Category Archives: NEWS DIGEST

Regional Roundup for Week of 9.16.16


Obama Pledges to Lift All Sanctions Against Myanmar—New York Times President Obama, who met on Wednesday with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s leader, sought to reward the country for its efforts to establish a more democratic government.//while in the big picture, the US believes the benefits outweigh the costs to keeping the sanctions regime in place, there are many who say it’s too soon to lift all sanctions. With this plan, US firms could do business with some of the worst of the worst firms and individuals in Myanmar and further empower military. If the investment flowing to these bad guys is robust, this could derail both the peace process and democratic transition – or at least make things much more difficult than expected for Daw Suu who has put perhaps too much trust in the USG.

Related: US Lifts Sanctions, Retains Limitations on Military-The Irrawaddy

Related: Ethnic Civil Society Groups Want US Sanctions on Burma’s Military to ContinueIrrawaddy

Related: Without Sanctions, Burmese Govt Must Hold Cronies Accountable—The Irrawaddy

Chinese, Russian Navies to Hold 8 Days of Naval Exercises in the South China Sea—The Diplomat Beijing and Moscow will hold the first-ever South China Sea iteration of their Joint Sea exercises

China’s New Silk Road Could Expand Asia’s Deserts—The Diplomat Desertification, soil degradation, and drought are serious issues in most of the countries along the Belt and Road.

Mega project to take 4 billion m3 of water from Mekong River—Mekong Eye On the Loei River, a tributary of the Mekong River, an “unreal” project of water diversion by Thailand is about to commence, which would cause severe conflicts on water usage on the Mekong.

Ethnic Activists Voice Alarm Over Salween Dams—Mekong Eye Ethnic Shan, Mon and Karenni environmental activists have voiced strong concern over alleged government plans to push ahead with hydropower dams on the Salween River, which they believe would destroy the livelihoods of ethnic communities.

Related: Report Details Harm Salween River Dams Could Cause—Mekong Eye

            Salween dam assessment continues, despite opposition—DVB



Cambodia, China Ink New Economic Pact—The Diplomat Agreement seen as boost for the bilateral economic relationship.

Leaving Asia, Obama Predicts U.S. Tilt Toward Region Will Be Lasting—New York Times The president defended the success of the meetings on his tour and dismissed the distractions that caught the news media’s attention as overblown.

Related: Pressing Asia Agenda, Obama Treads Lightly on Human Rights—New York Times

U.S. Still Concerned Over Disappearance of Lao Rural Development Expert—Radio Free Asia While the U.S. appears to have taken no overt steps to prod the Lao government over the disappearance of U.S.-educated rural development expert Sombath Somphone during President Barack Obama’s visit to the country, his wife received assurances that his abduction still has Washington’s attention.//Crickets.

US Training of Burma’s Military Could Help Democratization: David Steinberg—The Irrawaddy The Irrawaddy speaks with veteran Burma scholar David Steinberg .

For Myanmar’s Leader, More Power, but More Expectations, Too—New York Times As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi nears her first trip to the U.S. as leader of Myanmar, officials are discussing whether to lift sanctions against the country.

Related: Obama Meets With Myanmar’s Leader(Video)—New York Times

            Related: Myanmar’s Foreign Policy Rebalance—The Diplomat

US-China Competition in ASEAN on the South China Sea: Who Won This Round?—The Diplomat A closer look at how the two powers did in the recent round of regional summitry in Laos.

Related: The Surprising New Challenge for the US in the South China Sea—The Diplomat

Related: Malcolm Turnbull says there is ‘cautious optimism’ about deal on South China Sea—The Guardian

Is the Philippines Still a US Ally?—The Diplomat How long can the U.S.-Philippines alliance remain “rock solid” in the face of Duterte’s fiery rhetoric?//President Duterte is responsible for some of the most puzzling stories of the week. While Duterte has called for the withdrawal of US military advisers in the Philippines and has made a number of anti-American statements, it is unclear how his most recent statements will affect the currently strong working relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines. It is, however, a warning of some of the challenges that can arise when a nation elects a leader with an impulsive personality, loose lips, and a tendency to insult his allies. Be aware, American voters.

Related: Will Duterte’s Loose Lips Sink the US-Philippines Alliance?—The Diplomat

            Duterte seeks arms from China, ends joint patrols with U.S.—Thanh Nien Daily Philippine leader says figher jets like F-16s of no use to him

 Philippines to Get 2 US Military Aircraft—The Diplomat C-23 Sherpa planes expected in December in a boost for the country’s capabilities.

Why India and Vietnam Need Each Other—The Diplomat Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Vietnam forged new inroads in an important Asian bilateral.

Related: Not So Lonely at the Top: Vietnam’s Next Step in Power Balancing—The Diplomat

China, Singapore to Hold Naval Exercise—The Diplomat The two countries will conduct their second-ever round of bilateral drills.



Environment Ministry plants mangroves in coastal provinces—Phnom Penh Post Ministry of Environment officials spent Saturday planting mangrove trees in a bid to boost the nation’s dwindling population of the vital shrubs.

The Trouble With Chinese Mega Projects—The Diplomat Breakneck speed and rampant corruption threaten Chinese engineering projects, from the flashy to the mundane.

China’s sinking coal mining towns and villages – in pictures—The Guardian Thousands of residents in China’s Shanxi province have been evacuated as villages next to mines have started sinking, after decades of reckless coal mining

China’s Dam Problem With Myanmar—Project Syndicate Myanmar’s suspension of the $3.6-billion Myitsone Dam project in 2011 was a slap in the face to China

Thailand plans to dust off Hatgyi Dam; EGATi awaits Myanmar Govt to negotiate with ethnic group—Mekong Eye Thailand plans to dust off Hatgyi Dam in Myanmar and divert “surplus” water to Bhumipol Dam to alleviate drought.

Why silt is so important for the Mekong—The Third Pole The Mekong river carries massive loads of sediment and nutrients from upstream to downstream and across national borders, replenishing and enriching the land as it goes.//This piece highlights a troubling but often overlooked aspect of Mekong River resource use—sand mining. While concerns have been raised about the impacts of hydropower development on sediment flow in the Mekong River, these environmental impacts will be greatly exacerbated by the continued extraction of sediment from the river for use in cement production. A system to monitor the amount of sediment being mined from the river must be developed in order for this critical resource to be managed more effectively.

As Mekong Changes Course, Development Trumps ConservationMekong Eye

Dam the Mekong, Thailand Buys More Hydroelectricity from Laos—Mekong Eye A power purchasing agreement was signed on Tuesday, during Thai Prime Minister General Prayuth chan-Ocha’s visit to the Prime Minister of Laos Thongloun Sisoulith.

Thailand: Communities deeply divided over southern power plant plansThe Nation Pink and green flags…represent a clear division over plans for a major coal-fired power plant on their doorstep.

Hydropower dam tunnel collapses in central Vietnam flash floods, many missing—Thanh Nien Daily

We breathe easier this September Clearer skies due to Indonesia’s action—The Star It has been a sunny September with mostly clear skies so far, unlike the hazy days during the same period last year. //Though the wetter weather during Indonesia’s “burning season” helped to control haze pollution, there are signs that the Indonesian government is taking real steps to curb forest fires and the resulting haze. This reflects the success of pressure applied by neighboring states in previous years and President Joko Widodo’s efforts to preserve Indonesia’s reputation and leadership role within ASEAN.  Will the continued success of ASEAN’s efforts to stop transboundary haze encourage further ASEAN involvement in transboundary environmental issues?

Burning forests is forbidden, rules Indonesian Islamic council– Southeast Asia Globe Indonesia’s top Islamic clerical body has issued a religious decree denouncing the burning of forests, a significant factor in the haze problem that plagues neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia every year

Melting glaciers may impact hydropower plans—China Dialogue Glaciers are retreating due to climate change. What does that mean for water flow in the streams and rivers downhill.

How to build environmental protection into ‘New Silk Road’—China Dialogue China’s reputation as a major overseas investor and the credibility of its vast “One Belt One Road” infrastructure plan will suffer unless Chinese firms follow environmental policies.

Southern Vietnam faces power starvation—Mekong Eye Southern Vietnam… may face more power shortages from 2017.

German companies eye young solar energy market in Vietnam—Mekong Eye Representatives of six German companies on Monday began their business trip in Vietnam to explore the potential of the local solar photovoltaic market.


An Unlikely Crime in One-Party China: Election Fraud–New York Times Forty-five lawmakers, all from Liaoning Province, have been expelled from the National People’s Congress in a vote-buying scandal, the state news media said.

Riot Breaks Out in Chinese Village—New York Times A riot broke out in Wukan, in southern China, on Tuesday. Footage shows police in riot gear using tear gas against dozens of people protesting over earlier raids that led to the arrests of local activists.

The Meaning of the People’s Liberation Army Reforms—The Diplomat China goes for stronger joint operations capabilities and political stability.

Why China Should be Concerned About ZikaCFR



Thailand and Malaysia plan wall along border to combat trafficking—Southeast Asia Globe  A meeting today between Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha was expected to focus on security and investment, including discussion of a proposed wall that would stem trafficking between the two countries

Thailand, Malaysia Mull New High-Speed Rail LinkThe Diplomat Both sides focus on advancing prosperity amid lingering border woes.

Related: Malaysia and Thailand to study high-speed link—The Nation

Behind the rifts in modern Malaysia—New Mandala A rise in nativism, eroding civic values, and a failing democracy are exacerbating already dangerous divisions.

Married Off by the Khmer Rouge, and ‘Nobody Could Help Me’—New York Times Cambodians have testified about abuse and heartache after being paired with strangers, as a tribunal considers allegations of crimes against humanity under the 1970s regime

Related: Forced marriage a crime against both sexes: expert—Phnom Penh Post

Will Cambodia’s Rulers Be Dragged to Court?—The Diplomat The murder of a government critic may be added to the regime’s growing list of transgressions.

Cambodian opposition leader sentenced to five months in prison—The Guardian Lawyer for Kem Sokha, who was not in court, says he will appeal, as opponents of Hun Sen continue to challenge his regime

Related: Cambodian parties square off following conviction of Kem Sokha—Southeast Asia Globe

Countries Condemn ‘Escalation of Political Tensions’ in Cambodia—Radio Free Asia As Prime Minister Hun Sen’s elite military bodyguard unit continues to harass the opposition, a group of 36 countries approved a statement criticizing the “current escalation of political tensions” in the country.

Can Laos Create a Startup Economy?—The Diplomat Alongside the ASEAN summitry, a different group descended on Laos: angel investors.

Thailand’s Deepening Fractures—The Diplomat Thailand faces two legitimacy crises at its peripheries — and the junta is only making them worse.

Thailand: Nationwide effort to combat Zika virus steps up a levelThe Nation The Chief of the Department of Disease Control (DDC) has instructed all 12 Emergency Operations Centres (EOCs) around the country to scale up their response from Level 1 to Level 2 to contain the Zika virus outbreak.

Related: Thai authorities downplay Zika risk, worried by tourism impactThe Nation

Great Promise, but Still Huge Obstacles to Myanmar Peace—CFR Over the past week, Myanmar has held its eagerly awaited national peace conference in Naypyidaw.

Related: Annan stresses need for international approach to Arakan tensions—DVB

A long roadThe Economist Myanmar’s new government sets about making peace with its many ethnic minorities

Myanmar’s Rohingya need tomorrow’s fairer world today—New Mandala Myanmar’s appointment of a Kofi Annan-chaired commission to look at Rakhine state is a positive step for the country’s Rohingya Muslims, but cannot be allowed lead to another year of waiting for action. 

Advocacy Group to Govt: Join UN Convention Against Torture—The Irrawaddy An advocacy group for Burmese political prisoners urged State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to join the United Nations’ Convention against Torture (CAT) to help eradicate the practice in Burma.

Leaders Meet to Resolve Shan State Conflict—The Irawaddy A half-day meeting in Chiang Mai attended by the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) and the Ta’ang National Party (TNP) in a bid to resolve an almost year-long conflict…has yielded positive results.

More Than 3,000 Villagers Flee Escalating Conflict in Karen StateThe Irrawaddy More than 3,000 villagers in Karen State have fled escalating conflict between a splinter group of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and a joint force of the Burma Army and its allied Border Guard Force (BGF)

Related: Burmese govt launches aid effort for IDPs in Karen State—DVB


KNU, NMSP troops clash in Tenasserim—DVB The Karen National Union (KNU) and the New Mon State Party (NMSP) clashed in Tenasserim’s Yebyu Township on Thursday in the first clash between the two major ethnic armed groups since they agreed to cease hostilities 28 years ago.

Related: Mon and Karen Forces Clash in Dawei District—The Irrawaddy

 Nationalists Clash with Locals, Reporters at Rally in Rangoon—The Irrawaddy A protest in Rangoon’s Bahan Township against the Arakan State Advisory Commission saw confrontations between firebrand nationalists and frustrated locals on Sunday.

Related: Buddhist nationalists clash with Rangoon residents—DVB

Burma, Thailand still committed to Dawei project—DVB Multimedia Group Thai officials and their Burmese counterparts remain committed to the long-awaited Dawei megaproject, with the Myanmar-Thailand Joint High-Level Committee (JHC) and the Joint Coordinating Committee (JCC) to be set up soon to foster development.

ADB, Myanmar Sign Agreements to Improve Urban Services in Mandalay—ADB ADB and the Government of Myanmar signed agreements for a $60 million loan and $4 million grant to provide Mandalay—the country’s second largest city—with a sustainable, modern wastewater and drainage management system.

Prayut, Najib to work |on meaningful peace process in the South—The Nation Forging a meaningful peace process in the predominantly Muslim deep South was a key agenda item during a meeting between visiting Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and PM Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday.

Indonesia resumes construction of sea wall to protect Jakarta—Investvine In what could be a role model for Bangkok, the Indonesian government decided to resume with the planned construction of a sea wall plus artificial islands in Jakarta Bay to prevent the capital from sinking below sea level

Indonesia inspired by Duterte’s bloody anti-drug war—Investvine Indonesia’s anti-drugs chief is supporting to implement a bloody crackdown on drug traffickers in his country similar to the war on crime in the Philippines.

Related: Indonesian official calls for Philippines-style ‘war on drugs’—Southeast Asia Globe

The Changing Face of ASEAN—The Diplomat Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam offer an unlikely breath of fresh air.

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

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Regional Roundup for Week of 9.1.16


Myanmar’s Suu Kyi faces test at ethnic peace conference – The Nation Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi faces what could be the toughest test of her leadership yet when she opens a major ethnic peace conference Wednesday aimed at ending wars that have blighted the country since its independence.

Myanmar’s Suu Kyi kicks off peace conference with appeal for unity – Reuters Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi launched a major push to end decades of fighting between the military and myriad rebel groups with an appeal on Wednesday to the country’s ethnic minorities to overcome their differences to achieve peace.

As Obama heads to Laos, signs of a tilt away from China – Reuters The secretive communist government of Laos, a country with a population of less than 7 million, rarely causes a ripple on the diplomatic circuit. And yet its sleepy capital will spring to life next week when global leaders arrive for an Asian summit.

Asean urged to look beyond consensus in decision making – Bangkok Post Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang suggested Tuesday that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations adjust its long-held practice of applying the principle of consensus in the 10-member bloc’s decision making so as to be able to deal better with contentious regional issues. /// An interesting development in the realm of ASEAN relations. Consensus decision making has long been a pillar of ASEAN relations, and if a Head of State is suggesting changes, then that must mean there are some frustrations. This likely comes from issues such as the South China Sea where Cambodia has consistently blocked formal language criticizing China. Though other issues such as Indonesian haze and dam building along the Mekong are also contentious and could benefit from a new agreement on decision making within ASEAN.  It will be interesting to watch and see if any countries jump on board, or if Tran Dai Quang’s comments are ignored.

Related: Asean solidarity essential to a peaceful, prosperous Asia Pacific: Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang – The Straits Times – It is in the interest of the entire region for all Asean member states to work towards a strong and coherent Asean, said Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang.

Laos starts construction on Don Sahong Power Project – VietnamNet Bridge KPL News has reported that the commencement ceremony of the construction of Don Sahong hydropower plant took place on August 16 in Champasak in the south of Laos.//the construction actually began in January. It took a while for the ceremony to catch up with the construction.

