Author Archives: News Digest

Regional Roundup for Week of 8.4.2016

LEADERS

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

 SOUTH CHINA SEA

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.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

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.

CHINA

Hydropower Country Profile: China – Hydropower.com 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.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

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 – Vietmaz.com 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.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

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.

 LEADERS

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.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

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

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

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.

CHINA

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.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

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

YUNNAN

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

LEADERS

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.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

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.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

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.

CHINA

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.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

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.

YUNNAN

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.

LEADERS

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.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

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.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

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

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.

SOUTH CHINA SEA

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.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

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.

Leaders

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.

 

SOUTH CHINA SEA

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

 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

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.

SUSTAINABILTY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

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.

 

CHINA

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.

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

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 6.24.16

LEADERS

Indonesia, Defying Beijing, Seizes Fishing Boat in South China Sea – NYT The boat and its crew were taken Friday after warships fired warning shots at Chinese vessels suspected of illegal fishing, an Indonesian official said. //This is the newest episode of the illegal fishing saga in South China Sea. This is a multi-country problem where Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and China accuse each other of violating exclusive economic zones in order to fish. China maintains a position that despite international laws, ‘traditional fishing grounds’ should remain open for all.

Related: Indonesia confirms it shoat at ‘criminal’ Chinese fishing boats near its Natuna islands – Quartz

Related: Indonesian navy fires on Chinese fishing boat, injuring one, Beijing claims – The Guardian 

Related: A Third 2016 Natuna Stand-Off Highlights Growing Indonesia-China Tensions 

Revealed: The Truth Behind ASEAN’s Retracted Kunming Statement -The Diplomat New details on the June 14 meeting between ASEAN and China shed light on the imbroglio surrounding ASEAN’s statement. // This story brings very important news about what really happened in the ASEAN-China dialogue. It seems the statement issued was originally agreed to by all members. However, China did not agree to it (obviously!). Malaysia, frustrated by Chinese interference, released the statement to media anyway. Later the statement had to be rescinded.

The ASEAN-China Special Meeting Mystery: Bureaucratic Snafu or Chinese Heavy-Handedness? – The Diplomat Was ASEAN consensus undermined or is there a more mundane bureaucratic explanation for the confusion surrounding the statement?

Not a Repeat but and Echo: ASEAN’s Retracted Statement and the Specter of the 2012 Joint Communique Failure – East by Southeast The emergence of numerous reports that consensus on the statement was withdrawn after-the-fact due to China pressuring Laos appears to many observers a repeat of ASEAN’s failure in 2012 to reach consensus on a joint statement during the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia.

REGIONAL RELATIONS 

After the South China Sea Ruling – The Diplomat The long-awaited Tribunal’s merits ruling will come soon. What happens then?

Suu Kyi, Thai govt to sign new migrant deal – The Bangkok Post Burma’s Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi and the Labour Ministry plan to solve the issue of illegal Burmese migrant workers by slashing their mandatory “work break” period from three years to 30 days.

Related: Suu Kyi’s Trip to Refugee Camp in Thailand Scrapped

The Lady and a Junta, Thai-Style – The Irrawaddy The visit this week by Nobel Peace Prize laureate and democracy icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will certainly brighten the spirits of the sombre Thai people and could also lift the profile of the Thai junta and Myanmar’s top leader. // important visit as it is expected Suu Kyi and the Thai government will discuss about a host of important issues including hydropower dams in the Salween river. Environmentalists have already urged Suu Kyi to take a stance against dams on Salween because of their perceived environmental risk.

Statement on the Visit of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to Thailand – June 2016 International Rivers General civil society members and environmental activists express concern about infrastructural projects including hydropower projects on the Slaween River.

Related: Suu Kyi urged not to back Salween dams –DVB Multimedia

US, Thailand Conclude Annual Military Exercise – The Diplomat CARAT Thailand 2016 ran from June 16 to 23.

Why Asean must worry about the Mekong Delta – The Nation Grouping is not giving enough attention to water resource security

Mekong countries share land governance experience – The Jakarta Post Increasing security of land rights and transparency of land governance would contribute to government accountability, reduce costs for businesses and strengthen the climate for responsible investment in the Mekong region, a regional land forum in Hanoi was told Tuesday.

China tackles the issues of Greater Mekong Subregion –The Nation (Opinion) This year, many of those present will have heard for the first time of a new multinational agreement driven by China that will play an increasingly important role – namely the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation or LMC (Lancang is China’s name for Mekong). In many ways the LMC is a smaller version of Asean But with just six countries involved and China at the helm, it is expected that results will come more quickly. //LMC brings hope for hydro-diplomacy at the multilateral level in the Mekong region. China has built a cascade of dams in upper Mekong region which controls significant amount of water flow in the downstream region. It is important for all lower Mekong countries to discuss the issue with China and find a way to act collaboratively on this.   

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT 

Special economic zone taps into solar power – Phnom Penh Post News Phnom Penh SEZ launched its Clean Energy Initiative yesterday, inaugurating two new solar power systems to supply electricity for water pumps on the 357-hectare industrial park. The initiative, carried out in partnership with Singapore-based Cleantech Solar Corp, is aimed at decreasing CO2 emissions and reducing energy costs.

China to generate a quarter of electricity from wind power by 2030 – The Guardian  Report says figures could rise to nearly one-third with power sector reforms, making it the world wind energy leader by a large margin.

Renewable energy must be boosted five-fold by 2025: Jokowi – The Jakarta Post President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has underlined the importance of clean energy development and energy conservation in the nation’s roadmap of energy development up to 2050. 

