Category Archives: Current Events

Regional Roundup for Week of 11.2.15

EXSE FOCUS

 Is Laos Building a New Illegal Dam on the Mekong River? – The Diplomat The National Assembly of Laos recently approved the concession agreement for the 260-megawatt Don Sahong hydropower project, with construction expected to begin before the end of 2015. The controversial hydroelectric project is currently the focal point of discussion surrounding development of the Mekong River given the potential negative impacts of hydropower on other sectors of the water-food-energy-livelihoods nexus.//Is it legal? Maybe. Does it need to be built? No. I’ve seen first-hand the fish pass channel that is supposed to mitigate the dam’s effects on migration and it’s highly unlikely that it will leave the vital Mekong fish stocks unaffected. For the 260Mw it’s going to produce, the Don Sahong dam is clearly not worth the costs.

Related: Laos boosts hydropower, explores coal deposits for shale gas – Thanh Nien News

Study on the Impacts of Mainstream Hydropower on the Mekong River – CGIAR The Vietnam National Mekong Committee (VNMC) would like to thank all participants for attending our Special Session on the Mekong Delta Study (MDS) at the Greater Mekong Forum on Water, Food and Energy. The presentations delivered at the Forum are now available for you review.//A very useful collection of presentations highlighting the downstream impacts of hydropower dams on the Mekong on livelihoods, biological environments and fisheries.

Related: Mekong dams will wipe out fisheries, study says – The Phnom Penh Post

China May Ban New Coal-Fired Power – Radio Free Asia China’s government is reportedly considering a ban on building new coal-fired power plants, a move that could have significant effects on pollution, energy use, and jobs in the declining coal industry. On Oct. 10, a key environmental adviser told the Sydney Morning Herald that officials have been discussing a cap on coal-fired generating capacity under the next planning period for 2016 through 2020.

The Fraught Politics of the TPP – Project Syndicate This month, 12 countries on both sides of the Pacific finalized the historic Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. The scope of the TPP is vast. If ratified and implemented, it will have a monumental impact on trade and capital flows along the Pacific Rim. Indeed, it will contribute to the ongoing transformation of the international order. Unfortunately, whether this will happen remains uncertain.

Related: Indonesia Wants to Join TPP: President Jokowi – The Diplomat

US Freedom of Navigation Patrols in the South China Sea: China Reacts – The Diplomat On Tuesday the U.S. Navy finally carried out a freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) within 12 nautical miles of China’s artificially-built islands. After months of media reports indicating Washington was coming ever closer to such patrols, the USS Lassen, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, sailed within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef (and possibly Mischief Reef as well), according to U.S. officials who spoke with the media.

Related: China faces mounting pressure over maritime claims – The Jakarta Post

The UK: A Success Story for China’s Educational Soft PowerThe Diplomat In an op-ed for Times Higher Education last week, Imperial College London President Alice Gast proudly proclaimed U.K. universities to be “China’s best partners in the West.” Though largely a rhetorical reference to the strategic choice made by her nation’s leaders to become China’s best friend, Gast’s statement hits the nail on the head when it comes to China’s current soft power development in the U.K.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

ASEAN’s Big Year Offers Little to Celebrate – The Diplomat A grand entrance by the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), when it launches in less than nine weeks, onto the world stage was supposed to herald the dawning of a prosperous new age for the more than 600 million people who live within the region. But the political realities are already delivering a different, unwanted take. Bad? Even Southeast Asia’s harshest critics are trying hard not to crow over the latest debacles, for fear of tempting fate with the region’s notoriously thin-skinned leaders.

Vietnam, Philippines Near New Strategic Partnership – The Diplomat On October 21, Vietnam and the Philippines convened the eighth meeting of their bilateral cooperation committee. The deliberations focused on specific measures for advancing collaboration as the two ASEAN states are expected to lift ties to a strategic partnership next month.//This agreement has everything to do with South China Sea issues and it’s no coincidence that it happens after the US made its pass-by last week. Team America gets tighter. 

Vietnam, Cambodia advance border province cooperation – Thanh Nien News Vietnam and Cambodia Wednesday agreed on directions and measures to bolster cooperation between their border provinces and effectively settle arising and complex issues, the Vietnam News Agency reported. The eighth meeting on border province cooperation and development, held in Ho Chi Minh City October 27-28, was co-chaired by Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh and Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Sar Kheng.

China’s president to visit Vietnam amid South China Sea tension – The South China Morning Post President Xi Jinping will visit Vietnam next week amid heightened tension in the South China Sea that has weighed on ties between the neighbours. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular briefing on Thursday Xi would visit Vietnam on November 5-6.

U.N. Urges Inquiry Into Attack on Cambodian Opposition LawmakersNYT The United Nations expressed concern on Friday over a crackdown on Cambodia’s political opposition, urging an independent and thorough investigation of a mob attack this week that seriously injured two opposition lawmakers.

Indonesia’s leader says his country to join Asia trade pactThe Jakarta Post Indonesia’s leader looked to cement his nation’s growing ties with the United States, declaring after a meeting Monday with President Barack Obama that Southeast Asia’s largest economy intended to join a sweeping U.S.-backed Pacific Rim trade deal.//The TPP makes sense for Jokowi and the US should take this opportunity work hard to make this happen. 

America’s Society Is Wealthier Than China’s – And It Doesn’t MatterThe Diplomat One quick, simplistic way to compare China and the United States: China has a wealthy state and a poor society, while America has a poor government but a wealthy society. Yet the average American enjoys a considerably higher standard of living than the average Chinese. Some analysts argue this huge gap in private wealth ensures that China is not poised to overtake the United States as the world’s top economic power and therefore China is not a threat to American global pre-eminence in the foreseeable future. This analysis, however, is flawed.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Forest Management Group Strips Vietnamese Rubber Company of Certification – Radio Free Asia A global forest management organization has stripped a Vietnamese rubber company of its certification after finding that the state-owned entity committed human rights violations and illegally destroyed thousands of acres of forest for rubber plantations in Cambodia. The U.S.-based Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an international nonprofit organization that promotes responsible management of the world’s forests, publicly announced the decision Monday after finding evidence that Vietnam Rubber Group (VRG) had illegally seized land from local villagers in Cambodia and decimated at least 50,000 hectares (123,600 acres) of forest.

Cambodia: peaceful direct action has saved one of our most beautiful forestsThe Guardian An environmental activist explains how a grassroots campaign has stalled the building of a dam in Cambodia.//One of the growing number of success stories for grassroots environmental groups in SE Asia. Curious that as SE Asia sees a weakening of democratic institutions, grassroots orgs gain more power. 

Vietnam launches its largest hi-tech research and development centerThanh Nien News The center are expected to produce hi-tech mechanical devices, energy-saving chips and solar panels.

CHINA

 China to allow all couples two children to counter aging population – Thanh Nien News China will ease family planning restrictions to allow all couples to have two children after decades of a strict one-child policy, the ruling Communist Party said on Thursday, a move aimed at alleviating demographic strains on the economy.//I remember asking people on the street in Beijing about this policy 5 years ago for Chinese class. The vast majority said that the policy would continue for at least another 10 to 15 years. There’s no quick fix to China’s looming demographic problems, but this is a start. I know plenty of government employees (who would lose their job before the policy change) who are getting ready for their second child now. 

Related: Q. and A.: Mei Fong on the Impact of China’s ‘One Child’ Policy – NYT

 Chinese lawmakers among nearly 900 people arrested in anti-corruption crackdown this year in Shanxi province – The South China Morning Post Chinese police have arrested nearly 900 suspected members of 150 organised crime gangs, including lawmakers – all from the same province – so far this year, mainland media has reported.

 China’s Fifth Plenum: What You Need to Know – The Diplomat The CCP’s fifth plenum laid out the plan for China’s development over the next five years.

 Chinese president Xi Jinping’s trusted general in line for top PLA roleThe South China Morning Post The top decision-making body of the Communist Party is to use its ongoing meeting in Beijing to vet top candidates to lead the military after 2017. The Politburo Standing Committee would use its fifth plenum to consider who would lead the Central Military Commission (CMC) after that date, sources close to the army said.

 China’s Meritocracy Vs. Western Democracy – The Diplomat Is China’s meritocracy actually a better alternative to Western-style democracy?

 Innovation with Chinese Characteristics – Project Syndicate SHANGHAI – China’s slowing growth has dominated global economic news this year – and for good reason. Beyond being the world’s second-largest economy, China is the largest manufacturer and consumer of raw materials; so any sign of weakening there is bad news for the global economy. But, while concerns about growth certainly merit attention, they should be viewed in the context of China’s longer-term economic trajectory, especially its emergence as a global hub of innovation.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Cambodian Opposition MPs Beaten as Political Truce Falters – The Irrawaddy PHNOM PENH — Two opposition lawmakers were beaten outside Cambodia’s parliament on Monday during a demonstration in support of the ruling party, witnesses and the opposition said, in the first case of violence since a political truce broke down in July.

The Truth About Myanmar’s New Ceasefire Agreement – The Diplomat The recently concluded nationwide ceasefire agreement is a step in the right direction.//It is a step in the right direction. The question is “Is it a big enough step to maintain stability through the political changes of the next few months. 

‘I can’t take it anymore’: Desperation drives Indonesian residents from epicentre of Southeast Asia’s haze crisis – The South China Morning Post When the smoke from forest fires turned a thick, acrid yellow, casting an apocalyptic glow over Palangkaraya, Kartika Sari decided to grab her child and flee the Indonesian city at the epicentre of the haze crisis smothering Southeast Asia.

 Vietnam commits to ASEAN’s goal to end forest fire haze in 2020 – Thanh Nien News Environment ministers from Southeast Asia have agreed to a five-year plan to end Indonesian forest fire haze that has persisted every year and sickened hundreds of thousands this year.

Too hot to work: climate change ‘puts south-east Asia economies at risk’ – The Guardian Rising temperatures and humidity due to climate change are likely to increase the number of days with unsafe “heat stress”, putting south-east Asia at great risk of significant drops in productivity, a research firm said on Wednesday. South-east Asia over the next three decades could lose 16% of its labour capacity due to rising heat stress, which could cause absenteeism due to dizziness, fatigue, nausea and even death in extreme cases, the British firm Verisk Maplecroft said.//Not only will this temperature rise put stress on workers, it will put stress on regional food security, as a dramatic rise in temperature will decrease fish stocks and rice yields.

Lao Officials Investigate Massive Increase in Illegal Logging – Radio Free Asia A leaked report by an international environmental group revealing huge increases in illegal logging in Laos with an implication of government collusion has prompted officials in the small Southeast Asian nation to take action to examine discrepancies in timber export and import figures with China and Vietnam.

 Police submit shrine bomb report with military courtThe Nation The official report into the August 17 Erawan Shrine bombing, which also encompasses the Sathorn Pier bombing the following day, has been submitted to the chief military prosecutor by Pol Lt-General Srivara Rangsibrahmanakul, acting deputy police chief.

Vietnam on track to replace China as new manufacturing hub: experts – Thanh Nien News With increasing foreign direct investment (FDI) flows into its manufacturing sector, Vietnam stands a great chance of leaping ahead and replace China as the new production center, experts have said. They were speaking at a conference recently organized by the State Bank of Vietnam in collaboration with the World Bank. Victoria Kwakwa, the World Bank’s Country Director for Vietnam, said FDI flows into Vietnam’s manufacturing sector has rapidly increased over the past 10 years and will possibly rise more.

YUNNAN

China’s first provincial ‘tourism police’ approved for Yunnan – GoKunming Over the past decade, the domestic tourism industry has grown to become one of China’s most potent economic drivers. As money poured into sightseeing destinations, an accompanying growth in fraudulent and coercive schemes emerged. Yunnan, where many of the most blatant cases have taken place, was recently chosen to lead a pilot program establishing the country’s first provincial tourism police force. The Yunnan Tourism Police Corps officially (YTPC) came into being October 28, jointly created by the National Tourism Bureau and officials representing the provincial government.

 Study: Modern-day southern Chinese, SE Asians, from Yunnan – GoKunming The world of anthropology is experiencing some tumultuous upheavals these days. First, a trove of ancient bones uncovered in South Africa threatened to rewrite human evolution, and now a Chinese academic believes his research shows the modern day residents of southern China, most of Southeast Asia and eastern India are descended from a common patriarchal figure who once lived in what is today Yunnan province.//Linguistically, it’s clear that the Bamar, the Thai, Lao and Shan, among a host of upland ethnic groups all passed through Yunnan on their way to their modern-day homes. 

Rich Man, Pu’er Man: A Fermented Tea’s Steep Ascent – ChinaFile Beginning in the 1990s, tea connoisseurs from Taiwan, who enjoyed naturally aged pu’er grown decades earlier in Yunnan and stored in the form of compressed cakes, started to travel to Xishuangbanna to learn the origin of the tea, celebrating the link to Chinese history and the notion of artisanal production. Their interest helped convince local officials and businesspeople to try to revive traditional tea production, meanwhile promoting pu’er tea as the distilled essence of rural virtue and simple beauty; in effect, drinkable nostalgia.