One of the world’s biggest fisheries is on the verge of collapse – National Geographic Years ago Christopher Tubo caught a 660-pound blue marlin in the South China Sea. The fishing was good there, he says. Tuna fishermen would come home from a trip with dozens of the high-value fish as well as a good haul of other species.

How Aung San Suu Kyi is holding China to ransom – ASEAN Today When China’s foreign minister became the first foreign dignitary to visit Myanmar after Aung San Suu Kyi was elected, the $3.6 billion Chinese-financed Myitsone Dam project did not sit high on the agenda. Four months later, when Suu Kyi made her first visit outside Southeast Asia to China, it was the hot button in the two countries’ discussion.


Vietnam says all will lose in an South China Sea war – The Nation Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang warned on Tuesday there would be no winners in any armed conflict sparked by territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Philippines, China should abide by South China Sea ruling, says John Kerry – The Asian Correspondent – John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, has called for China and the Philippines to accept the Hague tribunal’s ruling on the much-disputed South China Sea region.


China and ASEAN: Next 25-year cycle will be complicated – The Nation After China’s Premier Li Keqiang outlined his new policy approach in front of Asean members in Bandar Seri Begawan in October 2013 – known as the “two plus seven” cooperative framework – nobody predicted it would then be shelved.


Mon Groups Pledge to Block Coal Power Plant – The Irrawaddy One of the resolutions which came out of the three-day Mon National Conference has been to stand against the use of a coal power plant by a cement company in Mon State’s Kyaikmayaw Township.

Dam project gets the go-ahead in war torn shan state – Burma News Inernational A controversial Chinese dam project in Shan State has been given the go-ahead, as local human rights organisations warned that the development could stoke ongoing conflict in the region.

Interim report from Ayeyarwady dam commission due next month – Myanmar Times The commission tasked with reviewing and scrutinising hydropower projects along the Ayeyarwady River met for the first time this week, with the recently formed body planning to submit an interim report on its findings next month.

Limited capacity hinders Myanmar’s water management – Eleven Myanmar River basin organisations should be established to support the activities of the National Water Resource Committee (NWRC), to enhance the country’s water management which has faced serious capacity limitations, said an official.

Vietnam needs master plan for water sources: expert – VietnamNet Bridge Mekong Delta suffered the most serious drought in the last 90 years in March and April. The situation was so serious that the State had to ask China to discharge water from its reservoirs to let water go to the lower course.

Vietnam pushes renewable energy with a focus on solar power – VN Express International Vietnam’s electricity consumption has grown twice as fast as the country’s economic growth rate.The average energy consumption in Vietnam grew 13 percent from 2006-2010, and by about 11 percent from 2011-2015, said Le Tuan Phong, deputy head of the General Directorate of Energy. The country is on the path towards powering itself by 2030, Phong said. /// More renewables and a focus on solar is a great move for Vietnam. With a development plan that relies on coal, any push to bring in renewables bodes well for the environment. Whether or not Vietnam can sustain solar and renewable is another matter, but to reach its goal of all households using 50% by 2050, continued investment will be needed to transition from coal.

Indonesia: State of emergency declared in six provinces over haze – The Asian Correspondent – Indonesia has declared states of emergency in six provinces as peat fires shroud parts of neighboring Singapore and Malaysia in smog.

Indonesia urges neighbors to stop complaining about haze – The Asian Correspondent The Indonesian government has urged its neighbors to cease complaining about the annual haze problem, following efforts by the nation to douse forest fires caused every year by farmers clearing land for agricultural use.

Energy concession bids due in March – Bangkok Post The government plans to open bids in March 2017 for expiring oil and gas contracts held by Chevron Corp and PTT Exploration and Production, an energy ministry official said on Thursday.

NGOs up in arms over South power plants, development projects – The Nation  In the eyes of many non-governmental organisations (NGOs), new coal-fired power plants and infrastructure development will give the Southern Region a new face, but sadly an ugly one.

Locals along Mekong issued flooding alert – Bangkok Post Residents along the Mekong River have been warned to prepare for overflowing after a large volume of water was released from a southern province of China.

Community opposes new PTT gas pipeline in Rayong – Bangkok Post Residents of Nong Faeb in tambon Map Ta Phut have put up banners and signboards showing their opposition to PTT Plc’s plan to lay a 5th natural gas pipeline through their community.

Get your face masks out for ‘coal’ tourism – Bangkok Post My trip to Songkhla in the south of Thailand earlier this week was not a typical sightseeing jaunt, but it was certainly worthwhile.My destination was not Muang district which is famous for its old-town quarters or Hat Yai, the well-known shopping district of the southern region, but a pristine beach in Thepa’s tambon Pak Bang which is the designated site for a controversial coal-fired power plant. /// Thailand is planning several more coal plants in the years to come to help ease its reliance on domestic natural gas that will soon be diminish. Building these plants will be a challenge as Thailand has a robust group of environmental and community activists. With Thailand relying heavily on tourism these days, it seems odd to have coal plants proposed in areas such as Krabi and Songkhla, where pristine beaches attract tourists. Does the junta have a coordinated development plan, or is it just limping along hoping things fall together?

Preserving Mekong’s biodiversity – Vientiane Times via The Nation A NEW community fisheries project in the Mekong River was launched in Vientiane on Thursday with the Laos Department of Livestock and Fisheries (DLF), Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry agreeing to cooperate with the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF-Laos).

 MoU signed for rehabilitation work at 246-MW Angat hydropower project in the Philippines – Hydroworld – Last week, a number of stakeholders signed a memorandum of agreement (MoU) for the 47-year-old 246-MW Angat hydropower facility, located about 58 km northeast of Manila in Norzagaray, Bulacan, Philippines, to undergo a US$24 million rehabilitation project.

SNAP-Ifugao remains committed to developing 390-MW Alimit hydropower project in Philippines – HydroWorld – Developer SN Aboitiz Power-Ifugao has said it remains committed to developing the 390-MW Alimit hydropower project in the Philippines, pending consent from indigenous groups impacted by its construction.

Department of Energy sees nuke energy potential – The Manila Times The Department of Energy (DOE) is looking at the viability of nuclear energy as the Philippines intensifies its electrification programs amid increasing population and strong economic growth.

Solar firm becomes ‘first’ to link to national grid – The Phnom Penh Post State-run energy supplier Electricité du Cambodge (EDC) signed a 20-year agreement to purchase renewable energy from Singaporean solar firm Sunseap International yesterday. /// An exciting development for renewable energy. Even though Cambodia has no renewable energy target in its power development plan, solar has made slow progress in rural areas and industrial zones. Getting a solar company linked to the grid, should help Cambodia reach its goal of having 70% of the country electrified by 2030 and will hopefully lead to more solar investment in the future.


Malaysia, Thailand agree to sign border fence pact – The Asian Correspondent Malaysia and Thailand will ink an agreement to fence up their porous borders in a bid to stop smuggling, trafficking and trespassing activities that have continued unabated for decades, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said.

Japan to offer Myanmar ¥100bn in loans – Bangkok Post Japan plans to offer ¥100 billion (US$995 million) in loans to Myanmar for infrastructure development, a Japanese government source said on Friday.

Malaysia: PM Najib will take on Duterte to defend disputed state – The Asian Correspondent – Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has vowed to defend the sovereignty and security of the state of Sabah from foreign claims, saying he will do so if he meets with his Philippine counterpart Rodrigo Duterte.

Myanmar looks to new rice agreement with Jakarta–Bangkok Post The governments of Indonesia and Myanmar will sign a memorandum of understanding next month on continued rice exports, but the two commerce ministers then face an unresolved issue over payment for a previous shipment that failed to comply with Indonesian regulations.

India seeks gateway to ASEAN – The Phnom Penh Post Indian business leaders see strong potential to develop trade and investment ties with Cambodia given its liberal investment climate and strong record of economic growth, and many recognise the Kingdom as a potential link in their quest to access ASEAN’s 600-million-strong consumer market, trade representatives from both countries said this week.

Burma, India agree to cooperate on defense, energy, infrastructure – The Irrawaddy Burma and India have inked four memorandums of understanding (MoU) to promote bilateral cooperation in the areas of traditional medicine, renewable energy and infrastructural connectivity.

US fears IS rise in Southeast Asia – The Manila Times Islamic State jihadists are eyeing expansion into Southeast Asia by joining forces with local extremists, a senior US counter-terrorism official warned.

Why ASEAN is here to stay and what that means for the U.S. – The Diplomat As U.S. President Barack Obama departs for Asia to attend his final ASEAN-led East Asia Summit (EAS) in Vientiane, Laos, as well as the G20 in China, it is a good time to take stock of ASEAN’s imperfections, ability to endure, and utility to the United States. Especially in the United States, commentary has concentrated on ASEAN’s inability to forge consensus on the South China Sea (SCS).


Massive highway project displaces Karen communities: rights groups – The Irrawaddy A major highway project that will serve as a trade link between Burma and Thailand has been displacing local communities who live along the route in Karen State, southeastern Burma, say human rights organizations.


Malaysia student protesters demand 1MDB arrest – Reuters Nearly a thousand protesters marched in the heart of the Malaysian capital on Saturday calling for the arrest of an unnamed high-ranking government official who U.S. investigators say received $700 million skimmed from a sovereign fund.

Philippines’ Duterte offers reward for corrupt police linked to drugs – Reuters Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday promised rewards running to tens of thousands of dollars for information leading to the capture of police officers protecting drug syndicates and warned corrupt officials they would face “a day of reckoning”.

Philippine government and communist revels extend ceasefire – The New York Times The Philippine government and Communist rebels agreed on Friday to extend a mutual cease-fire and return to the negotiating table in October as they wrapped up their first round of peace talks after a five-year impasse.

Death toll in Philippines’ drug war hits 2,000 – Reuters The number of drug-related killings in the Philippines since Rodrigo Duterte became president two months ago on a pledge to wipe out the illegal drug trade, has reached around 2,000, according to data released on Tuesday.

Obama to meet Duterte – The Manila Times US President Barack Obama will meet controversial Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte next week, the White House said, despite concerns over a war on crime that has claimed more than 2,000 lives.

Singapore confims 41 cases of locally transmitted zika virus – The New York Times Singapore has confirmed 41 cases of locally transmitted Zika virus, mostly among foreign construction workers, and said it expected more cases to be identified.

U.S.-Singapore relations and Obama’s rebalance to Asia – The Diplomat The Diplomat‘s Ankit Panda and Prashanth Parameswaran discuss U.S.-Singapore relations following Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s state visit to the United States.

Laos’ investment promotion law undergoes amendments to boost growth – Vientiane Times via The Nation – Drafted amendments to the Investment Promotion Law that policy makers are currently drawing up are set to offer maximum profit tax exemptions of up to eight years for businesses operating in certain promoted areas.

This week’s news digest was compiled by Peter Telaroli. Big thanks to Pete for his contributions this summer!

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Regional Roundup for Week of 8.12.16

Thai Referendum

Thailand, seeking stability, approves military constitutionReuters A democratically elected government will take power in Thailand at the earliest by December 2017, a senior Thai official said on Monday, after the country endorsed a military-backed constitution paving the way for a general election.

What does Thailand’s Referendum result mean? –  The Diplomat A military-backed constitution was passed overwhelmingly by Thai voters in a national referendum on Sunday, an electoral result that will have profound implications for the polarized country’s political future. /// Thailand hits the reset button and goes back to a time where the military was much more influential in the political sphere. While elections may be held within the next year, political parties will have less power, and how that will affect electoral politics is not entirely known. It might be commonplace to think that the military will seek to ensure stability, limiting any advantage one political party has. That said, Thailand was a pattern of eschewing conventional wisdom, and with such an uncertain future, the years ahead in Thailand will be anything but conventional.

PM Appeals to Thais to accept referendum, put aside differences – Reuters Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha called on Wednesday for acceptance of the outcome of a referendum that approved a military-backed constitution, saying unity was needed to tackle problems facing the country.

Prayut outlines what’s next after referendum – The Nation Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha Wednesday evening went on TV to outline the next steps that will be taken after the draft constitution has been approved.

Thai Junta Chief Prayuth reiterates election in 2017Reuters Thailand will hold a general election in 2017, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Tuesday, seeking to allay concerns his military government might delay plans for a return to democracy, days after the country endorsed a military-backed constitution.

In Thailand, bruised opposition seeks solace in 2017 vote prospectsReuters In Thailand’s rural heartland, supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra say they will focus on winning an election next year, even though they would have to govern on military terms if they win.

Former Thai PM Yingluck says she ‘accepts’ referendum results – Asian Correspondent Thailand’s former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has remained magnanimous over the result of the draft charter referendum in the country which saw the majority vote in favor of constitutional amendments, providing the military more powers in the kingdom’s government.

Dim prospects for Thailand’s democracyNew Mandala As Thailand votes on a new charter this Sunday, the result can only be more deadlock in a country long-suffering from political turmoil.

A vicious cycle of coups and constitutions New Mandala Thailand has been searching for an appropriate form of government for more than 80 years. It’s unlikely to find one this Sunday when the country votes on a contentious new constitution.

Thailand’s Divisions on Display in Vote Approving New Constitution – The New York Times – Although a proposed constitution drafted by Thailand’s military government has been endorsed by a majority of voters, regional returns show that deep political divides remain, analysts said on Monday.

Thailand’s new constitution to be enacted in October – The Nation The voted charter draft should be enacted in either October or November if there is no technical snag, Constitution Drafting Commission chairman Meechai Ruchuphan said Tuesday.

US urges Thailand to restore civilian rule after pro-junta vote – The Nation The United States expressed concern Monday after Thailand approved a new military-backed constitution in a victory for the country’s ruling generals.

Decades of dominance and a junta’s demiseNew Mandala Thailand’s referendum has installed the military junta for the long haul. But could it also be their undoing? 


South China Sea

Photos suggest China built reinforced hangars on disputed islands: CSIS – Reuters Satellite photographs taken in late July show China appears to have built reinforced aircraft hangars on its holdings in disputed South China Sea islands, a Washington-based research group said.

China conducts ‘combat patrols over contested islands – Reuters China’s air force sent bombers and fighter jets on “combat patrols” near contested islands in the South China Sea, in a move a senior colonel said was part of an effort to normalize such drills and respond to security threats.

US Says More Military Transparency Needed in S. China Sea – VOA News The response from Beijing and others to an arbitration panel’s ruling invalidating China’s vast South China Sea maritime claims has brought no surprises, but much more military transparency is needed to reduce tensions in the region, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet said Tuesday.

Exclusive: Vietnam moves new rocket launchers into disputed South China Sea – Reuters Vietnam has discreetly fortified several of its islands in the disputed South China Sea with new mobile rocket launchers capable of striking China’s runways and military installations across the vital trade route, according to Western officials.

Japan, Philippines tell China to respect ruling on disputed waters – Asian Correspondent As China defies an arbitration ruling that invalidated its vast territorial claims, two top diplomats of Japan and the Philippines have called on Beijing to avoid intimidation and follow the rule of law in disputed waters.

Sustainability and Resource Management

Offices of Mekong River Commission decamp to Laos – The Phnom Penh Post The Mekong River Commission’s secretariat in Phnom Penh – one of two for the group, charged with managing the river’s sustainable development – is being shuttered in favour of a single office in Vientiane, a decision that has provoked widespread concern among current and former MRC employees alike. /// A cause of worry for the future of the Mekong? It could simply be housekeeping, but it doesn’t look good that the MRC is shutting one of its secretariat offices in Cambodia. A critical country in the development of the Mekong, Cambodia should have direct access to the secretariat. The Mekong is vital to Cambodia’s economic and environmental well-being, and any loss of influence from moving the secretariat could have ramifications for those that depend on the river.

Laos’ thirst for Mekong River dams imperils fishing, farming – AP Dismissing its neighbors’ pleas, impoverished Laos is rapidly building a Mekong River dam that threatens fisheries crucial to millions of Southeast Asia’s poorest people.