CHINA

Chinese Fishermen: The New Global Pirates? – The Diplomat It’s not just the South China Sea — Chinese fishing vessels have been accused of illegal activities all over the world.

China on Indonesia’s Detention of Boat –NYTimes A Chinese spokeswoman accused Indonesia of breaking international law by holding the crew of a Chinese fishing boat that was operating in the South China Sea.

China’s ‘Historic Rights’ in the South China Sea: Made in America? – The Diplomat The current understanding of “historic rights” in the South China Sea in China can be traced back to a U.S. diplomat.

A Chinese River’s Uncertain Fate – NYTimes Environmentalists have defended the Nu, in Yunnan Province, for more than a decade, battling state hydropower firms intent on building dams.

China’s Ambitious New ‘Silk Road’ Trade Route Takes Shape in Africa – Chinafile Four years and hundreds of billions of dollars later, China’s ambitious global trading strategy known as the “New Maritime Silk Road,” or “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR), is now coming to life, particularly in parts of East Africa where major infrastructure and defense projects are being built.

China’s plan to cut meat consumption by 50% cheered by climate campaigners – The Guardian New dietary guidelines could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1bn tonnes by 2030, and could lessen country’s problems with obesity and diabetes.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Presidential Spokesman Hits Back Against UN Criticism Over Rohingya – The Irrawaddy Magazine Zaw Htay, Spolesman for the President’s office of Myanmar says the UN and international community should focus on ongoing reforms inside Myanmar rather than human rights abuses by the former government. The comment came after UN criticized Myanmar’s handling of religious and ethnic minorities, especially the Muslim Rohingyas.

Related: Arakanese and Rohingya Criticize New Govt Term for Muslims 

EU Says Burma Needs “Space” to Deal with Rights Abuses – The Irrawaddy The European Union said on Wednesday that Burma needed “space” to deal with human rights abuses in its restive northwest, adding it would respect the call by country leader Aung San Suu Kyi to avoid the term “Rohingya” to describe persecuted Muslims there.

War of lexicon in Arakan State – DVB Multimedia Group The Arakan National Party (ANP) has condemned the Burmese government’s suggestion that the ethnic Rohingya be referred to as the “Muslim community in Arakan State”.

Related: UN Rapporteur Avoids Contentious Terms with Arakan Chief Minister – The Irrawaddy

Jokowi to visit Natuna to uphold RI’s sovereignty – The Jakarta Post President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo will visit Natuna, Riau Islands province, on Thursday to demonstrate Indonesia’s sovereignty over the waters in the outer part of the archipelago. // This visit, combined with the incident of Indonesia seizing Chinese fishing vessels mean Indonesia is very serious about establishing an authority over disputed waters in South China Sea. It will be interesting to see how China reacts to this in the coming days. 

PDF REPORT Analysis on ADB Investments in the Greater Mekong – NGO Forum on ADB ADB funded projects have failed to take into consideration the vulnerable livelihoods of the poorer communities in the Greater Mekong Sub-region.

Don Sahong Dam Construction Creates Uncertainty Over Future of Regional Fisheries and Food Security – International Rivers General Construction work on Don Sahong Dam has started blocking crucial fish migration channels and raising questions about food security and livelihoods of people living on the up and downstream of the river.

Slight Increase in Dolphin Numbers –Khmer Times Cambodia’s freshwater Mekong dolphin population has increased by four, adding a quartet of calves in the first five months of 2016 while also seeing a drop in the mortality rate compared with last year. This was encouraging news for environmentalists in a region where increased dam construction has raised concerns over the dwindling numbers of dolphins.

Villagers condemn logging and mining –Eleven Myanmar A press conference was held in Yangon, on June 16 exposing illegal mining and logging operations along the Chindwin River in Kachin State and Sagaing Region. The event, organised by the Red Shan Youth group and Kuki Women’s Centre, they said illegal activities had destroyed around 60 per cent of the forests along the river. Researchers claimed that more than 250,000 acres in Kaniare was being used for illegal and legal gold mining.

Bob Kerrey and the ‘American Tragedy’ of Vietnam: Op-ED – NYT EVEN today, Americans argue over the Vietnam War: what was done, what mistakes were made, and what were the lasting effects on American power. This sad history returns because of Bob Kerrey’s appointment as chairman of the American-sponsored Fulbright University Vietnam, the country’s first private university.

Myanmar to export 515 billion cubic feet of natural gas this fiscal year –Eleven Myanmar The Yadana, Yetagon, Zawtika and Shwe gas projects are expected to collectively produce 515 billion cubic feet of natural gas for export and 160.6 billion cubic feet for local use in the 2016-2017 fiscal year, according to the second five-year National Development Plan (from 2016-2017 to 2020-2021).

YUNNAN

Kunming’s twin expos bigger, more important than ever – GoKunming In a mark of the spring city’s growing importance, both on the domestic and international stage, 5,000 businesses and nearly as many officials from eighty-nine countries converged on Kunmingon the occasion of  fourth annual China-South Asia Expo (CSAEXPO) and twenty-fourth Kunming Import and Export Commodities Fair (KIEF).

Big thanks to Ash Chowdhury for compiling this week’s digest and providing analysis!

 

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Regional Roundup for Week of 6.16.16

LEADERS

The Truth Behind ASEAN’s vanishing South China Sea Statement – Forbes Over the last two days, ASEAN reportedly released a strongly worded statement showing unity against China over the South China Sea. Within hours, the statement had been retracted, with some Southeast Asian countries declaring it had been issued in error.//The hottest story coming out of ASEAN glaringly shows how China manipulates regional diplomacy and maintains its swagger in the region by leaning on weak states. China may be willing to take on the reputational costs of collateral damage to can Laos and Cambodia afford to continually disappoint ASEAN and the rest of the world?