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Regional Roundup for Week of 10.26.15

EXSE FOCUS

Thousands of refugees expected to take to boats for new life as Asia’s monsoons end-The Guardian UNHCR expects surge of ‘irregular’ migrants fleeing Bangladesh and Myanmar to use ‘sailing season’ to reach southern south-east Asian countries Thousands of “irregular” migrants fleeing Bangladesh and Myanmar are expected to board boats for new countries in coming weeks as the end of the Asia’s south-west monsoon season reopening the Bay of Bengal-Andaman Sea route to south-east Asia. In three years, the number of people boarding rickety fishing boats – leaving Myanmar and Bangladesh for countries further south in south-east Asia – has nearly tripled to 63,000 people last year, UN figures show.//Yes the election is coming, but so is the flood of refugees. And according to a new Al Jazeera special, they are refugees of a legitimate genocide happening in Arakan state. But kudos to Hillary for ‘opening up’ Myanmar, right? Is there a correlation to freer speech in Myanmar and the genocide of Rohingya, much of it fueled by anti-Muslim hate speech? Something to look into.  

Related: Thousands of Rohingya refugees to flee by boat in ‘looming disaster’, Amnesty warns-The Guardian

 Examining the Flaws of a South China Sea Code of Conduct-The Diplomat A South China Sea Code of Conduct presents several challenges. The South China Sea has turned into a hotspot for potential regional conflicts in recent years. Nonetheless, parties concerned have already tried their best efforts to establish certain mechanisms to prevent crisis and reduce tension together. The first significant initiative was the “Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea”, known as the DOC, signed by all the members of the ASEAN and the People’s Republic of China on November 4, 2002.

Cambodian Villagers Demand Compensation For Expected Impact of China-Backed Dam– Radio Free Asia Villagers in northern Cambodia’s Oddar Meanchey province on Tuesday urged the government to suspend construction of a Chinese-backed dam until they are promised compensation for flooding they say will inundate area communities, forests and farmland if the project is allowed to proceed. The villagers from Oddar Meanchey’s Chong Kal district told RFA’s Khmer Service that Chinese developer Sinohydro had recently transported various pieces of equipment to nearby Phnom Atoar to assist in building the Steung Sreng II dam and demanded authorities suspend construction. If the government is unwilling to compensate them for the losses they expect to incur, authorities should develop a plan to mitigate the potential impact of flooding caused by the dam, said the residents of Sras Keo village, in Chong Kal’s Pong Ro commune.//These dams cause companies like Sinohydro quite a bit of trouble, but the payoffs (literally) can make the projects worth it. New trends are coming to dam-building in SE Asia, however. 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

China, Cambodia Boost Cooperation During Hun Sen’s Visit-The Diplomat What did Cambodia’s premier achieve during his week in Beijing? While in China, Hun Sen attended the Global Tourism Economy Forum Macao 2015, the Asian Political Parties’ Special Conference on the Silk Road, the 2015 Global Poverty Reduction and Development Forum, and the 6th Xiangshan Forum – China’s newly upgraded security forum that some characterize as Beijing’s answer to the Singapore-hosted Shangri-La Dialogue. But the highlight of the trip was his meeting with president Xi on October 15, which saw the signing of several agreements.

The US-China South China Sea Showdown-The Diplomat U.S. freedom of navigation operations could take the U.S.-China relationship past a point of no return. The United States and China are hurtling toward a showdown over Freedom of Navigation in the the South China Sea. The U.S. Navy is poised to sail near seven artificial islands China constructed in the Spratly archipelago over the past two years as a means to challenge any excessive or illegitimate Chinese sovereignty claims there.//They came, they sailed, no one died. Lots of chest-beating on China’s part, and a handful of nationalist netizens calling for war in reaction to the sail-by, but war is still unlikely. 

Related: China’s Maritime Trap-The Diplomat

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Rapid Economic Growth in China Is Chipping Away at Coastal Wetlands-NYT A report adds to rising concerns that China’s decades of rapid economic growth have caused possibly irreversible damage to the environment. Coastal wetlands in China have vanished at an alarming rate because of the country’s economic development, and current economic plans could diminish them to below the minimum needed for “ecological security,” including fresh water, fishery products and flood control, according to a report released Monday by Chinese scientists and an American research center. The report, based on 18 months of research, says “the primary driver for the reduced area of coastal wetlands is the large-scale and fast conversion and land reclamations of coastal wetlands.”

Related: China’s Boom Has Hurt Wetlands, Threatens Extinction of Rare Birds– China File

China’s panda sanctuaries at risk from illegal logging, says Greenpeace-The Guardian Investigation found 1,280 hectares of natural forest illegally razed, endangering homes of more than 30% of world’s pandas. Illegal loggers are ransacking sanctuaries in southwest China that are home to more than 30% of the world’s pandas, according to a Greenpeace investigation. The two-year study found that more than 1,800 football pitches of natural forest in a Unesco world natural heritage site had been illegally razed.

Time For Southeast Asia to Address its Climate Problem-The Diplomat Though transboundary haze pollution and the El Niño phenomenon are often reported these days across Southeast Asia, these issues deserve greater attention from regional leaders. These are no longer national problems that local politicians can easily address through rhetoric; the situation already demands a stronger action which can be effectively realized through regional cooperation. The haze has become an annual problem involving Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia. This year, the haze is darker and more hazardous than ever; but this time it has reached the skies of south Thailand and some parts of southern Mindanao in the Philippines. //Do the U.S., China, and other high CO2 emitting countries largely responsible for human-induced extreme weather patterns owe the nations of Southeast Asia assistance? Or is this truly Southeast Asia’s “Climate Problem”?

A ‘less defensive’ China can help spur global climate deal-China Dialogue The engagement of China and the US has been a major breakthrough in international climate change negotiations and has set the stage for a successful outcome at talks in Paris in December, according to climate experts. Presidents Xi Jinping and Barack Obama demonstrated game-changing political will by pledging to tackle emissions at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Beijing last year, a panel convened by website Climate HomeE3G and consultancy PwC told a press conference in London on Thursday. “You would not have had a US-China agreement unless the two countries were really clear about where they wanted to go and had the conviction to get there,” said panellist Pete Ogden, a former director for climate change and environment policy at the White House.

CHINA 

In a Region Disturbed by Ethnic Tensions, China Keeps Tight Lid on a Massacre-NYT More than 50 people, most of them Han Chinese, were killed in a rampage at a coal mine in the far west Xinjiang region last month, but almost nothing is being said about it. Armed with only knives, the assailants struck at the coal mine in the dead of night, first killing the security guards and then setting upon the miners as they slept in their dormitory beds. Before the Sept. 18 rampage was over, more than 50 people were dead, at least five of them police officers, and dozens more had been wounded, according to victims’ relatives and residents. Most of the victims were Han Chinese who had been lured to this desolate corner of the far west Xinjiang region by the prospect of steady work and decent pay.//Songs and dances about ethnic unity do little to address real issues of ethnic autonomy and economic equity in Xinjiang. Post-Erawan, Beijing was always going to keep a lid on this story, but how much longer is denial going to keep a lid on the problem?

China’s Growth Slows to 6.9%-NYT The weak result compares with 7 percent growth in the previous two quarters, but was slightly better than the 6.8 percent economists had forecast. China’s economy grew 6.9 percent in third quarter from a year ago, as a deepening industrial rout and slumping stock market pushed growth to its slowest quarterly pace since the global financial crisis of 2009.

China Turns to Online Courses, and Mao, in Pursuit of Soft Power-NYT Offerings on a range of subjects could expose millions of overseas students to Chinese culture, if worries about academic freedom, quality and propaganda can be overcome. When Ms. Cabrera began watching the lectures on edX, a popular online education platform owned and administered by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she was disappointed. Each class opened with a patriotic video montage. Talk of Mao’s errors was minimal, restricted to the Communist Party line. The professor, a faculty member Tsinghua, one of China’s most prestigious universities, seemed eager to mimic Mao himself, dressing in a tunic suit and referring to Maoism as a “magic bullet” for the party.

2 Chinese Diplomats Shot to Death in Philippines-NYT A Chinese citizen has been arrested in the shooting in the central city of Cebu, which also left the consul general, Song Ronghua, wounded, officials said. The assailant, who was identified by the police as Li Qinglong, was arrested. The police had also detained his wife, Gou Jing, a Chinese national, in connection with the shooting.

China GDP forecast to be just under 7%-The Guardian Economists are predicting the slowest growth rate in the country since the depths of the financial crisis. The importance of China to the global financial system is to be illustrated again on Monday as the world’s second-largest economy releases its estimate of third-quarter gross domestic product. China’s president Xi Jinping acknowledged concerns about the strength of his country’s economy on the eve of a state visit to the UK. The report follows the crash of world stock markets in August on fears about the country’s economic robustness. Economists are now forecasting the slowest Chinese growth rate since the depths of the financial crisis.

Errors revealed at Chinese nuclear firm seeking to invest in UK plants-The Guardian Huge quantity of protective steel was left out of initial construction of China General Nuclear Corp’s first reactor, built close to Hong Kong in 1987. One of the Chinese nuclear power firms pushing for a stake in the UK’s energy industry left out hundreds of critical steel rods when building its first reactor near Hong Kong in 1987 because workers misread the blueprint. The missing parts were added in a higher layer of the foundation, with extra steel to reinforce them, after the extraordinary mistake was discovered. The plant has now been operating safely for more than two decades.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Myanmar’s Jade Trade Is a $31 Billion ‘Heist,’ Report Says-NYT The secretive industry driving armed conflict and rampant drug abuse was worth as much as $31 billion in 2014, almost half of the nation’s entire gross domestic product, according to a report. Myanmar’s jade trade, a secretive industry driving armed conflict and rampant drug abuse, was worth as much as $31 billion in 2014, almost half of the Southeast Asian nation’s entire gross domestic product, according to a report released on Friday. Fueled by soaring demand from the growing Chinese middle class, Myanmar’s largest jade quarries, in the war-torn northern state of Kachin, have long been a source of bloody conflict.

Related: Myanmar’s military elite and drug lords run £20bn jade trade, report says-The Guardian

Myanmar Military Clashes With Rebels in Shan State– Radio Free Asia Government troops launched a fresh attack on rebel soldiers in eastern Myanmar’s Shan state Wednesday as an election official announced that polling stations may be relocated due to safety concerns in the area ahead of a vote scheduled for early next month. The fighting erupted near Loilen district’s Monghsu township headquarters of the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N)—the armed wing of the Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP)—causing Shan villagers to flee to safety, SSPP spokesman Lt-Col Sai La told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

Cambodia’s battle against malaria put at risk as expenses row holds up funds-The Guardian Amid rising malaria cases, the Cambodian government refuses to sign agreement for Global Fund grant over requirements to account for travel and hotel costs Cambodia’s fight against malaria is at risk of being derailed because of a dispute over expenses payments between the Cambodian government and the Global Fund, the biggest donor to the country’s malaria programme. The row comes as the World Health Organisation (WHO) says that malaria cases in Cambodia have increased significantly in the last year.//For those who would disagree, this is proof that corruption kills. 

Unlicensed Cambodian medic on trial for infecting more than 100 people with HIV-The Guardian Village practitioner Yem Chhrin faces charges of murder and intentionally spreading HIV for his reuse of needles. An unlicensed medical practitioner who infected more than 100 villagers in north-west Cambodia with HIV by reusing unclean needles went on trial on Tuesday, facing three charges including murder, a defense lawyer said. Yem Chhrin faces up to life in prison if found guilty of murder, intentionally spreading HIV and practising medicine without a licence, his lawyer, Em Sovann, said by telephone.

Is Myanmar’s Election Doomed to Fail?-The Diplomat Are Myanmar’s highly anticipated general elections, widely touted as “historic” by diplomats, pundits and media, doomed to fail just like previous polls? A surprise proposal floated this week by the military-appointed Union Election Commission (UEC) to postpone the November 8 polls has raised troubling questions about the military-backed quasi-civilian government’s commitment to the electoral process and rang alarm bells in Western capitals invested in a successful democratic transition through the ballot box.//Free and fair elections don’t make a ‘successful democratic transition’, and they don’t make a stable business environment either. The twin (and related issues) of the Rohingya genocide and the civil war in the east have to end before anything can be considered successful. 

A Dozen Trafficked Migrants Freed From Thai Fishing Boat-The Irrawaddy Magazine A dozen migrant workers from Burma who were sold into slavery on a Thai fishing boat were rescued this week by a joint team of officials and rights advocates on the shore of Thailand’s Trang Province. Following a five-month investigation, a task force comprising the Thai Department of Special Investigation and the Myanmar Association in Thailand (MAT), under the aegis of the Burmese Embassy, secured the release of the twelve men, some of whom had been confined as laborers on fishing vessels for as long as 15 years.