Megaprojects to get boost from Yes vote – Bangkok Post The government’s 20 planned megaprojects with a combined valued of 1.41 trillion baht are set to move forward smoothly after the Yes vote for the new constitution.

Govt to survey dams nationwide – Myanmar Times The government is planning on reviewing the status of dams throughout the country to see if they are worth keeping. U Htun Win, deputy minister for agriculture, livestock and irrigation, told parliament on August 2 that the review would take into account the efficiency, cost-effectiveness and long-term benefit of the dams.

Cambodia Pushing for More Benefits From Mekong Integration – VOA News The government is seeking to develop ways of increasing the benefit felt by Cambodia from economic corridors opened throughout the Greater Mekong Subregion.


China drafts new rules to curb mining pollutionReuters China plans to raise environmental standards in its highly-polluting mining sector, according to a policy draft circulated by the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

China to spend $65 billion to improve water suppliesReuters China plans to spend a total of 430 billion yuan ($65 billion) on around 4,800 separate projects aimed at improving the quality of its water supplies, the environment ministry said late on Monday.

Thousands in Eastern Chinese City Protest Nuclear Waste Project – The New York Times China’s efforts to expand its nuclear power sector suffered a backlash in one eastern seaboard city over the weekend, as thousands of residents took to the streets to oppose any decision to build a reprocessing plant in the area for spent nuclear fuel.

China’s 5-year plan for energy – The Diplomat China’s 13th Five-Year Plan for energy (Energy 13FYP) might be one of the most anticipated official documents in the world and is one that will have far-reaching impacts on the carbon trajectory of the world’s number one emitter. Recently, information about the plan begins to surface in the Chinese media.

A year on, survivors haunted by China’s Tianjin chemical blasts – Reuters Survivors grieved on Thursday for the 165 people killed in chemical warehouse explosions a year ago in China’s port city of Tianjin, as environmentalists raised safety concerns despite government promises of tighter industry regulations.

Regional News

ASEAN Disunity Heightens Sea Tension – Experts – The Manila Times The lack of unity among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in stopping China’s continuing construction work in disputed waters is increasing the conflict in the already tense West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), legal experts said.

Philippines envoy ‘optimistic’ about ice breaking China tripReuters Former Philippines President Fidel Ramos on Tuesday named the head of a Chinese government think-tank among the experts and officials he hoped to meet on a trip to rekindle ties with China soured by a maritime dispute in the South China Sea.

Suu Kyi to Visit China Next Week – The Irrawaddy Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s state counselor and foreign minister, is scheduled to visit China for four days from next week, according to the President’s Office.

Women are potential boost to ASEAN economy – The Phnom Penh Post By most measures, the ASEAN region is an economic powerhouse. It is the seventh-largest economy in the world. Labour force expansion and productivity improvements drive GDP growth and the 10 member states are making impressive strides in both areas.

Asean, trade partners projecting 3.1% global economic growth – The Nation Economic ministers of Asean members and its major trading partners expect a moderate global economic growth of 3.1 percent this year, despite the persistence of downside risks across markets.

Ties with Vietnam much warmer after cool start – The Nation In the first of a two-part report to mark the 40th anniversary of relations between Thailand Vietnam, which were formally established on August 6, 1976, Vietnam’s Ambassador to Thailand Nguyen Tat Thanh tells how Vietnamese viewed ties over the past 40 years and foresee the decade ahead.

Are Southeast Asia’s Strongmen Here to Stay? – The Diplomat From the sultanate of Brunei to the single-party socialist republic of Laos, Southeast Asian strongmen appear to have a firm grasp on political power across the region. As countries like Myanmar and Indonesia have offered powerful examples of democratic transition in their neighborhood, are these powerful autarchs here to stay, or is this their last hurrah?

The Point of ASEAN – The Diplomat ASEAN’s potential lies not in solving the South China Sea issue, but in creating a truly “people-centric” community.

Lao, Myanmar presidents highly value their bilateral ties – Vientiane Times President Bounnhang Vorachit, his wife, and a high-level delegation made a one-day state visit to Myanmar on Friday at the invitation of Myanmar President U Htin Kyaw.

Laos, China want better synergy in development – Vientiane Times Laos and China are aiming to achieve better synergy in development with the relevant sectors from both countries to work together to merge Laos’ Eighth five-year National Socio-Economic Development Plan (NSEDP) with China’s 13th five year NSEDP. /// Does more synergy mean more investments for China’s SOEs in Laos? So far, the fruits of Chinese investment in Laos have not trickled down to the people living in Lao. Further synergy, then, likely implies more large-scale investments that could generate significant economic growth but have little benefit for the average person in Laos.

Indonesia, Cambodia discuss defence cooperation – The Phnom Penh Post Indonesia is willing to offer Cambodia’s navy ships at a discount and would like the Kingdom to be involved in joint patrols in the region, Indonesia’s Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu yesterday told the Post, amid his meetings with government leaders.

Southeast Asia

Change is not coming so quickly for some thingsThe Manila Times My original topic for today’s column was unfortunately trapped inside my home computer at about 10:55 am yesterday, when a sweeping power outage began and affected a large part of Metro Manila and provinces to the south.

Has the Philippines become an oligarchipelago?  – The Manila Times I planned to reserve the term “oligarchipelago” for a book that I am writing and which keeps me awake most nights these days, but President Duterte‘s loud blast against oligarchs last Wednesday in Malacanang has forced a change of plans.

President Duterte publicly accuses more than 150 officials of links to drug trade – Asian CorrespondentPhilippine President Rodrigo Duterte publicly announced the names of more than 150 current and former officials, accusing them of having links to the drug trade in a nationally televised speech on Sunday.

U.S. govt summons Philippines envoy after Duterte hurls insults at ambassadorAsian Correspondent – The Philippines envoy to the United States has been asked to clarify an incident involving derogatory remarks reportedly made by President Rodrigo Duterte towards the U.S. ambassador to Manila recently.  

Thai govt announces plans to track foreigners’ movements with SIM cardsAsian Correspondent – The junta-led Thai government has unveiled its plan to monitor the movements of foreigners in the country via a special SIM card to be installed in their mobile phones, local media reports.

EU-US urge end to restrictions on freedom of speech – The Nation The United States and the European Union urged the Thai junta to end restrictions on freedom of speech, to allow inclusive discussion on the new constitution after the historic referendum vote on Sunday.

Yingluck says rice scheme was not victim of neglect  – Bangkok Post Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra has dismissed accusations that she turned a blind eye to graft under her rice-pledging programme, saying several panels had been set up to scrutinise the scheme.

PM to retain Article 44 power – The Nation Special power will be used when necessary, say Prayut while promising general elections ‘will be held in about a year. /// The operative word in the above sentence is ‘necessary’. What exactly will the military junta decide is necessary when it comes to article 44? Now that the referendum has passed, further entrenching the junta, will it run roughshod over the rights and desires of the Thai people?

 This Week in Parliament (August 1-5) The Irrawaddy A summary of parliamentary news in Burma.

The Irrawaddy Business Roundup (August 6, 2016) The Irrawaddy A summary of business news in Burma.

 Suu Kyi sets date for crunch peace talks – The Nation Myanmar will begin long-planned talks with armed ethnic groups at the end of the month, as the government’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi targets peace as a prelude to rebooting the economy.

 Thilawa Zone B to start in November – Bangkok Post Construction of Thilawa Special Economic Zone B will begin this November on 700 hectares of land, an official responsible for the project said.

Unregulated border drives meth epidemic in Myanmar – Bangkok Post Myanmar has seen a surge in the smuggling of cold remedies containing pseudoephedrine from India with is fueling the country’s methamphetamine epidemic

World Bank Loan Will Not Be Used for Govt Salary Increases, Says President’s Office SpokespersonThe Irrawaddy – Government employees’ salaries will not increase despite plans to take out a loan worth US$100 million from the World Bank, aimed at covering a state deficit by separating salaries from the budget, according to government officials.

Floods Affect Hundreds of Thousands in Irrawaddy DivisionThe Irrawaddy More than 350,000 people from some 700 villages have been affected by flooding in three of the Irrawaddy Division’s districts, said the divisional government.

With Sanctions Eased, US Sees Economic Potential in Myanmar – VOA News U.S. officials are looking to boost economic engagement with Myanmar, a country that has been dubbed by some as “the final frontier” because it is one of the last markets largely untouched by Western companies.

Desperate times for Cambodia’s Farmers – The Diplomat After facing a long drought, Cambodian farmers now fear the arrival of La Niña and possible floods.

Cambodian migrants to Thailand still lack paper: IOM – The Phnom Penh Post The vast majority of Cambodian migrant workers to Thailand are continuing to use unofficial channels to enter the country, choosing not to use a passport or worker permit due to the high cost and long wait times, according to a survey released on Monday.


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Regional Roundup for Week of 8.4.2016


Malaysia’s Leader, Dogged by a Billion-Dollar Scandal, Proves UntouchableThe New York Times – The conspirators were confident. They planned to confront Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak, at a cabinet meeting and demand his resignation. Prosecutors had collected evidence that Mr. Najib had deposited millions of dollars of public money into his personal bank account.

Related: Malaysian democracy group plans 1MDB protest rally – Reuters Malaysian democracy group Bersih plans a protest rally to demand greater government accountability and action to tackle a multi-billion-dollar scandal at state fund 1MDB, an official of the group said on Wednesday.

Lamenting 1MDB – New Mandala The damage from Malaysia’s latest financial scandal runs deep. Here’s how it will impact politics in the long-term. /// Meredith Weiss lays out many of the problems associated with Malaysian politics and how 1MDB may signal a systemic crisis. Moving forward, Malaysia has many hurdles to overcome: namely, rejuvenating a stifled press and the need for UMNO to reform itself by finding younger politicians and moving forward with an investigation into 1MDB. With Prime Minister Najib Razak seemingly untouchable at this point, don’t expect much to change. Outside investigations may reveal more information, but as long as UMNO continues to win votes, don’t look for the 1MDB scandal to catalyze structural political change.

Stage one of Sesan dam to be complete next year, PM reveals – The Phnom Penh Post The first stage of the controversial lower Sesan II hydropower dam in Stung Treng province will be complete in October 2017, Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday during a visit to the construction site. /// Slowly but surely Lower Sesan II is being built. All is not well though as 180 families have refused to be relocated and government negotiations with the families don’t seem to be moving forward. Ensuring the dam is up and running on time, and that local communities are given adequate compensation while not infringing upon their human rights will be an enormous task for Cambodia. With several dams planned for the 3S tributaries, any problems with the Lower Sesan II may augur problems for the other dams.

             Related: Rough Waters of Lower Sesan II Dam – Mekong Eye  

Body Count Rises as Philippine President Wages War on Drugs – The New York Times Since Rodrigo Duterte became president of the Philippines just over a month ago, promising to get tough on crime by having the police and the military kill drug suspects, 420 people have been killed in the campaign, according to tallies of police reports by the local news media. 

            Related: The dark side of Duterte’s deadly but popular drug war – Reuters


Philippines complied with UNCLOS to win ArbitrationThe Manila Times The Philippines won in almost all its submissions against China in the South China Sea award by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNLOS) Arbitration Tribunal, including the main issues that compelled the Philippines to urgently file the arbitration complaint, namely: that China had prohibited Philippine fishermen from exercising their historic rights to fish in Scarborough Shoal, and that China had unlawfully interfered with Philippine petroleum exploration in the Reed Bank which is within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines.

Avoid China-claimed shoal, Philippines tells fishermen – Bangkok Post The Philippines told its fishermen Wednesday to steer clear of a fishing ground in the disputed South China Sea to avoid harassment from Chinese authorities.

Russia to Join China in Naval Exercise in Disputed South China Sea – The New York Times  – Russian naval forces plan to join Chinese forces for a joint exercise in the South China Sea, highlighting Moscow’s partnership with Beijing after a recent international legal ruling underlined rifts between China and Southeast Asian nations over rival claims across the sea.

Major Chinese state paper calls for a military strike on Australian ships that enter the South China Sea – Business Insider – China’s state-run Global Times has published an editorial attacking Australia for supporting the recent international ruling on China’s activities in the South China Sea and called for strikes on any Australian ships which might undertake “freedom-of-navigation” activities in the region.

It’s typhoon season in the South China Sea—and China’s fake islands could be washed away – Quartz – Typhoon Nida is barreling through the South China Sea, after dumping over 300 millimeters of rain on the Philippines over the weekend. As Hong Kong braces for landfall sometime tonight (Aug. 1), some controversial, much-less-populated landmasses may already be feeling the brunt of the storm. /// An interesting topic not often mentioned when talking about the South China Sea. How will artificial islands hold up under immense typhoons and the continuous pounding of waves? It’d be ironic for China to ignore UNCLOS verdict only to have their island building project stopped by the true law of the sea: nature.

South China Sea: Beijing vows to prosecute ‘trespassers’ – CNN China has sent a clear warning to foreigners who enter contested areas of the South China Sea — stay away or you’ll be prosecuted.


China’s More Proactive Policy Could Hold the Key to Peace in Burma – The Irrawaddy So that they could attend the summit in the border town of Mai Ja Yang in Kachin State, the Chinese authorities allowed ethnic armed group leaders to travel freely through Chinese territory from the Muse border in northern Shan State—a marked departure from previous practice.

Cambodia asks China to double rice quota – The Phnom Penh Post Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak lobbied his visiting Chinese counterpart, Gao Hucheng, yesterday to consider doubling Cambodia’s annual rice export quota to China while also proposing a host of agricultural trade agreements.

Thai-Chinese rail build gets B179bn capBangkok Post The Transport Ministry has agreed to cap the cost of the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima high-speed train project at 179 billion baht after months of arguments with Beijing on the final figure.

Laos – China’s gateway to Southeast Asia – The Nation Boten, once a remote village on the China-Laos border, has gone from boom to bust within a few short years and is now preparing for another boom.

Singapore’s prime minister says America’s credibility on the line over TPP – Asian Corespondent – The outcome of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal has put America’s credibility on the line, Singapore’s prime minister said in a candid assessment of the pact.

Obama, Singapore leader push Pacific trade deal in state visit – Reuters President Barack Obama and Singapore’s prime minister on Tuesday made sales pitches for a Pacific Rim trade deal that both U.S. presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have derided and that has been stalled in Congress.

Asean expects China, Brexit to slow economic growth – Bangkok Post Economic growth in Asean countries was expected to dip to 4.5% in 2016 from 4.7% last year due to China’s slowdown and uncertainties related to Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, the member states said in a statement.

Group Warns of Rising ASEAN Land Grab Conflicts – VOA News An international human rights organization says Southeast Asia is facing increasing conflicts and violence over land grab activity. A “land grab” relates to taking land quickly, forcefully and often illegally.

Mekong mainland coalesces after Asean rift – Bangkok Post  Although it was established 49 years ago, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) as we know it has been around only since 1999 when Cambodia joined Southeast Asia’s premier regional organization as its 10th member state after Laos and Myanmar had entered two years earlier. Asean was originally set up on different rationales and for different purposes than what it has become today as a loosely structured grouping of a diplomatic community with ambitious regionalisation plans that require a central strategic role in Asia.

Beijing Banks on Fractured ASEAN – Al-Jazeera  At last week’s summit in Laos, Phnom Penh effectively blocked any reference to The Hague ruling. /// It’s déjà vu all over again as Cambodia blocked a unified ASEAN statement. That said, if a majority of ASEAN countries were on board and it only took one country to block a statement, can it really be that ASEAN is as fractured as it is made out to be? It’s clear several countries are against China’s territorial usurpation and that Beijing influenced Cambodia. While a statement from ASEAN would send a signal of unification, I would imagine behind the scenes that many countries are unified and will continue to counter Beijing’s influence.


Hydropower Country Profile: China – For the tenth consecutive year, China added more new installed hydropower capacity than the rest of the world combined, cementing the country’s leading role in global hydropower development.

Xinhua Insight: Foreign trade steams ahead in China’s southwest –  Xinhua Chongqing Municipality in southwest China has seen a boom in foreign trade in recent years, primarily due to the extensive expansion of its transport network.


VN urged to reduce raw mineral exports as natural resources decline – Vietnam Net The industrial production value growth in the first six months of the year slowed largely because of a decline in the mining industry.