Related: China, not ASEAN, the real failure on South China Sea at Kunming Meeting -The Diplomat

Related: ASEAN Foreign Ministers Issue, Then Retract Communique Referencing South China Sea – The Diplomat

Related: East Sea dominates Asean-China talks – The Nation

Related: China’s South China Sea meeting with ASEAN ends in confusion – Thanhnien News

Kunming-Singapore rail link stuck in Laos –The Rakyat Post For the southwestern city of Kunming, China’s plan to extend a high-speed rail link 3,000 km south to Singapore is already a boon – pristine expressways, a gleaming station and something of a real estate boom, as young buyers crowd property showrooms. But in Laos, work has yet to start on what should be the first overseas leg of a rail line stretching throughout Southeast Asia. The country, one of the region’s poorest, could struggle to finance even part of the US$7 billion cost and has yet to agree financial terms with China.//China: Hey Laos, why don’t you muck up that joint statement on South China Sea? We’ll consider lowering the cost of that railway we’re building for you…

 No authority to prevent new Mekong River projects: MRC – The Nation The Mekong Commission (MRC) does not have the authority to stop projects even if they have transboundary effects, delegates to the fourth Green Mekong Forum said on Monday, while the Thai Irrigation Department presented a water diversion project to fight poverty. The recent forum in Bangkok about latest developments in infrastructure and water resource management in the Mekong Region was disclosed that major development projects are necessary for solving poverty, even though it was admitted that the transborder impacts are real.//The MRC never had such authority. What’s disappointing is that the MRC has not and will likely never emerge as a negotiating platform for transboundary water management as once thought. If this is the case, then we need to think practically about the actual future role and function of the MRC because it will continue as a player in regional watershed management, but at a much lower and less dynamic capacity.

The water conflict on the Mekong –The Mekong Eye Located at the end of the Mekong River basin, the Mekong Delta in Vietnam is currently experiencing the most severe drought and salinity intrusion in 100 years.  According to experts, the principal reason is development activities in Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) countries related to the use of the Mekong River’s water resources, including the operation and construction of mega-dams along the river as well as water diversion for agricultural purposes.//Subscribe to the Mekong Eye which promotes emerging regional voices and issues that often fail to be picked up in traditional media. 

Related: Loss of Mekong freshwater dolphin affecting more than 1000 households’ livelihood –FanKhmer

PR | UN Envoys Report Concern over Don Sahong Dam Impacts to Human Rights Council – International River’s General The United Nations Special Procedures have raised serious concerns over the human rights impacts of the controversial Don Sahong Dam under construction on the Mekong River in Laos. A report detailing these concerns has been submitted to the Human Rights Council for consideration at its 32nd session, which commences today.

Don Sahong vs Dolphins: How the Dam Is Affecting Local Residents –Khmer Times Residents of Preah Rumkel commune in Thala Barivat district, Stung Treng province, have been demanding authorities suspend construction of the dam to no avail. The project has taken on a new life for local residents now that the booms of dynamite blasts and the sounds of rocks smashing under the weight of machines have become an ever-present part of their daily lives. But what residents of Preah Rumkel commune are most worried about is the loss of the dolphins that are native to Anlong Chher Teal, which attract tourists and provides incomes for people in the area.

Officials in Greater Mekong Sub-region call for enhanced cooperation –China.org Participants to the GMS (Greater Mekong Sub-region) Economic Corridor 2016 Governors Forum on Friday called for enhanced cooperation in face of economic, social and environmental challenges. The GMS Economic Cooperation Program, launched in 1992 by six countries along the Mekong River — Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, is aimed at pooling efforts to improve regional infrastructure, and to promote trade, investment and economic growth.//they’ve been doing it for years.  GMS countries are looking for new, innovative leadership.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Stronger US-Vietnam Relations Are Not At China’s Expense – The Diplomat The recent boost in bilateral ties following Obama’s visit must be put into proper perspective.

China Woos Suu Kyi, Seeking a Fresh Start in Myanmar – Wall Street Journal Beijing hopes the support of country’s de facto leader will help ease opposition to Chinese mine, dam project.

Nixed China Aid Leaves Myanmar Agency in Debt, Citizens in Danger – The Diplomat Without assistance for a tunnel, an irrigation department is in debt and hundreds of thousands are at risk from flooding.

With Russian help, region looks to a nuclear-powered future – The Nation Nuclear power generation appears to be an emerging trend in ASEAN, with many countries here signing up for related technologies. //We saw somewhat familiar news last week as Vietnam and Russia’s relationship centering on nuclear power generation was on the spotlight. This report seems to confirm that this is a trend throughout the region.

 Japan, Thailand Eye Stronger Security Ties – The Diplomat Tokyo and Bangkok looked to boost their defense relations during Gen Nakatani’s recent visit.

Vietnam mulls $701 mln expressway to Cambodia – Thanhnien News It will be part of an expressway linking Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh that will halve travel time between the two cities to three hours//like many other regional linkages, this is much needed to improve market access and regional commerce. Projects like this are well-received where Vietnamese rubber and illegal logging activities are not.

South China Sea: An Eyewitness Account of Tensions at Scarborough Shoal – The Diplomat  Anders Corr, who traveled with activists to Scarborough Shoal, joins The Diplomat’s Ankit Panda for a discussion.

