: Nation is in its greatest sorrow, expects new King by tradition—Bangkok Post

Dozens Believed Killed as Violence Erupts in Myanmar—New York Times The bloodshed in Rakhine State, home to members of the Rohingya Muslim minority, was set off by attacks on police posts.

Related: Escalation of violent clashes involving troops in Myanmar’s Rakhine state leaves twelve dead—South China Morning Post

Related: ‘Groupism’ and sectarian violence in Arakan—DVB

Gov’t, Vietnam exchange blame on logging—Phnom Penh Post Cambodian conservation officials spoke publicly for the first time on Monday about what they described as nearly three years of corrupt practices by their Vietnamese counterparts in facilitating the multibillion-dollar illicit trade in Siamese rosewood. //Cambodia is taking serious steps to combat illegal logging in its borders, but it can’t do it alone. Similar commitment must come from its regional partners, particularly Vietnam, which accounts for much of the demand for illegal Cambodian timber from.

Related: Ministry eyeing wood stockpiles, says Samal—Phnom Penh Post

Related: Multiple timber busts in busy weekend for Forestry Administration—Phnom Penh Post

Behind Duterte’s Bluster, a Philippine Shift Away From the U.S.—New York Times The move is a radical departure for a country that has historically been the most dependable American ally in Southeast Asia, and could undermine President Obama’s foreign policy

China’s new rules for Xinjiang ban parents from encouraging or forcing children into religion—South China Morning Post Parents and guardians in China’s heavily Muslim region of Xinjiang who encourage or force their children into religious activities will be reported to police, the government said on Wednesday while unveiling new education rules// Very interesting. We should watch closely to see how these new laws are legitimized and enforced by the Chinese government.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

US is bright spot for Southeast Asia as its exports to China drop—South China Morning Post After years of looking to China as a source of growth, Southeast Asian countries are turning their attention back to the world’s largest economy on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.

Washington Should Stop Militarizing the Pacific—New York Times China’s leaders feel their country has the right to be the main power in the neighborhood.

Russia Seeks to Reopen Military Bases in Vietnam and Cuba—New York Times The Russian deputy defense minister said that the Kremlin was working to re-establish the former bases, which closed in 2002.

Philippines’ defence minister says military can cope without US aid—The Guardian Lorenzana’s remarks suggest he is following other top government officials in rallying behind maverick president Duterte’s tough anti-US agenda//Since Duterte began making waves with his controversial anti-American remarks, we’ve been reassured  by experts who say that Duterte does not have much support for his anti-American agenda within the government’s ministries and that the working relationship between the US and the Philippines will remain strong.  Do the statements of the Philippines’ defense minister mean than individuals within the government are warming to Duterte’s foreign policy agenda?

‘America has failed us’: Foreign Secretary Yasay explains why the Philippines wants to break away from US—South China Morning Post The Philippines’s top diplomat said President Rodrigo Duterte is seeking an independent foreign policy for the country because “America has failed us” in the decades since it gained independence from its former colonial master.

South China Sea Disputes Are On Duterte’s China Agenda Ahead of Visit, But to What Ends?—The Diplomat Can Duterte make China a workable offer concerning the South China Sea disputes?

Philippine Government Eyes Chinese Investment Ahead of Duterte Visit to Beijing—The Diplomat

South China Sea: Indonesian Military Stages Massive Natuna Sea Exercise—The Diplomat Indonesian President Joko Widodo observed the exercises, underlining the importance of the Natuna Islands.

Related: Indonesia air force holds major military drill at South China Sea islands—South China Morning Post

Obama and Indonesia: Strong Progress But an Uncertain Future—The Diplomat The U.S. has done its part to deepen relations; the ball is now in Indonesia’s court.

China-Thailand Relations in the Spotlight with Activist Deportation—The Diplomat A recent incident has raised questions about how beholden Bangkok is to Beijing.

Chinese president to touch down in Cambodia as nations consolidate ties—Southeast Asia Globe Cambodia is edging increasingly close to China, as the superpower lavishes aid on the Asean nation that has proved a robust ally in the South China Sea dispute

India in ASEAN—New Mandala As Washington’s influence in the region wanes and the China factor increases, New Delhi needs to build lasting strategic and economic ties with Southeast Asia, write Tridivesh Singh Maini and Maithili Parikh.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Coal outgrows hydropower—Phnom Penh Post As Cambodia’s demand for electricity grows and domestic energy production increases, new data released from the Ministry of Mines and Energy yesterday show that coal-fired energy generation surpassed hydroelectricity for the first time last year.

Biomass power plants affect health: study—The Nation A recent study on health risks from biomass power plants in Surin province has confirmed that nearby residents are being exposed to tiny dust particles in amounts that exceed the level recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Thousands flee fighting near site of dam backed by Thailand—The Nation Nearby villages flooded with refugees facing imminent crisis.

Authorities divert water in effort to prevent Bangkok flooding—The Nation

Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan said yesterday authorities would try to divert water runoff and floodwater to minimise the impact on Bangkok.//Flood policy is fraught with complicated and controversial decision-making that often end up in outcomes that protect the most economically “valuable” regions at the expense of less valuable regions . For this reason, flooding is increasingly being thought of as an environmental justice issue. Concerns over the environmental justice dimensions of flood risk management will only become more pronounced in the region as climate change makes rainy seasons wetter and dry seasons drier.  

ADB Loan for Enhanced Flood Risk Management In Banten, MalukuADB The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $109 million loan to support flood risk management for communities in the Banten and Maluku provinces of Indonesia to enhance preparation for future threats while ensuring infrastructure meets high standards of resilience.

NGO urges halt to Kaiduan Dam project—The Star  A proposed dam project in the south-western Papar district should be scrapped following the arrests of two Sabah Water Department officials for alleged graft, says an NGO representing the affected communities near here.

Mass fish death in Mae Klong river prompts official investigation Thai PBS The investigation team led by Samut Sakhon governor and director of the Veterinary Medical Aquatic Animal Research Center (VMAARC) – Chulalongkorn University inspected the river and some fish cage farms along the river yesterday and tested the quality of the water.