Vietnam, Philippines Near New Strategic Partnership-The Diplomat Manila and Hanoi held a meeting ahead of a much-anticipated signing next month. On October 21, Vietnam and the Philippines convened the eighth meeting of their bilateral cooperation committee. The deliberations focused on specific measures for advancing collaboration as the two ASEAN states are expected to lift ties to a strategic partnership next month.

Vietnam economy forecast to be 17th-strongest in the world by 2025-Investvine Vietnam’s economy, which currently ranks 55th globally by GDP, will grow to rank 17 by 2025, predicts US investment house Goldman Sachs in a recently published forecast, saying that the country’s GDP will rise from currently $186 billion to $450 billion in just ten years.

Southeast Asia Set to Suffer for Months as Indonesia Fails to Douse Fires-The Irrawaddy Magazine Indonesian forest fires that have caused choking smoke to drift across Southeast Asia are spreading to new areas and are unlikely to be put out until next year, experts said on Monday. Indonesia has come under increased pressure from its neighbours to contain the annual “haze” crisis, which is caused by slash-and-burn agriculture practices, largely on Sumatra and Kalimantan. But it has failed to put out the fires, with “hot spots” growing in eastern parts of the country and industry officials and analysts estimating the smoke will last until early 2016.

YUNNAN

Yunnan ramps up shale gas production-Go Kunming China’s relationship with new natural gas extraction methods has seen its ups and downs over the past few years. Expected technological breakthroughs have been slow to materialize. Nonetheless, the country’s largest oil producer announced breakthroughs in its Yunnan gas block, perhaps ushering in a new phase in China’s stalled shale gas sector.

 Yunnan border zone slated to cost 200 billion yuan-Go Kunming Investment and development money continues to pour into southern Yunnan’s Xishuangbanna. Weeks after the largest resort in the province opened near the city of Jinghong, prefectural officials unveiled plans for a new economic zone with an eye-popping price tag. The Mengla Economic Zone, according to plans approved this summer by the Yunnan Development and Reform Commission, will span 4,500 square kilometers, centered aroundMengla County (勐腊县). Initial estimates place the cost of the multi-purpose undertaking at 200 billion yuan (US$31.4 billion). The zone spans 240 as-yet unclear projects reportedly focusing on the sectors of agriculture, education, logistics, processing, tourism and transportation.

The preceding news digest was compiled by Brook Rose, with analysis by Ms. Rose and William Feinberg. 

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Regional Roundup for Week of 10.11.15

ExSE FOCUS

Trans-Pacific Partnership Is Reached, but Faces Scrutiny in CongressNYT Securing approval from Congress for the deal between the United States and 11 Pacific Rim nations could be the toughest fight President Obama faces in his final year in office. // The TPP could significantly decrease trade of endangered plants and animals by increasing state responsibility to follow and convict the movement of these resources across seas.

Related: What Does China Think of the TPP?The Diplomat

Related: ‘Competitors who don’t share our values’: President Barack Obama jabs China as he defends TPP dealSCMP

Related: Why Vietnam could be the biggest winner of the TPPThanh Nien Daily

Chinese Hackers Breached LoopPay, Whose Tech Is Central to Samsung PayNYT Security experts were still looking through LoopPay’s systems, but said there was no indication that Samsung’s systems had been infiltrated. // With the upcoming Paris Climate Change talks the United States continues to try and maintain peace with China despite the recent technology hacks?  Are these actions China’s way of getting back at the U.S. for the TPP?

Related: Hillary Clinton’s email server allegedly targeted from China, Germany and South KoreaThe Guardian

Related: Beware China’s Political Warfare Campaign Against US, Allies: ExpertsThe Diplomat

Related: Why the China-US Cyber Agreement May Prove DestructiveThe Diplomat

China completes construction of lighthouses in disputed South China SeaThe Guardian China has completed the construction of two lighthouses in the disputed South China Sea, the official Xinhua news agency reported, as tensions in the region mount over Beijing’s maritime ambitions.

Related: US naval manoeuvres in South China Sea risk clash with BeijingThe Guardian

Related: China ‘Will Absolutely Not Permit’ Territorial Violations in South China SeaThe Diplomat

Related: Why the US-China Summit Failed on the South China SeaThe Diplomat 

China’s yuan jumps to fourth most-used world payment currencyThe Guardian Recently devalued currency overtakes Japan’s yen in terms of world payments, and now only comes behind the US dollar, euro and pound sterling.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

China’s AIIB and OBOR: Ambitions and ChallengesThe Diplomat The two ambitious projects have become an integral part of Chinese diplomacy. The AIIB will help to…boost China’s status as a global power.

Related: Is This China’s Eurasian Century?The Diplomat 

Related: US-China Military Agreements Dodge Deep DifferencesThe Diplomat

Related: How China Is Changing the UNThe Diplomat

Risk of global financial crash has increased, warns IMFThe Guardian The risk of a global financial crash has increased because a slowdown in China and decline in world trade are undermining the stability of highly indebted emerging economies, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Related: China’s economic slowdown leads World Bank to trim East Asia growth forecastsSCMP

Taiwan: Is KMT’s Dilemma China’s Opportunity?The Diplomat The Kuomintang may replace its heavily pro-China presidential candidate.

Related: China Turns Firepower to Soft Power to Win Over Tiny Taiwan-Held IslandThe Irrawaddy Magazine

Top Chinese Official Arrives in North Korea for Bilateral TalksThe Diplomat Liu Yunshan is the first high-ranking Chinese official to visit North Korea in 4 years.

Related: How the China model could help North Korea – and save Kim Jong-un – The Diplomat

Wartime sex slaves at the heart of UN battle between Japan and ChinaThe Guardian A Chinese campaign to have documents related to Japan’s use of wartime sex slaves and its bloody invasion of Nanjing recognised by Unesco has sparked a new round of diplomatic tension between Beijing and Tokyo.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Myitsone Dam has cost us $800m, says ChinaDVB Some US$800 million has already been spent on the Myitsone Dam, despite the fact that the construction project has been suspended since September 2011, according to Chinese state firm CPI, which is the major shareholder.//The original cost of the dam was estimated at $3.6 billion. Maybe those rumours of continued building at the Myitsone site have some credence. 

Related: Depression plagues dam-displaced localsDVB

Related: Paunglaung Dam Violates Norms and Destroys Lives, Study FindsThe Irrawaddy Magazine

Parts of China’s Guangdong province still without power and water five days after deadly Typhoon MujigaeSCMP Parts of western Guangdong were still struggling to restore power and water supplies yesterday, five days after the strongest typhoon in six decades swept through the region.

Related: $4.9m Repair Bill for Rail Network after Flood DamageThe Irrawaddy Magazine

Related: World Bank Forecasts Drop in Burma’s Economic GrowthThe Irrawaddy Magazine

Travel sickness: visitors turning China’s Qinghai Lake attraction into huge rubbish dumpSCMP Parts of China’s Qinghai Lake – a place of outstanding natural beauty that is one of the area’s most popular travel destinations – have been turned into huge rubbish dumps by visitors and local hotels and hostels, mainland media reports.

China is working to reach its emissions peak before 2030 deadline, analyst saysThe Guardian China may aim for an earlier greenhouse gas emissions peak before its 2030 deadline, putting a greater onus on Australia to work with its key trading partner on renewable energy rather than fossil fuels, says a leading Chinese analyst.

Related: Cities in north China blanketed in smog on final days of national “golden week” holidaysSCMP

Related: Coal, Which Built a Chinese City, Now Threatens to Bury ItNYT

Chinese ‘ivory queen’ charged with smuggling 706 elephant tusksThe Guardian A Chinese woman dubbed the “ivory queen” for her alleged leadership of one of Africa’s biggest ivory smuggling rings has been captured and charged.

Cambodians March For End to Forced Evictions on World Habitat DayRadio Free Asia Evictees, monks, and activists joined the march to the National Assembly, or parliament, carrying cardboard cutouts of houses and shouting slogans, including “Cambodians need housing and land” and “We must have rights to live.” // The CPP’s continued abuse of land reform policies could jeopardize its support base in rural Cambodia for the 2018 general election.

Related: Cambodian Village Chief Threatens Arrest For Complaints Over Illegal LoggingRadio Free Asia

Smoke from Indonesian fires blankets Thai holiday island of Phuket in hazeThe Guardian The Thai holiday island of Phuket has been plunged into a poisonous grey haze caused by illegal forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia.

Related: Indonesia accepts international help to combat fires that have sent choking smoke drifting across the region for weeks – SCMP

 

Why the Mekong River Commission May Be In PerilThe Diplomat The future of the body hangs in the balance amid financial and performance concerns.//Plenty of people rightly criticize the MRC as ‘useless’ in the face of hydropower development on the Mekong. However, the MRC at the very least serves an important function as a research institution and it is in this capacity that it is vital. 

Aboitiz looks at Vietnam, Myanmar as power glut hits PhilippinesThe Thanh Nien Daily Aboitiz Power Corp. will build plants in Indonesia and scout for ventures in Vietnam and Myanmar as the Philippines’ second-largest electricity producer expands in Southeast Asia while expecting an oversupply at home.

Palm oil producers call for government supportThe Jakarta Post Ongoing land and forest fires have affected Indonesia’s palm oil businesses, which are also being burdened by the weakening of the rupiah exchange rate against the US dollar.

Time for Rich Countries to Pay Their Ecological DebtThe Diplomat A call for climate justice ahead of the Finance Ministers meeting in Lima.

 

CHINA

Graft-buster named as head of China’s spy agency as anti-corruption watchdog extends its powerSCMP A former senior official at China’s top graft-busting agency has been given the highest Communist Party job in state security, mainland media confirmed yesterday, signalling the agency is expanding its power.

Related: Former head of China’s Sinopec under investigation for corruption – The Guardian

 

Answering an Appeal by Mao Led Tu Youyou, a Chinese Scientist, to a Nobel PrizeNYT Dr. Tu was awarded the prize, shared with two other scientists, on Monday for the discovery of a drug that is now part of standard regimens to fight malaria.

Related: Tu Youyou: An Outlier of China’s Scientific and Technological SystemAsia Unbound

China’s top auditor says US$45b of construction projects face delaysSCMP Major Chinese construction projects worth about 286.9 billion yuan (US$45.17 billion) are facing delays because of problems such as the slow distribution of funds by local governments, the country’s top auditor said on Thursday.

Putting the Past Behind in ChinaNYT The days of China relying on export manufacturing and infrastructure construction as drivers of economic growth are gone.

 

‘A brighter future beckons’: China tries to get Xinjiang to join the partyThe Guardian Propaganda in overdrive as Beijing celebrates the 60th anniversary of a region that has been the setting for frictions and deadly explosions of violence.//Maybe dressing up Uighurs and Kazakhs and having them dance on stage isn’t the best way to promote ethnic stability.

Ai Weiwei Returns to Beijing to Find Listening Devices in His Studio and HomeNYT The Chinese artist and activist, who had just taken his first overseas trip in four years, said that he had uncovered several listening devices hidden around his work space and living room.

 

Almost homeThe Economist China In a restaurant in Qiaogang, a town in the southern province of Guangxi, a large poster of Mao Zedong—entitled “Red Sun”—hangs below one of a Vietnamese island where Wu Guangsui, the restaurant’s owner, was born.

Chinese hospitals still offering gay ‘cure’ therapy, film revealsThe Guardian Channel 4’s Unreported World finds doctors prescribing drugs and electric shocks to gay men and lesbians despite Beijing legalising homosexuality in 1997.

Academics and students march in Hong Kong against ‘Beijing crackdown’The Guardian More than 1,000 students and faculty members have marched through one of Hong Kong’s leading universities in silence to protest against what they describe as an intensifying Beijing-backed assault on academic freedoms.

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

ASEAN Peacekeeping Meeting Concludes in CambodiaThe Diplomat The 3rd ASEAN Peacekeeping Centers Network meeting was held in Phnom Penh. // An interesting development as ASEAN attempts to juggle authority with member state sovereignty. It will be interesting to see how this plays into the non-interference language of ASEAN norms.

Myanmar official accuses China of meddling in peace talks with rebelsThe Guardian A top negotiator in Myanmar’s peace talks with ethnic rebels has accused neighbouring China of derailing a nationwide ceasefire deal last week that would have brought Japan and western nations in as observers to monitor an end to decades of conflict.//Not entirely impossible, but it sounds more like a disappointed negotiator shifting blame after only eight ethnic armies signed the peace treaty. Look for more ExSE analysis on this episode soon. 

Related: Myanmar to Ink Peace Deal with Eight Armed Groups Ahead of Historic ElectionThe Diplomat

 

Bao Zhuoxuan, Son of Detained Rights Lawyer, Is Said to Disappear in MyanmarNYT Mr. Bao, the son of Wang Yu, a lawyer who was detained in Beijing in July, was taken from a guesthouse in Mong La, a rights campaigner said.//Mong La has always been a no-man’s land of uncertain sovereignty. He may have been taken by Chinese authorities, but if it’s Mong La, it’s just as likely that he crossed path with the gambling kingpin.