ASEAN-China trade growth: facts, factors and prospects –  New Mandala What explains the sharp growth in ASEAN-China trade, and can this be sustained? //This issue is particularly important as a backdrop to the ongoing tension in South China Sea. China is the largest trading partner with ASEAN region both in terms of exports and imports. As trade usually represents a symbiotic relation we could expect large amount of trade would impede China and ASEAN countries from falling into a lengthy, bitter dispute. However, it seems ASEAN countries are more dependent on China than vice versa meaning this may ultimately become a tool for China to coerce these countries to agree to the much disputed nine-dash line in South China Sea.  

How a systems-scale approach can solve Myanmar’s electrification woes and more  –Devex Environmental advocates are calling for a holistic, streamlined approach to building out Myanmar’s hydropower sector, which is attracting growing interest from donors and investors, including multilateral organizations such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank as well as countries such as China. Systems-scale planning, can help encapsulate sustainability, environment, economic and social concerns into projects’ design, implementation and impact. The approach looks at and guides design and implementation of projects based on a system — such as river basins or lakes — and not as individual projects that are not well-coordinated and which can lead to inefficiencies, conflicts, degradation and missed opportunities.//The Nature Conservancy’s Hydropower by Design team discussed their work on system scale approach to hydropower in Myanmar earlier this week at the Stimson Center. See video here.

Myanmar – Thailand – China will discuss about Mong Tong Hydropower Project –Eleven News The developers of the Mong Tong Hydropower project (China Three Gorges Corporation, China Southern Power Grid, Power Construction of China; Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand International, Myanmar’s International Group of Entrepreneurs Co,Ltd) will discuss about the design of the proposed project. Ms. Maria Lorea Cleto from SMEC International Pty Ltd said, they will redesign the project with cascade, and it will discuss at the 3rd meeting with the Ministry of Electrical Power.  CSOs and local communities have opposed these projects in several occasions and SMEC face difficulties in doing the EIA. The proposed dam will be the highest in South East Asia, which could produce 7100MW of electricity; 90% of which will go to Thailand and China.

Public Statement on The Mong Ton Dam on the Salween River International River’s General Activists under the umbrella of The Network of People in Salween Basin issue statement calling for the Mong Ton Dam, a joint project between Thailand and Myanmar, to be reevaluated.

Related: Saving the Salween: Southeast Asia’s last major undammed river –The Ecologist 

Thanlwin dams criticised ahead of state counsellor’s Thailand visit –Myanmar Times Another civil society group has joined the mounting campaign against dams planned along the Thanlwin River, also known as the Salween, ahead of an upcoming energy meeting between Thailand and Myanmar. The local network called on the state counsellor, who is set to visit Thailand from June 23 to 25, to consider “the importance of the Thanlwin River as the home of ethnic minority peoples and as an invaluable source of biodiversity and natural resources”. The network also demanded the suspension of any dams until communities have been consulted.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

World Bank finds cash moving to renewables –UPI Investments in renewable energy made up more than half of all private investments last year, signaling a low-carbon shift is under way, the World Bank said. A report from the bank finds global private investments held relatively steady from 2014 to total $111.6 billion last year. Investments in renewable energy, however, were higher in 2015 than during the past five years.  

Energy access: It’s the policy, stupid –Decentralized Energy Renewable energy companies in emerging markets in Africa and Asia frequently lament the shortage of financing as the main barrier to scaling decentralized solutions such as rooftop solar and mini-grids. But at a summit this month, industry leaders singled out the lack of supportive national energy policies as the biggest obstacle to accelerated growth. The decentralized renewable energy industry, which will play a central role in solving energy poverty for the 1.1 billion people (17% of humanity) worldwide without access to electricity, is booming and significant advances in policy are being made.//a gap is emerging between the renewable energy achievements in the developed world and high hurdles to jump over to gain similar achievements in the developing world. Poor governance and policy regimes widen that gap.

 In numbers: the region’s energy sector – Southeast Asia Globe Magazine An infographic illustrating the fossil fuel consumption, total energy consumption and primary energy sources in Southeast Asia

Solar power dawns on Datong as coal industry declines – Chinadialogue While solar power cannot compete with nearby coal-fired power plants in terms of output, new government subsidies have made the price of energy for consumers more competitive.

 CHINA

Tackling pollution: Beijing’s electric bikes and buses – in pictures– NYT Vehicles are the source of a third of the air pollution in the Chinese capital, which restricts their use during episodes of heavy smog. Electric cars, buses, scooters and bicycles offer an alternative, cleaner form of transport //but electric bikes are being banned in certain districts and some Chinese cities are taking them off the street entirely.

Green Finance: A Strategic Imperative for China – The Diplomat China’s “green financing” could be the key to making sure the Paris agreement comes to fruition.

China’s Innovation Dream: Mission Impossible? – The Diplomat Chinese innovation will be stifled by political limits and censorship, unless the Party is willing to make a change.//Could have written this in 1995 or 2005. Welcome to the last century, China! 

Reality Check: The South China Sea Does Not Define the US-China Relationship – The Diplomat The relationship between the world’s two most important countries is far broader than the South China Sea disputes.

China’s ‘Belt and Road’: Where Is Africa? – The Diplomat Africa was missing from China’s “Belt and Road” roadmap, but including the continent makes good sense.//actually it’s all about Africa and here’s how. 