Fears over Mekong River’s future – Vu Trong Hong, chairman of the Vietnam Irrigation Association has warned about the dangers Vietnam could face when Laos build a new hydropower plant on the Mekong River.

Mekong water diversion projects threaten Vietnam – Vietnam Net With the support of Pan Nature (People & Nature Reconciliation), a team of experts have conducted a fact-finding trip to Cambodia and some provinces in the northeast of Thailand to learn more about the Mekong river diversion projects.

Damming menaces water security in Mekong Delta – Vietnam Net Nguyen Nhan Quang, an independent expert in river basin management, said at a workshop in Hanoi last week that the Mekong Delta suffered the worst drought in 100 years in the 2015-2016 dry season. Drought worsened saltwater intrusion, taking a heavy toll on agriculture and people in the country’s largest rice producing region.

Everbright to Build Vietnam’s First Waste to Energy Project – Waste Management World China Everbright International has been awarded a contract to develop Vietnam’s first waste to energy project, a 7.5 MW plant in Can Tho.

River of Change: Hydropower dams and the Mekong River’s uncertain future – VOA Cambodia – Irrevocably change is underway upriver and downriver – from China to the Mekong delta – as countries along the river’s length pursue hydroelectric dams as a path to power generation.

A Tale of Two shrimpers – how will the Mekong Delta adapt to Climate Change? – The World Bank  – Vietnam’s Mekong Delta is famous for its rice fields, shrimp ponds, embankments and canals. This fertile patchwork sustains the livelihoods of more than 17 million people. But climate change, water scarcity and pollution are fraying the fabric of economic life in the delta. New approaches to managing land and water in uncertain times are needed.

Active and Engaged: Indigenous Women Make Their Voices Heard with Cambodian Mining Company – Mekong Citizen – Women – especially indigenous women – are often the most vulnerable to the negative impacts of development projects. Socheat Penh from Mekong Partnership for the Environment shares the story of Sok Sreymom, an indigenous woman in Cambodia who is turning that vulnerability into active engagement with a mining company.

Report: Three Parallel Rivers plagued by unregulated mining – Go Kunming

One of Yunnan’s most famous natural landscapes is under threat from unsupervised mining, according to a new report. A study published by non-governmental environmental organization Greenpeace claims industrial activity in the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas is seriously damaging China’s most biodiverse region.

Solar Revolution: French Aid Can Boost or Stifle Growth – The Cambodia Daily

If renewable energy—especially solar—is going to thrive in Cambodia, we need net metering. Without a net metering law or policy, solar will plod along. With it, solar will spread rapidly nationwide.


Focus: Philippines crime war packs decaying jails – The Manila Times Mario Dimaculangan shares a toilet with 130 other inmates in one of the Philippines’ most overcrowded jails, and conditions are getting worse as police wage an unprecedented war on crime.

Philippines’ Duterte says nation can survive without mining companies – Reuters Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday warned mining companies to strictly follow tighter environmental rules or shut down, saying the Southeast Asian nation could survive without a mining industry.

Vietnam: More than 200,000 people affected by Taiwanese Steel Plant Pollution – Asian Correspondent– The livelihoods of more than 200,000 people, including 41,000 fishermen, have been severely affected by the toxic pollution caused by a Taiwanese-owned steel complex, said the Vietnamese government.

New Malaysian security law gives PM sweeping powers, threatens human rights –Asian Correspondent- Amnesty International has warned that a Malaysian security law that comes into force Monday will give the government “unchecked and abusive powers”.

Related:New Malaysia security law debuts as PM fights critics  – Bangkok Post Tough new security legislation came into force in Malaysia on Monday, with critics saying the “draconian” law threatens democracy and could be used against opponents of the scandal-tainted prime minister.

Look who’s back: A sweeping cabinet reshuffle installs an unloved former generalThe Economist – Joko Widodo, Indonesia’s president, universally known as Jokowi, reshuffled his cabinet on July 27th for the second time since taking office in late 2014. Although observers had expected only minor fiddling, he made big changes.

Indonesia to sink scores of boats in fishing fight – Bangkok Post Indonesia will sink up to 71 impounded foreign boats this month on its Independence Day, a minister said Monday, ramping up a campaign to deter illegal fishing in its vast waters.

Indonesian seaweed farmers sue Thailand’s PTT over Australian oil spill – Reuters Indonesian seaweed farmers on Wednesday sued Thailand’s PTT Exploration and Production for potentially more than A$200 million ($152 million) to cover damages from Australia’s worst oil spill in 2009.

Charting Changes in Japanese FDIThe Phnom Penh Post Japan’s investment in Cambodia continues to grow and its investors are playing a leading role in developing and diversifying the Kingdom’s light industrial sector. The Post’s Hor Kimsay sat down with Yasuhara Hiroto, head of the Japan Desk at the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), to discuss what is drawing Japanese investors to Cambodia, and where they are directing their capital.

Army ‘image’ trumps the people’s truth – Bangkok Post Her uncle was beaten to death in an army camp and now she has been sued for revealing what happened. On Monday, Naritsarawan Kaewnopparat was arrested and charged for defamation and disseminating “false information”

Thailand: Military to sue former PM Yingluck over rice subsidy scheme losses – Asian Correspondent – Thailand’s former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will be taken to court over billions of dollars allegedly lost by her administration’s rice subsidy program, the military government said.

Embassy Warns Burmese in Thailand About Pre-Referendum Crackdown – The Irrawaddy – The Burmese embassy in Bangkok has sent warning notices to Burmese migrants in Thailand alerting them of a surge in raids and surprise checks by Thai police and the army on migrants’ workplaces and living quarters.

The Dark Secrets of Thailand’s Military – The Diplomat The Thai army has is once again mired in controversy after a series of young cadets were found dead while undergoing military training.

As vote looms, Thailand’s powerful army aims to preserve role – Reuters Thailand votes on Sunday for a new constitution that aims to subdue political parties and give the generals a permanent role in overseeing the country’s economic development, senior military officers say. /// Thailand’s military will try one more time to subdue political parties and make itself the preeminent institution in Thai politics. A “no” vote on the referendum would signal a blow to the military and leave General Prayut Chan-Ocha’s path to democracy in question (again!). Whatever the vote, the military likely has a contingency plan to stay in power as long as possible – because the only way to prevent the country from degenerating into parliamentary democracy that gives each citizen an equal vote, would be to stay in power. After all, Father Prayut knows best.

Suu Kyi tackles military land grabs in test of new Myanmar government – Reuters By the standards of her village in Myanmar’s swampy Ayeyarwady Delta, Than Shin was a prosperous woman. She had 20 acres of farmland on which her family grew rice. But her fortunes changed in 2000 when the military government informed her it was taking possession of her land.

Social Welfare Minister: Deforestation and Exploitation of Resources Contributed to Flooding – The Irrawaddy – As Burma once again experiences serious flooding, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement has invited civil society organizations (CSOs) to join the ministry’s relief and rescue efforts.

This week’s news digest was authored by Pete Telaroli.

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Regional Roundup for Week of 7.22.16

Shockwaves still ripple from the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s award on South China Sea last week. China is hardening its stance as Philippines and other Chinese neighbors are trying to figure out what to do. Meanwhile, Myanmar continues to be on the edge of ethnic violence and Mahathir Mohamad in Malaysia plots a return to power.


Wife of anti-monarchist British journalist detained in Thailand – Guardian  //for tweeting photos of Thailand’s crown prince! From the UK! Detectives said the photos shared by Andrew MacGregor Marshall, a former Bangkok-based Reuters correspondent who has been banned from the country since 2011 and now lives in Edinburgh, were fake and violated the kingdom’s royal defamation law. His wife, Noppawan Bunluesilp, was visiting relatives in Bangkok, was detained by police and had electronic items seized. She was accompanied to the city’s crime suppression division by her father and three-year-old son and questioned before being released.

China Hardens Position on South China Sea – The Diplomat Beijing has moved to clarify its position, but in a direction that could cause more friction.

Related: China Begins Air Patrols Over Disputed Area of the South China Sea -NYTimes 

China announces South China Sea military exercise – ABC News China is closing off a part of the South China Sea for military exercises this week, the government said Monday, days after an international tribunal ruled against Beijing’s claim to ownership of virtually the entire strategic waterway.

KFC Targeted in Protests Over South China Sea – NYTimes Accusing the United States of encouraging a case against China’s maritime claims, demonstrators called for boycotts in about a dozen cities.


The Social Media ‘War’ Over the South China Sea – The Diplomat Vietnamese, Chinese, and Filipinos spar online after the recent tribunal ruling on the South China Sea.

Cambodia to receive $600m in aid from China – Asian Correspondent China has pledged to provide the Cambodian government with nearly US$600 million in aid to develop the country’s election, education and health infrastructures.

Vietnam removes protesters gathered for anti-China rally in Hanoi – The Guardian About two dozen people are bused away even before they begin their protest against Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea. Dozens of Vietnamese who gathered for an anti-China protest in central Hanoi were taken away by authorities on Sunday as they tried to rally support for an international tribunal’s ruling rejecting Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea. About two dozen people were bused away from around the landmark Hoan Kiem Lake in the capital even before they began their protest. There was heavy police presence around the lake with cars briefly banned from around it.

South China Sea dispute: Philippines says China has warned of ‘confrontation’ – The Guardian Foreign minister says Beijing refuses to discuss recent court ruling which rejected claims to almost all of South China Sea. The Philippines has turned down a Chinese proposal to start bilateral talks, it said on Tuesday, because of Beijing’s pre-condition of not discussing a court ruling that nullified most of its South China Sea claims.

Related: Philippines Rejects Conditional Talks With China on South China Sea 

Vietnam, Laos discuss Vientiane-Hanoi expy project –VietnamNet Bridge Representatives of Vietnam’s Ministry of Transport and the Lao Ministry of Public Works and Transport have discussed a major project to develop an expressway linking Hanoi and Vientiane as part of their five-year cooperation plan starting this year. The expressway is planned to start from Vientiane, passing through Laos’ Pakxan and Nghe An Province’s Thanh Thuy, and end in Hanoi.

Thailand considers buying more power from Laos –Bangkok Post Thailand may buy 9,000 megawatts of electricity from Laos this year to ensure sufficient supply to meet rising demand, says a senior official at the Energy Ministry. That is nearly 30% higher than the the 7,000MW Thailand currently buys annually from Laos.

China woos Myanmar, tries to massage its public image –Myanmar Times In what seems likely to be a concerted and protracted charm offensive, China has been inviting hundreds of Myanmar opinion-formers to “improve understanding” on their part of China’s intentions. China is telling Myanmar that it knows Myanmar has changed, and that China’s attitude has changed too.

Related: China launches local charm offensive –Myanmar Times


Experts warn of over-reliance on coal power – VietnamNet Bridge Foreign experts have issued a warning to the Vietnamese government about its over-reliance on coal to make power, without clear mechanisms to attract investors into renewable energy projects.

Vietnam mulls test of motorbike emissions to curb urban pollution –Thanhnien News The country is considering a plan to test motorbike emissions in its five largest cities after tests found the vehicle has become a major polluter.

France to fund feasibility study for Myanmar’s 690-MW Laymyo hydropower project –Hydro World The French government has agreed to provide US$1 million to help Myanmar perform feasibility studies for the 690-MW Laymyo hydroelectric plant. The cascade system is to include two powerhouses will be located in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

Flood of doubts: sceptical public questions Three Gorges Dam’s capacity to stop disastersSouth China Morning Post Project was touted as a tool to prevent floods but those claims have been watered down and new threats are eroding confidence – and riverbanks.


Hong Kong Says Legislative Candidates Must Endorse Chinese Rule – NYTimes As calls for autonomy grow, Hong Kong’s government wants legislative candidates to pledge that the city remains an “inalienable part” of China.

As China’s Economy Slows, Beijing’s Growth Push Loses Punch – NYTimes High debt and a glut of unneeded factories are hindering the government’s usual method of using spending and lending to create more activity.

What China’s Economic Growth Figures Mean – NYTimes China on Friday reported its second-quarter economic growth figures. The numbers are among the world’s most closely watched, but data from the country are notoriously questionable.

Did Russia Just Ask China to ‘Buzz Off’ on the South China Sea? – The Diplomat The Russian MFA statement after the PCA ruling was not as soft on China as usual. Russia refused to take any side in this dispute and called for compliance to international laws including United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Interview: The South China Sea Ruling – The Diplomat International law expert Roncevert Ganan Almond on the recent ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration.


Apocolypse Now on the Mekong River –Boulder Weekly China has built several dams on the river that irrevocably damage the ecology of the waterway, and subsequently the lives of the people living downstream.

6 Chinese fishing boats violate Vietnamese waters –Thanhnien News On Monday morning the local border guard agency was informed by local fishers that the Chinese boats were fishing illegally in the waters around 20 nautical miles north of Con Co Island, or around 10 nautical miles from a joint fishing area’s demarcation line. The boats tried to flee once Vietnamese authorities approached them but were caught and then told to leave Vietnamese waters.

In numbers: Southeast Asia’s military spending – The Sea Globe Sights on the Southeast Asian governments spending big on their militaries and the massive arms manufacturers they buy from.

US pledges $21m to strengthen governance in Burma – DVB Multimedia Group The United States announced on Wednesday that it will provide an additional $21 million in development aid to help strengthen governance in Burma, as a newly elected civilian government settles into its daunting first term.

Optimism Expressed at Economic Forum, Despite Govt Policy Blackout – The Irrawaddy Economists and businessmen gathered at a forum in Rangoon expressed disappointment at sluggish growth under the new government since April—in light of high expectations—but remain convinced of Burma’s economic potential.However, the lack of clarity from the National League for Democracy government on matters of economic policy prevented a more detailed discussion of Burma’s current economic trajectory.

Philippines won’t honour UN climate deal, says president – The Guardian Duterte says Paris climate pact seeks to dictate to developing countries and limit economic growth, reports Climate Home

Myanmar’s Radical Buddhist Group Gets Rebuked – The Diplomat Ma Ba Tha has been dealt some recent blows. // The situation with Ma Ba Tha is of particular significance because the role they have played in recent past in spreading hatred against the minority Muslim community. Previously it was assumed Ma Ba Tha is sponsored by Myanmar’s state mechanism. But the tide has seemingly turned now. The government recently revealed that Ma Ba Tha is not a ‘recognized’ Buddhist organization after a chief minister branded them as ‘unnecessary’. These moves from the government can go a long way in stopping religion fueled massacres in the country.  

Myanmar divided as student activists fight for religious freedom – The Sea Globe As anti-Muslim nationalist groups lash out at the stateless Rohingya, Myanmar’s next generation of interfaith activists is struggling to promote compassion

Dateline Irrawaddy: ‘A Hundred Days, a Thousand Questions: Government Faces Challenges on All Fronts’ – The Irrawaddy The government is in no shortage of challenges as it passes first 100 days in office.// Myanmar government is in tremendous pressure both home and abroad. The Rohingya issue is increasingly contentious while Chinese firms want to build hydro-electric dams which local people oppose. Add to that the tough job of acclimatizing the bureaucracy to a democracy from decades of military led autocracy. NLD government indeed has a lot to do.

Campaigners fight against the Myitsone dam –Mizzima Just a few months before 2012 by-elections, a group of concerned citizens worried about the fate of Myitsone gathered together at a location overlooking the confluence of three rivers in Myitkyina, Kachin State. Thanks to public awareness campaigns launched by environmentalists, protest campaigns launched by CSOs, and media coverage about the dangers of the dam, protests against it construction were launched.

Drugs Worth US$2.5 Million Seized in Northern Shan State – The Irrawaddy Police are hunting for culprits in connection with the seizure of amphetamines valued at 3 billion kyats (US$2.5 million) in a village in Kyaukme Township of northern Shan State.

Robot factories could threaten jobs of millions of garment workers – The Guardian The jobs of nearly 90% of garment and footwear workers in Cambodia and Vietnam are at risk from automated assembly lines – or “sewbots” – according to a new report from the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Who Will Indonesia Execute Next in its War on Drugs? – The Diplomat Confirming details continues to prove elusive.

