Regional Round-up for Week of 5.24.19

Regional Round-up for Week of 5.24.19

EXSE FOCUS

Interview: China’s Mekong Dam-building Mindset ‘Exported Downstream’ to Cambodia and Laos-Radio Free Asia The Mekong River extends for thousands of miles through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, supporting more than 65 million people who depend on it for food, transportation, and commerce.//Upstream damming of the Mekong should be carefully considered as its repercussions affect livelihoods, the environment, and health. It is consequential on Cambodia’ fisheries and Cambodia and Vietnam’s agricultural productivity.   

A guide to renewable power in Cambodia-Southeast Asia Globe Cambodia has huge renewable energy potential in the form of hydropower, solar and wind. Hydropower is already an important part of the energy mix and attention is shifting towards other renewable energies, but many challenges lie ahead.//Cambodia must work through its regulations on feed-in tariffs and roof top solar panel restrictions. It should facilitate private sector investment in renewables as part of its strategy to meet Cambodia’s increasing energy demand.

Related: Bound by One Goal: Clean and Green Cambodia-Khmer Times

Saving our free-flowing rivers-Myanmar Times When it’s too late, we’ll realise the signs were obvious. We’ll look back at the staggering 83 percent decline in freshwater species populations – more than twice the rate of terrestrial and marine – and wonder why we didn’t act to safeguard the rivers and lakes in which these species thrive.//Damming of the world’s rivers for hydropower adversely impacts the environment and local downstream communities. By pursuing low-impact hydropower, solar, and wind energies, the demand for power can be met without wrecking unnecessary havoc on our ecosystems.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Cambodia, Thailand agree on priorities for their flood and drought joint project-MRC Mekong Officials from National Mekong Committees and line agencies of Cambodia and Thailand agreed on key priorities for floods and drought mitigation measures for a joint project on Flood and Drought Management for Tonle Sap sub-basin (9C/9T) between Cambodia and Thailand.

Related: Joint efforts for the sustainable development of the Mekong River-MRC Mekong

Myanmar’s Rohingya Appeal to EU to Curtail Trade With Military-linked Businesses-Radio Free Asia The leaders of Rohingya and Myanmar Muslim groups have urged the European Union to take action on a call by a U.N. rights investigator to sanction businesses linked to the country’s powerful military, which continues to come under fire for a brutal crackdown on the minority group in 2017.

Thailand’s Tourism Could Benefit From US-China Trade Spat, Officials Say-Investvine Thailand’s tourism sector is expected to get a windfall from the ongoing China-US trade war as tourists from the mainland shorten their long-haul journeys to visit closer destinations instead.

Japanese food and drink container makers bet on Southeast Asia-Nikkei Asian Review Japanese companies are stepping up their business in Southeast Asia to cash in on the region’s growth. This time they are pouring investment into food and beverage containers.

US and Japan rethink supply chains as trade war widens-Nikkei Asian Review U.S. and Japanese companies are scrambling to overhaul their supply chains that include Chinese production in order to deal with the escalating trade war between Washington and Beijing as both announce more tariffs on each other’s goods.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Timber Company in Cambodia Continues to Collect Wood From Protected Forest Areas-Radio Free Asia A timber company in Cambodia is ignoring environmental protection laws by transporting felled trees by night from protected forests in the country, activists said on Monday.

Illegal plastic recycling factories booming in Penang-Strait Times The Penang authorities believe there are about 400 plastic recycling factories in Seberang Perai alone, but the number of illegal operators may easily outnumber these legal outfits.

Indonesia calls on palm oil industry, obscured by secrecy, to remain opaque-Mongabay Environmental activists in Indonesia have denounced a recent call by the government to keep data about oil palm plantations out of the public’s reach.

Vietnam salt farmers battered by imports, climate change-Strait Times  The salt farmers of Hon Khoi rise before dawn as they have for generations, fanning out across shallow seawater pools in southern Vietnam to harvest the precious mineral, hoping for a better season than the last.

CHINA

Chinese Casino in Cambodia Ignores Shutdown Orders from Local Government-Radio Free Asia A Chinese-backed casino in Cambodia’s southwestern city of Sihanoukville is still in business despite calls from the city to cease operations.

Malaysia Demands Belt and Road Transparency-Asia Sentinel Mahathir Mohamad came out of retirement, forged an alliance with a former deputy turned political foe, emerged triumphant in the May 2018 general election and took the oath of office as prime minister at age 93.

Gov’t Set to Ban Leasing of Land to Foreign Melon Growers-Irrawaddy The Union government will prohibit landowners from leasing out lands for melon cultivation to foreign individuals or groups as of the next growing season, according to Sagaing Region Minister for Agriculture Kam Za Mon.