Canada should join China-led bank, AIIB –CCTV  The creation of the AIIB offers a strong presence that will encourage multilateral organizations to act more green, efficient and effective, providing a competitive angle that demonstrates AIIB’s advantages. The AIIB offers secure assets to institutional investors, such as issuing long-dated bonds that will provide a measurable return on funding infrastructure. China-led bank will expand its influence, making it advantageous decision for Canada to join in, since it will provide opportunities for Canada to be a standalone nation without being overly-influenced by the U.S. and Japan.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

World Bank to loan Vietnam $310 mln for climate resilience –Thanhnien News The World Bank has approved a US$310 million loan to help Vietnam build climate resilience and ensure sustainable livelihoods for 1.2 million people in the Mekong Delta region. The approved Mekong Delta Integrated Climate Resilience and Sustainable Livelihoods Project supports better climate-smart planning and improved climate resilience of land and water management practices.//Looking forward to critical outside analysis of this plan.

Singapore, Malaysia among biggest investors in Vietnam: report – Thanhnien News Eight out of 10 member states of ASEAN have made investments in Vietnam with a total pledge of $56.32 billion for 2,681 projects, the Foreign Investment Agency recently reported.

Formosa asked to install automatic emissions monitoring equipment –Vietnam News The Natural Resources and Environment Department in central province of Hà Tĩnh has asked two companies to install automatic monitoring equipment for testing emissions and the dust of emission discharge systems. According to the department head, Formosa Steel Ltd. Co and Vũng Áng Thermal Power Plant I were selected for this task. The equipment will automatically transmit data every hour to the department’s control centre.

PM: Marine environment must be protected –Vietnam News Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc has called for joint efforts to protect the marine environment and maintain sovereignty peacefully on the Việt Nam Sea. Addressing a ceremony to mark 2016 Việt Nam Seas and Islands Week and World Oceans Day, Phúc directed the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to co-operate with relevant agencies to inspect and severely punish any organisation or individual violating regulations on discharging wastewater into the sea.

 Trump, Clinton and the Future of US-Vietnam Relations – The Diplomat Bilateral relations have come a long way. How might they fare under the next U.S. president?

ADB to more than double loans to Burma – DVB Multimedia Group Myanmar wants money to spend on large infrastructure and energy projects

Related: ADB President Commends Myanmar’s Progress, Announces Expanded Assistance -Asian Development Bank news release

Turkish Foreign Minister Visits Burma, Offers Assistance to Arakan State – The Irrawaddy  Visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu thanked the Burmese government on Monday for its efforts to quell racial and sectarian violence in Arakan State, expressing a desire for mutual cooperation to resolve the issue.

Rohingya Reject New Citizenship Verification Cards – The Irrawaddy A citizenship verification exercise aimed at stateless Muslims in Arakan State, which resumed last month, has been temporarily suspended in Ponnagyun Township, where residents of a small Rohingya village have refused to cooperate as the program does not identify them as Rohingyas.

A Moment of Clarity at Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge Tribunal – The Diplomat Testimony unveils more details about one of the world’s worst genocides.

Indonesia To Coordinate South China Sea Policy Ahead of Court Verdict – The Diplomat President Jokowi asks ministries to formulate uniformed position to ‘have the same answers.’

 Indonesia’s coal addiction reaches new heights – South East Asia Globe As the rest of the world moves away from fossil fuels, Indonesia is reacting to a drop in its coal exports by ramping up local production, putting the country’s health, environment and economy in danger

Behind Indonesia’s Red Scare – The Diplomat Why is the Indonesian military again warning of an imminent communist revolution?

Strong need expected for distributed power generation –The Nation The inadequacy of transmission and distribution (T&D) infrastructure and the topographical challenges have created strong demand for distributed power generation (DPG) in Southeast Asia. According to a new analysis, the overall installed capacity of the DPG market was estimated at 20,450 megawatts last year and is forecast to reach 34,747MW by 2020. The key types of power plants analysed are those fuelled by biomass or waste, solar photovoltaic (PV) plants, those based on internal combustion engines (fuelled by diesel, heavy fuel oil or HFO, gas, or combinations), and temporary rental power plants.

Party, State to facilitate better business in Laos –Vietnam News The Party and State will facilitate Vietnamese investment and business in Laos, President Trần Đại Quang said during a working session with Vietnamese investors in Laos.  He hailed the efforts of businesses and of the Association of Vietnamese Investors in Laos to overcome difficulties and to ensure their projects are implemented on schedule. He also asked the association and relevant ministries to co-ordinate with the Lao side to better facilitate business operations and to take more social responsibility to reduce poverty, protect the environment, and ensure social welfare.

Laos gives the nod to foreign investors –The Nation The Laotian government has reaffirmed its commitment to giving the green light to foreign businesses seeking opportunities for investment in the country. “Following the common policy to attract foreign investment set by the government and given that the country is rich in natural resources, this will help increase the number of investors, especially Chinese businesses,” Deputy Prime Minister Dr Sonexay Siphandone said.

720 sq km of destroyed forests reclaimed –Bangkok Post  A total of 450,000 rai of forestland has been reclaimed from encroachers in the past two years, and about 200,000 rai of it redistributed to the poor, according to the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) . Spokesman Peerawat Saengthong said that Isoc, together with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Interior Ministry, the Defence Ministry, the National Council for Peace and Order and the Royal Thai Police Office launched a forest reclamation campaign on June 17, 2014.

Laos cracks down on social media critics –Aljazeera Three Laos nationals quietly apologise on state TV for betraying the country through anti-government Facebook posts, a striking parade of apparent confessions in the communist regime’s latest crackdown on dissent. The ominous broadcast in late May was the first news of the trio for families desperate to know their whereabouts since they were arrested in March.

