Regional Round-up for Week of 10.04.19

EXSE FOCUS

Jokowi wants Indonesia to be more than a raw material giant The Straits Times Indonesia is far from done in its campaign to squeeze more value from its abundant natural resources, and its next target could be one of the most ubiquitous commodities of all. // Indonesia has plans to domestically process palm oil for value-added products such as soaps, cosmetics, and even palm biodiesel which would lower their dependence on petroleum. However, the increased domestic consumption along with global export may cause an overall increase in palm oil production and the clearing of forests for plantations. 

Can Southeast Asia Ditch Coal? The Diplomat The world’s dirtiest fossil fuel is in decline from the United States to western Europe. But in Southeast Asia coal has found one of its final frontiers: last year it was the only region where coal’s share of power generation grew. Yet the growing urgency of the climate crisis and increasingly affordable renewable power could help catalyze a regional shift away from the fuel towards cleaner energy. // As the industries and economies of Southeast Asian countries continue to grow, energy is crucial. The growing investments towards renewable energy sources such as the recent ADB-funded floating PV in Vietnam will help but renewable energy must remember to stay clean especially with the increase of hydropower dams that have negative impacts on the environment. 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

New air link seen to boost N-E India-Asean ties The Straits Times An inaugural flight between Bangkok and Guwahati, capital of the Indian state of Assam, has boosted hopes in India’s north-eastern states for greater people-to-people links with South-east Asia.

Shoes and Clothes Made in Vietnam? Try Phones and PCs Voice of America  LG Electronics said this year it would cut smartphone production at home in South Korea and move it to Vietnam, according to Korean news reports. Meanwhile in Vietnam, the domestic conglomerate Vingroup is hawking its four Vsmart phone models to a growing domestic middle class, sending what the Vietnam Investment Review calls “ripples” through the market. // Trade war afflicted market conditions as well as the rising cost of labor in China cause many manufacturing industries to consider relocating to Southeast Asia, especially Vietnam and Thailand. With the move of LG and with Samsung closing phone production in China to relocate to Vietnam as well as two Korean banks moving to Myanmar Moon’s New Southern Policy has more weight. 

Myanmar seeks to establish Myanmar-India-China economic corridor Myanmar Times As part of efforts to make Myanmar the doorway to ASEAN door, the government will try to establish a Myanmar-India-China economic corridor, says Yangon Region Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein.
Read more on Myanmar efforts in SEZ development here

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

China and Vietnam need sustainable coffee farming China Dialogue In a street renovated for Buon Ma Thuot’s seventh biennial coffee festival, tourists sat in cafes watching children sing and dance in the traditional dress of the Ede people. 

Indonesia accuses two Singaporeans over imported plastic waste Channel News Asia Indonesia is accusing two Singaporeans of importing 87 containers of plastic scrap without the correct permits, an official said on Thursday (Oct 3), marking a step up in the country’s efforts to crack down on shipments of foreign waste.
Read more on regional trash import bans here.


CHINA 

Beijing Preps 10-Story Oil Drilling Platform for South China Sea despite Wary Vietnam Voice of America China has developed a giant new offshore oil exploration platform for possible use in disputed tracts of sea, a move that would anger Vietnam and extend years of energy-related disputes between the two Asian neighbors.

Myanmar Protesters Force Sagaing Govt to Block Chinese Copper Mine The Irrawaddy Sagaing Region’s government says it has scrapped permission for a Chinese company to do studies for a new mine after a series of protests by residents.

China Inflates Shale Gas Forecast as Risks Mount Radio Free Asia China’s government appears to be counting on inflated forecasts of domestic natural gas production as concerns about the country’s import dependence grow.

China-Backed Power Plant a Bane for Myanmar Villagers Radio Free Asia Local residents also say runoff from the Shan state plant is polluting local water supplies, and gas emissions are polluting the air. 

Provincial Official in Laos Wants to Cancel Concession for Chinese Coal Company Radio Free Asia Officials for the local government in Laos’ Houaphanh province say they want to cancel the survey contract of a Chinese coal company after learning that its operations in the province have caused hardship for villagers who have yet to see any compensation.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Thailand PM considers moving capital as Bangkok congestion takes toll The Guardian Thailand could be the next nation in south-east Asia to relocate its capital after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha hinted such a move could be a “possibility” under his government. Read more on the current air pollution conditions in Bangkok here

Vietnam is a battleground – for commerce and investment | Opinion Commercial Appeal Vietnam today has risen dramatically in importance, for reasons having to do with commerce rather than communism. According to a new survey by “US News and World Report,” the nation is now eighth in a competitive ranking of 29 economies.

Villagers in Laos Resist 50-year Land Concession to Thai Developer Radio Free Asia Residents of seven villages in Laos’ Luang Namtha province are resisting a 7,000-hectare land concession granted to a Thai company that would force them to relocate.

Southeast Asia must find the right balance in ride-hailing regulation Nikkei Asian Review Emerging technologies are transforming our economies in profound ways. However, regulating these quickly evolving business models and services can pose a challenge for governments.

Malaysia granted request to extend decision on JB-Singapore rail link The Straits Times The deadline for Malaysia to decide on the RM4 billion (S$1.3 billion) Rapid Transit System (RTS) project to link Johor Baru and Singapore has been extended by one more month.

Tuas mega port will allow Singapore to ‘rethink the future of shipping’, says PM Lee Channel News Asia The future Tuas mega port presents Singapore with an opportunity to “rethink the future of shipping”, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday (Oct 3).

Thousands in Indonesia Protest Bills to Limit Rights and Ban Extramarital Sex The New York Times Thousands of protesters gathered outside of Parliament and in cities across Indonesia on Monday urging the president, Joko Widodo, to halt legislation aimed at crippling anti-corruption efforts and sharply reducing personal freedom.

Regional Round-Up compiled by Jean Joo and Alex Lee

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