Related: Detained Chinese lawyer’s 16-year-old son disappears while trying to flee to USThe Guardian

Related: Human traffickers arrested in Burmese-Thai operationDVB

Myanmar: Opposition Leader’s StrategyNYT If the Nov. 8 vote is credible, most observers believe that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, will win the most seats in Parliament.

Related: Could Myanmar’s Elections Devolve into Disorder?The Diplomat

Related: Could Aung San Suu Kyi Be Myanmar’s Next House Speaker?The Diplomat

 

The Rohingya: Humanitarian Crisis or Security Threat?The Diplomat Global attention to the Rohingya issue is rising, but not necessarily for the right reasons.

Related: Rohingya Trafficking Victims Endure Stress of Limbo, Stranded In Thailand The Irrawaddy Magazine

Australia Negotiating to Send Refugees to PhilippinesNYT An Australian official declined to provide details of the possible plan.

Related: Australia seeking refugee resettlement deal with Philippines, say reportsThe Guardian

Turkish man who looks like Erawan Shrine bombing suspect releasedThe Nation POLICE in Nong Khai province have released a Turkish man who was thought to look similar to a suspect in the Erawan bombing after he was found to have no involvement in the attack.

Thai Junta Picks 21-Member Panel to Write New ConstitutionThe Irrawaddy Magazine Thailand’s military government appointed a new committee Monday to write a post-coup constitution after an unpopular earlier draft was rejected last month in a move that has delayed elections until at least 2017.

Related: Dissent and dictatorship in ThailandNew Mandala

Vietnam to add new line to China-Southeast Asia rail networkThanh Nien Daily The 550-kilometer line will connect Vietnam’s central region and Vientiane, Laos.

Related: Malaysia, Singapore Begin ‘Next Phase’ of High-Speed Rail ProjectThe Diplomat

Cambodia to displace thousands of Vietnamese people on Tonle Sap River: reportThanh Nien Daily An official claimed about 90 percent agreed to move, but a man representing many families said most of them want to stay.//These Vietnamese residents are not citizens of Cambodia and cannot own land, hence living in the middle of the Tonle Sap. This displacement would poke a tiny hole in the theory that the Vietnamese run Cambodia and act with impunity. 

Malaysian plane wreckage claimed to be found in southern PhilippinesInvestvine Police authorities…ordered an investigation into reports that Filipino island residents discovered a wreckage of a Malaysian plane deep in the forest of the southern Philippine.

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WanDa opens 15 billion yuan resort in Xishuangbanna

Mockup of Wanda's theme park in Xishuangbanna. PS it never looks like this...

Mockup of Wanda’s theme park in Xishuangbanna.

China’s richest man is looking to expand his gargantuan real estate empire by diversifying into the tourism industry. The first major step in this direction was taken during Mid-Autumn Festival, when Wang Jianlin (王健林), Chairman of Wanda Group, oversaw the opening of a multipurpose resort development in Yunnan’s Xishuangbanna (西双版纳).

Construction on the Wanda International Resort Xishuangbanna began three years ago. Eventually it grew to cover more than five square kilometers of river valley just northwest of the city of Jinghong (景洪). Built at a total cost of 15 billion yuan (US$2.36 billion), the complex features several artificial lakes, an amusement and water park, IMAX theaters, Dai minority themed luxury villas, a Wanda shopping center, three resort hotels, a hospital and several schools.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Wang revealed his company will invest 95 billion yuan for further tourism and business development in the province over the next four years. Quoted by the South China Morning Post, Wang said with such a large outlay of funds, his company plans to “…revolutionize Yunnan’s tourism industry”.

The success of that revolution will definitely be aided by the money Wanda has already invested, but other factors loom large. Chief among these is a spur line on the oft-delayed Kunming-Singapore Railway. When and if is is built — some forecasts predict an opening date of 2018 — the high-speed railroad would connect Yunnan’s capital to Jinghong in just over two hours. The city currently has no direct rail link to Kunming.

Currently, Xishuangbanna Prefecture receives an estimated 13 million travelers yearly. That number is expected to rise significantly over the next five years as under-construction and proposed infrastructure projects are completed. For its part, Wanda is banking on a surge in both tourism and investment, offering newly built villas and condominiums located inside the Wanda International Resort Xishuangbanna for between 4,500 and 6,000 yuan a square meter.

The development conglomerate is not only focusing on Yunnan and what is commonly called its “untapped tourism resources”. This year alone, Wanda has signed other travel development contracts in Guangxi, Guizhou, Henan, Liaoning and Sichuan provinces worth 680 billion yuan (US$107 billion). Completing the circle connecting tourism and real estate, Chairman Wang has also hinted his company will soon delve into China’s cutthroat airline industry.

This article written by Patrick Scally was first published here in on the GoKunmin.com site. 

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Regional Roundup for Week of 9.26.2015

One week after the Lao government confirmed construction would begin on the Don Sahong dam in southern Laos, ripples of rumors are leaking that the Lao government might soon commence the notification process for the Pak Beng dam, 100km north of Luang Prabang. Yet another domino to fall in Mekong hydropower development or if built will Pak Beng be a tipping point for regional governments to react with stronger measure against Laos’s plans to become the battery of Asia with little consideration to downstream impacts. Pak Beng’s developer is China’s Datang Corporation. This will mark China’s first official foray into building dams on the mainstream, although it is likely Sinohydro will be awarded the contract for Don Sahong by year’s end.

EXSE FOCUS

Xi Jinping of China Arriving in U.S. at Moment of Vulnerability-NYT The chill on the Chinese economy has eroded some of the sheen attached to Mr. Xi, and some analysts say he may want to project an especially strong image when holding talks in the United States. China’s economy has slowed more abruptly than policy makers have appeared ready for, alarming investors around the world. The government overestimated its ability to keep stock prices aloft, spending billions to bolster the Chinese markets. Mr. Xi’s ambitious reform agenda, including an effort to revive a bloated state sector, has yielded few concrete results.//With the Pope stealing all the thunder earlier in the week, the Xi visit hardly felt like happened aside from an announcement of China’s carbon cap-and-trade program and a few empty promises on cyber-security.  Where was the pressure on the South China Sea, Obama?

Related: Conflict Flavors Obama’s Meeting With Chinese Leader-NYT

Related: Xi Jinping’s Inner Circle Offers Cold Shoulder to Western Officials-NYT

Related: The Obama-Xi State Visit: Any Room for Human Rights?-The Diplomat

Related: 6 Takeaways from Xi Jinping’s US Visit-The Diplomat

Related: Xi Jinping Hears Tough Complaints of American Business-NYT

Xi Jinping Pledges to Work With U.S. to Stop Cybercrimes-NYT The president faced a crowd concerned over China’s barriers to market access, rampant commercial cybertheft and the imposition of intrusive security measures. President Xi Jinping pledged in a speech here on Tuesday night to work with the United States on fighting cybercrime, saying that the Chinese government was a staunch defender of cybersecurity.“The Chinese government will not in whatever form engage in commercial theft, and hacking against government networks are crimes that must be punished in accordance with the law and relevant international treaties,” Mr. Xi said in an address to American business executives. //According to a Guardian article (Xi Jinping says China is not guilty of cyber attacks as he prepares for US visit), Xi denied that China was responsible for cybercrimes—will be interesting to see, if and when Obama applies related economic sanctions.

Related: The Limits of a US-China Cyber Deal-The Diplomat

REGIONAL RELATIONS

What’s behind Beijing’s drive to control the South China Sea?-The Guardian On 26 May, CNN broadcast an unusual clip of a US navy intelligence flight over the South China Sea. The P-8A Poseidon surveillance plane – one of the newest weapons in the Pentagon’s arsenal – had taken off, with a CNN reporter on board, from Clark airbase in the Philippines, once part of America’s largest overseas base complex during the cold war. After about 45 minutes, the plane reached its first target – which had, until recently, been an obscure, almost entirely submerged feature in the Spratly Island group. Fifteen thousand feet below, dozens of Chinese ships tossed at anchor. Their crews had been working day and night for weeks, dredging sand and rock from the ocean floor to fill in a stunning blue lagoon – turning a 3.7-mile-long reef that had only partially revealed itself to the daylight at low tide into a sizable man-made island nearly 1,000 miles away from the Chinese mainland.

Related: The Truth About US Freedom of Navigation Patrols in the South China Sea-The Diplomat

Why ASEAN Economic Community Can’t Ignore the Environment-The Diplomat While the EU has relied on the unbridled supra-nationalism of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), that unsung hero responsible for ensuring the harmonization of standards for all member states, the ASEAN economic community shies away from such lofty institutions. And unlike the EU, ASEAN emerges in a completely different historical age, one where concern for the environment goes hand-in-hand with growth. Without the strong hand of the ECJ orchestrating the binding common standards that put the word ‘sustainable’ in ‘sustainable development,’ ASEAN risks sending its already embattled ecosystem off a cliff. The Southeast Asian region is home to some of the world’s most magnificent and biodiverse rainforests, but today these countries’ environments are being increasingly threatened with environmental disasters that have yet to be addressed seriously.

China’s ‘Silk Road’ Initiative Is at Risk of Failure-The Diplomat The Silk Road Initiative is the major project for Chinese President Xi Jinping. On every state visit and within every diplomatic forum, he has promoted his idea of “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR). Beijing wants to create China-centered infrastructure networks in order to expand its own economic and political influence in Eurasia. But the time when the country was able to make economically unprofitable investments on the basis of political motives is long gone. Beijing had intended to invest more than $900 billion in infrastructure expansion in Eurasia. However, the money is now needed to stabilize its stagnating economy and nervous financial markets. China‘s currency reserves decreased drastically in August.//China is forgiving debt to poorer developing countries. However, if the Silk Road doesn’t work, how will China find new markets for imports and inputs to keep its economy going? Without new infrastructure development deals how can China export its excess steel capacity? Setting up markets with central Asia is much less risky than doing it in Africa. Are China’s choices narrowing?

Averting a China-Vietnam Military Clash-The Diplomat The risk of a military confrontation between China and Vietnam is rising. Although the two countries have enjoyed close party-to-party ties for decades, since 2011 they have both asserted conflicting claims to the South China Sea. Beijing claims 90 percent of the sea as its exclusive economic zone. China has repeatedly moved oil rigs into disputed areas, dredged and occupied parts of the disputed Paracel Islands, and constructed at least one and potentially multiple airstrips, possibly for military use, in the Spratly Islands.//Chinese think tanks are discussing this possibility more and more frequently.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Fading Coal Industry in China May Offer Chance to Aid Climate-NYT The subject of greenhouse gas emissions will be on the table when President Obama hosts President Xi Jinping of China at the White House. Across China’s grimy coal heartland, mines have fallen silent, reduced production or shut down. Miners, owners and officials here wonder whether boom times will return for the “black gold” that has fed the nation’s craving for cheap but dirty energy. “I think it’s finished,” said Wang Jinwang, a longtime miner whose salary has been cut by one-fifth.

Enacting Cap-and-Trade Will Present Challenges Under China’s System-NYT With its heavy-handed interventions, poor statistics and corruption, China will need years to build a market that substantially cuts emissions, experts said. American officials have applauded President Xi Jinping’s commitment to a national market for greenhouse gas quotas as a breakthrough in environmental cooperation. But to work well, Mr. Xi’s pledge, made at the White House on Friday, will demand big changes from a Chinese government accustomed to heavy-handed intervention and skewed statistics. It will take years of effort to build a substantial market that plays a major role in curbing emissions, and even then, it could founder, like similar initiatives elsewhere, experts said.

Related: What You Need to Know About China’s Cap-and-Trade Announcement-The Diplomat

Related: Why the US-China Climate Deal Matters-The Diplomat

China and US agree on ivory ban in bid to end illegal trade globally-The Guardian The two largest markets for illegal ivory agree to enact a nearly complete ban on the import and export of ivory to help reduce the loss of elephants to poaching. While differences on cyber security and talk of sanctions dominated the headlines for Chinese president Xi Jinping’s visit to the US, the two countries also signed up to a major agreement to end the global trade in ivory. The ban would cover “significant and timely restrictions on the import of ivory as hunting trophies” as well as unspecified “significant and timely steps to halt the domestic commercial trade of ivory.” // Collaboration between China and the U.S. is absolutely necessary to end illegal wildlife trade; however, the details from this agreement appear vague and lack specific action. Stay tuned to see if any action ensues as a result of this agreement.

Related: Pressure to halt Hong Kong ivory trade increases after US-China deal-South China Morning Post

Rethinking Hydropower: Reflections on the Lower Sesan 2 Dam-CGIAR The Cambodian government has collaborated with private companies to build dams in the Sesan River, a lower Mekong River tributary which flows through Central Vietnam and northeast Cambodia. The much-anticipated 400-megawatt dam, also known as the Lower Sesan 2 dam project, has an investment of $816 million and was started in November 2012. Primarily owned by China’s Hydrolancang International Energy and Cambodia’s Royal Group, the dam is being built on a section of the Sesan River in Stueng Treng province in Cambodia’s northeast. Most of the electricity will reportedly be sold to state energy provider Electricite Du Cambodge (EDC) or exported to Vietnam under a 40-year contract.