CHINA

Taiwan’s President Calls for New Talks With Beijing—New York Times In her first National Day speech, Tsai Ing-wen emphasized that Beijing should acknowledge the island’s choice to become a democracy.

Building Collapse in Chinese City of Wenzhou Kills at Least 22—New York Times The toll makes it one of the deadliest episodes of its kind in recent years. Six people have been pulled from the rubble, including a 3-year-old girl.

China Jails Environmental Activist For ‘Revealing State Secrets’—RFA Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Hunan have jailed a prominent environmentalist on charges of “revealing state secrets” in a move that activists said is likely a form of political revenge.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Vietnam Arrests Mother Mushroom, a Top Blogger, for Criticizing Government—New York Times Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, a co-founder of the Network of Vietnamese Bloggers, has challenged leaders over topics including a dump of toxic chemicals.

Vietnam declares US-based activist group is a terrorist organization—The Guardian The Viet Tan is accused of training operatives and the government says the California-based organization instigates violence

Vietnam Ramps Up Trade Talks Amid Economic Uncertainty—The Diplomat Things don’t seem to be looking that good for Hanoi.

Thailand steps up security after warning of Bangkok bomb plot—The Guardian Increased police patrols at airports and tourist hotspots amid suspicion armed group may be plotting attacks near capital

Rice exports rebound firmly in September—Phnom Penh Post Cambodian rice exports soared by 54 percent year-on-year in September, after failing to meet last year’s levels for six consecutive months from March through August

Cambodia’s CNRP Again Boycotts Parliament—RFA Less than two weeks after promising to end a months-long legislative boycott of Cambodia’s National Assembly, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) backed away from its pledge on Friday, citing unspecified threats to opposition lawmakers.

Another case added to long list of Rainsy suits—Phnom Penh Post The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has issued yet another summons for Sam Rainsy, demanding the opposition leader appear at court to face questioning over a new incitement case.

Reconciliation in Rakhine State—New Mandala Now that a state of emergency has been lifted, Myanmar must come up with immediate solutions on local orders that oppress the state’s minority groups, writes Thulasi Wigneswaran.

Govt prepares for repatriation of 90 refugees—DVB Around 90 residents of the Nu Po refugee camp in western Thailand have signed up for official repatriation to Burma.

When Silence Hurts More Than a Bullet—The Irrawaddy

Malaysia’s secular versus religious divide—New Mandala The uneasy co-existence of civil and Sharia law in Malaysia and the polarising ethnic and religious divides within its population could be improved by establishing an independent mediation committee

Is Duterte ‘Nation-Building’ in the Philippines?—The Diplomat Whether his efforts to use simplified history and us-versus-them narratives is a good way to build a nation is another question.

Inside Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal drug purge: how local residents work with Philippine police to compile ‘hit lists’—South China Morning Post Barangay officials are the foot soldiers in a war on drugs that has led to the killing of more than 3,600 people since Duterte took office in June

Philippine president Duterte’s next campaign: public smoking ban—South China Morning Post Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is turning to another battle aside from illegal drugs: smoking

Progress in the Philippine Peace Process Under Duterte—The Diplomat

The initiative is arguably a silver lining in the president’s controversial tenure thus far.

Is Singapore ready to join the fight against Isis?—Southeast Asia Globe  After a planned attack on Marina Bay Sands was foiled, Singapore’s government is taking the fight to the Islamic State

Will the Village Law change rural Indonesia?—New Mandala Indonesia’s new Village Law has been hailed as a game-changer for rural areas and people. But a long-term view shows that it may not deliver all that it promises, writes Jacqueline Vel.

Southeast Asia Still Has Weak Information Security Against Cyber Threats—The Diplomat With the huge increase in internet use, Southeast Asia is more prone to attacks from outside sources.

Related: Indonesia, Singapore Talk Terror, Cyber in Defense Meeting—The Diplomat

ASEAN centre to tackle animal-borne illnesses—Phnom Penh Post Cambodia joined other Southeast Asian countries earlier this week in a commitment to establish a new ASEAN centre to tackle diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans, for which exposure is common in the Kingdom’s rural areas.

BOOK REVIEWS

Review of “The Penguin History of Modern Vietnam” by Christopher Goscha—CFR In forty years, the relationship between the United States and Vietnam has swung about as widely as is possible.

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Regional Roundup for Week of 10.6.16

EXSE FOCUS

 Investment Law Approved in Lower House—The Irrawaddy Burma’s Lower House of Parliament passed the long-awaited Myanmar Investment Law on Wednesday, and it now moves to the Upper House before the parliamentary session closes in early October.//  The Burmese government is in a hurry to lay the political groundwork for an inflow of new Western investment.

Thousands of Kachin Locals Call on Burma Army to Stop Assaults—The Irrawaddy Following intensified clashes between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), an estimated 10,000 members of the Kachin public staged a demonstration on Monday…calling for an end to ongoing armed conflict.

The war on homosexuality in Indonesia—New Mandala How hetero- and homo-nationalisms are colliding in debates about LGBT rights. 

 Sam Rainsy: How the global community can help strengthen democracy in Cambodia—Phnom Penh Post Editor, With the situation in Cambodia reaching a critical point, the international community in general, and the West in particular, can exert a stronger influence than most people may think. The key word is legitimacy. // Sam Rainsy, leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), writes from self-imposed exile, urging the international community to call Hun Sen’s government out on its political repression and “illegitimate elections.” The editorial was published the day after CNRP leader, Kem Sokha left his party headquarters for the first time since his attempted arrest in May.

Why Referendums Aren’t as Democratic as They Seem—New York Times Though such votes are portrayed as popular governance in its purest form, studies have found that they often subvert democracy rather than serve it.//A fascinating look at national referendums and why they sometimes subvert democracy rather than serving it. The authors write, “voters must make their decisions with relatively little information, forcing them to rely on political messaging—which puts power in the hands of political elites rather than those of voters.” The example of Thailand’s referendum in August to approve a new Constitution is used to should how governments can sometimes exert significant control over the outcome of a referendum, while giving the illusion of popular legitimacy.

