Regional Round-Up for Week of 02.28.2020

Weekly Round-up for Week of 2.28.2020 

EXSE FOCUS 

Laos Plans to Build Sixth Large-Scale Mekong River Mainstream Dam – Radio Free Asia A Thai hydropower company has plans to build what would be Laos’ sixth large-scale Mekong river dam, the latest cog in Laos’ ambitious plan to become the “battery of Southeast Asia.” // Developers have yet to provide a compelling case for dams in Laos; three major dams scheduled for construction have yet to break groundOfficials must release transparent data to convince stakeholders or pivot away from these risky projects entirely. 

Thailand nixed China’s Mekong River blasting project. Will others push back? – South China Morning Post China has had a setback in its infrastructure building along the Mekong River after Thailand cancelled a project on the vital Southeast Asian waterway. But observers say that without more coordination between the downstream countries, China’s influence in the region will continue to go unchallenged.  

Vietnam puts the Mekong’s fate on ASEAN’s agenda – Nikkei Asian Review In a nod to green diplomacy, Vietnam is raising the geopolitical stakes over the Mekong River, Southeast Asia’s largest body of water, which has dropped to record lows due to a severe drought and construction of large dams. // ASEAN has done work on building resilience to drought in Southeast Asia, but with Vietnam bringing the Mekong into focus, regional actors can cooperate on what can be done now to politically intervene on the exploitation of hydropower by upriver countries. 

REGIONAL RELATIONS 

KNU Rejects Myanmar General’s Appeal to ‘See the Big Picture’ – The Irrawaddy The Karen National Union (KNU) has rejected a comment by a Myanmar military general at a press conference Saturday that the KNU should have an open mind regarding the military’s expansion of an old road in Karen State. 

Kachin State Approves Chinese-Backed Business Park in Border Town – The Irrawaddy The Kachin State parliament approved a proposal on Thursday to implement a Chinese-backed business park project in the border town of Kanpiketi, a part of Beijing’s grand infrastructure plans for its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). 

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT 

Past and future tropical dams devastating to fish the world over: Study – Mongabay Hydropower dams are rising on rivers throughout the tropics, their energy promoted as vital to development, or hyped under the banner of renewable energy. But old dams have been having, and new dams are likely to have, disastrous impacts on river fish. 

Survey Find Decade-High Numbers of Irrawaddy Dolphins – The Irrawaddy The number of the endangered Irrawaddy dolphins found in Myanmar this year has increased to 79, the highest in a decade, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society of Myanmar (WCS).  

How Mekong communities stay afloat on eco-tourism – Khmer Times The Mekong river stretches 190 kilometers in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces. The stretch is home to local communities who have teamed up with their provincial neighbors to create dolphin pool eco-tourism communities. 

CHINA 

China, Southeast Asia Set Aside Mistrust to Fight Deadly Virus – Voice of America China and 10 Southeast Asian countries are linking up to fight a deadly coronavirus outbreak that’s threatening tourism and trade ties. 

Hong Kong Hands Out Billions to Police Force in Wake of Protests – Radio Free Asia Hong Kong’s government on Wednesday announced a huge financial boost to the city’s police force, which has faced widespread criticism for violence against protesters and abuse of power in recent months. 

SOUTHEAST ASIA 

Exports up for first time in 6 months – The Bangkok Post Exports rose for the first time in six months in January, largely driven by shipments of oil and gold. The Commerce Ministry reported on Monday that customs-cleared exports rose 3.35% year-on-year in January, fetching US$19.62 billion, with imports dropping 7.86% to $21.18 billion, generating a trade deficit of $1.55 billion. 

Myanmar to Upgrade Urban Infrastructure in State Capitals, Border Town – The Irrawaddy The Myanmar government is planning to upgrade basic infrastructure and enhance urban management of three major cities in Mon and Karen states that lie along Japan’s planned East-West Economic Corridor for the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) 

Coronavirus: Samsung may be hit by Vietnam supply chain disruptions – The Straits Times Vietnam’s manufacturing sector is suffering supply chain problems caused by the coronavirus epidemic, which may delay production of Samsung Electronics’ new phones, the Ministry of Industry and Trade has said. 

Myanmar Launches Online “Project Bank” for Development Projects – The Irrawaddy The Myanmar government has launched a centralized, publicly-accessible online platform to provide information on major investment projects that fall under the country’s sustainable development plans. // This online platform can potentially serve as a model for the rest of the countries in the Mekong region to not only better manage their development projects but also help identify potentially detrimental projects to local communities.  

This week’s weekly round-up was curated by Daniel Kim and Marc Jaffee, Stimson Center Southeast Asia Program Interns 

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