CHINA

Osborne kicks off China visit vowing to be Beijing’s best friend-The Guardian Despite criticism for ignoring growing human rights crisis, chancellor determined for UK to be ‘best partner in the west’. George Osborne has started a five-day tour of China by vowing to make Britain Beijing’s “best partner in the west” despite accusations that the Tory government is cosying up to the Communist party and ignoring a growing human rights crisis and the fight for democracy in Hong Kong. “Where some people are cautious about getting more involved in China, we say quite the reverse. We want to get more involved with China,” Osborne said during a brief question and answer session in Beijing on Sunday that was moderated by Chinese state media.

Google is returning to China? It never really left-The Guardian Google Analytics has continued to transmit data across the Great Firewall despite other services being blocked. With Google reportedly in talks with Chinese authorities about opening a new Android app store, speculation is rife that an agreement could see government-approved apps would come automatically installed on Google’s Android smartphones designed for the Chinese market. Many interpret this step as Google planting a seed for its eventual return to China after exiting the Chinese market five years ago – yet our research at the University of Pennsylvania shows that Google has never completely left.

China manufacturing index falls to six-year low in September-The Guardian Global investors unsettled as survey shows China’s factories cut output, staffing and prices at a faster pace as both new export orders and overall new orders fall. Chinese manufacturing activity fell to its lowest in more than six years in the latest sign of the slowdown in the world’s second-biggest economy, according to a survey released on Wednesday. The latest data was worse than economists had expected and unsettled global financial markets. Uncertainty about the extent of China’s slowdown has been on the radar of investors, particularly after the Federal Reserve mentioned China as one of its reasons for not raising interest rates last week.

Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement, One Year Later-The Diplomat It has been a year since Hong Kong’s “Umbrella Movement” first fanned hopes that we were witnessing a people power movement capable of pressuring the Central Peoples’ Government into fulfilling the democratic promise of Article 45 of the Basic Law. The Umbrella movement has now all but fizzled out, of course. Public support for the movement waned as the protests caused economic disruption, and activists were eventually cleared out of the streets by December.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

In Myanmar, Peace for Ethnic Rights-NYT If the government wants its nationwide cease-fire signed before the election, it must grant ethnic minorities more autonomy now. For months, the government of Myanmar has been touting progress on a nationwide cease-fire deal, claiming it is a major step toward ending the country’s long-running armed conflicts. But the latest summit meeting on Sept. 9, attended by President Thein Sein and representatives of more than a dozen ethnic armed groups, ended inconclusively.

Myanmar’s Electoral Landscape: Vibrant, But Uncertain-The Diplomat On September 8, Myanmar entered a two-month election campaign period, the culmination of at least a year of excitement, political intrigue, and wrangling among different players. The United States and other international players have been concerned that the elections, expected to take place on November 8, will not be entirely free and fair. But a closer look reveals a very dynamic and fluid picture.

Thailand Blames Uighur Militants for Bombing at Bangkok Shrine-NYT The national police chief was the first top official to explicitly attribute the attack to members of the aggrieved minority in western China. Nearly a month after the deadliest bombing in recent Thai historyThailand’s national police chief made his most explicit comments on Tuesday about who carried out the attack here and why. The perpetrators, he said, were linked to Uighur militants, radical members of an aggrieved ethnic minority in western China, who struck to avenge Thailand’s forced repatriation of Uighurs to China and Thailand’s dismantling of a human smuggling ring.

Related: Thai police say Uighur trafficking ring behind Bangkok bombing-The Guardian

Related: Thai police say first arrested suspect is the Bangkok bomber-The Guardian

Cambodia activists pin hopes on apps to turn tide of violence against women-The Guardian Women’s groups in Cambodia are using the youth obsession with technology to try to change attitudes in a society where many think domestic violence is normal In Phnom Penh’s bustling cafes, hip-looking young people hunch over their mobile devices. According to Dany Sun, a women’s rights activist likewise armed with a smartphone, this relatively new trend is representative of modern Cambodia. But the technological progress, Sun observes, has not been accompanied by advances on gender equality. Traditional attitudes and cultural norms, which portray women as subservient and inferior to men, continue to underlie the country’s harrowing statistics on violence against women.

Phnom Penh, City Interrupted-The Diplomat Few cities have a more troubled past than Phnom Penh. Once known as the Paris of the East, it was thrown into chaos near the end of the Cambodian civil war, and in 1975 lost its entire population (over 2 million) during one of history’s most atrociously sadistic social experiments. Four years later, Vietnamese troops chased the murderous regime out of Phnom Penh and into isolation, and Cambodia began the seemingly insurmountable task of rebuilding. This included re-populating a ghost city, the once-vibrant capital where only a few foragers and scofflaws remained to survive on what the exodus left behind.

Lao Officials Fail to Enforce Government Ban on Timber Exports-Radio Free Asia A recent ban on the export of raw logs imposed by the Lao government to increase the value of processed wood products is not being enforced in the country’s southern provinces because some national leaders are involved in timber smuggling, a civil society official with knowledge of the situation said. Although Vientiane imposed the export ban on Aug. 18, hundreds of trucks in Champasak, Salavan, Sekong and Attapue provinces, which have more timber than do the northern provinces, are continuing to transport wood to neighboring Vietnam around the clock, the official, who requested anonymity, and locals told RFA’s Lao Service.

YUNNAN

Yunnan’s place in Xi Jinping’s United States trip-GoKunming Chinese President Xi Jinping is in the middle of his first state visit to the United States this week. While the subject of Yunnan was most likely not high on the list of priorities during the president’s first major stop, a small gesture signaled good news for growing business links between the US and his country’s southwestern-most province. On the eve of Xi’s arrival, a Starbucks press release and announced the company hopes to “connect our cultures and people across China and the US”. While a press release and the drinking of a single cup of joe may seem small gestures, coffee has come to have great significance in one of China’s poorest provinces. According to news service Xinhua, Yunnan produces 99 percent of all coffee grown in the country. The industry is expected to generate at least US$5.6 billion in annual revenue by 2020, to a great extent based on Starbucks’ projected store growth.

Animal traffickers busted with 1.4 million yuan in contraband-GoKunming Police in western Yunnan have taken three people into custody suspected of trafficking and selling endangered animal products. The arrests took place in Dehong Prefecture (德宏) following a month-long investigation. More than 200 items were seized, including tiger pelts, rhinoceros horns and ivory. Investigators opened the case in late July after receiving an anonymous tip. The haul of confiscated goods included tiger claws and teeth, tiger skins, red deer antlers, rhino horns, snake skins and jewelry believed to have been carved out ofelephant ivory. Police estimated the seized items to be worth a combined 1.39 million yuan (US$218,000).

This week’s digest was compiled by Brooke Rose with analysis by Brooke Rose and Brian Eyler.

 

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Regional Roundup for Week of 9.21.2015

EXSE FOCUS

Solving Southeast Asia’s drug problemEast by Southeast The Obama administration has once again named Myanmar and Laos to its list of twenty-two countries determined to be major drug trafficking countries or major drug transit countries. The White House memo, issued on Monday, noted that Myanmar “failed demonstrably during the last twelve months to make sufficient or meaningful efforts to adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements.” The United States, however, did extend Myanmar a National Interest Waiver to promote democracy and avoid reduction of aid to Burma as a result of the designation.

Why Beijing isn’t using the Erawan Shrine bombing to its advantageEast by Southeast A connection between Uyghur militants from China’s northwest and the August 17th bombing of Bangkok’s Erawan Shrine has been confirmed. Thailand’s police chief made the link explicit during a news conference Tuesday. While the geopolitical consequences of the connection remain to be seen, Beijing could still stand to benefit from the Erawan bombing. However, fears over domestic implications may keep China from using the attack to their advantage.

Related: Bangkok Bombing: Uighur human trafficker revenge motiveThe Bangkok Post

China building third airstrip on disputed East Vietnam Sea islets: expertTuoi Tre News China appears to be building a third airstrip in contested territory in the East Vietnam Sea, a U.S. expert said on Monday, citing satellite photographs taken last week. The photographs taken for Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank on Sept. 8 show construction on Da Vanh Khan (Mischief Reef) – one of several artificial islands China has created in Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago. The images show a rectangular area with a retaining wall, 3,000 meters (3,280 yards) long, matching similar work by China on two other reefs, Da Xu Bi (Subi Reef) and Da Chu Thap (Fiery Cross Reef), said Greg Poling, director of CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI). Looks like China’s pledge to stop building and expanding in the SCS hasn’t resulted in anything substantial. PS: congrats to Greg Poling, one of most knowledgeable on SCS issue and new director of CSIS AMTI.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

An unelected dictatorship, Thailand’s government finds China more amenable than AmericaThe Economist PRAYUTH CHAN-OCHA, Thailand’s prime minister, sometimes resembles a ham actor ad-libbing his way through an audition for a role as an unhinged dictator. “You cannot oppose me. No one will let you do that!” he told reporters this month, before threatening to deal with critics by taping their mouths shut. His junta then briefly detained a well-known journalist for publishing articles that “could cause confusion” (on release, he promptly quit his job). Thailand’s lurch back into autocracy complicates its relations with its long-standing ally, America, which has repeatedly called for the restoration of democracy. China, however, has no such qualms. Its relations with Thailand have never been better. China likes to play the “friendly to the dictator” card in SE Asia. Something the U.S. should watch out for: if things turn sour with the U.S., countries can always turn to good ol’ China for support, so the U.S. has only so much wiggle room in its pivot.

Vietnam Cozies Up to Japan in South China Sea StrategyThe Wall Street Journal Vietnam is again building up ties with other countries to help its territorial claim in the South China Sea, this time dispatching the chief of its ruling Communist Party for talks in Japan this week. General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, who arrives in Tokyo on Tuesday [article date: September 14], in recent months has played a noticeably more visible role in Vietnam’s efforts to broaden the dispute in the contested waters, where China last year towed an oil-exploration rig into an area claimed by both Beijing and Hanoi.

Japan pledges patrol vessels, loans to VietnamThanh Nien News Japan pledges to provide Vietnam with 200 million yen (US$1.6 million) in non-refundable aid to buy Japanese used patrol ships for its maritime safety in the 2015 fiscal year, according to a joint statement issued Tuesday following Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong’s visit to Japan. Trong arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday for a four-day official visit at the invitation of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The two sides issued the statement on a “joint vision” for their relations after the talks between Trong and Abe, Vietnam News Agency reported. This deal is very similar to Japan’s June deal with the Philippines, when Philippines Pres. Aquino visited Japan, compared Xi to Hitler in the Diet, and then got patrol boats and possibly surveillance aircraft. The Japan – VN – Phils anti-China axis conveniently complements U.S. interests in the SCS.

Balancing act: Vietnam may find itself hosting Barack Obama and Xi Jinping within days of each otherSouth China Morning Post Vietnam may be forced to perform a delicate balancing act should President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart, Barack Obama, visit within the same timeframe, as expected, later this year. No exact dates have been fixed for Xi’s visit – which will be the first in 10 years by a Chinese president. Hanoi’s invitation for Xi to visit was accepted last year but sources say Beijing only recently confirmed that Xi would come by the end of this year. Vietnam might find itself the prettiest girl in the ballroom as she’s courted by China and the U.S.

Premiers of Vietnam, Laos pledge priority for bilateral rapport developmentTuoiTre News Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and his Laotian counterpart Thongsing Thammavong have agreed that the governments of the two countries will keep giving top priority to the promotion of their countries’ special relations. They reached the agreement during their talks in Vientiane on September 14 to discuss measures to beef up comprehensive cooperation between Vietnam and Laos, according to the Vietnam News Agency.

Marine police claim ‘self defence’ in firing on Vietnamese fishermenThe Bangkok Post Thai maritime police said they opened fire on a Vietnamese fishing boat while trying to intercept another vessel in waters near Malaysia last week, a clash Vietnamese state media said killed a fisherman and wounded two others. Officials from the two countries were quoted on Wednesday giving starkly different accounts of the incident and Vietnamese Communist Party media said it could eventually be addressed at the diplomatic level.

Party line on border? UnityThe Phnom Penh Post Opposition leader Sam Rainsy yesterday told his lawmakers to consult with the party and get their facts together before speaking out on the sensitive Vietnam border issue, according to a spokesman. Addressing his troops after almost a month abroad, the Cambodia National Rescue Party president stressed that work would continue on determining whether Cambodia had lost land to Vietnam but called for a more unified and considered approach, said CNRP spokesman Yem Ponhearith.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Kunming-based think tank fighting Myanmar forest lossGoKunming via ExSE A new project promoting agroforestry as a sustainable alternative to current farming practices in the uplands of Myanmar is underway. Led by the World Agroforestry Centre‘s East and Central Asia regional program, and approved by the country’s Minister of Environmental Conservation and Forestry (MECF), the undertaking aims to reforest mountainous landscapes prone to degradation.