The Brutal Bangkok Crackdown that was Hushed Up for Years – BBC When Thai soldiers opened fire on students demonstrating at Thammasat University in Bangkok they killed at least 46 people, effectively ending a brief period of democracy in Thailand. The brutal killings that took place on 6 October 1976 were quickly swept under the carpet and not investigated by the new military authorities or discussed for many years.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

ADB to muscle up its lending with pledge of $1B—Phnom Penh Post Cambodia could receive over $1 billion in developmental aid and grant funding from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in the coming four years as the multilateral financial institution consolidates its lending arms and scales up operations across the region

Duterte, Philippine President, Raises Doubts About Military Alliance With U.S.—New York Times Defense and diplomatic officials were facing a quandary after the president vowed to end military exercises with the U.S. and strengthen ties with China and Russia.// The Philippines-US relationship is going through a tumultuous and confusing period. One question to ask ourselves is whether or not this will affect the US relationship with ASEAN as the Philippines prepares to take the lead at the 2017 ASEAN chair. Currently, US relations with ASEAN are better than ever, but the ASEAN chair has the responsibility of setting the agenda for the year’s summits and if Duterte continues to try to break down ties with the US, it could affect the US’s ability to engage with ASEAN in 2017.

Related: The US-Philippine Alliance in the Duterte Era: A Path to Recalibration—The Guardian

Related: Duterte says he may break up ties with the US—Thai PBS

Related: U.S.-Philippine Military Exercises Open, Perhaps for Last Time—Wall Street Journal

The US, Myanmar and the dragon in the background—New Mandala Moves by the Obama administration to soften sanctions and reward Myanmar’s progress to democracy, while welcome, are not enough to meet the country’s economic growth needs, giving China a strategic advantage

Employers in Malaysia who hire or harbor illegal foreign workers face assets and bank accounts seizureThai PBS Effective as of October 1, employers in Malaysia who continue to hire and harbour illegal foreign workers will have their assets and bank accounts frozen

US will ‘sharpen military edge’ in Asia Pacific, says Pentagon chief—The Guardian Defense secretary Ash Carter signals US intention to remain the dominant power in the region despite China’s rising might

Related: US Unveils New Maritime Security Initiatives at ASEAN Defense Meeting—The Diplomat

How to Boost Innovation in Asia—The Diplomat Promoting science, technology, and innovation will be crucial to achieving sustainable development.

United States warships make first visit to Vietnam base in decades—South China Morning Post Two American warships stopped in Vietnam’s Cam Ranh Bay this week for the first time since the two nations normalised relations 21 years ago, the US Navy said on Tuesday.

 

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Outrage Over Fish Kill in Vietnam Simmers 6 Months Later—New York Times Thousands of demonstrators swarmed a steel factory in Ha Tinh Province over the weekend, echoing the street protests in the country’s major cities in April.//It is interesting to watch how the CPV handles these protests, which do not seem to be going away. After already being accused of trying to hide information and project the Taiwanese company, it must take concrete steps to help the demonstrators get sufficient compensation or risk losing its legitimacy. 

Related: Thousands in Vietnam protest against Taiwanese steel plant over mass fish deaths—South China Morning Post

Soak it up: China’s ambitious plan to solve urban flooding with ‘sponge cities’—New York Times Designers working on the unprecedented, government-funded programme will proritise using permeable materials, green spaces and connected waterways

 Hadabuan Hills: The Forgotten Rainforest of Sumatra—The Diplomat Surrounded by palm oil plantations, an oasis of rainforest provides a welcome shelter for rare species.

 Smugglers Take New Routes to Circumvent The Lao Lumber Ban—RFA The Lao government’s attempt to strangle the illicit lumber trade is forcing smugglers to become more creative as they play a cat-and-mouse game with the authorities

 Expert: Act on water security issue now—The Star A water specialist has called on the authorities to immediately address the issue of water security in the country.

Salween dams threaten river communities—Bangkok Post: Opinion

The Thai government’s recent push to speed up its energy investment in Myanmar’s Salween River contradicts its own efforts to warn Thai investors from operating overseas projects that violate human rights.

Karen clashes linked to controversial dam project, say activists—DVB Recent fighting in the Maethawaw area of Karen State is directly related to plans to build a dam on the Salween River, according to a group opposed to the project.

Chipwe, Hsawlaw residents join anti-Myitsone chorus in Kachin State—Mekong Eye Residents of Chipwe and Hsawlaw townships in Kachin State have joined growing calls for the government to scrap seven hydropower projects along the Ayeyarwady River

Lower Sesan II Dam on Schedule—Mekong Eye The Lower Sesan II dam is expected to generate electricity as planned by 2017, filling a power void in the country as national grid construction is under way, according to the deputy provincial governor of Stung Treng.

Coal-fired power plants threaten Vietnam deltas—Mekong Eye Vietnam’s plan to take its total number of coal-fired power plants to 31 by 2020 has raised environmental concerns.

Will Climate Change Sink The Mekong Delta?—Mongabay No delta region in the world is more threatened by climate change. Will Vietnam act in time to save it?

Ticking water time bombs in hydropower plants?—Mekong Eye A tunnel break in the Song Bung 2 hydroelectric power plant in the central province of Quang Nam released nearly 30 million cubic metres of water that rushed to thousands of villagers living downstream, killing two, and caused at least VND5 billion of losses.

Vietnam province scraps coal plant over environmental concerns—Mekong Eye The Mekong Delta’s Bac Lieu Province scrapped plans for a coal-fired thermal power plant to pursue clean-energy options, last week.

Illegal fishing arrests down from last year—Phnom Penh Post Cambodian authorities have caught fewer illegal fishermen so far this year compared to 2015, which fishery officials ascribed to a combination of delayed rains and heightened law-abiding

Questions for: ‘What’s Clogging Jakarta’s Waterways? You Name It’—New York Times What are examples of the different types of trash that have been found in the Ciliwung River?