YUNNAN 

Rainy season arrives in Yunnan with a vengeance –GoKunming Nearly continuous rains are causing problems both in Kunming and across the province. While the Spring City has seen limited flooding over the past several days, in other more rugged areas of Yunnan, stormy weather has turned deadly.//what has been a devastatingly dry rainy season in mainland Southeast Asia has been an incredibly wet dry season in Yunnan and now the monsoons have arrived!

This week’s news was compiled by Ash Chowdhury with analysis and commentary by Ash Chowdhury and Brian Eyler.

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Regional Roundup for Week of 6.9.16

LEADERS

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.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

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

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.

SOUTHEAST  ASIA

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.

LEADERS

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.

 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

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

 

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

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.

 

CHINA

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.

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

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

YUNNAN

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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Regional Roundup for Week of 5.27.16

Obama’s visit to Vietnam rightfully overshadowed all other news coming out of the region this week as the US Rebalance to the Asia Pacific transitions into a gift that keeps on giving to Southeast Asia in terms of security and non-security support. Even though he’s a political rock star, rarely has Obama been received abroad with such mirth. This is no surprise as a recent poll said 92% of Vietnamese said the US is Vietnam’s best foreign friend. For this we should say “Thanks China” instead of “Thanks Obama.”

While the US Rebalance is deepening in the Asia Pacific, real dividends be paid when the US shifts its focus from security support to that of development support, particularly that which solves economic, social, and environmental challenges faced in Southeast Asia. On Obama’s scorecard in Vietnam, we saw much of this approach utilized this week. Lifting of the decades old arms ban is security focused, but in addition to this, Obama signed a joint statement on climate change, opened the Fulbright University, and established a Peace Corps program among other development focused initiatives. These outcomes are the result of decades of tireless support from war legacy groups in the US and Vietnam joining together to get the US back on track in Vietnam – but again wouldn’t happen without China’s mucking around in the South China Sea.

Of other news, ExSE turns 300 with this post! Big thanks to our supporters, loyal readers, and most importantly to the core group of writers who keep this website afloat and maintain its presence as a thought leader in the regional dialogue. Our hats are off to all of you. ~The Editors.

LEADERS

Southeast Asia’s Dance With China NYT As Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia face their own developmental challenges, they must also contend with maritime friction with China.//From ex-Kunminger Chris Horton with quotes from ExSE’s own Brian Eyler.

Obama’s Warm Welcome in Vietnam – The Diplomat Vietnamese people greet Obama with a frenzy, but the change they seek remains far-reached.

Excerpts From Obama’s Speech in Vietnam – AP President Obama addressed the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, the South China Sea and human rights in a speech in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Tuesday.

US lifts decades-long embargo on arms sales to Vietnam – Guardian Barack Obama announces removal of ban on first visit, saying there is a new level of trust and cooperation with former enemy. The US has lifted a decades-old arms embargo on Vietnam in a historic move that follows the country’s growing assertiveness against China’s influence in the region.

Will Vietnam Buy F-16 Fighter Jets and US Sub Hunting Planes? – The Diplomat With the lifting of the arms embargo, Vietnam is purportedly mulling the purchase of U.S. military aircraft.

A Look Back at Obama’s Visit to Vietnam – NYT President Obama made a three-day trip to Vietnam to improve the United States’ relations in Asia, addressing trade, China and civil liberties.

Despite Obama’s Moves, Asian Nations Skeptical of U.S. Commitment – NYT The American political mood has darkened toward longtime alliances and international trade. For Asian allies, this means the U.S. might pivot away//Again, it’s about the US doubling down on development support. This means more money, more human resources dedicated, and better coordination within US institutions – but slight improvements here will bring big gains.

The Guardian view on Obama’s Vietnam visit: human rights have been marginalised – Guardian The visit to Vietnam was a good opportunity to emphasise two overarching themes that Mr Obama has placed at the centre of his diplomacy: his willingness to turn the page on old grievances inherited from the cold war, and his focus on rebalancing US strategic priorities towards Asia, the region to which global power is shifting. But deciding how those choices could be squared with a message on fundamental values and human rights quickly became more complicated than he perhaps expected.

Vietnam jails four asylum seekers returned by Australia – Reuters – Human Rights Watch says action violates defendants’ right under international law to leave their own country. A court in Vietnam has jailed two men and two women for “organising others to flee abroad illegally” after Australia sent back a group of asylum seekers, their lawyer said.

Pull the other one – Economist BARACK OBAMA fooled no one this week when, having announced that America was lifting its embargo on selling weapons to Vietnam, he denied that the decision was “based on China or any other considerations”. It was a tactful fib, to portray the move as merely part of Mr Obama’s legacy-building mission of reconciliation with historic enemies, to be followed days later by a historic visit to the site of America’s atom-bombing of Hiroshima.

Obama backs Vietnam in South China Sea dispute with Beijing – Guardian In a speech in Hanoi, US president does not refer to China by name but says ‘big nations should not bully smaller ones.’Barack Obama has said Washington supports Vietnam’s territorial claims against

Barack Obama stops off at streetside restaurant in Vietnam for $6 dinner – Guardian President Barack Obama pops in for a low-key meal at Hanoi’s famous Bun Cha Huong Lien restaurant with chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain, who picked up the $6 bill for dinner. Crowds gather outside to get a glimpse of the US president.//The running joke in Vietnam is how Vietnam bought USD 100million worth of airplanes and Obama spent 6 bucks. Aside, I’m looking forward to my next visit to Bun Cha Huong Lien!

Mekong region could rely on 100% clean energy by 2050: WWF – The Nation The study conflicts with a government plan that discounts renewables.//Great thinkpiece, but the report unrealistically downplays hydropower and coal. Energy mixes in the region need to include hydro and coal, because regional governments will not abandon these resources – however, if convinced, these governments will minimize the use of these resources.  