CHINA

Xi Jinping, Chinese Leader, Has Weighty Agenda and Busy Schedule for U.S. VisitNY Times President and Communist Party Chief Xi Jinping will arrive next week for his first state visit, with meetings with tech leaders in Seattle, with President Obama in Washington, and an address to the United Nations in New York. For China, a priority will be bolstering Mr. Xi’s stature at home, and the events planned should play well on Chinese television. These include meetings in Seattle with American business executives, a 21-gun salute on the White House lawn and a state dinner, followed by Mr. Xi’s first speech before the United Nations in New York.

Obama Hints at Sanctions Against China Over CyberattacksNY Times Remarks by President Obama seemed to represent a ratcheting up of what has until now been a quiet effort to warn the Chinese that the United States will not tolerate recent breaches. President Obama warned on Wednesday that his administration was ready to take action against China over online attacks carried out by Beijing or its proxies, publicly raising the specter of sanctions a week before President Xi Jinping arrives in the United States for a state visit.

Despite Crackdown, Chinese Lawyers Vow to Press for Human RightsNY Times “Braving the wind and rain, we will travel together,” read a statement signed by 276 lawyers across China. The lawyers said they would continue to work for legal rights in China, using a phrase from Shi Jing, or Book of Odes, a collection of poetry from around 3,000 years ago, to express their feelings about the current situation: “The wind and rain are dark, the cocks crow incessantly.” The crackdown on lawyers prompted Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, to say in Geneva on Monday that he was “concerned about the detention and interrogation in recent months of more than 100 lawyers in China, in connection with their professional activities, and by the adoption of new laws with far-reaching implications for N.G.O.s.”

China’s energy giant Sinopec to sell off hotels and ditch cars in graft crackdownReuters Chinese state-owned energy giant Sinopec Group will sell off most of its hotels by the end of 2017 and get rid of more than 4,000 company cars as part of efforts to root out corruption and waste, it said on Monday. Since President Xi Jinping’s appointment in 2013, the government has cracked down on official corruption and extravagance in China, where the flaunting of personal and often illicit wealth and wasteful public spending have led to widespread criticism of the party. Part of general shift away from SOEs, hopefully this move will improve efficiency in Sinopec. But are SOEs really what’s wrong with China’s economy? 

Home Prices Rise in China for Fourth Consecutive MonthReuters Average new home prices inched up 0.3 percent in August from the previous month, the fourth consecutive month they had gains, offering hope that the ailing property sector is becoming less of a drag on the slowing economy. Let’s hope this has to do with increasing demand for houses and not some sort of meddling… 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

FBI Probes Malaysia Development FundWSJ The FBI has opened an investigation into allegations of money-laundering related to a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund, a person familiar with the matter said. The scope of the investigation wasn’t known. It is the latest in a series of international investigations related to the fund that have been revealed in the past several weeks. The international investigations center on entities related to 1Malaysia Development Bhd., which was set up by Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2009 to help drive the economy. The fund is having difficulty repaying more than $11 billion of debt and is at the center of investigations that are destabilizing the government. Wow! Bad news for Najib. Though a Malaysian government probe found that WSJ’s July allegation that $700m from 1MBD ended up in Najib’s bank account wasn’t true, this problem isn’t going away. Malaysia’s Attorney General got fired after trying to investigate Najib; expect more heads to roll in the coming months as the investigation goes up the power hierarchy… Najib can’t fire the FBI.

It’s Not 1997: Southeast Asian Currencies Slump Isn’t a CrisisBloomberg Southeast Asian currencies are tumbling, and that may be a good thing. Indonesia’s rupiah and Malaysia’s ringgit have fallen to levels hit during the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, leading a decline in the region’s currencies. The drop won’t spark the same economic meltdown this time around, according to analysts who watched the disaster unfold almost two decades ago. In fact, it could be a healthy realignment that helps boost exports.

Grace Poe: I offer myself as your president – Rappler Senator Grace Poe, in the past months the front runner in presidential preference surveys, announced on Wednesday night, September 16, her bid for the highest post in the 2016 elections. Before thousands of supporters and her family and friends at the University of the Philippines Bahay ng Alumni, she said: “Kayong lahat ang pinaghuhugutan ko ng inspirasyon. Kayo ang nagbibigay sa akin ng lakas na i-alay ang aking sarili sa mas mataas na paninilbihan sa bansa.” (I draw inspiration from each and every one of you. You give me the strength to pursue a higher calling for our country.) Poe is riding on popular support from her father, who many Filipinos believe had the presidency stolen from him by former President Arroyo in 2004. But current and extremely popular president Aquino wants current Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, whose popularity is low, to win. Will the Filipino tradition of personality politics carry through the 2016 elections?

Malaysian police fire water cannons at Malay protestersAP via Yahoo News Police fired water cannons at ethnic Malays who turned unruly Wednesday at a pro-government rally that many fear has the potential to provoke racial trouble in this multiethnic nation with large Chinese and Indian minorities. The rally — a collection of several marches that converged on a central field near Parliament — was ostensibly called to emphasize the dominance of Malays in Malaysia, as well as to support the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is under pressure to resign over a $700 million financial scandal. But the rally is also being seen as a challenge to the country’s Chinese- and Indian-origin residents, who participated in large numbers in an anti-Najib rally on Aug. 29 and 30.

TPP Trade Talks Appeal, Says SomkidThe Bangkok Post Thailand is interested in joining the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact being touted by the United States, but needs to study the terms and conditions of the new trade bloc first, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak says. “We are very interested but we must weight ht eadvantages and disadvantages carefully,” Mr Somkid told the Bangkok Post. The 12-member trade bloc’s economic activities represent around 40% of the global economy. Expressing interest put Thailand “on their radar screen,” he said. Let’s see if they get the TPP signed and implemented before other countries start joining …

More than 100 scrubbed from final candidate listThe Myanmar Times November’s election, promised to be the most free and fair in over half a century, prompted a deluge of applicants; 6189 potential candidates representing 92 political parties as well as independent pollsters submitted their credentials to the UEC. After an application and scrutiny period complicated by devastating floods, the UEC’s delayed list enumerated 6065 candidates, with the ruling party one of just a few to have escaped the district commission’s inspection unscathed.
Related: Principle over Detail in NLD Election ManifestoThe Irrawaddy
Related: Myanmar’s Electoral Landscape Vibrant, but Fraught with Uncertainties – cogitASIA

National scene: Indonesia, UAE sign deal on weapon production –The Jakarta Post Indonesia has agreed to grant licensing of SS2 assault rifles to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to enable the latter to produce and market the weapons. Under an agreement between Indonesian state-owned arms maker PT Pindad and the UAE’s Continental Aviation Services, the UAE becomes the official distributor of the Indonesian weapons in the Middle East.

Speaker vows to pass BBL before end of the monthThe Philippine Star Leaders of the House of Representatives said yesterday they would exert all efforts to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which seeks to create a new autonomous region in Mindanao, before the end of the month. Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the ad hoc committee that drafted the proposed law, issued the statement during the opening of the exhibit of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process in the House of Representatives. The BBL would do much to develop Mindanao, which as of now lags behind the rest of the Philippines. Anti-Muslim sentiment, incited after a January massacre of over 40 police officers, continues to hamper the BBL’s chances of passing.

This week’s news digest was compiled by John Juenemann, who also added analysis. 

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Solving Southeast Asia’s drug problem

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Image of the Golden Triangle where Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet.

The Obama administration has once again named Myanmar and Laos to its list of twenty-two countries determined to be major drug trafficking countries or major drug transit countries. The White House memo, issued on Monday, noted that Myanmar “failed demonstrably during the last twelve months to make sufficient or meaningful efforts to adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements.” The United States, however, did extend Myanmar a National Interest Waiver to promote democracy and avoid reduction of aid to Burma as a result of the designation.

The Golden Triangle, an area formed roughly by the upland frontier areas of Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, and China, was the world’s leading opium producer from the 1960s to the 1980s. But just less than ten years ago, it was moving toward opium free status as deepening economic ties with a rising China brought new investment and governments supported crop substitution programs in the region. Now, opium, methamphetamines, and other drugs from the Golden Triangle are once again flooding regional and global markets.

In just the past two months alone, 26mn methamphetamine tablets were seized in Yangon, Myanmar and 1.5 tons of marijuana packed into coffee shipments from Laos were seized in Cambodia. Earlier this year The New York Times ran a series of exposes on opium production and heroin addiction in Myanmar’s conflict-ridden Shan and Kachin states. The United Nations estimates that Myanmar’s poppy cultivation has tripled since 2006 and takes up almost 150,000 acres.

Despite recent spurts of economic growth in Myanmar and Laos, flagging economic conditions on the countries’ peripheries and civil war in Myanmar are pushing marginal peoples toward the production of opium. Lucrative cash crops like opium won’t make farmers rich, but hired labor on an illegal opium farm in Kachin state will earn $8 per hour compared with $2.50 working on a legal farm.

A new push factor for upland drug production in Laos and Myanmar is the arrival of small-scale agricultural investors from China’s neighboring Yunnan province. Their projects, often set up on lowland concessions granted by national or local governments, utilize less local labor and thus create a landless poor classes that literally ‘head for the hills’ to cultivate opium. Another new addition to the landscape is recently built highways and other infrastructure development projects that link urban centers but often ignore the periphery. Poor road conditions in upland areas cannot facilitate logistical support or encourage investment that could promote legal and productive agricultural activities in upland areas. And once the opium makes its way down narrow trails to the lowland areas, the highway serve as quick conduits for global distribution networks.

Being out of reach from state security and legal institutions – which typically underperform at any rate in Laos and Myanmar – permits opium farmers and trafficking middlemen to operate with impunity. Upland Southeast Asia is not the only place affected. Evidence shows drug use is on the rise in China and within Southeast Asia’s growing urban and rural middle classes. Moreover, crackdown efforts in lowland areas of these countries has only pushed production further into upland areas which are harder to reach.

Efforts to control and stem opiate production in Laos and Myanmar are often focused on identification and eradication. Government agencies locate productive areas and destroy illegal crops. This often forces rural peoples into poverty or drives villagers to new, more remote areas ripe for opium production. The UN and China have introduced crop substitution as a solution in Myanmar and Laos. But this “big state solution” often fails in its implementation because it neglects the needs of upland agriculture and flounders in its long term commitment to solving the problem.

In 2007, China’s crop substitution programs looked to be succeeding in reducing opium production. However, poor investment in infrastructure and low commitment to technical assistance created a situation where alternative cash crops could not compete on a global market and upland farmers were left high and dry.

Investments in coffee and rubber – often seen as more lucrative cash crops – take three to seven years to yield a harvest. This, coupled with falling global food prices and high transportation costs due to lack of infrastructure, discourages alternative investment. As a result, crop substitution investments in sugar, buckwheat, coffee, and rubber have consistently failed or are currently flagging in upland Southeast Asia.

To effectively curb the production of opium and other illegal drugs in upland areas of Myanmar and Laos, expenditure on agricultural extension programs and infrastructure such as paved roads and logistical facilities must increase to attract suitable investment into these areas. Advances in the peace process in Myanmar and resultant spurts of legitimate economic growth in the country’s ethnic autonomous states will do much to curb opium and methamphetamine production. Laos, however, is a different story. Even peace cannot stem opiate production, with its current set of weak institutions dictated by the fiat of a few powerful families with strong ties to China. Counter-narcotic efforts are vital to stop the flow of opium and methamphetamines in Southeast Asia. But they must be paired with viable economic solutions for the upland farmers involved in drug production.

This article was first published here on The Diplomat website on September 17. 

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Why Beijing isn’t using the Erawan Shrine bombing to its advantage

A statue of Brahma at the Erawan shrine in Bangkok. The Hindu shrine is popular with people of Chinese descent, including Thais.

An image of Brahma at the Erawan shrine in Bangkok. The Hindu shrine is popular with Chinese tourists, who were among the victims of the attack.

A connection between Uyghur militants from China’s northwest and the August 17th bombing of Bangkok’s Erawan Shrine has been confirmed. Thailand’s police chief made the link explicit during a news conference Tuesday. While the geopolitical consequences of the connection remain to be seen, Beijing could still stand to benefit from the Erawan bombing. However, fears over domestic implications may keep China from using the attack to their advantage.

Two men who have been taken into custody in connection with the case are Yusufu Mieraili and Adem Karadag. Mieraili was arrested in late August with a Chinese passport that listed his birthplace as Xinjiang province – the homeland for the oppressed Muslim-Turkic Uyghur minority. The second suspect was found in an apartment outside Bangkok along with bomb-making materials and dozens of fake Turkish passports.