CHINA

Xi Jinping May Delay Picking China’s Next Leader, Stoking Speculation—New York Times The apparent plan by the Chinese president has unsettled the party elite and created uncertainty over whether Mr. Xi will try to stay in power beyond the usual two terms.

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Myanmar Repeals 1950 Law Long Used to Silence Dissidents—New York Times Among other measures, the law had authorized prison terms of up to seven years for reading foreign newspapers or listening to broadcasters like the BBC.

Myanmar’s absent generation—The Guardian In Karen state in Myanmar work is so scarce that villagers have to travel to neighbouring Thailand to find employment.

Thousands Flee as Fighting Erupts in Myanmar’s Shan State—RFA According to a spokesman for the SSA-S, the fighting broke out when Myanmar army units attacked a drug-rehabilitation camp managed by local villagers in an area under their control.

Duterte apologizes to JewsThai PBS “I apologize profoundly and deeply to Jewish community. There was never any intention on my part to derogate the memory of six million Jews”

Is Duterte Wrecking the Philippine Economy?—The Diplomat A closer look at how the Philippine president is impacting his country’s economic prospects.

When Will Timor-Leste Join ASEAN?—The Diplomat A look at where the country’s admission to the regional grouping stands.

Torture Under Thailand’s Military Junta—The Diplomat A new report exposes the extent of the practice under the current government.

Malaysia’s Own Yellows Vs. Reds Battleground—The Diplomat As Bersih celebrates its 10 year anniversary, it has grown large enough to spark an organized counter movement.

Time for Malaysia’s Najib to Step Aside—The Diplomat The premier needs to give his country a much-needed respite.

Malaysia’s Parties Prepare for 2018 Elections—CFR

An Arms Race in Southeast Asia?—The Diplomat Yes, Southeast Asian states are bulking up their militaries – but that doesn’t necessarily translate to an arms race.

ASEAN’s Hedging Strategy—The Diplomat Recent summits in Vientiane offered some insights into the regional bloc’s diplomatic strategy.

Asean summit provides platform for Laos’ revamped foreign policySea Globe Editorial The recent Asean Summit held in the Lao capital of Vientiane provided a perfect opportunity for the country to start carving out a more independent foreign policy

Thailand: The dangers of farsightedness—The Economist The junta lavishes attention on the economy’s future but neglects the poor of today

Abortion legal in some Zika cases, child health unit says—The Nation Abortion is a legal choice for Zika-infected women.

Related: All pregnant women to be tested in 16 Zika provinces –The Nation

Related: Thailand Confirms Two Cases of Zika-linked Microcephaly, First in region—The Irrawaddy

 Thailand: No respite from flooding—The Nation Capital’s chronic problems created by insufficient pumping and drainage.

Related: Rains and floods continue to wreak extensive havoc in several provinces in N, NE, E, and Central Plain—Thai PBS

Chao Phraya Dam discharge level reduced—The Nation Officials have lowered the amount of water being discharged from Chao Phraya Dam after upstream flooding decreased despite predictions of more rain across the country this week.

Pro-establishment Thai MPs plan military-backed party to keep junta chief as prime minister—South China Morning Post Pro-establishment lawmakers in Thailand said they plan to ensure junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha stays on as prime minister by fielding a proxy political party backed by the military in a general election planned for next year

Thais crack down as anti-migrant sentiment rises—DVB Thailand is cracking down on migrant workers from neighbouring countries, saying they are “stealing jobs from Thais”, amid fears that anti-immigrant sentiment is rising as Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy stagnates.

Thailand Cracks Down on Migrant Workers—The Irrawaddy

Cambodia opposition leader leaves headquarters for first time in five months—South China Morning Post Cambodia’s main opposition party on Wednesday welcomed a sign of cooling political tension after authorities refrained from arresting its leader, Kem Sokha, on his emergence from months of being holed up in party headquarters.

Cambodia Gives Garment Workers a Raise—RFA The Cambodian government agreed to raise the minimum wage for clothing and footwear workers by about 9 percent in a move that failed to satisfy either the garment workers’ unions or the manufacturers.

Related: Government sets minimum wage at $153 a month

ADB Loan for Enhanced Flood Risk Management In Banten, Maluku—ADB The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $109 million loan to support flood risk management for communities in the Banten and Maluku provinces of Indonesia to enhance preparation for future threats while ensuring infrastructure meets high standards of resilience.

ADB Helps Launch First-Ever Local Bank ATMs in Dili—ADB The Government of Timor-Leste and ADB officiated the launch of Banco Nacional de Comércio’s first ever automated teller machines.

Southeast Asia—The Islamic State’s New Front?CFR Over the past year, as the Islamic State (ISIS) has suffered multiple losses in Syria and Iraq, the group has clearly been looking to widen its impact, taking the fight to countries outside of the Middle East.

 Duterte Shakes Up Philippine Foreign Policy—CFR The Philippines’ controversial president, Rodrigo Duterte, has once again grabbed global headlines with his inflammatory statements.

 Hunger for Beef Gnaws at Indonesia’s Economic Nationalism—Wall Street Journal Indonesia’s penchant for protecting local producers is under pressure from its own expanding consumer class, amid complaints about perpetually high prices.

This week’s news digest was curated by Gabriella Neusner.

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Regional Roundup for Week of 9.29.16

EXSE FOCUS

Revealed: how senior Laos officials cut deals with animal traffickers—The Guardian Evidence obtained by the Guardian shows how treasury coffers swelled with 2% tax on trades worth up to $45m including tigers, rhinos and elephants.//Lao PDR is not the only Southeast Asian country that has been the target of criticism for its role in illegal wildlife trafficking this week. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species is currently having its 17th annual conference of the parties, which is putting the spotlight on hubs for wildlife trafficking worldwide.