China and the Mekong: The Floodgates of Power – The Diplomat China now has a chokehold on the Mekong River, the lifeline for the Indochina peninsula.//What’s needed between China and Southeast Asia is a water-sharing compact guaranteeing minimal flows during the dry season.

Small is worrying: tributaries, ‘small’ hydro and the Mekong hydropower debate – WLE Mekong  When decision-makers decide upon whether or not to go ahead with a dam, I argued, they tend to think about the pros and cons of the individual dam. In the dam illustrated (an irrigation dam in Central Laos), I imagined that they would have thought about the irrigation values, the water supply values (for domestic consumption), and perhaps fisheries and wetland values. But when one small dam is one of 2,492 other small dams and weirs in the Xebang Hieng catchment, then it is not so innocent. Combined, these dams send out immense vibrations across the system.//From Kim Geheb, arguably the region’s most knowledgeable water-energy expert.

Cambodian Police Raid Opposition Party Headquarters – RFA – Cambodian security forces raided the headquarters of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party on Thursday as Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government appears to be ramping up its efforts to prosecute CNRP members.//Sad to see these antics play out to this degree. We’ve visited the complex many times to talk to CNRP officials, hope to continue doing the same in the future.

In Obama’s Visit to Hiroshima, a Complex Calculus of Asian Politics – NYT The president’s visit to Vietnam and particularly Japan highlights old grievances as well as the current power struggles among nations big and small in Asia.

Two years since Thailand’s military coup, country heading for turmoil – SEAGlobe This Sunday marks two years since a military coup in Thailand, and the junta’s promised stability seems a long way off.//What happens when Thailand’s democracy dream is deferred? Tick tick tick

Advancing Gender Advocacy in Myanmar: Beyond False Promises & Deep Divides East by Southeast Women living in Myanmar’s conflict areas face enormous pressure from ethnic autonomous organizations to support a war effort that does not necessarily serve their interests. These pressures are subtle, and often invisible to development actors who focus on tackling intersections of gender and conflict that are more overt. As a result, advocacy efforts do not always reach women who need them most at the ground level.//3rd part of a critically impactful series.

Tra Su wetlands in the Mekong delta losing its biodiversity due to drought – Mekong Commons Three large rivers flow through the Mekong delta province of An Giang in Vietnam: the Hau, Tien and Vam Co Rivers. The entire province is dotted by a number of seasonally flooded small islands. The delta province’s rivers, canals, and rich wetlands forests have proved attractive for tourism with about 6.2 million people visiting An Giang every year.// The circle dykes in An Giang probably have more to do with this. Historically, An Giang was the cistern of the delta – now it flushes all of its water out at the beginning of the dry season. This is a solvable problem.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

East Timor Hopes for ASEAN Membership by 2017 – The Diplomat Admission into the regional grouping finally looks within reach for the country.

Tsai Ing-wen Sworn In as Taiwan’s President, as China Watches Closely NYT The island’s first female leader takes power with the economy in a slump and the region watching her first moves with a juggernaut neighbor.

Benigno Aquino Says U.S. Must Act if China Moves on Reef in South China SeaNYT The Philippine leader said that if Beijing decided to develop the Scarborough Shoal, the United States would be forced to defend the Philippines or risk losing credibility.

US, Thailand Launch Naval Exercise in Andaman Sea – The Diplomat

India takes part in joint Mekong drug suppression push as seizures increase – The Nation INDIA JOINED the discussion about the Mekong memorandum of understanding (MoU) on drug control for the first time at a special session on the inter-regional flow of drugs and precursor chemicals in Thailand yesterday.//Putting the Indo back into Indo-China

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Hydropower surges across the Himalayas – The Third Pole Tajikistan is leading the way in Asia. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is providing concessionary financing to upgrade the Qairokkum dam in northern Tajikistan is bolster its resilience to climate change.  Tajikistan relies on hydropower for 98% of its electricity from rivers fed by glaciers and snowmelt. In recent years, lower river levels in winter have reduced power outputs and led to significant power cuts.

Electricity Rates Spike in Laos, the ‘Battery’ for Southeast- RFA Asia Electricity rates are skyrocketing in Laos, just as the hot season tightens its grip on a country that aims to be the “battery” that powers Southeast Asia with hydropower from river dams. Some people have watched as their rates for electricity have more than tripled, and they are scratching their heads as to why they are suddenly paying so much for power when Vientiane has been touting the country’s power generating ability as a way to bring Laos out of poverty.//Laos needs to build a better battery.

China’s environmental journalists shine despite dark times for local media -ChinaDialogue It’s a common view that standards in mainstream Chinese journalism have been deteriorating for some time now.  But when disaster strikes – for example, as in theTianijn explosions – it is not just firefighters rushing towards the scene. Journalists follow close behind. The public know that their most reliable source of information during these fast moving events are the reports filed from the scene by professional reporters.

Vietnam’s New Environmental Politics: A Fish out of Water? – The Diplomat Are Vietnam’s recent protests really about the environment, or are there deeper issues at play?

Drone footage captures Cambodian canal overrun by rubbish – Guardian Drone footage shot by Khmer Times shows mass pollution in the Cambodian Phnom Penh waterways, with the canal system blocked by rubbish ranging from plastic to sewage. The canals and waterways in Phnom Penh are some of the most polluted in the region, leading environmental activists to call on the government to immediately take action

Tourist hordes put strain on Luang Prabang’s heritage – SEAGlobe  Sea Globe Editorial The enthusiasm of tourists for Luang Prabang’s heady charms has brought prosperity to the Lao town, but is the visitor influx damaging its cultural treasures? //The jewel of Southeast Asia begins to tarnish after reaching critical mass? See it while you still can folks!

