Regional Round Up for 3.7.2014

By far one of the biggest stories this week was the deadly knife attack that occurred the night of Saturday, March 1st at the Kunming train station. Starting with reports on Weixin and other social media sites Saturday evening, the violence has been covered extensively in both Western and Chinese media. Because of the significance of this event, East by Southeast has prepared a news digest focusing solely on the attack in addition to our regular regional round-up. The additional coverage can be found via this link.

All of us at East by Southeast express our sincere condolences to the families and friends of those directly impacted by the train station attack, as well as appreciation for the support we’ve received in the past week.

ExSE FOCUS

Blowing Away the Smog in Beijing, Politically Speaking | NYT — The annual sessions of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference are underway in Beijing, and both groups are regarded by many Chinese as not truly representative of the people.

Beijing Goes Quiet on Rise of Local Security Budgets | NYT — Saying the data “is still being collected,” the Chinese Finance Ministry has declined to release figures on local security spending, a major component of a domestic security apparatus that has grown bigger than the military.

Trafficking of Burma’s Rohingya Muslims shifts to Malaysia | Guardian — Human traffickers are holding hundreds of Rohingya Muslims captive in houses in northern Malaysia, beating them, depriving them of food, and demanding a ransom from their families, according to detailed accounts by the victims.

Burma allows Médecins Sans Frontières to resume work but not in Rakhine | Guardian — Médecins Sans Frontières has been allowed to resume work in parts of Burma, but not in the strife-torn state of Rakhine, the medical aid group says.

Asian Development Bank failing in mission to protect poor and vulnerable | Guardian — According to a 180-page report released late February on a project to repair Cambodia’s rail system, ADB is not, however, adhering to its own polices and procedure in these areas. The bank’s internal watchdog, the Compliance Review Panel (CRP), said management needed to undergo a “mind-shift” in the way it deals with vulnerable populations.

CHINA

Opening day | Economist — China has opened the annual full session of its parliament, the National People’s Congress, in Beijing. If the past is any guide, the proceedings will be tightly controlled and will not feature any dramatic legislative votes during the ten-day session.

Red Lights Dim in China’s Sin City | NYT — China is in the throes of the harshest anti-vice campaign in years, and the crackdown is taking a toll on the economy of Dongguan, a southern city of more than eight million people.

China Declares ‘War Against Pollution’ | NYT — Facing growing dissatisfaction from citizens about high pollution in China, the premier, Li Keqiang, declared in his work report Wednesday that the government he leads would “declare war” on pollution.

Chinese Workers at IBM Factory on Strike Amid Company Sale | NYT — More than 1,000 workers from a Shenzhen site being sold to Lenovo took to the streets in the latest sign of growing labor activism in China

China Announces 12.2% Increase in Military Budget | NYT — China announced that it was increasing its military budget for 2014 to almost $132 billion. The expansion is being closely watched by other nations in the region and by the United States.

Home Prices in China May Hurt Families | NYT — Chinese households have an overwhelming share of their assets in their homes, and any slump in prices could lead to widespread anger, findings say.

Kashgar Journal: China Remodels an Ancient Silk Road City, and an Ethnic Rift Widens | NYT — China has razed thousands of traditional homes as it modernizes Kashgar, and the results underscore the divide between the government and the Muslim ethnic minority, the Uighurs.

China Prioritizes Ukraine’s ‘Ethnic Groups’ Over Its ‘Territorial Integrity’ | Diplomat — China has stopped voicing support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, which could set a dangerous precedent.

Putin to Visit China In ‘Near Future’ | Diplomat — President Xi told Putin he is looking forward to his visit during a phone call discussing Ukraine.

Op-Docs: ‘Chinese, on the Inside’ | NYT — Catie and Kimberly were adopted from China by a couple from Maine, who attempt to pass on a culture they’ve never known firsthand. /With the departure of Ambassador Gary Locke and one commentator’s snide remark calling him a “banana”, this short documentary

The Gary Locke Effect: Does Race Matter for a US Ambassador? | Diplomat — Gary Locke, the first Chinese-American ambassador to Beijing, faced taunts and barbs because of his race.

REGION

Emerging, but No Longer a Mother Lode of Profits | NYT — Multinational corporations that crowed for years about their presence in booming emerging markets are now blaming turmoil in those regions for dents in their bottom lines.

Thai seafood industry censured over Burmese migrant’s trafficking ordeal  | Guardian — Thailand is the third-largest exporter of seafood in the world, sending nearly a billion euros (£8.2m) of fish to Europe and more than $1.5bn to the US each year. However, allegations of slavery and forced labour have dogged the sector in recent years.

China to Foreign Fishing Boats: ‘Get Out’ of South China Sea | Diplomat — Hainan’s Party Chief confirms that authorities are confronting foreign fishing vessels in the South China Sea.