Cambodia Turns to China Amid Rice Woes—The Diplomat Senior official appeals to Beijing to quick

Related: Attempts to assist Cambodia’s ailing rice industry continue—Phnom Penh Post

China to help Cambodia in judicial reforms Thai PBS Cambodia signed a memorandum of understanding with China on Monday under which China will help the kingdom with judicial reforms and sharing expertise in overhauling judicial system// this is a really interesting development, considering that China’s strategy for engaging with its neighbors has traditionally centered around economics. This new MoU symbolizes a shift in Chinese foreign policy, as it overtly helps Cambodia to change one of its most important institutions of governance. Aside from being interesting, this story is also troubling, since as noted by an expert in the Phnom Penh Post article below, “China shouldn’t be considered a model for justice reform”

Related: China MoU to help ‘reform’ judiciary Phnom Penh Post

Sam Rainsy Considers Return to Cambodia—RFA There are signs that the long political stalemate in Cambodia may be coming to a close as opposition leader Sam Rainsy is considering a return to the country and Prime Minister Hun Sen appears to be softening his hard line against his adversaries

Related: Cambodia National Rescue Party to End Legislative Boycott–RFA

Regional NGOs meet in Myanmar to improve community involvement in infrastructure decisions—Mekong Eye This week, 50 representatives from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) across the Mekong region met in Myanmar to share successes and challenges in effectively involving local communities in environmental impact assessment (EIA) processes

Myanmar likely to join Asean Power Grid—The Nation Myanmar is likely to be the fifth Asean country to sign up for the Asean Power Grid formed by Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, energy ministers have said.

Lawmakers Push for Legal Protection for Burmese Migrant Workers—The Irrawaddy Lower House of Parliament on Tuesday discussed a proposal urging the government to enact legal protection against labor exploitation and abuse of Burmese migrant workers in foreign countries.//These are important efforts to address a pervasive and awful problem. However, any efforts to protect migrant workers will require strong collaboration from host countries, like Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

Related: Promises Unmet for Workers in Thai Shrimp Industry

Thailand, China agree on $5.2-billion rail project—Investvine Thailand and China agreed a price of 179 billion baht ($5.2 billion) for the 250-kilometer-long first phase of a high-speed railway linking Thailand’s Eastern Seaboard with its many industries and Bangkok to Nong Khai at the Lao border

Related: Lao and Thai Transportation Officials to Discuss Railway Project—RFA

 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Prospect of Philippine Thaw Slows China’s Plans in South China Sea—New York Times For Beijing, befriending the Philippines’ new president, Rodrigo Duterte, trumps building a military base 150 miles from the country’s coast.

South China Sea fishing rights at top of Philippine president’s agenda in Beijing—South China Morning Post Philippine President Rodrigo ­Duterte is expected to discuss ­crisis management and fishing rights in the disputed South China Sea when he visits Beijing next month

For Taiwan, Google Images of Disputed Island Are Too Clear—New York Times Taiwan made an unusual request to blur pictures of what appear to be new military installations on an island in the South China Sea claimed by four countries.

Duterte Calls for End to US-Philippine Military Exercises, Part of Tilt Toward China—The Diplomat Duterte once again rolls back the U.S. alliance, even while eagerly expressing hopes for ties with China.

Related: Duterte sparks confusion with vow to scrap future US-Philippines war games, citing China’s opposition—South China Morning Post

Philippines’ Duterte seeks China’s help in war on drugs—South China Morning Post Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday that he wants China to control its citizens’ involvement in the illegal drug trade in his country.

South China Sea: How to Prevent China From Changing the Status Quo—The Diplomat “China appears to be testing opportunities on its maritime borders – where is the weak spot it can exploit?”

What to Make of China in the South Pacific?—The Diplomat Long motivated by a recognition war with Taiwan, China’s latest diplomacy in the region takes on a strategic tone.

After Obama, What’s Next for ASEAN Centrality?—The Diplomat Rather than relying on attention from the U.S., ASEAN members should work to maintain the bloc’s relevance.

Related: ASEAN’s Hedging Strategy—The Diplomat

New Dengue Vaccine Potential Game Changer for Asia—The Diplomat

A recent WHO recommendation on vaccination signals a potential tipping point in the global fight against dengue.

ASEAN a New Opportunity for the Eurasian Economic Union—The Diplomat A free trade pact between the EEU and Vietnam could be just the beginning of a productive economic relationship.

Indonesia Wants UN Security Council Seat—The Diplomat Vice president officially announces Jakarta’s bid for a non-permanent seat in the body.

Southeast Asian representatives take to the global stage at UN General Assembly meeting—Southeast Asia Globe Representatives from across Southeast Asia used the 71st meeting of the UN General Assembly to defend and extol their domestic policies to the international community

 

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

SNLD Urges Govt Transparency on Salween Dam Projects—The Irrawaddy The Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) has urged the government to be transparent and to ensure accountability and responsibility regarding large hydropower dam projects proposed on the Salween River in eastern Burma

Illegal Log Trade Continues on Salween River—The Irrawaddy The 25 tons of teak logs recently seized on the Salween River in Karen State show that the illegal trade persists despite a nationwide logging ban.

Vietnamese fishermen sue Taiwanese steel firm after toxic chemical spill kills sea fish—South China Morning Post Hundreds of Vietnamese fishermen have filed claims seeking compensation from a Taiwanese steel company that admitted its toxic chemicals caused the death of many fish

Paris climate goals will cost Asia US$300B a year, but rewards are huge, says ADB—South China Morning Post Developing Asia will mean forking out US$300 billion per year until 2050 if governments intend to uphold their 2015 Paris climate summit goals

Asia Can Reap Solid Returns From Low-Carbon Transition – ADB

Rare Yangtze sturgeons at risk from mass fish escape—ChinaDialogue In July, water discharged by a hydropower station on the Qing River surged downstream, taking with it almost 10,000 tonnes of sturgeon. The surge blew them out of fish farm cages, and down the Qing, a tributary river, into the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze.

Report: China’s native bees at risk—GoKunming China has so far avoided the massive losses of bees seen in the West, but the country’s diverse range of native bees face their own set of growing threats.//According to the study’s author “farmers in one county in Sichuan are now forced to pollinate their fruit crops by hand because natural pollinators have been wiped out.” This is a fascinating, but alarming article. A decline in China’s important pollinator populations would have devastating impacts on global food security. 

