Regional Roundup for Week of 2.15.2015

It’s that time of year again –  you can’t find a train ticket home, your stomach is full of dumplings and your two uncles are fighting again after only three classes of baijiu. At least it’s that time of year for literally billions around the world – it’s Chinese New Year! On the night of the 18th, fireworks will fill the skies over China and many countries throughout Southeast Asia as the Lunar New Year is celebrated. After this last Year of the Horse, it will now be the Year of the Sheep. As it is the holidays, East by Southeast will be taking a break, but we’ll be back with more stories and insightful analysis starting in March. So from everyone at ExSE, we wish you and your families 新年快乐, 万事如意, 羊年大吉 ! Happy New Year!


Rebels Kill Dozens of Soldiers in Myanmar in Fighting Near Chinese BorderNYT The clashes, a renewal of a longstanding battle for territory in the area, is the latest setback for the government’s national reconciliation efforts.Reports are saying that over 10k refugees are pouring into Yunnan as a result of the fighting, which is less than the 30k refugees that entered China as a result of the 2009 Kokang Incident. So far, the media reaction to the fighting has been tempered. However the Chinese ambassador to Myanmar has had to deny that deny that Chinese troops are participating in military actions across the border. 

Related: Burma: 47 soldiers killed in clashes with insurgentsThe Guardian

Related: Tens of thousands flee war, airstrikes in Kokang regionDVB

Dam will not collapse, EIT vowsThe Nation Fears mount over Mae Suai Reservoir cracks.

Myanmar, ADB Sign $80 Million Loan Agreement to Improve Connectivity in Ayeyarwaddy DeltaADB ADB and the Government of Myanmar today signed an $80 million loan agreement to rehabilitate a major road to support economic development in the agriculturally rich but underdeveloped Ayeyarwaddy Delta. This is great news. Deltas are some of the most agriculturally rich areas in the world and a lack of infrastructure connectivity is often a huge roadblock to reaching agricultural potential. 

ADB lends Vietnam $234 mln for policy reform, Hanoi metroThanh Nien Vietnam is losing ground in terms of competitiveness, according to the World Economic Forum.

What is ASEAN Community 2015 All About? The Guardian ASEAN should convey clearly exactly what its community-building this year is all about. As an ADB official once told me, the ASEAN 2015 is more a milestone than a concrete set of regional policies and activities. 

Related: ASEAN Eyes Closer Military Ties in 2015The Guardian

Related: Democratic values and human rights in ASEANNew Mandala

The Geopolitics of the Vietnam WarThe Guardian Columnist James Burnham offered strategic insights into the war in Southeast Asia that remain relevant today.


China Defends Trade Policies After U.S. Files Case at W.T.O.NYT The country defended its policies and “expressed regret” at the filing of the case challenging Chinese subsidies on exports.

Related: White House to File Case Against China at W.T.O. Over Subsidies for Exports NYT

 After More Shootings, Government Berates ThailandThe Cambodia Daily Following reports that three Cambodians were shot dead earlier this month by Thai soldiers after illegally crossing the border to find valuable timber, Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry sent an irate letter to the Thai Em­bassy on Friday.

Vietnamese, Chinese Party chiefs discuss plans to foster bilateral tiesThanh Nien The countries are celebrating their 65th anniversary of diplomatic ties. Following the last year, Sino-Vietnamese ties will need a little more than ‘fostering’.

Related: Vietnam and Diplomatic BalancingThe Guardian

 Being Chinese in SingaporeNYT How one diaspora is questioning the mainland’s idea of Chineseness.

President Xi Jinping to Visit U.S. in September, Chinese Agency ReportsNYT In addition to visiting the White House, Mr. Xi will go to New York for events marking the 70th anniversary of the United Nations’ founding, the state media report said.

Related: Chinese leader’s US visit is ‘more symbolic than substantive’, say expertsThe Guardian

Related: US, China to Discuss Repatriation of Chinese FugitivesThe Irrawaddy

 GIZ helping Asean nations develop a better way to meet its labour demandsThe Nation An initiative to improve in-company staff-training standards in Asean that was launched by several countries in the region, including Thailand, with the assistance of the German International Cooperation’s (GIZ) is a step closer to being finalised following a Bangkok workshop.

HIV-Positive Migrants Denied Care at Thai Public HospitalsThe Irrawaddy Hospitals across the country are denying insurance and care to migrant laborers despite an insurance scheme launched over a year ago, officials and rights advocates say.

Lao and Thai Border Officials Team Up Against Trafficking of Young WomenRadio Free Asia Lao immigration officials will work with their Thai counterparts to prevent underage girls from entering Thailand in a bid to prevent them from being lured into the sex industry by human traffickers.