Thai police issued an arrest warrant for another suspect from Xinjiang, Abudusataer Abudureheman, on Saturday. The 27 year-old Chinese national goes by the name ‘Ishan’ and is the suspected mastermind of the operation. The wanted poster for Ishan first reported that he was of Uyghur ethnicity, though a second version removed the reference and Thai authorities subsequently asked media to “drop the word”.

Observers, both international and Thai made early connections  between the Erawan bombing and the forced repatriation of 109 Chinese Uyghur refugees in July, though it is only now that Thai authorities have acknowledged the Uyghur links to the case. On Tuesday, Thai’s chief of police, Gen. Somyot Poompanmoung blamed the attack on human traffickers who aided Uyghurs refugees, angry that their network had been disrupted by Thai authorities. “Put simply, we destroyed their business.”

Combating domestic terrorism

While the connection between the controversial deportation and the bombing is seemingly bad news for China, there are a number of ways in which the PRC could benefit from this situation. First, the bombing legitimizes China’s domestic anti-terrorism efforts.

The Uyghur struggle for autonomy and Beijing’s efforts to contain it has been anything but peaceful. Systematic state-sponsored economic and physical violence in Xinjiang has been met with repeated attacks on police stations, government buildings, markets and train stations, both in Xinjiang and elsewhere. Beijing has long claimed that many of the terror attacks were coordinated by the East Turkestan Independence Movement (ETIM), a shadowy separatist organization allegedly linked to al-Qaeda. The very existence of ETIM, let alone its potency, has long been debated among experts and China has struggled to receive widespread recognition for its fight against domestic terrorism. This is largely due to doubts over ETIM and opposition to China’s repressive policies in Xinjiang.

The Erawan attack could change this. Now Beijing can point to the Erawan bombing as credible evidence that Uyghur terrorism is a threat that deserves attention outside of China. By internationalizing the issue, the Chinese government can rationalize its repeated crackdowns on Uyghurs to an international community which has been critical of its past policies. Now, Uyghur terrorism is an international issue that affects everyone – Bangkok was the world’s most visited city in 2014, after all.

Cross-border cooperation

Additionally, with an internationalization of Uyghur terrorism comes more opportunities for cross-border cooperation. Sino-Thai relations, already made closer by new trans-boundary infrastructure projects, will undoubtedly be strengthened by the Erawan attack. In February 2015, a counter-terrorism cooperation pact was signed between Indonesia and China following the repatriation of four Uyghurs accused of planning the Kunming train station attack. A similar agreement is a likely consequence of the Erawan attack.

International cooperation in combating (and sometimes creating) terror networks has been a lowest-common denominator of sorts for inter-state relations in the 21st century and China should take advantage of this. In the past, China has used links between Uyghur militants and terror cells in northwest Pakistan to strengthen relations with the South Asian state. In light of the Erawan blast, Beijing could coordinate its counter-terrorism efforts with Washington. Sino-US relations have noticeably worsened in recent years, and counter-terrorism, aside from global warming, may be the safest area for increased cooperation between the two regional rivals.

Coordination of border control efforts in Southeast Asia, particularly along China’s southern boundary is another area of possible cooperation. Uyghur migration through southwest China into Southeast Asia is a relatively new trend, and the number of migrants has swelled in recent years. Refugees have been known to use existing smuggling routes out of China and through Southeast Asia, exploiting porous borders and corrupt guards on the way. With the specter of international terrorism looming, China and its southern neighbors could increase cooperation along the margins. This would particularly benefit China’s ties with Myanmar and Vietnam, two countries with strained relations to Beijing.

Historically, Southeast Asian governments have acquiesced to China’s demands for detained Uyghur refugees to be repatriated and many observers presumed that the trend would continue along with China’s rise in regional influence. However, there is wide speculation that the attack at the Erawan Shrine, a site popular with ethnic Chinese, both Thai and tourist alike, was executed in retaliation for Thailand’s deportation of Uyghur refugees. The repatriation of 109 Uyghurs from Thailand in July led to condemnation from human rights groups and protests at China’s consulate in Istanbul, where nationalist Turks see Uyghurs as their pan-Turkic brethren. After Erawan and Turkey’s summer protests, Southeast Asian governments will likely reconsider any future deportations for fear of similar retribution.

Internal Worries

Internal worries over the consequences and implications of the Erawan blast may explain Beijing’s continued silence over the incident. While news of the attack did feature prominently in Chinese media in the days following the blast, there has been scarce coverage of the subsequent investigation, let alone the identity of the alleged attackers. Moreover, Beijing has actively denied Uyghur links to the Erawan attack, calling such speculation “hugely irresponsible” in the days following the explosion. Following the Tuesday statement from Gen. Somyot, there has been no mention of the Uyghur link to Erawan in the Chinese press.

China’s fears are not without merit. First, that the attackers hail from Xinjiang could be a point of embarrassment for the Chinese government. The crisis in northwest China has grown worse by the year – 2014 saw the expansion of Uyghur violence out of Xinjiang to the rest of China – and 2015 has now brought an international attack linked to the Uyghur separatist movement.

In the past, Beijing has refrained from mentioning the ethnicity of suspects in domestic attacks for fear of stoking ethnic tensions. Similar concerns are likely influencing China’s actions post-Erawan. Implicit in China focusing at all on the attack’s connection to Xinjiang is an acknowledgement of failure in solving the country’s ethnic problems and an admission of partial culpability. The government is already having enough trouble convincing its citizenry that it is capable of guiding the country through an economic slowdown – adding more doubts over ethnic and security issues is the last thing Beijing wants.

A Coordinated Response?

The lack of coverage of the investigation in China has been mirrored by Thai authorities’ previous reluctance to link the explosion to Uyghur separatism, and its continued avoidance labeling the attack as terrorism. This, like China’s strategy, is likely targeted at the Chinese public. The number of Chinese visitors to Thailand has exploded in recent years and the money they bring has been a welcome addition to the country’s economy as other sectors have faltered since a military junta took power in 2014. News of a bomb in downtown Bangkok was always going to affect tourism numbers, but connections to Uyghur terrorism will undoubtedly cause many prospective Chinese visitors to think twice before booking flights to the kingdom.

What’s more, Thailand’s handling of the case has raised questions of Chinese involvement in the case. The delayed official announcement of the Uyghur and the offiical waffling over the ethnicity of the suspects signaled to some that China had an affect on the investigation. Further, Thai officials asked media to avoid analysis that might affect “international relationships,” interpreted by many to mean China. A coordinated response by Bangkok and Beijing would make sense. In addition to being the source of millions of tourists each year,  China is Thailand’s largest trade partner and the closest ally of its military government.

Now that Bangkok has shown its hand, Beijing’s response will be critical to watch. Political savvy on the part of China’s foreign ministry could turn an international tragedy into an opportunity for more positive ties with Southeast Asia. However, the domestic implications of publicizing the link between Xinjiang and Erawan shrine will likely keep Beijing silent for now.

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Kunming-based think tank fighting Myanmar forest loss

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A new project promoting agroforestry as a sustainable alternative to current farming practices in the uplands of Myanmar is underway. Led by the World Agroforestry Centre‘s East and Central Asia regional program, and approved by the country’s Minister of Environmental Conservation and Forestry (MECF), the undertaking aims to reforest mountainous landscapes prone to degradation.

The project will initially be carried out in the Burmese states of Shan and Chin on a relatively small scale of six hectares. When made viable both environmentally and economically, Naypyidaw has pledged to expand the program — and around the capital has already begun to do so — as Myanmar is in dire need of workable solutions addressing its growing forest loss.

At the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), farming practices are seen as part of the problem.Shifting cultivation involves clearing forest for the cultivation of crops. After a cropping period that can be as short as one or two years, the land is fallowed for up to ten, allowing the forest to grow back. Not intrinsically bad, shifting cultivation is increasingly rare due to the shrinking availability of land, as well as current government policies.

Pressed to grow more food, villagers now usually clear forest permanently, often for monoculture plantations of sugarcane or rubber. Allowing no natural regeneration and depriving the landscape of a diversity of trees, this change of land use harms livelihoods and ecosystems.

A promising and healthy alternative, according to ICRAF reports, is the deliberate reintegration of trees that positively interact with crops and livestock on and around farms. “Agroforestry is the ideal solution for uplands,” explains Dr Dietrich Schmidt-Vogt, lead researcher for the ICRAF project. “Agroforestry can drastically reduce the need for expensive chemical fertilizers and noxious pesticides while boosting yields and diversifying income sources.”

Communities involved with the initiative have provided sites on which to demonstrate the new agroforestry methods. The researchers hope to incorporate trees that fertilize the soil — such as Himalayan Alder — and to jointly search with villagers for alternative income sources. This will provide a feedback loop between scientists, non-government organizations and farmers, with the three groups learning and adjusting together. The work is largely funded with a grant by international donor consortium Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund.

Dr Peter Mortimer, a soil scientist at ICRAF, speaking of support received from MECF, said, “Having strong backing on all levels is so important for this type of project, and we have a feeling that Myanmar and its people will prove great partners and an example for similar projects elsewhere.” While heavy flooding in Chin State has complicated progress, trees are now ready to be planted and the first cropping cycle will coincide with the start of the next wet season.

This article written by Patrick Scally was originally posted here on the GoKunming website.

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Regional Roundup for Week of 9.14.15

EXSE FOCUS

China Is Recreating the American ‘Hub-and-Spoke’ System in Asia – The Diplomat Participants discussed topics including Asia’s financial future, development and security, the postwar international order, China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, energy security, counter-terrorism, and the role of NGOs in developing Asia’s identity, as well as the role of the media in building trust.

Related: Is the Czech Republic China’s New ‘Bridge to Europe’? – The Diplomat

Related: Understanding China’s Eurasian Pivot – The Diplomat

Related: China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ looks to take construction binge offshore – Thanh Nien Daily 

Setback for Sino-Thai Rail Projects – Bangkok Post The Sino-Thai railway project with routes from the Northeast to Bangkok and the East will be delayed for about nine months because of questions about construction costs and unfinished surveys. Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith conceded that hurdles remained after a meeting on the project with Chinese authorities at a Bangkok hotel on Friday.//Evidence that the “sign first, ask questions later” approach is alive and well in the Xi Jinping era. There are fewer nuts harder to crack in Southeast Asia than the rivalries among Thailand’s ministries. China underestimated the difficulty level of this task. Insight into the flavor of One Belt One Road projects.

Suspected mastermind of Bangkok bombing believed to be in China – The Guardian Abu Dustar Abdulrahman, known as Izan, travelled to Bangladesh the day before attack and later left for Beijing, police say.//Look for exclusive analysis from Will Feinberg on the unraveling Erawan case and connections to China. We can imagine rail project delays above being linked to Sino-Thai tensions evolving out of Erawan case.

Related: India, Thailand Pledge to Deepen Defense Ties – The Diplomat

Related: Bangkok bomb linked to East Turkestan Islamic Movement, as Chinese media stops downplaying issue due to sensitivities over Uygurs – SCMP

Related: Somyot orders strengthening of immigration rules – The Nation

Related: Bomb plotters’ money trail detailed.

Lao National Assembly Approves Don Sahong Dam – East by Southeast Regional media and NGOs in Southeast Asia are calling the controversial Don Sahong dam on the Mekong River a “time bomb,” and the project’s recent approval by the Lao PDR government has initiated a ticking countdown.//Dams on the Mekong’s main stem are not a good idea.  Wait wait wait, until research shows this is an effective project for Laos.

Related: NGOs, Cambodia Voice Alarm at Lao Decision to Proceed with Don Sahong Dam – Radio Free Asia

Related: Laos Dam a Black Eye for Mekong Cooperation

Chinese Citizen Held by ISIS Poses Test for Beijing – NYT Some foreign policy experts hope Fan Jinghui’s capture will prompt Beijing to consider sending military resources to the Middle East to help reclaim territory held by Islamic militants.//China needs to step up participation in collective security efforts and cut its teeth abroad in conflicts like this especially if it wants to defend the Middle East/Strait of Hormuz in the future as the US considers military scaledown in the region. Time for China’s foreign policy to evolve.

Related: ISIS Says It Has Foreign Hostages – NYT

Related: Islamic State Threatens Chinese Hostage – The Diplomat

Myanmar: Shan Villagers and the Salween Dam Fight – The Diplomat The increasing army presence to defend the construction of a controversial Salween river dam in southeastern Myanmar’s Shan state has sparked heightened concerns among rural villagers, who are determined to fight the development that threatens their livelihoods.

Related: What is it about No that SMEC doesn’t understand? – East by Southeast

ASEAN’s Dirtiest Challenge Makes an Unwanted Return – The Diplomat Can the region successfully tackle its haze problem?//No.

Related: Hazing rituals – The Economist: Asia

Related: Air quality at ‘unhealthy’ levels in Singapore and Malaysia as haze from Indonesia forest fires blankets the region – SCMP

Related: Airport in Riau paralyzed as haze grows thicker – The Jakarta Post

REGIONAL RELATIONS

China to hold live-fire drills in Taiwan Strait – The Guardian Chinese military will carry out three days of exercises close to disputed territory, as Taiwan practises its own response to submarine attack.