Vietnam needs solar energy policies—Mekong Eye A shortage of policies on power tariffs for renewable energy, particularly solar electricity, has prevented the sector from attracting investors

Sambo Hydro Dam Info Urged—Mekong Eye Youth groups and environmental activists have requested the government release the latest documents concerning the proposed Sambo hydroelectric dam in Kratie province, amid lingering concerns of the possible environmental damage the dam may cause.

Related: Activists call for info on dam—Phnom Penh Post

EU provides satellite training for Forestry Administration—Phnom Penh Post

The European Union has begun training Cambodia’s Forestry Administration to use satellite imagery to crack down on deforestation.

Sustainable energy options for Cambodia discussed—Phnom Penh Post Representatives from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the Ministry of Environment and a handful of climate advocates met in Phnom Penh yesterday to brainstorm ways the country can transition to a “sustainable energy future”

 

CHINA

Modern Life Presents Nomads of China’s Steppe With a ‘Tragic Choice’—New York Times The Yugurs are struggling to maintain the language and culture that distinguish them as a people, the products of centuries of swirling Asian history.

 3 Labor Activists in China Get Suspended Prison Terms—New York Times The organizers’ activities had long been tolerated, but the prosecution and sentences suggested a tougher government line now that growth is slowing.

 On the Verge of Extinction, a Chinese Fishing Village Resists—New York Times Officials, who restricted fishing because of a devastated supply, have tried to promote tourism as an alternative. But villagers say tourists are demanding what the sea cannot give.

A glowing future—The Economist China wants its nuclear industry to grow dauntingly fast

Typhoon Megi: dozens missing after landslides hit two Chinese villages—The Guardian Heavy typhoon rains caused the landslides to crash into Sucun and Baofeng village in Zheijiang province, destroying scores of buildings

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Thai junta allows ‘culture of torture’ to flourish: Amnesty—DVB International human rights group Amnesty International on Wednesday accused Thailand‘s military government of allowing a “culture of torture” to flourish since the army seized power in a 2014 coup.

Related: Briefing on Claims of Thai Government Torture Is Canceled—New York Times

Related: Amnesty calls off launch of Thai torture report after police warning—The Guardian

Thailand investigates suspected cases of Zika-linked microcephaly—The Guardian Country researching link to mosquito-borne disease after three children and an unborn baby affected by birth defect

Promenade will change the river’s flow and eco-system—The Nation If the riverside promenade goes ahead, it will have an inevitable impact on the waterway and the Chao Phraya ecosystem

Related: Cabinet set to consider Bt35-bn Chao Phraya promenade project—The Nation

Governors ordered to set up flood prevention and assistance centres—The Nation The Interior Ministry yesterday ordered governors of provinces nationwide except in the South to set up flood prevention and alleviation centres to deal with ongoing flooding in many provinces.

Flooding in parts of Chao Phraya basin—The Nation There was flooding in several downstream provinces yesterday after a decision to release water from the Chao Phraya Dam in Chai Nat province was exacerbated by heavy downpours and runoff.

Laos: Reform or Revolution—The Diplomat What is the likelihood that political change will come to Laos?

How Singapore is becoming a world leader in fintech—Southeast Asia Globe With the rise of financial technology, or fintech, changing the way the world does business, Singapore is positioning itself as a major industry player

Burma Army continues advance on KIA positionsDVB Government forces in northern Burma are continuing to close in on Kachin Independence Army (KIA) positions, according to sources from the ethnic armed group.

KNLA: Current Military Movement in Karen State Threatens Terms of NCA—The Irrawaddy Military activity and tension at the site of the Hat Gyi dam in Karen State threatens a breakdown of Burma’s nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) as concerns grow over potential clashes between the Burma Army and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA).

Kachin Locals Oppose Dam in Militia-Controlled Area—The Irrawaddy Locals have sent an open letter to Burma’s President opposing the planned hydropower project to be built over the May Kha River and Ngaw Chan Kha Creek in Kachin State’s Chipwi and Tsawlaw townships.

Podcast: Myanmar’s “Democratic” Reform—CFR

Investment Law Approved in Lower House—The Irrawaddy Burma’s Lower House of Parliament passed the long-awaited Myanmar Investment Law on Wednesday, and it now moves to the Upper House before the parliamentary session closes in early October.

Myanmar’s Home Affairs Ministry Reverses Course on Devolution of Power—RFA Myanmar’s military-controlled Ministry of Home Affairs on Tuesday cancelled plans to give partial control of five of its departments to regional and state chief ministers, following the leaking of an office memo about the change on social media.

500 homes flooded after sluice gates ordered open in Magwe—DVB Nearly 500 homes in the Magwe Division town of Taungdwingyi have been inundated by flash floods for the fourth time, when operators of a nearby reservoir opened its sluice gates on Thursday to avoid overflow following a period of severe rains.

 

Philippines defends deadly drug war at UN, claims nation’s actions grabbed headlines for ‘wrong reasons’—South China Morning Post Philippines Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay has told the United Nations his country’s new president, Rodrigo Duterte, had an “unprecedented” mandate and the world should not interfere in his crackdown on crime.

A rise in anti-Chinese rhetoric—New Mandala Politics, economics and religion are to blame for a growing trend in Indonesia and Malaysia

This week’s news digest was curated by Gabriella Neusner.

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Regional Roundup for Week of 9.22.16

EXSE FOCUS

China Faces Tougher Laws in Myanmar—The Diplomat In the wake of the controversial Myitsone dam, Aung San Suu Kyi is demanding more from investors in high risk projects.

ASEAN Steps Up Zika Battle in Special Meeting—The Diplomat Health ministers vow to take action to stem the virus//ASEAN has been gradually expanding its cooperation on non-traditional security threats, including regional health issues. If Zika continues to pose a major threat to the region, it could be the third major health crisis that ASEAN confronts. The groundwork for ASEAN cooperation on health issues was laid in 2003 with the SARS epidemic and in 2007 with the H1N1 ‘bird flu’ virus, but public health issues still constitute a relatively new and underdeveloped area of cooperation for ASEAN. This most recent joint statement on Zika is a promising development and will hopefully be the beginning of an effective regional approach to addressing the threats posed by the Zika virus.