China Unveils Major South China Sea Gas FindThe Guardian Large yields may further fuel resource extraction efforts in contentious waters. The more gas reserves identified, the tighter the race for control of them becomes. 

Related: Can Natural Gas Be a Game-Changer for China?The Guardian

 Egat ordered to limit Mae Moh impactThe Nation The Supreme Administrative Court yesterday ordered the Mae Moh lignite-fired power plant in Lampang province to minimise its harsh impact on the local environment and residents.

Thailand big contributor to plastic trash on ocean floorsThe Nation Thailand is one of the top 10 countries that have been mismanaging their plastic waste, which has resulted in plastic debris sinking to the bottom of the sea along its coastlines, a study published in the Science journal said.

No Need to Sacrifice Asia’s Rivers to Power China’s DevelopmentInternational Rivers Celebrating China’s commitments to phase out coal without asking how it will meet its targets is a dangerous game. Because while most might assume that China will replace its demand for coal with abundant and affordable renewable energy like solar and wind, the truth is that there’s a new energy – massive hydropower – bringing severe risks of its own. Certainly true that big hydropower brings many risks – but solar and wind might not be the best solutions to for a less coal dependent China. Both depend on weather patterns for their power and storing power for peak seasons is an issue as well. 

Related: Sustainable Hydropower Pitch for Burma Difficult to SwallowInternational Rivers

 Ban on fires proposed for NorthThe Nation The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment wants to impose a strict ban on fires in nine provinces in the North during a critical 60-day period designated by local administrators, as part of an action plan that requires approval from the Cabinet.

Irrigation chief still wants to build Mae Wong damThe Nation The Royal Irrigation Department (RID) chief still hopes to build the controversial Mae Wong Dam in Nakhon Sawan province and says the loss of 12,000 rai (4,744 acres) of forestland for the project will be compensated with 30,000 rai of reforested area.

China’s Polluters Hit with Biggest-Ever FinesChinaFile Two days before a new environmental law came into effect, six polluting companies in Jiangsu were ordered by the province’s highest court to pay 160 million yuan ($26 million) in restoration costs for illegally dumping almost 25,000 tons of chemical waste into two rivers in 2012.

China’s western water transfer plan affects Tibet, if not BrahmaputraThe Third Pole With the central and eastern route of China’s mega water transfer scheme now complete, attention is turning to the controversial western stretch over the Tibetan plateau

 Northern province sells rescued wildlife to restaurants, angers environmentalistsThanh Nien 42 pangolins seized from poachers help Bac Ninh Province earn around $11,300.


Why China Is Banning Islamic VeilsChinaFile This week, regional authorities outlawed Islamic veils from all public spaces in the regional capital of China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR). The Urumqi ban, which went into effect on Sunday February 1 (coincidentally the third annual (World Hijab Day), empowers Chinese police to punish violators and dole out fines of up to U.S.$800 for those who fail to enforce the prohibition.

Taiwanese Official in Charge of Ties With Mainland China Steps DownNYT Wang Yu-chi resigned after prosecutors said that his former deputy, whom he had suspected of passing state secrets to China, would not be charged.

Related: Taiwan Charges Dozens of Protesters in Takeover of Government BuildingsNYT

 Politburo, army, casinos: China’s corruption crackdown spreadsThe Guardian Xi Jinping’s huge anti-graft campaign has continued with the execution of a mining billionaire. Its effect is now so widespread that some warn daily work is grinding to a halt

Qualcomm given record £631m fine in Chinese anti-monopoly caseThe Guardian China has fined the chipmaker Qualcomm 6bn yuan (£631m) in a wave of anti-monopoly penalties that have rattled foreign companies.

Related: China’s Internet Restrictions Are Hampering Business, Foreign Companies SayNYT

 How China Defines TerrorismThe Diplomat In a new draft law, China has opted for its own definition.

China’s New Environment Minister Has Work Cut Out For HimChinaFile The elevation of the president of China’s most prestigious university to the job of government minister was unexpected.

Related: One year on after “war” declared on pollution, Beijing air scarcely improvesThe Third Pole

 Good Times Are Over for Local GovernmentsChinaFile Two pieces of recent news have piqued the public’s interest. First, local governments reported their latest debt figures to the Ministry of Finance. Second, in an attempt to revive the flagging property market, many local governments are easing requirements for the housing provident fund, which offers mortgages subsidized by the government.