Related: Taiwan Practices Repelling PLA Invasion as China Conducts Firing Drills in Taiwan Strait – The Diplomat

Explaining China’s New ‘Commitments’ on the South China Sea – The Diplomat Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, made the biggest impression on August 3, just before the meetings proper. He called a press conference to announce that China would keep five commitments on the South China Sea issue.

Related: Watch Out China: Vietnam’s Coast Guard Will Fight Back – The Diplomat

Related: A New Indonesia Military Boost Near the South China Sea? – The Diplomat

Related: South China Sea: Satellite Imagery Makes Clear China’s Runway Work at Subi Reef – The Diplomat

Related: Philippines, Australia to Hold Joint Military Exercises – The Diplomat

China Flexes Tech Muscles Before a State Visit – NYT As President Xi Jinping of China prepares for his first state visit to the United States this month, Washington has warned that it could hit Chinese companies with sanctions over digital attacks for trade secrets.

Related: Cyberattacks are ‘not acceptable’, Obama warns ahead of Xi Jinping’s state visit – SCMP

Related: US prosecutors drop fraud charges against professor accused of offering secret technology to China – SCMP

Related: Obama cancels traditional Waldorf Astoria hotel stay after Chinese takeover – The Guardian

Deportation dilemma: Is Beijing deliberately hindering expulsion of 39,000 Chinese from the US? – SCMP In early June, in cities across America, US immigration agents arrested more than two dozen Chinese nationals with unfulfilled deportation orders, telling them that after years of delay, China was finally taking steps to provide the paperwork needed to expel them…//Once again, a double standard defines the US-China relationship. 

Malaysia Likely to Pass TPP Despite Najib Troubles: Expert – The Diplomat Support deemed sufficient for country to get mammoth free trade pact through.//Evidence needed on how the US is backing Malaysia and Najib to help pass TPP there.  Anyone looking into this past the TIP upgrade?

Confirmed: Indonesia to Rejoin OPEC in December – The Diplomat Jakarta is set to return to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries later this year.

        Related: Is Jokowi Turning His Back on ASEAN? – The Diplomat

3 Men Laundered Over $5 Billion for Drug Cartels, U.S. Says – NYT Using the Chinese counterfeit market, a group of Colombians “provided the lifeline for drug cartels to operate and push illegal drugs into the United States,” the Drug Enforcement Administration said.

Australia’s treaty-making process is broken. The China free trade deal is a case in point | Peter Whish-Wilson – The Guardian Australia’s treaty-making process is so flawed it is hard to have any confidence in the claimed benefits of deals like the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (Chafta).

Related: China free trade agreement should be renegotiated or blocked, say unions – The Guardian

 

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Satellites to show the way forward for Mekong region – The Nation EFFICIENT NATURAL resource management, disaster warning and a reduction in the effects of climate change on the Lower Mekong region will be enhanced thanks to the SERVIR – Mekong project.//Effective programs outcomes from the US-led Lower Mekong Initiative are slowly trickling out. The US could and should increase its touch on the LMI. 

Related: Climate Change and Migration Across the Bay of Bengal – The Diplomat

Related: Tun Lwin: ‘Each Year There is Drought in the Dry Zone, Flooding in the Delta’ – The Irrawaddy

President ‘did not discuss’ Myitsone dam in China, says Ye Htut – DVB President Thein Sein did not engage in discussion about the Myitsone dam project when he met with China Power Investment Corporation (CPI) during his visit to China, says Information Minister and Presidential Spokesman Ye Htut.

Tianjin blasts: plans to turn site into ‘eco park’ mocked on Chinese social media – The Guardian Netizens describe proposal to rehabilitate explosion crater into lake as ‘disgusting’ with many concerned the blast site will remain a toxic mess for years.//See article below from China Dialogue on how China needs to take its time with soil pollution cleanup.

Related: Mainland Chinese authorities end search for missing from massive Tianjin warehouse explosion – SCMP

Related: China issues guidelines on handling dangerous industrial dust in wake of fatal explosion – SCMP

Related: Explosion at chemical plant in China’s eastern Zhejiang province; no casualties reported – SCMP

Related: Report on Toll From Shandong Blast Is Called ‘Coldblooded’ – NYT

China: Quantitative Easing and the Pollution Problem – The Diplomat Beijing could give new life to market-oriented reforms with a decisive program of cleaning up the environment as a quantitative easing measure, accompanied by efforts to steer consumer businesses to some of the cleaned sites, as a flagship program of the new five-year plan.

Related: Beijing approves masterplan to protect environment after decades of breakneck economic development – SCMP

Related: Something in the air: mysterious black belt of filth appears over Chinese city – SCMP

Related: Beijing Slams Henan Capital for Using Scarce Fresh Water to Combat Smog – ChinaFile

Related: China ‘should avoid rush job’ on cleaning up soil pollution – Chinadialogue

Mongolia’s Mega Coal Mine Deal Likely to Stall, Again – The Diplomat The Tavan Tolgoi coal mine in southern Mongolia is one of the world’s largest undeveloped coal deposits…Mongolia is being dug up and sold to China.

Related: China’s Energy Security Achilles Heel: Middle Eastern Oil – The Diplomat

Related: International Energy Agency’s new chief calls for China ‘partnership’ during first official trip – SCMP

Related: China helps Pakistan build world’s largest solar farm – The Third Pole

The ugly truth about Vietnam’s floating markets – Thanh Nien Daily While inhabitants of a market on the Mekong dump rubbish and relieve themselves in the waters, authorities still ponder what needs to be done.//Another example of a good thing growing too fast, lacking regulation, and ultimately facing prohibition. These markets would likely be labeled as “dirty, messy, substandard” in China and wiped from the waters despite important cultural and social networks created (not considering tourism dollars). Taxing and regulating the waters will be challenge for vein of market, traditionally known for avoiding state control.

Related: Pollution forces thousands of fish to surface for air on Saigon canal – Thanh Nien Daily

NCPO orders removal of fishing traps – The Nation FISHERMEN LAMENT LOSS OF TRADITIONAL LIVELIHOOD AS ALL EQUIPMENT REMOVED.

Related: Cambodian NGOs, Provincial Officials Applaud Interior Minister’s Warning Against Illegal Fishing – Radio Free Asia

Related: Rights body to hear SEZ land seizure concerns – The Nation

 

 

CHINA

China’s Response to Stock Plunge Rattles Traders – NYT In addition to imposing extraordinary restrictions on the sale of stocks, the authorities have harnessed a security apparatus usually more focused on political dissent.

Related: Global recession in next two years is ‘most likely’ scenario, says economist – The Guardian

Related: China’s Controversial Circuit Breaker Proposal – The Diplomat

Related: South Africa’s Inexplicable Love Affair with China – ChinaFile

Related: Modi asks billionaires if China’s pain can be India’s gain – Thanh Nien Daily 

China’s central bank governor says yuan has stabilised against the dollar – The Guardian Zhou Xiaochuan tells G20 meeting in Turkey the exchange rate ‘tends to be stable’ in the wake of the yuan’s devaluation and stock market chaos.

Related: London property developers eye Chinese buyers disillusioned with stock markets and devalued yuan – SCMP

Related: China’s Forex Follies – Project Syndicate

Overhaul of Chinese state-owned firms splits them into commercial and not-for-profit operations – SCMP Beijing has issued new guidelines for state-owned enterprises, splitting them into two main groups – those that are commercially orientated, and others that are focused on not-for-profit operations, sources said.

Iran’s Foreign Minister to Visit China – The Diplomat China and Iran will discuss their relationship under the “new circumstances” of the nuclear deal.

Related: China or Iran: Who Is the Bigger Threat to U.S. Airpower? – The Diplomat

Related: How China and India’s Noisy Nuclear Subs Contribute to Instability in Asia – The Diplomat

Related: Russia and China in the Arctic: Is the US Facing an Icebreaker Gap? – The Diplomat

China’s Military Cutbacks – NYT China announced that it would cut 300,000 troops, its largest reduction in nearly two decades.

Related: Foreign Investors and China’s Naval Buildup – The Diplomat

Related: Amnesty As a Stepping Stone to Rule of Law – ChinaFile

How Foreign Analysis of China’s Military Parade Missed the Point – The Diplomat Most outside analysis of China’s parade was surprisingly sensationalized, superficial, and over-interpreted.

Related: China, Egypt Consolidate Ties After Sisi’s Attendance at Military Parade – The Diplomat

Related: Remembering Yunnan’s Role in World War Two – GoKunming

Ex-chairman of state-owned China Resources to face bribery, embezzlement, adultery charges – SCMP Song Lin’s expulsion from Communist Party paves way for former head of conglomerate with five Hong Kong listed subsidiaries to be charged, China’s graft watchdog says.

Related: Two Chinese state firm officials face bribery charges in Kenya – SCMP

Related: China’s anti-graft watchdog again warns against dark side of the mooncakes – The Guardian

China Vows to ‘Intensify’ Fight Against Tibetan Separatists – The Diplomat Plus, new railways, military reform, and China in Southeast Asia.

Related: China marks 50th anniversary of Tibetan government with huge rally in Lhasa – SCMP

Related: Two More Tibetans Are Detained Following Solo Protests in Ngaba – Radio Free Asia

Related: I’m with the banned: China blocks Bon Jovi gigs – The Guardian

Will China’s growing box office dominance change Hollywood forever? – The Guardian China will overtake North America within three years to become the world’s largest film audience – which is great news for fans of Transformers and endless Terminator sequels.

Related: China accused of fraud over patriotic epic which shot down Terminator – The Guardian 

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

In Myanmar, a Soft Coup Ahead of an Election – NYT The army is manipulating the political scene again to ensure that it remains in charge, election or not.

Related: Myanmar’s Suu Kyi calls for free and fair elections as campaign starts – SCMP

Related: Election 2015: Soe Thein spends big in campaign bid – DVB

KIA, govt troops clash as peace talks proceed – DVB Burmese government forces have clashed with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in northern Burma, as President Thein Sein meets with leaders of the five major ethnic armed groups (EAOs) in Naypyidaw today to negotiate and finalise a date for the signing of a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.

ADB, Myanmar Sign Framework Agreement to Expand Trade Finance – ADB The Government of Myanmar and ADB signed a framework agreement today that will allow ADB to expand its Trade Finance Program into Myanmar.

Related: GMS Ministers to Meet in Myanmar on Infrastructure Development – ADB

DNA on weapon does not match men accused of killing British tourists in Thailand – The Guardian Forensic expert says DNA found on bloodied garden hoe does not belong to two men standing trial for deaths of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller.

Related: Thailand frees UK academic Wyn Ellis – The Guardian

Related: British academic detained at Bangkok airport for four days – The Guardian

Thailand’s Military Junta Rejects Draft Constitution – NYT Thailand’s military junta extended its rule by at least seven months when its reform council voted against a constitution written by its own drafting committee.

Related: Curiouser and curiouser – The Economist: Asia

Related: How to Save the Thai Economy – NYT

Related: ‘Don’t oppose me’: Thai Junta leader warns critics will be prosecuted – SCMP

Related: No peace soon in Thailand’s Deep South – New Mandala

Peter Dutton holds ‘productive’ talks in Cambodia over refugee resettlement – The Guardian Immigration minister’s visit comes after Cambodian government official said there were ‘no plans’ for the country to accept any more refugees from Nauru.

Related: Cambodia’s Montagnard Problem – The Diplomat

Related: Australian refugee deal with Cambodia dealt another blow after Rohingya man requests to go home – SCMP

Related: For China, Migrant Crisis Is Someone Else’s Fault, and Responsibility – NYT

Related: Police smash people-smuggling ring which brought more than 200 illegal Vietnamese workers to Hong Kong – SCMP

Cambodia’s Hun Sen Orders Arrest of Map Detractors Amid Vietnam Border Dispute – Radio Free Asia Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday ordered police to arrest anyone who accuses the government of using “fake” maps and ceding national territory amid an ongoing political dispute over the demarcation of the Southeast Asian nation’s border with neighboring Vietnam.

The Challenge of Sustaining Asia’s Progress – ADB The launch of the SDGs later this month and the possibility of a global climate change deal by the end of the year will be two crucial pieces in the framework needed to drive continued economic success in Asia, says Independent Evaluation.

Related: Urbanization and Migration in Developing Asia – The Diplomat

Related: Asean bid to draw tourists from India – The Jakarta Post

Related: Proposed Lao Curbs on NGOs Seen as Choking Development Projects – Radio Free Asia

Singapore votes in snap election as opposition seeks end of one-party dominance – SCMP Singaporeans began casting their votes today in a snap parliamentary election after a heated campaign that boosted opposition hopes of further eroding half a century of dominance by the ruling party.

Related: What to Expect From the Next Government in Singapore – Asia Unbound

Related: Malay Pride Rally Stokes Race Politics in Malaysia – The Diplomat

This week’s new digest was compiled by Julia Zielinski with comments by Brian Eyler.

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