Landslide at Myanmar Jade Mine Kills at Least 12 – NYT The landslide, in Kachin State, came after heavy rainfall in recent days, and as many as 100 people were feared missing, an official said.

Murdered After Defending Thailand’s Environment – NYT A series of photos enshrine Thai activists at sites where they were killed after opposing powerful economic interests.

British woman among three killed after speedboat capsizes in Thailand – Guardian Speedboat carrying 28 passengers overturns in rough seas off Koh Samui, killing Briton as well as German woman and Hong Kong woman

CHINA

Rocking boats, shaking mountains – Economist – THE “China dream” of the president, Xi Jinping, is of a rejuvenated, rich and strong country that will once again enjoy the respect and fealty in Asia commanded by the empires of old. That last part is not happening: from a recalcitrant young despot, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, on its north-eastern border, to those ungrateful Vietnamese Communists to the south, flirting with America, insolent insubordination abounds. And perhaps most alarming of all, the people of “inalienable” territories wrested from the motherland by predatory imperialists—Hong Kong and Taiwan—show no enthusiasm at all for a return to its bosom.

China and the End of Reform – ChinaFile Is the Chinese Communist Party putting an end to the decades-long process of China’s opening to the outside world? Is the era of liberal reform over? Consider the latest piece of evidence: on April 28, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress passed the long-awaited Foreign NGO Management Law.

China Needs Market Reforms Now – The Diplomat The writing is on the wall for Beijing.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Is ASEAN the next big growth play for global bond investors? — by Donghyun Park The external vote of confidence in ASEAN bond markets seems to be driven by the region’s strong medium- and long-term growth prospects, which bodes well for their future beyond the short term.

Demystifying Rodrigo Duterte – CFR  Philippines’ new president, former Davao mayor Rodrigo Duterte, won last week in a five-way vote. His tough-talking style, effective social media campaign, and vows to reduce the power of the country’s elite and crack down on crime resonated enough to deliver him the win. Promises to give political autonomy and fiscal resources to peripheral regions also helped with many voters, especially in the central and southern Philippines. //Follow closely the work of Richard Javad Heydarian. We hope to see him to DC later this year.

Peace in Suu Kyi’s time? – DVB Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in her role as state counsellor, is taking concrete steps to kick-start the country’s beleaguered peace process and will address a newly appointed peace committee later today. Everything has been in abeyance, since eight ethnic groups signed a national ceasefire agreement (NCA) with the Thein Sein government last October, but some eight others refused to participate.

John Kerry and Aung San Suu Kyi: A Milestone Meeting in Myanmar, Tempered by Questions – NYT Topics included Myanmar’s brutal treatment of a Muslim minority group and on the delicate question of whether Burmese military leaders once had a program in place to build a nuclear weapon.

Cambodia’s ‘Black Monday’ Protests Enter Third Week – RFA Authorities in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh stepped up their crackdown on anti-government protests on Monday, clashing with villagers in the capital’s Boeung Kak Lake district after ordering over the weekend that so-called “Black Monday” campaigners must obtain government permission before posting their views online, sources said.//Boeung Kak lake villagers were evicted five years ago and this is still going on. Real estate development has halted, from my understanding – an ongoing testimony to why it’s important to engage with the public in development projects – ignore affected stakeholders and pay the consequential reputational damages and costs of delay…

Cambodia PM Sets 2018 Election Date, Opposition Faces Legal Charges –Irrawaddy Cambodia’s next election will be in July 2018, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced on Wednesday, as leaders of the opposition face legal charges they say are politically motivated to stop them challenging the veteran premier in the vote. Long before the Southeast Asian nation goes to the ballot box, political tension has risen. The last election in 2013 marked self-styled strongman Hun Sen’s toughest challenge in three decades of rule.

Call for UN to investigate beating of Cambodian opposition parliamentarians – SEAGlobe A new Human Rights Watch report says the trial of men accused of beating opposition politicians “only scratches the surface” of involvement by high-ranking political and military figures

Drought and government inaction hit Cambodia’s rice industry hard – SEAGlobe The effects of Cambodia’s recent drought will serve to exacerbate existing structural weaknesses in the rice sector, say experts

Burmese Everest climbers reach peak – DVB Mountaineers Pyae Phyo Aung and Win Ko Ko made climbing history this morning by becoming the first Burmese nationals to scale the world’s highest mountain.

Thailand’s Junta and the Southern Insurgency – CFR Earlier this month, Thai junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha lamented the ongoing bloodshed in southern Thailand and implicitly criticized his own government’s feeble attempts to restart talks with the insurgents.

YUNNAN

China May Shelve Plans to Build Dams on Its Last Wild River | National Geographic Springing from Tibetan glaciers and flowing to the Andaman Sea, China’s Nu River sluices around a horseshoe bend near Bingzhongluo in Yunnan Province. Plans to build a cascade of dams down the river now appear to be on hold.

China’s two-legged goat becomes minor celebrity – GoKunming It’s a bit of a slow news week around Yunnan apparently. Dominating headlines — and conveniently burying a few small-time corruption cases — is the story of a two-legged goat. That’s right. The animal, born south of Kunming in Xinping Yi and Dai Autonomous County (新平彝族傣族自治县), has been swept up in a minor media storm, and is fast becoming known internationally.

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