The Plight of China’s Rights LawyersChinaFile As the year came to a close, at least seven prominent Chinese human rights lawyers rang in the New Year from a jail cell. Under President Xi Jinping, 2014 was one of the worst years in recent memory for China’s embattled civil society.

Related: Chinese Lawyers to Chinese Lawmakers: Let Us Defend Our ClientsChinaFile

 China Seizes Toilet Paper Bearing Image of Hong Kong LeaderThe Irrawaddy Authorities in southern China have seized about 8,000 rolls of toilet paper and another 20,000 packages of tissues containing unflattering images of Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing chief executive, according to an official of the small political party that placed the order.

China’s Xiaomi to start small in U.S., with earphones and bandsThanh Nien Xiaomi, China’s largest smartphone company, will begin selling headphones, smart wristbands and other accessories online in the United States in coming months, taking its first tentative step onto Apple Inc’s home turf without its signature Mi mobile devices.


Govt backflips on white-card voting rightsDVB The ID document acknowledges temporary residency and offers voting rights to holders. The President’s Office announced on Thursday that the cards will expire at the end of next month and must be handed over to authorities. Very disappointing. As Myanmar gets closer to the 2015 elections, we see more and more problems related to the country’s minority populations. 

Related: Revoking White Card Holder Voting Rights ‘Counter Reconciliation’: US OfficialThe Irrawaddy

 Thailand’s Junta Tries to Bury the Opposition in Endless LawsuitsNYT Hundreds of people have been summoned and forced to sign documents that allow the junta to seize their assets if they become involved with “any political movement.”

Rebels Shun Union Day Pledge ‘Without Concrete Points’: Ethnic LeaderThe Irrawaddy The head of an alliance of 16 ethnic armed groups said most of its members had declined to sign a Union Day pledge reaffirming commitments to Burma’s stalled nationwide ceasefire process, as the government-drafted statement failed to address key outstanding issues.

Vietnam to inspect accounts linked to the country in massive HSBC banking scandalThanh Nien HSBC Suisse has been accused of abetting tax-dodgers including many criminals across the world.

Related: HSBC scandal: 26 clients linked to Vietnam had accounts in controversial Swiss bankThanh Nien

From a Swift Boat to a Sustainable MekongUS State Dept. Today, the Mekong faces a new and very different danger — one that threatens the livelihoods of tens of millions and symbolizes the risk climate change poses to the entire planet. Unsustainable growth and development along the full reach of the river are endangering its long-term health and the region’s prosperity.

Extraordinary Meeting of the Friends of the Lower MekongUS State Dept.  On February 2, Counselor Tom Shannon and Senior Advisor to the Secretary Ambassador David Thorne led a U.S. delegation to the Extraordinary Meeting of the Friends of the Lower Mekong in Pakse, Laos. The Friends of the Lower Mekong, a donor coordination group, came together with the countries of the Lower Mekong to discuss the connection between water resources, energy needs and food security.

 ‘Evidence of Illegal Activity’ by Chinese, Canadian Firms at Monywa: AmnestyThe Irrawaddy Amnesty International has called for an investigation into two international firms over their conduct in three adjoining copper mine projects, including the controversial Letpadaung mine, the site of repeated clashes between villagers and police forces in recent months.

Related: Wanbao slams Amnesty report as ‘groundless, sensationalist’DVB

 As Technology Entrepreneurs Multiply in Vietnam, So Do RegulationsNYT A growing list of government rules dictates how technology businesses must be run, including what they can do with their content.

Farewell to armsSEA Globe For more than four decades, sections of the Hmong community have been in conflict with the Lao government, but is the resistance all but over?

 Vietnam’s migrant labourers: Going to debt mountainThe Economist Vietnam’s youthful population of 90m adds up to 1.5m each year to the growing work pool. But economic growth, at 6%, is not fast enough to keep all of them employed.

Villagers ‘seeking justice’ in land disputeThe Nation Local people in Khok Yao and Bor Kaew communities in Chaiyaphum are preparing to petition for help from state authorities again today in the face of growing pressure for them to vacate homes on disputed land in Khon San forest.

Dogs Used to Hunt Down MontagnardsThe Cambodia Daily Authorities in Ratanakkiri prov­ince are using dogs in their at­tempts to locate 32 Montagnards hid­­ing in O’Yadaw district forest, an ethnic Jarai villager and a local rights group said Friday.


Man dies of bird flu in northwest YunnanGoKunming The Yunnan Department of Health on Sunday announced the first instance of fowl-to-human transmission of influenza in China this year. The single case was identified by health workers in a rural area of northwest Yunnan and thought to have occurred because the patient worked with wild birds.

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