Govt Forms Committee to Prevent Interreligious Violence – The Irrawaddy Myanmar government has formed a high-level “Emergency Management Central Committee” tasked with preventing and mitigating interreligious violence in Burma, according to a statement from the President’s Office.

Former Malaysian premier Mahathir aligns with foes to oust PM Najib –Asian Correspondent Malaysia’s influential former premier is forming a new opposition party to topple Prime Minister Najib Razak and the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition in the next general election. His party will be part of a coalition also joined by People’s Justice Party, Democratic Action Party and Amanah.

The Philippines’ Triumph: Right Over Might – The Diplomat It is precisely the fairness and impartiality of the process chosen by Manila to vent its claims that China objects to.

Myanmar’s objection may block Thai heritage claim – Nation Multimedia Overlapping of border cited as reason; Thailand has time until October to resolve issue before seeking Unesco recognition for Kaeng Krachan forest.

NEDA and JICA sign MOU on Mekong sub-region development cooperation –National News Bureau of Thailand The Neighbouring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency (NEDA) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) have recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to cooperate in the development of the Mekong sub-region.

Seized Timber Up for Auction –The Khmer Times More than $90,000 worth of luxury timber seized during National Anti-Deforestation Committee (NADC) raids in Stung Treng province will be up for public auction until July 29, the Ministry of Economic and Finance announced last week.

China Firm Now Eyes Power Lines –The Khmer Times The Beijing-based PowerChina Resources Limited (PCR), a shareholder of Sinohydro Kamchay Hydroelectric Project Co. Ltd, which developed the Kamchay hydroelectric dam in Kampot, expressed its interest in building electricity transmission lines in Cambodia. This expression of interest was made when the director general of PCR, Du Chunguo, met the Kingdom’s Minister of Mines and Energy, Suy Sem, in Phnom Penh last week.

China Economy Ripples Into Laos –The Stewardship Report A decade long mining boom, combined with a rapid development of hydropower, has seen Laos’ growth rate reach over 7 percent a year, allowing national output to more than double, generating some half a million jobs. A key player in the economic progress has been China. A recent World Bank report on the Lao economy noted China’s influence was continuing to grow.  China is the leading investor, with $6.7 billion in 760 projects from mining, to energy, agriculture, banking and trade as well as construction of commercial properties.

Singapore seizes assets worth RM717mil in 1MDB-related probe –The Star Authorities have seized assets worth S$240mil (RM717.45mil) in an investigation of 1MDB-related fund flows for possible money laundering, in a probe which has found “deficiencies” at several major banks here.

Related: ‘Malaysian people defrauded on a massive scale’: FBI on 1MDB scandal


Former propaganda minister indicted for graft – GoKunming Although the rate of Yunnan officials standing trial for graft and abuse of power has slowed considerably compared to 2015, career bureaucrats continue to fall. The most recent instance involves Yang Wenhu, former deputy minister of the Yunnan Propaganda Department and member of the provincial party congress.






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Regional Roundup for Week of 7.15.2016


Hague Tribunal Rejects Beijing’s Claims in South China Sea NYT The panel delivered a sweeping rebuke on Tuesday of China’s behavior, deciding that its expansive claim to sovereignty over the waters had no legal basis. // Skeptics are of the opinion that this will have no impact as China ‘neither recognizes nor accepts’ the tribunal’s decision. However, there will undoubtedly be impacts- some symbolic, some literal. First, China’s attitude towards the court sends a signal that China is now a reckless if not irresponsible power without respect for international laws and norms. Second, this gives Philippines and other disputées (Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Brunei) a bargaining chip to go to the negotiation table with China. Third, this provides somewhat dangerously the international community a basis to intervene in the region in support of the smaller nations if China continues to disrespect lawful claims of other countries.   

         Related: Hague Announces Decision on South China Sea

Related: Our Boat Was Intercepted by China

Related: China’s legal setback could spur more South China Sea claims 

 China: Tribunal Ruling ‘Null and Void’, Will Not Affect South China Sea Claims – The Diplomat Beijing continues to push its South China Sea claims, though many were struck down by an arbitral tribunal today.

Related: South China Sea Verdict: US Reactions

What the South China Sea Ruling Means – The Diplomat A look at the potential implications of the verdict on the Philippines’ South China Sea case.

Related: South China Sea ruling: Verdict means precious little if parties don’t respect it, actors don’t enforce it – The Straits Times

Cambodian Opposition Figure’s Killing Recalls Darker Times –NYT A prominent Cambodian political commentator who had recently helped found a new independent political party was gunned down at a gas station in central Phnom Penh on Sunday.

Cambodian PM orders ‘vigorous’ investigation into critic’s killing – The Guardian Cambodia’s prime minister has promised a “vigorous investigation” into the shooting of a prominent critic and called for the opposition not to politicise the assassination. Kem Ley, a 46-year-old grassroots campaigner, was shot three times at a petrol station in Phnom Penh on Sunday while drinking his morning coffee. His attacker, arrested by police shortly afterwards, was filmed confessing and said the high-profile activist had failed to repay a US$3,000 (£2,322) loan.

Pak Beng Hydropower Project construction to begin next year – Lao News Agency “The purpose of this project is to utilise the great hydropower resources that Laos has been blessed with in order to produce power for domestic supply and export,” Mr Daovong said yesterday in Vientiane Capital during a meeting with editors from National Television, Pasaxon, the Vientiane Times, the Lao News Agency and relevant sectors. Construction is expected to be complete by 2023 with commercial operations beginning in early 2024.//The third dam on the mainstream in Lower Mekong basin must go through the PNPCA process before construction begins. Expect more scrutiny than Don Sahong from downstream countries.

The Mekong: Slow Death of a River –RFA Millions of people living along the Mekong River face a possibly irreversible depletion of key food supplies resulting from dam building and other diversions of its waters. Deforestation upstream along the riverbanks and poor land and water use practices in Vietnam’s downstream Mekong Delta have added to what can only be called a looming crisis.

Laos PM advises expansion of hydropower feasibility studies – Vientiane Times The numbers of hydropower plants and their installed capacity might be higher than what has been planned and studied, MrThongloun commented. “However we have to choose experienced and famous companies from throughout the world to join the feasibility studies, designs and social and environmental impact assessments for sustainability,” he warned.

World Bank loans Vietnam $560 million to support Mekong climate fight – Vietnam Breaking News Vietnam will use $250 million for the Can Tho Urban Development and Resilience Project, to reduce flood risk and improve connectivity between Can Tho’s city center and new urban areas, benefiting more than 420,000 urban dwellers while the remaining $310 million will be used to build climate resilience and ensure sustainable livelihoods for 1.2 million people living in nine Mekong Delta provinces affected by climate change, saline intrusion, coastal erosion and flooding.


Philippines and China React to Tribunal Decision –NYT A panel in The Hague rejected Beijing’s claims to the South China Sea on Tuesday, in a landmark case. China vehemently protested the decision while Philippines called for restraint.

Philippines v. China: Q. and A. on South China Sea Court Case – NYT An international court is scheduled to release a landmark ruling Tuesday on Beijing’s claim to sovereignty over 90 percent of the South China Sea.

Vietnam to deport 64 illegal Chinese workers of Nha Trang travel firm –Thanh Nien News Silent Bay hired the workers despite a ban on foreign tour guides.

Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore react to South China Sea Ruling  – ABS-CBN News Hague Tribunal’s decision caught attention of other regional players apart from China and Philippines.

Thai-Lao relations caught in limbo despite common interests and goals –The Nation The two countries face a common challenge over the utilisation of the Mekong. Judging from the government statement, it seems like neither side has an idea how to tackle the issue. The two premiers did, however, agree to conduct a study on water management and to discuss systematic management of the river with other stakeholders.

Cambodia should be cautious when it comes to Chinese aid –East Asia Forum China’s current approach to development with Cambodia offers opportunities but also entails some risks for Cambodian foreign relations and development policy. As claimed by the Cambodian government, aid and investment from China is important for social and economic development. They present it as coming without conditions, helping develop the Cambodian economy while enabling Cambodia to maintain sovereignty and pursue an independent foreign policy on the international stage.


Report on China’s Coal Power Projects –NYT Even though China has promised to reduce its dependency on coal power, there are 210 new coal-fired power plant projects approved for construction. //China has pledged to peak coal consumption by 2030 in COP21. However, this should not mean China will increase coal consumption irresponsibly until that point. China has made large investments in coal in recent past and is finding it tough to let go of the practice. Importantly, China has invested billions of dollars in coal power outside China too.

Related: China Pledged to Curb Coal Plants. Greenpeace Says It’s Still Adding Them.

Don Sahong Dam Casts Wide Shadow Over Mekong – The Bangkok Post Fishermen are anxious about their future as construction of the dam continues disregarding concerns from Cambodian, Vietnamese and Thai government.

PM mulls forestry protection for sustainable hydropower –Vientiane Times Prime Minister of Lao Thongloun Sisoulith has stressed the need for forestry protection to ensure the long term sustainability of hydropower development, which promotes economic growth and poverty reduction. Speaking at the meeting in Vientiane, he advised the ministry and other sectors to pay more attention to feasibility studies and to estimate the societal and environmental impacts of hydropower development projects together with developers before approving any more schemes.

Hydropower dams, major development projects suspended in Shan State: ministerMyanmar Times The Naungpha hydropower dam is one of several major projects in Shan State that have been suspended until cost-benefit field analyses are performed, according to the state minister for finance and planning. Projects related to coal-fired power, large-acreage and border development, and hotels – all approved under the previous government – are on hold until the assessments are complete. The Naungpha dam, a joint venture between local conglomerate IGE and China’s Hydrochina Corporation, and seven other hydropower projects are among the developments halted pending review.

There is a fourth option on the Myitsone Dam –Frontier Myanmar Now, Myanmar has an opportunity to move beyond ad-hoc decisions about single dam projects and begin a process of coordinated long-term planning to meet the country’s energy needs, while at the same time preserving the precious natural and cultural heritage of its river systems. It is also a golden opportunity for Chinese companies to involve themselves in projects that the Myanmar people see as beneficial for the country’s future.


U.S. Navy’s Futuristic New Weapons Could be Key to Limiting a Clash with China – The Diplomat Lasers, railguns, and hi-velocity projectiles may let warships defend themselves without escalation.

Defusing Asia’s Arms Race – Project Syndicate China’s goals in Asia are to prevent its neighbors from uniting against it and to diminish the role of international law in a region where it seeks strategic hegemony. Now that the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague has ruled against its claims to the South China Sea, will China take the path of militarism or diplomacy?

China’s Menacing Words for a Boat in Disputed Waters: ‘Get Out!’ – NYT A reporter who set out to see Scarborough Shoal in the disputed South China Sea found his boat quickly intercepted by the Chinese Coast Guard.

China Keeps the Upper Hand, South China Sea Arbitration Ruling Notwithstanding – The Diplomat The judicial ruling could actually give China the advantage, if Beijing proves it can flout the law with impunity.

Britain and the South China Sea Conflict: End to Ambiguity? – The Diplomat How should the U.K. respond to the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling expected this week?

Another Meeting on Trans-Atlantic Trade, and China to Report Its G.D.P. –NYT The United States and the European Union have struggled to reach an agreement in agriculture and financial services. And China’s gross domestic product has probably continued to slow.

South China Sea: Days Before International Court Verdict, Chinese Navy Stages Live-Fire Drills – The Diplomat The Chinese Navy staged live-fire drills near the Paracel Islands, days before a highly anticipated international legal verdict.

Chinese Developer in Talks With Blackstone on Property Purchase –NYT China Vanke said it was working with other partners on a $1.9 billion acquisition of commercial property in China from the American group.

China-Nigeria Relations: A Success Story for Beijing’s Soft Power – The Diplomat According to one survey, Nigeria has the world’s most positive view of China.

After the South China Sea Verdict, Chance of Protests in China? – The Diplomat After Tuesday’s verdict, are anti-American protests in China likely?

EU Must Push China on Human Rights, With or Without the UK – The Diplomat China might think Europe is weak right now, but the EU must not water down its commitment to human rights and democracy.


South China Sea: The French Are Coming – The Diplomat France, also an Indo-Pacific nation, has its own stake in the South China Sea.

The climate change scenario for Vietnam’s Mekong Delta is very bleak – Thanh Nien News Rising sea level caused by climate change could sink nearly 40 percent of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta by the end of the century, with negative weather conditions already taking their toll on agricultural production according to the Southern Institute of Water Resources Research in Vietnam.

Taiwan, After Rejecting South China Sea Decision, Sends Patrol Ship –NYT Taiwan’s claims in the contested waters match China’s, but it has not pushed them as aggressively as its neighbor and rival. //Taiwan’s claim to South China Sea mirrors that of China’s. This news means Taiwan is serious about their claim which makes the already muddy waters even more contentious. Philippines and other countries in the region now see not one but two claimants of their exclusive economic zones (EEZ).

DFA calls for restraint, sobriety after tribunal favors Philippines – The Philippine Star  Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. on Tuesday called for “restraint and sobriety” after a milestone ruling by an international arbitration court that there is no basis for China’s “nine-dash line” claim over a large part of the South China Sea.

Related: After Celebrating South China Sea Win, Reality Sets In for the Philippines

Philippines Faces Post-Arbitration Dilemma Over Reed Bank – The Diplomat Would Manila accept exploration of Reed Bank or joint development on Chinese terms?

Japan, Philippines to Launch Maritime Exercise Amid South China Sea Uncertainty – The Diplomat Tokyo and Manila will hold joint drills just after a verdict on the Philippines’ South China Sea case against China.

Ending Torture of Prisoners of Conscience in Vietnam – The Diplomat So much more needs to be done if ending torture in Vietnam is ever likely to become a reality.

Related: New report shows horrors faced by Vietnam’s political prisoners – The Sea Globe

Why the Philippines-Australia Comprehensive Partnership Matters – The Diplomat The relationship has implications not just for bilateral ties, but potentially for the region and world as well.

Ma Ba Tha Calls Off Anti-Govt Protests – The Irrawaddy Buddhist nationalist group Ma Ba Tha has urged its followers not to stage planned nationwide protests in response to criticism of the organization from the Rangoon Division chief minister, saying that they no longer take his comments seriously. //Buddhists and Muslims are involved in a lengthy, bitter dispute in Myanmar. At a moment when the country is coming back to democracy, Buddhist groups are desperate to mark their stamp on the the state. There are complaints of ethnic cleansing and denial of Muslim identity in the country, especially in Arakan region. The fiery protests by Ma Ba Tha against a statement by a Union Minister branding the group ‘unnecessary’ was another incident where monks flexed their muscle against any opinion expressed against their ultra-nationalistic sentiments.

Related: State-Backed Monks’ Council Decries Ma Ba Tha as ‘Unlawful’

Indonesia on track to become world’s largest tobacco market – The Sea Globe If current trends hold, Indonesia is on track to become the world’s largest market for tobacco. As other countries move to regulate the industry, why is Indonesia having such a tough time kicking the habit?

Industry inputs sought for Greater Mekong Subregion’s future development –TTG Asia More cross-country communication, conservation efforts, open borders, co-operation between governments and the private sector, and a stronger emphasis on providing quality experiences are essential to transform the GMS into a more attractive tourist destination, said industry stakeholders at this year’s Mekong Tourism Forum in Sihanoukville.

How Buddhist monks are battling deforestation in CambodiaDW Cambodia has one of the world’s highest deforestation rates. But a group of Buddhist monks are stepping up efforts to save forests by publicly revealing wrongdoings and mobilizing local villagers. Large parts of the forest have already disappeared to make space for plantations. In areas that are protected from such land concessions, illegal loggers cut down tree after tree.


National environmental audit comes to Yunnan – Go Kunming Yunnan has been added to a growing list of Chinese municipalities and provinces undergoing an environmental audit. Carried out under the auspices of the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), such reviews have been underway since 2015. At that time, Beijing targeted several first-tier capital cities, essentially putting bureaucrats across the country on notice that they can be held personally accountable for failed or bungled eco-management policies.

This week’s news digest was authored by Ash Chowdhury. 