Sri Lanka’s Growing Links with China | Diplomat — Trade, investment and a strategic Indian Ocean location bring the two countries closer together.

Take it to the bank | SEA Globe — Banking in Southeast Asia is a bipolar industry that reaches all manner of extremes – nearly 100% of Singaporeans over the age of 15 have a bank account, whereas less than 5% of Cambodians in the same age bracket do. Naturally, this has a lot to do with people’s incomes.

CAMBODIA

Cambodia: Challenges of Democratic Consolidation | Diplomat — Cambodia needs to press ahead with reforms to consolidate its young democracy.

Back to back, they face each other | SEA Globe — Both sides of Cambodia’s political divide need to address the concerns of voters and replace rhetoric with action

INDONESIA

‘Act of Killing’ Film Fails to Stir Indonesia | NYT — The film recounts in graphic detail the killings of an estimated 500,000 or more Indonesians during state-sponsored purges of suspected Communists and their sympathizers in 1965 and 1966.

Surabaya Journal: Pointing Fingers Over Heavy Death Toll at an Indonesian Zoo | NYT — The municipal zoo in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, where more than 100 animals have died since last summer, has drawn calls for its closing.

LAOS

Mekong mission: Impossible | SEA Globe — After last year’s fatal Lao Airlines crash, a hastily assembled local dive team was scrambled. Their story is a remarkable feat of human endurance and teamwork

MALAYSIA

Malaysia’s Anwar Convicted of Sodomy, Political Future in Doubt | Irrawaddy — A Malaysian court convicted opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim of sodomy and sentenced him to five years in prison on Friday, shattering his plan to take control of the country’s richest state and stoking political tension in the Southeast Asian nation following a divisive national election last year.

MYANMAR/BURMA

Rise in Bigotry Fuels Massacre Inside Myanmar | NYT — Violence against the Rohingya minority has presented a test for Myanmar’s leaders, who have done little to rein in the ethnic killings even as they pursue broad political and economic reforms.

Burmese villagers exiled from ancestral home as fate of dam remains unclear | Guardian — The Myitsone dam project lies unfinished in Kachin state, northern Burma, caught in a tug of war between the Burmese government and a powerful Chinese corporation. 12,000 Kachin villagers remain in exile as a political and military drama plays out over the fate of the dam.

Preserving Indian Heritage in Myanmar | Diplomat — Yangon was once a center for India’s independence struggle. Can the heritage be preserved?

PHILIPPINES

Filipino families destitute after typhoon Haiyan find shelter in jail | Guardian — When the typhoon came, it made short work of the prison. It ripped the roof off and dismantled some of the cells. You might have expected the prisoners to have made off into the night. But while several did take advantage of their newfound freedom, they did so only to find their destitute families and bring them back to the unusual refuge of the half-intact prison building.

Fashion designers in Philippines support communities with sustainable textiles | Guardian — While a new wave of Philippine designers use indigenous materials and social enterprise to support communities, textile innovation could also address consequences of Typhoon Haiyan

SINGAPORE

Singapore tops world’s most expensive cities list for 2014 | Guardian — Singapore kicks Tokyo from most expensive city in the world to sixth – and there are lots of other surprises

The state of the city | SEA Globe — Many of Singapore’s poorest citizens must suffer in silence due to the absence of an official poverty line and meagre government support

Sex and the Lion City | SEA Globe –Singapore, where prostitution is legal but paying for sex with a girl aged under 18 is against the law, has a thriving vice industry – despite its manicured image. According to the US’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2013, the island is a destination for women and girls coerced into the sex trade from countries including China, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam.

THAILAND

Thailand’s protests: Dismantling the barricades | Economist — AT LAST it looks as though the street protests designed to oust Thailand’s prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, are running out of steam. After more than four months of relentless sit-ins and government shutdowns, the leader of the insurrection, Suthep Thaugsuban, has dismantled most of his various protest sites around the capital, retreating to a single encampment in central Bangkok.

Shutting down the shutdown | Economist — Fifty-three days after anti-government protesters vowed to “shut down” the world’s most-visited city in a bid to “restart” Thailand, they have been forced to quit their programme. Or perhaps rather to “minimise” its window: from the city streets to a public park in Bangkok.

VIETNAM

Vietnamese blogger jailed for two years for ‘abusing democratic freedoms’ | Guardian — A Vietnamese blogger, Truong Duy Nhat, has been sentenced to two years in prison on a charge of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the interests of the state and on the legitimate rights and interests or organisations and citizens.”

Point of no return | SEA Globe — Young Vietnamese are flocking abroad to study, often leaving their homeland for good. With their acquired skills and knowledge the economy could reach new heights

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