The Mekong Part II: How Dams May Damage Children’s Health—RFA

 China-Thailand Rail Project Back on Track With Cost Agreement—The Diplomat The two sides agree on the cost of the first phase of a key project in Beijing’s infrastructure ambitions in Southeast Asia.

Related: Thai-Chinese meeting to discuss high-speed train project—The Nation

Vietnam and China: A Delicate Balancing Act—The Diplomat Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s first visit to China hints at Hanoi’s constraints in approaching its giant neighbor.//

 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Japan building Mekong supply chain—Phnom Penh Post Greater connectivity between Japan and Cambodia is tightening economic links between the two countries while catalysing Japan’s ambitions to develop a chain of industrial complexes that cut a tract through the Lower Mekong region.

Vietnam to delay TPP ratification: Lawmaker—Channel News Asia Vietnam will delay ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) until after the US elections, a lawmaker said on Wednesday (Sep 21), in the latest blow to the massive trade pact.// Vietnam, who arguably stands to benefit most from the agreement, is questioning President Obama’s ability to get the agreement passed by the end of his term. The US’s failure to ratify the TPP would have disastrous political consequences for the US in Asia. If the US were unable to follow through on its commitment to the TPP, the next US president, be it Trump or Clinton, would find it difficult to get leaders in Asia to work with them again as partners.

USAID to help finance Burma’s ‘missing middle’—DVB A new microfinance programme backed by the US government’s foreign aid agency USAID aims to promote the growth of medium-sized businesses in Burma and fill the “missing middle” in the country’s economy.

Obama’s Move to End Myanmar Sanctions Promises a Lift for Its Economy—New York Times The decision could fuel the growth of smaller businesses in the Southeast Asian country, even as individuals and companies currently blacklisted also prosper.

Related: Microsoft unveils country office in Rangoon—DVB

Related: In Myanmar, Mixed Reactions to The Lifting of U.S. Sanctions—RFA

Japan Set to Intensify South China Sea Involvement—The Diplomat Despite Chinese warnings, Japan isn’t about to leave the South China Sea.

Philippines to Deepen China Talks Despite South China Sea Differences—The Diplomat The foreign secretary says Manila will move forward with official talks with Beijing.

The Danger of Letting China Set the Pace in the South China Sea—The Diplomat ASEAN-China Code of Conduct will languish as long as China sets the pace in the South China Sea.

US-Indonesia Economic Ties At $90 Billion: Report—The Diplomat A new report argues that the relationship is more valuable than often appreciated and holds great promise

GE to Open Office in Laos, Help Build Skills and Regional Connectivity—US Embassy in Laos// An important outcome of President Obama’s historic visit to Laos. Will we continue to see US businesses make inroads into Laos? Currently China is the largest investor in Laos.

The Trouble With India’s Projects in Myanmar—The Diplomat India has great ambitions for infrastructure construction in Myanmar, but falls short in implementation.

A look at Russia’s own ‘pivot to Asia’—Southeast Asia Globe Barack Obama’s ‘Pivot to Asia’ has been snatching all the headlines, but Russia embarked on a pivot of its own well before the US

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

The tragedy of communal land in Indonesia—New Mandala New research reports low land-use efficiency in communally owned land in eastern Indonesia. But as Stein Kristiansen and Linda Sulistiawati find, it is underuse rather than overexploitation of common–pool resources on agricultural, pastoral and forest land that is the problem.

Indonesia forest fires well-managed, fewer hotspots this year: Minister—Channel News Asia  Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar has said that the forest fires this year have been well-managed as seen by the reduction of hotspots of up to 88 per cent as compared to 2015

Blazes in Southeast Asia May Have Led to Deaths of Over 100,000, Study Says—New York Times The vast number of cases were in Indonesia, where the government claimed last year that only 19 people died.//To many Indonesian leaders, the results of this study were particularly unwelcome. The study turns attention towards the catastrophic damage caused by last year’s fires and away from the dramatic reduction in forest fires this year compared to in 2015.

Related: How Deadly Is ASEAN’s Killer Haze?—The Diplomat

Related: Nothing to see here: Southeast Asia dismiss haze death study—South China Morning Post

Regime’s absolute power is a danger to environment: experts—Mekong Eye Thailand faces many environmental issues as major development plans are being pushed ahead across the country, organic laws about the environment and community rights remain to be drafted and the forest reclamation campaign continues to cause conflicts, experts said on Wednesday.

Experts warn of water scarcity—The Nation Low levels at dams could lead to problems if resources not carefully managed

North floods ease but drought threat looms—The Nation Floodwaters have receded in the North, but the threat of drought looms in many other areas across the country with 12 dams at less than 30 per cent capacity.

Cambodian Banks Commit to Developing Sustainable Financing Principles—Mekong Eye The Association of Banks in Cambodia (ABC) took a first major step towards sustainable lending practices this week by committing to develop sustainable finance principles

Related: What’s the Deal with “Sustainable Banking”?—Mekong Eye

 Cambodia’s Ruling Elite One Step Closer to International Court—The Diplomat Court rules that company bosses and complicit politicians can be tried for land grabbing and environmental destruction.

How Politics Is Killing Cambodia’s Forests—The Diplomat Political and economic calculations in Cambodia, China, and Vietnam are contributing to widespread illegal logging

Three New Protected Areas Listed –The Khmer Times The government on Tuesday created three more protected areas covering nearly 28,000 hectares to be under Environment Ministry control.

Fishing Communities Struggle as Rivers Ebb –VOA Cambodia According to a report by the Global Nature Fund, the Tonle Sap is considered one of world’s the most threatened rivers.

Two New Power Plants Planned –The Khmer Times Two new power plants are being planned for Cambodia, a $167 million garbage-fueled plant for Phnom Penh, and an $89 million solar plant for Siem Reap province

Burma: The Next Great Land Tenure Reform Story?—The Irrawaddy Since World War II, there have been five great Asian development success stories founded upon land tenure reforms that allocated land ownership, or equivalent long-term land rights, into the hands of small farmers. Will Burma be the sixth?