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Regional Roundup for Week of 7.8.16

News this week seems overly gloomy, continued trouble in the South China Sea, attacks in Indonesia and Malaysia, Muslims seeking refuge in Burma, brutality in the Philippines…so let’s end the digest on a positive note. Who doesn’t want to see an elephant getting a new prosthetic limb?  And cheers to China for getting in on the search for our extraterrestrial neighbors because after all, The truth IS out there.


Body count rises as new Philippines president calls for drug addicts to be killed – Asian Correspondent – Newly-installed Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has reiterated his tough stance on crime by urging the public to not only kill drug dealers, but addicts as well. /// Who needs rule of law when you have President Rodrigo Duterte? Following up on his promise to be tough on crime, it’s been reported that around 30 ‘drug dealers’ have been killed since he has taken office. Eliminating ‘drug dealers’ isn’t enough for macho man Rodrigo Duterte, though. While speaking to a crowd in a Manila, he exhorted the crowd to kill drug addicts if they knew any. That’s scary. It’s sometimes easy to poke fun at the bombastic Duterte, but statements that ask citizens to murder each other reveal the true character of the man leading the Philippines.

China offers Philippines talks if South China Sea court ignored: China Daily – Reuters – China is ready to start negotiations with the Philippines on South China Sea-related issues if Manila ignores an arbitration ruling expected next week on their long-running territorial dispute, the official China Daily reported on Monday.

Keeping friends close, Thailand Closer – The Myanmar Times – It says something profound about the region that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s first international trips as state counsellor and foreign minister have required photo ops with Southeast Asian dictators.

Hostile Takeover: How Cambodia’s ruling family are pulling the strings on the economy and amassing vast personal fortunes with extreme consequences for the population – Global Witness – Few prime ministers have served for as long as Cambodia’s Hun Sen, in power for 30 years. Even when democratically voted out he has refused to step down, and has systematically quashed political opposition including through the murder, torture and arbitrary imprisonment of his critics.


Thailand to Build Biomass Plan for Phnom Penh – The Phnom Penh Post – Thailand’s Sahacogen (Chonburi) Pcl, an independent producer and distributor of electricity and steam, will form a joint venture with Saha Patthana Inter Holding Pcl, the investment arm of Thailand’s Saha Group, to invest in biomass power plants in Cambodia and Myanmar, according to online business intelligence platform DealStreetAsia.

Visiting PM Thongloun to meet with Prayut – The Nation – Visiting Lao Premier Thongloun Sisoulith will meet with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha today to discuss further cooperation in many facets of the bilateral relationship.

Thailand and Myanmar agree to push long-delayed Border Demarcation Talks – The Nation – Myanmar and Thailand have agreed to resume long delayed land boundary demarcation between the two countries, the Myanmar Foreign Ministry has said.

Burma, Thailand agree to Boost Trade – The Irrawaddy – The Burmese and Thai governments have agreed to boost bilateral trade volume to reach US$20 billion in 2017, Burma’s President’s Office announced on Wednesday.

UQ develops ASEAN poultry welfare standards to further global trade – Asian Correspondent – The chicken and duck industries in 10 Asian countries will benefit from new poultry animal welfare guidelines proposed by The University of Queensland for ASEAN (the Association of South East Asian Nations).

Cambodia and Laos: Toward a New Era – The Diplomat – Recent signals suggest that there might be a new era of better ties between the two Southeast Asian states.


International Reports warn about disintegration of Mekong River Delta – Vietnam Net – A research work by the National University of Singapore (NUS) on the impact of the Manwan hydropower dam in China in the Mekong Delta showed that 160 million tons of sediment flowed to the delta each year in the past, before the dam was built. /// A study conducted by NUS has found that sediment flows have declined from 160 million tons to 75 million tons. The study predicts that once further dams are constructed in Laos, sediment flows could decrease to 42 million tons. As noted in previous digests, Vietnam is one country that will receive little benefits from hydropower dams while absorbing many of the costs. The importance of sediment flows to the Mekong Delta is paramount as it provides rich soil for rice farmers. As dams are built or proposed, how Vietnam responds will be central to regional cooperation.

 Sun, Partnerships Power Thailand Solar Project – The Asian Development Bank – Thailand’s first large-scale solar power plant demonstrates the feasibility of large, private sector solar farms, and leads the way to a greener future.

Nineteen Solar Farm License Revoked – The Bangkok Post – The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has revoked the solar farm development licenses of 19 holders who failed to start operations by June 2016.

No more coal power plants needed – The Bangkok Post – Last Thursday, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) confirmed that it will construct six new coal-fired power plants by 2025. On many levels, building these new power plants seems not to be a well thought-out plan.

Regional Journalists examine impacts of Don Sahong Dam on Dolphins, Fisheries, Villagers – Mekong Eye – Journalists from across the Mekong region met villagers, government officials and NGOs to understand and write stories about the costs and benefits of the Don Sahong dam.

Sustainable energy in Asia by 2050 – CSR Asia – A new report from WWF argues that South East Asia’s energy needs could be met from non-polluting sources by 2050. Nations such as Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand are all relying heavily on environmental damaging coal as an energy resource. But according to WWF’s studies the massive coal consumption and associated pollution could be exchanged with sustainable energy.

Mekong Basin Stirs up Region – Thai and Cambodian Water Projects bring Risks – The Mekong Eye – While Laos utilizes water from the Mekong River for hydropower dams to become “the battery of ASEAN,” Cambodia and Thailand are following a different trend by keeping and diverting water to expand rice farming. /// The drought in Thailand coupled with water mismanagement could have lasting effects for water policy in Thailand. Diverting water from the Mekong is not a solution but a gigantic band-aid. Rather than divert water, Thailand would be wise to improve irrigation techniques, grow less water-intensive crops, and have contingency plans in place for droughts.


China Environmental Press Awards Winners in Pictures – The Guardian – From exposing environmental crimes to a campaign to save a wildlife reserve, the awards, created by chinadialogue and the Guardian in 2010, recognize journalists making outstanding contributions to the field in China.

Chinese, Japanese Warplanes in Close Encounter – The Nation – Beijing and Tokyo were at loggerheads Tuesday over accusations Japanese warplanes locked their fire control radar onto Chinese aircraft, as state-run Chinese media said the country needed to be ready for “military confrontation” elsewhere.

China’s White-Collar Blues – The Bangkok Post – Lower labour costs in Thailand and emerging Southeast Asian economies have eroded China’s competitiveness, prompting a growing number of businesses to relocate their production from the mainland to Asean.

China top polluter Hebei province promises to clean up act – Reuters – Northern China’s Hebei, home to seven of the country’s 10 smoggiest cities, has pledged to double up its efforts to tackle hazardous pollution following an environment ministry report accusing the province of failing to rein in law-breaking industries.


Philippines offers China talks on maritime Disputes – The Bangkok Post – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday offered China conciliatory talks on a long-awaited international tribunal ruling over Beijing’s maritime claims, a week before the verdict.

 China to hold drills in South China Sea ahead of court ruling – Reuters – China will hold military drills around the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, the maritime safety administration said on Sunday, ahead of a decision by an international court in a dispute between China and the Philippines.

Vietnam urges ‘fair’ ruling from court handling South China Sea case – Reuters – Vietnam has called for an international tribunal in The Hague to deliver a “fair and objective” ruling in an arbitration case lodged by the Philippines that challenges China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea.

Indonesia and the South China Sea: Jakarta’s war on illegal fishing – Asian Correspondent To an uninterested observer, the lines on the map of territorial claims in the South China Sea looks like the work of a child with a box full of crayons.

Vietnamese Fisherman versus China – New Mandala – Tensions in troubled waters see more and more attacks and the undermining of precarious livelihoods. 

NGOs ‘lend support’ to PM’s stance on South China Sea – The Phnom Penh Post – Buffeted by international criticism over his stance on the South China Sea dispute, Prime Minister Hun Sen this week found support for his position on the home front, albeit from a source analysts were quick to question.


Vietnam Blames Toxic Waste Water from Steel Plant for Mass fish Deaths – The Guardian Taiwanese firm Formosa Plastics that owns the plant says it will pay $500m towards clean up and compensation.

Plastic buckets, broken printers shine light on Hanoi’s poor –  Reuters – Vietnamese families living in slums along the Red River in Hanoi are using red plastic buckets and old printers to help light homes, cook meals and slash electricity costs by as much as a third. /// It’s heartwarming to see innovation reaching some of Vietnam’s poorest. Kudos to Le Vu Cuong and his group at Hanoi University!

WB, Singapore-based fund invests in Vietnam’s hydropower – VietnamNet Bridge – IFC and Armstrong, with a combined stake of 36 percent, will take a 16 and 20 percent equity stake in GEC, respectively. For both it is their first investment in Vietnam’s power sector. The investment will help the company expand its hydropower portfolio and invest in other renewable energy segments, such as wind and solar power.

Related: IFC, clean energy fund to invest in small hydropower developer in VietnamHydroworld – IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and Armstrong S.E. Clean Energy Fund are investing in Gia Lai Electricity Joint Stock Company (GEC), which is a small hydropower developer in Vietnam

Clean energy prices fall as more enterprises enter field – VietnamNet Bridge – More foreign conglomerates have expressed their desire to develop clean energy projects in Vietnam, but the number of investors remains modest.

Malaysia ruling party VP quits, says ‘no justice’ amid 1MDB row – Reuters – A senior leader of Malaysia’s ruling party quit on Monday, the latest among several party officials to leave or be sacked after criticizing Prime Minister Najib Razak over a multi-billion dollar financial scandal involving a state-owned fund.

Malaysian nightclub bomb attack linked to Islamic State, police say – Asian CorrespondentMalaysian police have confirmed that a grenade attack at a nightclub near Kuala Lumpur last week is linked to terrorism activities in what could be the first attack to be carried out by the Islamic State in the country.

Thirty killed in four days in Philippine war on drugs – Reuters – Thirty “drug dealers” have been killed since Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in as Philippine president on Thursday, police said, announcing the seizure of nearly $20 million worth of narcotics but sparking anger from a lawyers’ group.

Manila Bay reclamation to destroy environment – The Manila Times – Senator Cynthia Villar warned against the implementation of more reclamation projects in Manila Bay, saying it will adversely affect communities and the livelihood of fishermen.

Manila gets US Upgrade on Human Trafficking – The Nation – Philippines has finally moved up to Tier 1-the highest rating by the US State Department in its annual report on countries’ efforts to combat human trafficking, including prostitution and forced labor.

‘Rubber Stamp’ Congress emerging, warns lawmaker – The Manila Times – Returning Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman of the Liberal Party (LP) has called on his party mates to stop what he said was a sinister plot to turn Congress into a “rubber-stamp” with a company-union style administration and opposition bloc.

Burma: Thousands of Buddhist monks hold anti-Muslim rally in Rakhine Asian Correspondent – Buddhist Monks in Burma gathered on Sunday in the thousands in the strife-ridden Rakhine State to hold a fresh round of protests against the Rohingya Muslim community. /// Intolerance reigns supreme in Burma. With the government refusing to acknowledge the Rohingya, the combination of nationalist fervor and religious discrimination will inevitably continue. One can only hope that international pressure or a change in domestic attitudes will prompt the government to change its tune, but every week it seems like we take another step down the rabbit hole as over a million people are continually denied basic human rights while religious fanatics seek more punishment.

Mob burns down Muslim Prayer Hall in Hpakant Township – The Irrawaddy – A Muslim prayer hall in Lone Khin village of Hpakant Township, Kachin State was burned down by a mob on Friday afternoon.

After Protests, State Government to use only ‘Arakanese’ Race – The Irrawaddy –The Arakan State government has bowed to the demands of Arakan nationalist groups by issuing a statement on Monday that it would refer to the Buddhist majority as the “Arakanese Race,” instead of “the Buddhist community in Arakan State.”

After a year, Rohingya Family Still Separated and stranded – The New York Times – For Hasinah Izhar, it seems a lifetime since she scrambled onto a boat on a muddy shore of Myanmar, clutching three of her children, and joined the exodus of the persecuted Rohingya minority, hoping for a better life in Malaysia.

Township tells famers not to protest over land – The Myanmar Times – A group of farmers in Rakhine State’s Kyaukphyu township are hoping for negotiations with the Southeast Asia Gas Pipeline (SEAGP) company, after being told by local authorities not to sue the firm over damage to farmland.

Cambodia’s Rice Industry needs New Strategy – New Mandala – Without a dramatic change in policy and direction, the industry could collapse in two to seven years. 

Cambodia’s Economic Status raised to Lower-Middle Income – The Phnom Penh Post-The World Bank has officially revised the status of Cambodia’s economy, moving it up a rung from the low-income bracket into lower-middle income territory – a reclassification that economists expect will lead to a scale-back of foreign aid and preferential trade access over the coming years.

Outgoing USAID Cambodia Director Reflects on Achievement – The Phnom Penh Post –It goes against the purpose of many, but for Rebecca Black, former mission director for USAID Cambodia, eventually working herself out of the job would mark a measure of success.

USA and the Kingdom’s Continued solid Relations – The Phnom Penh Post – As the United States of America celebrates its independence day today, Post Plus highlights some of the U.S.’ most notable contributions to the Kingdom of Cambodia within the past year.

Cambodia’s Factories Improving, report finds – The Phnom Penh Post – The latest Better Factories Cambodia report has found that 47 per cent of 381 assessed factories complied with its most important working conditions – up from 28 per cent in 2014.

Government will start chipping away at Protected Areas – The Cambodia Daily – Between 2009 and 2012, the Ministry of Environment went on nationwide leasing spree, signing over vast swaths of the country’s nominally protected areas to private companies for rubber plantations and other agribusiness ventures.

UN does not want to Monitor Referendum: CDC – The Nation – Charter drafter spokesman Norachit Sinhaseni says the United Nations has not requested being allowed to observe the upcoming referendum on the constitution but believes the public should be allowed to participate in the process.

Thai Delegation offers UN assurance on Referendum – The Nation – A Thai delegation has met a senior United Nations official in New York to promise that the referendum on the draft constitution will take place on August 7, as scheduled.

Government aims to improve on tier 2 Ranking – The Bangkok Post – The police chief has vowed to intensify a crackdown on those blacklisted for being involved in human trafficking in a bid to help the country secure an improved ranking in the US State Department’s Trafficking.

Thailand sets-up security centers ahead of referendum – The Irrawaddy – Thailand’s military government has set up security centers around the country ahead of an August referendum on a new constitution, a spokesman for the government said on Monday.

Police Investigate site of Surakarta Attack – The Jakarta Post – Central Java Police Indonesia Automatic Fingerprint Identification System (Inafis) personnel continue to investigate the scene of a suicide bomb attack at the Surakarta Police headquarters on Tuesday morning.

China to Hunt Alien Life – The Bangkok Post – China on Sunday hoisted the final piece into position on what will be the world’s largest radio telescope, which it will use to explore space and help in the hunt for extraterrestrial life, state media said.

WATCH: Elephant injured by mine near Thailand-Burma border gets new prosthetic limb – Asian Correspondent – Mosha, the world’s first elephant to receive a specially-designed prosthetic limb, has to switch to a new prosthetic every few years due to wear and tear, as well as physical growth.

This week’s news was authored by Pete Telaroli.

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Regional Roundup for Week of 6.30.16

It’s about time to head up to the poop deck to keep watch for the ruling on the Philippines case against China over the South China Seas. If this summer isn’t hot enough already, the temperature is about to increase by about 9 dashes.


U.S promotes Thailand out of tier 3 – Bangkok Post The Foreign Ministry says Thailand has worked tirelessly over the past year to improve its human trafficking situation and stands by its efforts even if the country doesn’t budge from its low ranking in the US State Department’s upcoming report. /// An important ruling for Thailand as it has been working hard to get itself off the list. Moving from tier three to tier two will enable Thailand to join the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) just as the same move enabled Malaysia to join last year. General Prayut Chan-Ocha has signaled his willingness to join TPP, so it appears Thailand may be positioning itself to join when the second round of accession opens up. That said, there is still plenty of work to be done in the fishing industry and with other migrant labor communities, so the U.S. would be wise to monitor Thailand closely to ensure that the work it has done wasn’t all for naught.