Foreign Countries Behind Myitsone Dam Opposition: Chinese Ambassador-Irrawaddy Opposition to the controversial Chinese-backed Myitsone Dam was politically victimized by “some forces backed by foreign countries” in an effort to derail Myanmar’s democratic reform process and hinder China-Myanmar relations, the outgoing Chinese ambassador to Myanmar said.

Five Chinese Arrested for Trespassing, Illegal Immigration in Kachin-Irrawaddy Five Chinese employees were among 10 arrested on counts of trespassing in a protected area and illegal migration during a crackdown on controversial Chinese tissue-culture banana plantations in Kachin State on Sunday.

Philippines prefers China loans over US ‘strategic confusion’ in South China Sea-Bloomberg The US is projecting “strategic confusion” in the South China Sea, the Philippines’ top diplomat said, prompting the South-east Asian nation to deepen its ties with China.

Duterte’s China pivot transforms Philippines’ oldest conglomerate-Nikkei Asian Review Ayala connects with rising tech superpower for digital offensive.

Thai Foreign Affairs Minister Confirms China Will Halt Mekong Rapids Blasting-International Rivers Mr. Niwat Roykaew, founder of the Rak Chiang Khong Group in northern Thailand, has shared a letter he received on behalf of the Network of Thai People in Eight Mekong Provinces from Mr. Don Pramudwinai, the Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs, that confirms media reports in March of China’s agreement to halt the Mekong ‘rapids blasting’ project.

Southeast Asia Struggles with Trash Rejected by China-Radio Free Asia Southeast Asian nations are facing increased dumping of waste from industrialized nations, with Malaysia and the Philippines threatening to send back trash to countries of origin.

US-China trade war adds to headaches faced by palm oil industryStrait Times When palm oil prices a decade ago were around twice what they are now, Ms Darsini and her husband wanted a piece of the action.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Cambodia Cracking Down on Noodle Dinners Attended by Opposition Supporters-Radio Free Asia Authorities in Cambodia are cracking down on noodle dinners attended by supporters of the banned opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), in what analysts and rights groups say signals political paranoia on the part of Prime Minister and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).

Police in Myanmar Raid Village, Arrest Residents For Protest Against Cement Plant-Radio Free Asia Police on Tuesday raided a village in central Myanmar’s Mandalay region and arrested 13 residents along with a reporter for allegedly participating in a protest that turned violent against the Chinese operators of a coal-powered cement factory, a community resident said.

Indonesian troops flood Jakarta streets after post-election riots-Reuters Tens of thousands of Indonesian military and police were deployed on the streets of Jakarta on Thursday (May 23), as a deadline approached for a presidential challenger to file an appeal over claims of widespread cheating in last month’s election.

Indonesian opposition set to challenge election result in court-Channel News Asia Defeated Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto is set to lodge a challenge to the result of the Apr 17 election in the Constitutional Court on Friday (May 24) after complaining that the vote was rigged.

Canada Agrees to Take Back Trash Sent to Philippines Years Ago-New York Times The Canadian government said on Wednesday that it would take back tons of garbage sent to the Philippines several years ago, after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered that it be returned immediately.

Related: Philippine President Duterte loses patience, orders trash shipped back to Canada-Reuters

Thailand restores veneer of democracy as assembly reconvenes-Nikkei Asian Review Thailand convened its National Assembly for the first regular session in five years on Friday, signaling an end to military rule even though post-election maneuvering has likely cleared the way for junta leader and incumbent Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to return to power.

Thailand’s Economy On Weaker Note In 2019-Investvine The Thai economy is likely to stay below the 3.5-per cent growth benchmark projected earlier for the first quarter of 2019 because of the global economic slowdown that weakened exports and ailing domestic consumption.

Minister to push for two more Mekong bridgesBangkok Post  The Transport Ministry will push for a 4-billion-baht investment in two new bridges over the Mekong River linking Thailand with Laos.

Call for tourist limit on Koh Lan to solve garbage issue-The Nation An independent environmental health expert has called for the number of visitors to Koh Lan in Chon Buri to be less than 5,000 per day to tackle the overwhelming garbage problem.

Vietnam seizes 5.26 tonnes of pangolin scales hidden in cashew containers-Reuters  Vietnam has seized more than five metric tonnes of pangolin scales hidden in cashew nut containers shipped from Nigeria, the government said on Friday (May 24), in South-east Asia’s latest large-scale wildlife trafficking case.

Vietnam to Mobilize Military in Fight Against African Swine Fever-Reuters Vietnam said it will mobilize its military and police forces to help combat the outbreak of African swine fever that has already resulted in the culling of about 4 percent of the country’s pig herd.

Vietnam Intensifies Crackdown on Online Dissent: Amnesty Report-Reuters Vietnam has stepped up its imprisonment of political activists, Amnesty International said in a report on Monday, intensifying a crackdown that has seen the number of prisoners of conscience increase by almost a third since last year.

This week’s news digest was curated by Anvy Tran.

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