Lawmaker Calls For Action Against Illegal Logging in Kachin State—The Irrawaddy A lawmaker from Kachin State urged the Upper House to look into illegal logging carried out by local militia groups in Kachin State’s Kawnglangphu Township on the Sino-Burma border.

Water Conflicts and the Fate of Mekong Delta—Mekong Eye Water conflict of Mekong River is getting increasingly tense and the fate of Mekong Delta is really being threatened by drought and salinity intrusion.

Dam committee meets Myitsone residents—Mekong Eye Kachin residents have expressed their refusal to accept the Myitsone dam project when the Investigation Commission for Hydropower Projects on the Ayeyawady River visited Myitsone.

 

CHINA

Thousands displaced, rail service halted by Yunnan mudslides—GoKunming Relentless rains sweeping across central Yunnan over the past week have triggered multiple landslides in Yunnan’s Chuxiong Prefecture

In a Parched Corner of Xinjiang, Ancient Water Tunnels Are Running Dry—New York Times The karez channels that bring water from the mountains to the farmers of Turpan are under threat, a victim of global warming, oil drillers and industrial-scale agriculture.

Dozens dead and missing after typhoon lashes eastern China—The Guardian Typhoon Meranti has damaged more than 18,300 houses and caused direct economic losses of more than 16.9bn yuan ($2.5bn)

China’s Wukan Democracy Experiment Comes to a Violent End—The Diplomat Chinese authorities have begun a harsh crackdown on dissent in the village.

The plateau, unpacified—The Economist Tibetans’ culture is changing, by their own will as well as by force

Thousands Protest Planned Copper Smelting Plant in China’s Heilongjiang—RFA

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Southeast Asia Replaces Africa as the World’s Hotbed of Piracy—New York Times Militants from Abu Sayyaf and other criminal groups have stepped up kidnappings and thefts in the seas around Indonesia and the Philippines.

Vietnam Jails an Activist as Hanoi Grabs More Land—RFA A court in Hanoi sentenced a land rights activist to nearly two years in prison on Tuesday for her role in protesting government-sanctioned evictions that are being used to clear the way for commercial real estate developments in Vietnam.

Singapore’s Presidential Review: Change You Should Believe in?—The Diplomat Proposed changes to the elected presidency have been met with a variety of responses.

Related: Singapore Reviews Elected Presidency—The Diplomat

Malaysia: Can a leopard change its spots? The Economist From a cavernous office in a posh part of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, Mahathir Mohamad is sowing dissent.

Jakarta’s suspended giant sea wall project is to resume—Thai PBS Jakarta is to revive the ambitious reclamation plan to build a 24-km sea wall of 17 artificial islets which was suspended in April after it was discovered that the project may block off sea water needed to cool the Muara Karang power plan

Where Next for Cambodian Politics?—CFR

Cambodia National Rescue Party Plans to End National Assembly Boycott—RFA Opposition lawmakers are offering Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen an olive branch as the Cambodia National Rescue Party plans to end its four-month-long parliamentary boycott.

Related: CNRP to end boycott, return to National Assembly—Phnom Penh Post

Cambodian Opposition: Army Soldiers Deployed to Manipulate Vote—RFA In a country dogged by accusations of voter fraud, opposition party officials tell RFA’s Khmer Service that Cambodian military personnel are being transferred into districts to register to vote where they are not residents.

Homes, farmland swamped by floods—The Nation As heavy rains brought by tropical storm “Rai” persisted over the upper part of Thailand yesterday, many homes and tracts of farmland in downstream provinces were flooded by runoff.

Related: Officials in downstream provinces warned to prepare for runoff from North—The Nation

Thailand finds labour rights activist guilty—Phnom Penh Post British labour activist Andy Hall, who has long highlighted abuse of workers in Thailand, often Cambodian migrants, was found guilty by a Bangkok court yesterday of defamation and breaching cyber crime laws in relation to a 2013 report he authored.

Thailand Deports Thousands of Cambodians and Vietnamese in Crackdown on Illegal Immigration—RFA Thai authorities are making good on their promise to crack down on illegal immigrants as each day they are sending thousands of migrant workers back to Cambodia and Vietnam

What is Duterte’s Strategy Toward the Abu Sayyaf?—CFR

Assessing Duterte’s Diplomacy—CFR

Related: Philippine Leader Duterte’s Policy Shifts Confound U.S. Allies Wall Street Journal

Related: Stocks, peso drop as foreign investors start worrying about Duterte’s course—Investvine

 This Philippine senator is a vocal critic of Duterte’s drug war – and she’s been ousted from the killing inquiry she started—South China Morning Post The leading critic of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drug crime has been ousted as head of a Senate investigation into the campaign, which has cost thousands of lives.

New Investment Law Expected to be Approved SoonThe Irrawaddy The new Myanmar Investment Law has been submitted to Parliament and is expected to be approved by October, following discussion by lawmakers and before the current parliamentary session ends.

Suu Kyi makes first UN speech, appeals for understanding as Myanmar wrestles with sectarian issues—South China Morning Post Aung San Suu Kyi made her first speech Wednesday at the UN General Assembly since forming a democratically elected government.

Related Suu Kyi defends stance on Rohingya in UN address—DVB

Thousands of Red Shan march for self-rule—DVB Thousands of ethnic Tai Leng, also known as Red Shan, marched the streets of Homalin in Sagaing Division on Saturday demanding a self-administered Tai Leng state.

A taxing problem—New Mandala ‘Duty’ isn’t enough to boost Myanmar’s tax revenue, writes Gerard McCarthy. Instead the government must enlist non-state actors, and show the benefits of giving.

Demolition of Religious Buildings in Myanmar’s Rakhine State Set to Start—RFA Rakhine state government officials are moving to demolish more than 3,000 allegedly illegal buildings, including a dozen mosques and more than 30 other religious buildings, in the Maungdaw District

This week’s news digest was curated by Gabriella Neusner.

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