US to downgrade Burma in annual Human Trafficking ReportThe Irrawaddy The United States has decided to place Burma on its global list of worst offenders in human trafficking, officials said; a move aimed at prodding the country’s new democratically elected government and its still-powerful military to do more to curb the use of child soldiers and forced labor. /// As Thailand goes up, Burma goes down. While the U.S. wants to curb the use of child soldiers and forced labor, this may also be a case where the U.S. is using the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report as a political tool. The U.S. can use the tier three status either as a stick or a carrot in encouraging economic, social, and legal reforms in Burma. The use of existing sanctions can encourage the military elements of the government to reform, or act as a deterrent against future bad behavior. This is most likely one reason why Aung San Suu Kyii has not asked for sanctions to be lifted.

Thailand must end trafficking of all migrant workers – New Mandala Slavery in the seafood industry is just one part of a broader problem. And here’s how it can be addressed.

China slams South China Sea case as court set to rule – Reuters An international court said on Wednesday it would deliver a hotly anticipated ruling in the Philippines’ case against China over the South China Sea on July 12, drawing an immediate rebuke from Beijing, which rejects the tribunal’s jurisdiction. /// Surprise! Well, not really. This has been the expected response from China as the decision draws near. While China has repeatedly disregarded the Hague’s jurisdiction on the case, it’s still unclear how it would act if the court rules against it. If it continues its island building and militarization of the Sea after the ruling, how the U.S. and ASEAN countries react will be critical to maintaining peace and positive relations in the region.



After the South China Sea Arbitration – The Diplomat Where do we go after the panel has spoken?

Vietnam’s ‘Soft diplomacy’ in the South China Sea – The Diplomat Ly Son Island is a living museum documenting Vietnam’s claims to the Paracels and Spratlys.

China’s Curious South China Sea Negotiation Policy – The Diplomat What would China expect to achieve with bilateral negotiations on maritime disputes?

The South China Sea Moment of Truth Is Almost Here – The National Interest The Philippines’ law fare strategy in the South China Sea disputes is inching closer to a moment of truth



Seven Indonesian Sailors Kidnapped in the Sulu Sea – Bangkok Post Seven Indonesian sailors have been kidnapped at sea in the southern Philippines, the government in Jakarta said on Friday, the latest in a spree of abductions by armed gangs in the strife-torn region.

Related: Indonesian Government asks Philippines to Guard Barges in its Regional Waters – Jakarta Post

Government Prohibits Indonesia Vessels from Sailing to Philippines – Jakarta Post

In wake of repeat kidnappings, Indonesia, Philippines boost defense cooperationThe Jakarta Post Indonesia and the Philippines have agreed to boost defense cooperation in the wake of another hostage-taking incident, with seven Indonesian crewmen abducted by armed militants in the waters off the southern Philippines.

Cambodia and Laos to boost trade, open more checkpointsThe Bangkok Post Laos has asked Cambodia to increase trade and investment in its northern neighbor as bilateral trade between the two countries is small and has plenty of room to expand.

ASEAN to Form Ecotourism Clusters – Jakarta Post Tourism chiefs of the 10 ASEAN member countries have approved a declaration manifesting their common desire to boost tourism growth and align regional ecotourism destinations during a roundtable in Champasak, Laos on Wednesday as part of the first-ever ASEAN Ecotourism Forum.

ASEAN can’t afford hollow regional Tensions – The New Mandala Southeast Asian states need to maintain unity or risk irrelevance in the face of growing tensions and rivalry in the South China Sea.

The ASEAN experiment – The New Mandala Nicholas Farrelly and Kishore Mahbubani on the organisation’s past, present and future.

What Brexit means for ASEAN – The New Mandala The split between the UK and EU will have economic, political and psychological repercussions for Southeast Asia.


Egat reaffirms coal-fired power plants – The Bangkok Post The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand has confirmed it will complete six new coal-fired power plants by 2025 and boost its share of the power supply market to 50% from 37%. /// EGAT continues its strategy to make Thailand less reliant on natural gas, but increasing its reliance on cheap coal could prove to backfire as civil society organizations push back against coal plants as they have in Krabi. The military government has said it will not use section 44 of the constitution to override environmental impact assessments or community rights, so how it deals with possible opposition to the plants will be something to watch.

Thailand’s nuclear plans inch forward with new bill – Nikkei Asian Review  Advocates of nuclear energy in Thailand, like their counterparts around the world, were given pause when a massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan five years ago triggered a series of meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant — the worst such accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

Petroleum Bills Sail through First Reading – The Nation The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) yesterday passed the amended drafts of two controversial petroleum bills by an overwhelming majority in the first reading.

LPG import to stop next month – The Bangkok Post The Energy Business Department has reaffirmed Thailand will stop importing liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) from next month for the first time in eight years because of sufficient domestic supply and falling demand, says Witoon Kulcharoenwirat, the department’s director-general.

Murdered while Defending Thailand’s Environment – NYT Bangkok-based photographer Luke Doggleby showcases his work highlighting the danger of working as an environmentalist in Thailand. The exhibition uses photos of 37 people who have lost their lives protecting Thailand’s environment.

Dam displaced villagers protest Chinese firmThe Cambodia Daily Nearly 100 villagers protested at the site of the under-construction Stung Treng 2 irrigation dam in Od­dar Meanchey province on Thursday, demanding replacement plots for the farmland they lost to the project.

Koh Kong Fisherman Struggle in the Shadow of Sand Dredgers – The Phnom Penh Post Phen Sophany cuts the motor as the boat nears the centre of a mangrove-lined estuary in Koh Kong province, near the isolated fishing village of Koh Sralav. “This is where the island used to be,” the 38-year-old member of environmental activist group Mother Nature says, the village visible in the distance.

Solar’s Future looks a bit Brighter – The Phnom Penh Post For a country drenched in sunshine, Cambodia has made remarkably little effort to harness the abundant energy of the sun. The Post’s Kali Kotoski sat down with Jim Gramberg, CEO of Solar Partner Asia, to discuss what is holding back solar energy initiatives, and recent baby steps toward private sector involvement.

The Myitsone Dam: China’s three optionsFrontier Myanmar As China steps up the pressure for a resumption of work on the controversial Myitsone dam, Myanmar is told it faces three options over the project’s future.

Indonesia faces environmental time bomb after coal bust – Reuters  Thousands of mines are closing in Indonesia’s tropical coal belt as prices languish and seams run dry. But almost none of the companies have paid their share of billions of dollars owed to repair the badly scarred landscape they have left behind.

Vietnam drought leaves one million in urgent need of food aid – EU – Thomson Reuters Foundation An El Niño-induced drought in Vietnam has left 1 million people in urgent need of food assistance and 2 million people lacking access to drinking water, Europe’s humanitarian aid agency said.

Chinese giant paper plant claims not a threat to Mekong River – Vietnam Express In response to concerns about the possible environmental damage a $1.2 billion paper plant could do to the Mekong River, Chinese investors say they will use a high-tech treatment system to purify waste water from the plant.

Mekong Delta loses $210 million to drought and salinity – Talk Vietnam Vietnam’s Mekong Delta has suffered losses worth more than VND4.7 trillion ($210 million) due to the severe and prolonged drought and saltwater intrusion during dry season, Malaysian National News Agency Bernama cited the Southwest Region Steering Committee as saying.

Mekong Delta should learn from Weaknesses to grow Further – Talk Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has asked Mekong Delta localities to be aware of the region’s weaknesses, carry out appropriate measures to address difficulties and pursue sustainable agricultural restructuring to ensure locals’ stable livelihoods.

Laos Speeds up Hydropower Plant on Mekong River despite Concerns – Thanh Nien News

Construction work on the Don Sahong Dam in Laos is progressing at a rapid pace, amid urgent questions about its impacts on the food security and livelihoods of those near the site as well as up and downstream the Mekong River.

Damming the Nam Tha in Northern Laos – The Diplomat This photographic essay by Scott Ezell showcases dam construction on the Nam Tha River in Northern Laos. The photo essay starts with the Nam Tha as he experienced it in 2014, then switches to the way he encountered it in 2016.

Related: A companion piece from New Mandala (from Nov 24, 2015): The Silenced River

South China Sea reefs ‘decimated’ as giant clams harvested in bulk – Reuters Ornaments made from the shells of endangered giant clams, renowned in China for having auspicious powers and the luster of ivory, have become coveted luxuries, a trend which has wreaked havoc on the ecosystem of the South China Sea.



Chinese Firm floats proposal for rail link to capital’s portThe Phnom Penh Post A Chinese state railway construction contractor has approached the [Cambodian] government with a bid to conduct a feasibility study on connecting the capital’s river port to the Kingdom’s sole operating railway line, a state official said yesterday.

China-Led Development Bank Starts with $509 Million in Loans for 4 Projects – NY Times A new Chinese-led international development bank announced its first four loans on Saturday, pledging to lend $509 million for projects to spread electric power in rural Bangladesh, upgrade living conditions in slums in Indonesia, and improve roads in Pakistan and Tajikistan.

China’s Xi urges caution over U.S. missile deployment in South Korea – Reuters Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday urged South Korea to pay attention to China’s concerns about the deployment of the U.S. THAAD missile defense system to the country and “cautiously” address the plan.

China dam water release captured by drone – The Straits times A photographer used a drone to capture spectacular images of cascades of water gushing from a dam in central China, an annual event attracting thousands of tourists.



Thai PM Supports Delayed Burmese Refugee Return – The Irrawaddy Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-Ocha announced ahead of his meeting with Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu-Kyi that Thailand is open to repatriation of the roughly 100,000 Burmese refugees in Thailand, but that Myanmar must be given more time to prepare for their arrival.

Related: PM Proposes Joint Working Group to Study Repatriation – The Nation

Related: Nearly 200 Burmese refugees to be repatriated from Thailand – The Irrawaddy The Burmese government plans to repatriate 196 Burmese nationals displaced by conflict from refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border, according to Burma’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  The two countries agreed to cooperate on refugee returns during the visit of Burma’s State Counselor/Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi to Thailand last week.

Thailand defeated in UNSC bid – The Bangkok Post Kazakhstan easily defeated Thailand’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, with just 55 countries backing Thailand against 138 for Kazakhstan.

Ethnic Strife Flares again in Myanmar as Buddhists ransack Mosque – The Nation Violence erupted in the village of Thuye Thai Mein in Bago province as 200 Buddhists attacked Muslims and a mosque. The violence was triggered by an argument between a Muslim man and Buddhist woman about a school being constructed in the village. Around 70 Muslims sought refuge in a police station overnight and others have fled the area.

Related – Burma: Officials hesitate to take action after Buddhist-Muslim dispute, fearing further violence – Asian Correspondent It has almost been a week since an angry, 200-strong mob in a Burmese village assaulted a Muslim man, ransacked his home, and destroyed the village mosque and Muslim cemetery, and yet police have yet to launch an investigation into the matter.

Observers Urge Govt To Create New Export Markets, Boost Trade VolumeThe Irrawaddy A recent World Bank report says that trade growth in Burma could reduce poverty and boost prosperity, but local observers say in order for that to happen the government must implement economic policies that increase export markets.

Malaysia PM sacks party deputy, still considering cabinet reshuffle – Reuters

Prime Minister Najib Razak sacked his former deputy from the United Malay National Organization (UMNO), along with Mukhriz Mahatir, the son of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. /// Prime Minister Najib Razak continues his consolidation of power after promising election results for the dominant Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition in Sarawak , Kuala Kangsar, and Sungai Besar. Having dismissed himself of any wrong doing in the 1MDB corruption case, Prime Minister Razak has set himself up with an eventual confrontation with his former mentor, Mahathir Mohamad, who has left the United Malay National Organization (UMNO) and the BN coalition.

Related: Malaysia PM reshuffles cabinet in anticipation of snap election – Bangkok Post

Malaysia: Top opposition leader Lim Guan Eng charged with graft – Asian Correspondent A prominent Malaysian opposition leader and critic of Prime Minister Najib Razak was charged by authorities for corruption on Thursday.          

Malaysian ex-PM claims former party ‘bought votes’ in recent polls – Asian Correspondent Malaysian ex-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has accused his former party United Malays National Organization (UMNO) of vote-buying after it won two by-elections in landslide victories earlier this month.

Duterte in, Aquino out – The Manila Times President-elect Rodrigo Duterte will formally assume office today [June 29] to start his six-year term as the country’s 16th President. /// Often (wrongfully) compared to Donald Trump, President Rodrigo Duterte’s first days in office will be closely watched to see if his actions match his rhetoric. I, for one, don’t see this as likely because Duterte will run into the same problem that other popularly elected presidents like Obama and Jokowi have run into: institutions. While he does hold a majority in parliament, Duterte will still have to work with the land-holding elite who he has been openly hostile to. Given that, it’s unlikely that Duterte will be able to unilaterally solve problems like the South China Sea, in which he once stated that he would “ride on a jet ski” to take on China himself.

As Duterte takes over in Philippines, police killings stir fear – Reuters Two things catch the eye in the office of Joselito Esquivel, a police colonel enforcing a national crackdown on drugs in the Philippines’ most crime-ridden district: a pair of boxing gloves in a display cabinet and an M4 assault rifle lying beside him.

Incoming Cabinet and other incoming senior government officials – The Manila Times President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed 23 cabinet secretaries and 18 other officials to key government bureaus and agencies.

 China, Japan to impact Philippine Exports – The Manila Times Slowing growth in China and continuing tepid growth in Japan will continue to provide headwinds against the Philippines’ trade position, but the impact on the overall current account will be limited, Fitch-owned BMI Research said.

This week’s news digest was authored by Peter Telaroli. Welcome to Stimson Pete!

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Regional Roundup for Week of 6.9.16


The Heat: China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue Review – CCTV America Known as S&ED, this year’s meeting, held in Beijing, comes at a time of tension over such issues as the South China Sea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and economic uncertainty.

China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue: Time to Move Beyond the South China Sea? – The Diplomat The South China Sea tensions have become the Rorschach Test for China-U.S. relations.

Over-Politicized ‘Overcapacity’ at US-China Dialogue – The Diplomat China’s overcapacity has replaced currency manipulation as the latest excuse for U.S. protectionism.

Excess capacity in Chinese economy distorting world markets, says Jack Lew – The Guardian US Treasury secretary hopes that talks between US and Chinese officials on industry capacity would be as fruitful as those on currency policy. China’s excess industrial capacity will have a “corrosive” impact on its future growth and efficiency unless it is reduced, US Treasury secretary Jack Lew said on Sunday, adding that it was also causing distortions in global markets.

Related: EU to investigate Chinese steel subsidies blamed for dumping – The Guardian 

U.S. and China Offer Competing Views on Disputed Sea – NYT The diverging positions by American and Chinese officials indicated that annual talks had done little to bridge differences.

 Related: Reading From the ‘Script’ on the South China Sea Issue – The Diplomat

Related: Kerry on Concerns With China – NYT 

Diverting the Mekong River into Thailand: The Khong-Loei-Chi-Mun project – Mekong Commons The Royal Irrigation Department of Thailand has recently reinvigorated plans to divert water from the Mekong River’s mainstream into the Loei River in Northeastern Thailand. But there are serious concerns form local residents, environmental activists and neighboring countries.

Myitsone Dam Resumption Would Prove Suu Kyi’s Downfall – The Irrawaddy If the NLD government decides to resume the Myitsone Dam, the Burmese people will demand that they leave office. China needs to be cognizant of this. \\This is a very delicate situation for Aung San Suu Kyi. She has enjoyed comfortable relations with Beijing in recent times and does not want to lose that. However, Myitsone Dam symbolizes environmental irresponsibility and stands against local people’s demand. It will be interesting to see how Suu Kyi tackles this.

Chinese ambassador’s Kachin visit sparks Myitsone protests – DVB Multimedia Group A visit to the Kachin State capital by China’s ambassador was met on Saturday morning with protests by activists and environmentalists opposed to the stalled Myitsone mega-dam project.

Related: Protest surrounds Chinese envoy’s hotel in Kachin state –Asia News Network 

Related: Chinese envoy pushes for Myitsone dam –Eleven Myanmar

REGIONAL RELATIONS                    

Vietnam, Cambodia beef up defense ties – The Jakarta Post Vietnam and Cambodia have agreed to fully and effectively actualize protocols on defense cooperation in order to enhance mutual understanding and trust, ensure a peaceful and stable environment for their economic development and foil plots to weaken their relations. 

Japan, Myanmar Eye Stronger Defense Ties – The Diplomat Two sides discuss defense relations during Gen Nakatani’s visit to the Southeast Asian state.

Is Myanmar Using Armed Chinese Drones For Counterinsurgency? The Diplomat Myanmar’s air force is using armed drones against rebels in the country’s north. // This news signals deep ties beyond economic cooperation between the two countries. At a time when Myanmar is facing considerable pressure from China to give a go-ahead to Chinese funded Myitsone Dam such news does not bode well for environmentalists and local people who want the dam project to be postponed. If Myanmar is to be dependent on China on multiple sectors including military then it is unlikely the NLD government will be able to go against the wish of the Chinese State Council.

Setting the Record Straight on US-India South China Sea Patrols – The Diplomat Was Washington simply being overzealous by proposing joint South China Sea patrols with India or is there more to the story?

China asks the Philippines to quit UN arbitration, talk – The Hindu China’s claims of almost all of SCS and asserts that it has held the area from ancient times. The claims are contested by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Related: As South China Sea Verdict Nears, Washington Must Stand with Manila – The Diplomat

Laos, Vietnam to further enhance special ties – The Jakarta Post Laos and Vietnam will jointly organize various activities to mark the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries next year.


Indonesia’s largest coal plant will be built despite protests, minister says – Eco-business Indonesia will go ahead with construction of what is set to be its largest coal-fired power plant in Batang, Central Java next year, a senior government official has said, downplaying opposition from environmental groups and the local community.

Vietnam company seeks to replace gasoline taxis with 10,000 electric vehicles taxis –Thanhnien News Ho Huy Investment Company has said its taxis will, over a 10-year period, reduce emissions by 940,000 tons and save more than 406 million liters of gasoline worth US$134 million.

 Malaysia’s Trive and China firm form solar products tie-up – The Star Online Trive Property Group Bhd has established a joint-venture (JV) company with China-based Fortunate Solar Technology Ltd to tap into solar business with a total investment of RM60mil.


China becomes world’s biggest development lender – The Third Pole Two Chinese banks now provide as much international development finance as the next six biggest multilateral lenders combined – but are greatly exposed to political, social and environmental risks, new research says. //Chinese banks have made energy investments in troubled states like Venezuela, Pakistan, Ethopia, Sudan, etc. This means the huge amount of debt has a good chance of not being repaid. 

Related: China Pushes Back Against U.S. Complaints of Industrial Overcapacity – NYT

Chinese Company Suning Buys Majority Stake in Inter Milan – NYT  Retail giant Suning has bought a majority stake in Inter Milan, marking the latest entry into the European soccer market by cash-rich Chinese firms. // Chinese nationals have been investing in overseas assets for some time now. Initially developing countries, especially African countries, were investment destinations for China but now a lot of investment goes to Europe and US as well. Inter Milan, a big club with a lot of history behind itself was bought for US$394 million.

Chinese fighter makes ‘unsafe’ intercept of US plane over East China Sea – The Guardian Second high-speed encounter within weeks takes place as Washington warns Beijing against setting up air defence zone over disputed Asia-Pacific waters // This incident indicates that despite the tough position demonstrated by US in the Strategic and Economic Dialogue and UN arbitration panel’s ruling China remains bullish over its territorial claim.

Related: U.S. Accuses Chinese Jet of Flying Too Close to American Plane – NYT 

Uncertain Future for China’s Market Status Bid – ChinaFile It’s been 15 years since China joined the World Trade Organization, and yet China is still waiting for the WTO to grant it market economy status. During this period, some Chinese businesses have expanded overseas while others have been accused of flouting international anti-dumping rules.

South China Sea: ‘We have no fear of trouble,’ Chinese admiral warns – The Guardian China has rebuffed US pressure to curb its activity in the South China Sea on Sunday, restating its sovereignty over most of the disputed territory and saying it “has no fear of trouble”. On the last day of Asia’s biggest security summit in Singapore, Admiral Sun Jianguo said China will not be bullied, including over a pending international court ruling over its claims on the vital trade route.

Related: South China Sea: US warns Beijing against building ‘great wall of self-isolation’ – The Guardian 

 A First: Chinese Naval Vessel Enters Senkaku Contiguous Zone in East China Sea – The Diplomat Previously, China had only sent its coast guard into Japan’s territorial sea and contiguous zone. //It was expected that China will soften its stance on South China Sea dispute facing growing pressure from US and the international community. However, this news shows China has no intention to that. We can take this as a show of strength from the ruling party in China.  

Related: Japan Summons Chinese Envoy After Naval Ship Nears Disputed Islands – NYT

Related: Japan protests after Chinese warship sails near disputed islands – The Nation 

Prosecutors Paint Picture of Murder and Deception at Chinese Coal Mines – NYT Dozens have been accused of involvement in the deaths of 17 people whose bodies were used to fabricate mine accidents and extract compensation.

A Harvard Scholar on the Enduring Lessons of Chinese Philosophy – NYT Michael Puett, whose course on Chinese philosophy is one of Harvard University’s most popular offerings, explains why “embracing ourselves for who we are” may not be the path to the good life.


Mekong dam projects ‘could destroy livelihoods, ecology’ – The Nation Environmental groups warn areas might be totally devastated in next 10 years

Why ASEAN must pay more attention to the Mekong Delta – The Jakarta Post The Great Mekong River is at its lowest level in a century. It needs urgent collective efforts by the regional partners.

Kerrey’s Vietnam Dilemma – NYT Former Senator Bob Kerrey should not quit his role at the new Fulbright University Vietnam, despite an outcry over his war record.//This conundrum is hurtful to USA when it is trying to improve its ties with Vietnam. The news of Senator Kerrey being appointed as Chair of a new university in Vietnam reopened old wounds as the Senator is accused of killing civilians and children during Vietnam war. 

US, Cambodia Militaries Kick off Pacific Angel 2016 – The Diplomat This year’s iteration of PACANGEL Cambodia will last until June 18.

Revisiting the Ties That Bind Singapore and Suu Kyi – The Irrawaddy Myanmar and Singapore have a shared history of colonial occupation and a long relationship as Southeast Asian neighbors. As relations between Myanmar and Western nations continue to thaw and some bilateral ties are forged for the first time, Singapore and Myanmar are merely entering a new phase in their sometimes complicated but nonetheless enduring relationship.

Migrant rights groups call for action ahead of Suu Kyi’s trip to Thailand – DVB Multimedia Group Migrant rights groups are calling for Burma and Thailand to form an agreement that will ensure the process for Burmese migrants renewing documents is not strenuous, timely and expensive.

2 more Chinese lighthouses in Spratlys – The Jakarta Post China is building two new lighthouses on artificial islands in the disputed Spratly chain, state media reported, continuing with facility installation to bolster its territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Minister’s Environment Day Claims In DoubtThe Cambodia Daily Environment Minister Say Sam Al on Sunday declared an end to large-scale logging in eastern Cambodia, though NGOs disagreed. In mid-January, the government set up a special task force to root out illicit timber stocks across the east and ordered an immediate halt to all wood exports to Vietnam.

Malaysian businessmen urged to invest in Cambodia –Khmer Times The President of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC has urged Malaysian investors and businessmen to invest in and do business with Cambodia.

Myanmar should tap dams for electricity: Yangon chief minister –The Nation Dams can provide an affordable means for electricity production and water storage, Yangon region Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein said at an event to inform the public about the state of electricity distribution at the Yangon Electricity Supply Corporation headquarters.

Russian nuclear agency bullish on Asean outlook –The Nation ROSATOM, Russia’s state nuclear-energy agency, is bullish on the outlook of its business in Southeast Asia after the speedy development of a project in Vietnam and a range of agreements with every country in the region except Singapore, the Philippines and Brunei.

France has agreed to extend its support for development projects in Laos –Lao National Television (broadcasted news) France has agreed to extend its support for development projects to be implemented in Laos over the next three years, with the main focus on agriculture. Two financial agreements valued at 1.5 million euros were reached on Thursday

Ash Chowdhury compiled and provided analysis for this week’s news.




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Regional Roundup for Week of 6.2.16

This week we welcome Ashfaqul Chowdhury as our newest compiler and analyst of last week’s news. Ash comes to us from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School where he specializes in energy policy. He’s serving as an intern at the Stimson Center for the summer months.


Drought and ‘Rice First’ Policy Imperil Vietnamese Farmers – NYT The Mekong Delta, Vietnam’s premier rice growing region, is suffering its worst drought since at least 1926, and saline water has swept farther up the delta than ever.

Mekong dam a threat to rare dolphins – and villagers too – The Nation The Don Sahong hydroelectric dam threatens the last 80 Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong River – as well as the livelihoods of the people downstream in Cambodia, who depend heavily on the river’s resources.

Research Links Hydropower Dams To Species ExtinctionTech Times Hydropower dams may have damaging effects on species’ populations living in surrounding locations, a new study found. These negative effects can lead to the extinction of several species.

China-led AIIB expects 30 more countries to join as members by end of year GB Times The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) expects to grow its membership to almost 100 countries by the end of the year and plans to issue three batches of loans in its first year of operation.



Cambodia’s Close China Ties Concern Observers VOA Cambodia Cambodia’s large and growing debt to its northern ally China is a growing concern for observers who worry about the undue influence this may afford the regional superpower.

Xi Jinping, China’s President, Unexpectedly Meets With North Korean Envoy – NYT The meeting, which was not expected, is believed to have been the first between the Chinese president and a senior North Korean official since 2013.

The Value and Gaps in a Big San Francisco Clean-Energy Conclave – NYT Can an international gathering in San Francisco take big greenhouse-gas emitters including US and China from ambitious clean-energy pledges to real-world action?

North Korea Tells China of ‘Permanent’ Nuclear PolicyNYT A North Korean official, Ri Su-yong, said during talks with the Chinese in Beijing that his country would continue trying to expand its nuclear arsenal while striving to rebuild its economy.

South China Sea fears grow before tribunal rules on disputed islands – The Guardian  Fears are growing that there will be a sharp rise in tensions in the South China Sea in the next few weeks after an international tribunal delivers a ruling on disputed islands and reefs that Beijing has said it will reject.

Related: Is China winning in the South China Sea? – The Diplomat

Related: Cambodia, Thailand edging closer to nuclear powerThe Jakarta Post



Why an Asian super grid is a political fantasyThe Third Pole A somewhat unlikely combination of China’s State Grid, Korean Electric Power (KEPCO), the Russia grid operator PJSC ROSSETI and Softbank, the Japanese company led by Masayoshi Son, recently signed a memorandum of understanding to explore building a mega grid to cover much of northeast Asia.

The Value and Gaps in a Big San Francisco Clean-Energy Conclave – NYT Can an international gathering in San Francisco take big greenhouse-gas emitters including US and China from ambitious clean-energy pledges to real-world action?

Laos enlists Malaysian help on renewable energyThe Star Online The government of Lao PDR said it was committed to maintaining a sustainable approach to harnessing the nation’s energy resources for its rapidly growing economic activities while also protecting its natural eco-system as well as the traditions and culture of its people. Malaysia will send a high-level consulting group to advise Laos on developing strategies for the adoption of renewable energy as a driver for sustainable growth.

Solar power: Faster, Cleaner, CheaperFrontier Myanmar Solar-power plants are an obvious solution to Myanmar’s electricity shortage. They are faster to build than their fossil-fuel and hydropower alternatives and are cleaner and cheaper to operate.

Can the new government protect Myanmar’s water resources? Myanmar Times The new government is making all the right noises, but it remains to be seen if and how it can ensure water resources are sustainably prioritised, say water experts.

The developing world is outspending richer countries on renewable energy investment Quartz Developing nations invested $156 billion in renewables in 2015—a 19% increase on the year before, and more than all richer nations combined. China was top, pumping more money into the sector than any other country.



Mitsubishi Materials Apologizes to Chinese World War II LaborersNYT Mitsubishi Materials apologized on Wednesday to Chinese workers who were forced to work in its predecessor company’s mines during World War II. Three survivors of those mines will each receive about $15,000 under an agreement intended to be used as a template for future settlements.

Related: Chinese Victims of Forced Labor ReactNYT 

Related: Mitsubishi offers apology and $56m for wartime use of Chinese forced labour – The Guardian

US defense secretary Ash Carter living under ‘cold war’ mentality – The Guardian China on Monday rejected criticism from the US defense secretary, Ashton Carter, accusing him of harboring a cold-war mentality and saying Beijing had no interest in “playing a role in a Hollywood movie” of Washington’s design.

Related: China has reclaimed 3,200 acres in the South China Sea, says PentagonThe Guardian 

China in Africa, Part I: The Good – The Diplomat A closer look at the fact and fiction surrounding China’s involvement on the continent.

Mining near Mondulkiri wildlife sanctuary worries organizationThe Phnom Penh Post An environmental NGO has raised concerns about potential impacts to Mondulkiri province’s Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary from a possible large-scale gold mining operation in the area.



ASEAN and Russia: Creating a New Security ArchitectureThe Diplomat The 2016 ASEAN-Russia summit could mark a new phase in Russia’s security involvement.

Vietnam May Purchase India’s Deadly Supersonic BrahMos Cruise Missile – The Diplomat With Russian acquiescence, the supersonic cruise missile could end up in Hanoi’s inventory.Given the territorial dispute in the region, this may be an issue which would irk the Chinese.

Indonesia (Still) Mulling Purchase of Stealth Submarines from Russia – The Diplomat  Indonesia is also considering buying Russian amphibious aircraft, according to Indonesia’s ambassador to Moscow. //These last two news, involving Vietnam and Indonesia, makes it seem that these countries are strengthening their military capability with an eye on the South China sea dispute.

Does Abu Sayyaf pose a major terror threat to Southeast Asia? – Southeast Asia Globe Magazine The resurgent Abu Sayyaf terrorist group is flying the Isis flag in the Philippines – but not everyone is convinced by their posturing.

Thailand donates US$100,000 to Vietnam to fight drought – The Nation Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Phạm Binh Minh has praised continuous improvements in the strategic partnership between Vietnam and Thailand.

Today’s student activists face more complex issues than just the coupThe Nation At first, people barely noticed them. But then a group of students – calling themselves the Dao Din – fell to their knees in front of a military line about to crack down on villagers fighting against mining in the Northeast. Slowly people learned more about them, and realised that their rebellion was not merely against the coup, but embraced a wider range of policies and social issues that were of concern to everyone.

ADB has yet to act completely to displaced communities in Cambodia NGO Forum on ADB via Rappler X A Deafening silence rose when leader of project-affected communities, Sim Pov raised his community’s issues on the US $ 42 million loan to the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for the Cambodia Railway Rehabilitation Project.

Dam Protesters to Meet with OfficialsKhmer Times Residents from six villages in Oddar Meanchey’s Chong Kal district can now get some respite from the construction of a hydropower dam they claimed was encroaching on their land.  Provincial officials have now agreed to meet with their representatives after nearly 100 villagers from the six villages stopped construction of the dam. The Chinese Sinohydro firm is accused of illegally clearing trees on land owned by village residents near Ator Mountain in Pungro commune to make way for the dam.

Laos dam, poison blamed in Stung Treng fish deathsThe Phnom Penh Post Hundreds of kilograms of dead fish have washed up on the shores of the Mekong in Stung Treng’s Thala Barivat district in the past month, and while environmental activists blame construction of the controversial Don Sahong dam upstream.

Akara ready for a fightBangkok Post Akara Resources Plc, a gold mining operator in Phichit, has called on the government to review its cabinet resolution on May 10 that resolved not to renew or issue new gold mining licences, which could lead to the mine’s operations being suspended nationwide by the end of this year.

VN could struggle in protecting environment Vietnam News Vietnam will face challenges in implementing policies and laws on environmental protection, especially in industries seeing strong growth


Is this a dagger which I see before me? Healthcare in southwest China – GoKunming  For many expats living in China, healthcare is either a major concern or a blind spot of denial.





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