Regional Round-up for Week of 6.28.19

EXSE FOCUS

INTERVIEW: LAST DAYS OF THE MIGHTY MEKONG AUTHOR BRIAN EYLER – GoKunming For many years, when the GoKunming editorial staff has needed a better understanding of Yunnan’s relationship with Southeast Asia or how the region deals with water issues, we’ve spoken to Brian Eyler. // Upstream dam development at the Mekong has shown negative impacts for the Mekong’s mightiness and local communities. Policy coordination among ministries, governments and beyond region -including development partners like China, U.S., Australia, Japan & EU- is really necessary. For sustainable development, the region and world’s policymakers should learn how the situation of the Mekong and other great rivers are similar, and different as well.

Southeast Asia’s plastic waste problem – East Asia Forum 75% of globally exported waste ends up in Asia. But since July 2017 — when China began to ban imports of plastic waste — Southeast Asia in particular has become a dumping ground for wealthier countries’ waste. After China’s ban, the amount of plastic waste imported to countries like the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia more than doubled. // Despite of the increasing public awareness against plastic waste, many countries have not yet satisfactory regulated the plastic waste management. Especially, U.S., the world’s biggest plastic waste exporter, is not a member country of the Basel Convention; a treaty against global movement of hazardous waste. Reducing plastic waste itself and banning export to other countries, both are urgently required.

REGIONAL RELATIONS – ASEAN Summit

Asean agrees on common vision for Indo-Pacific region – The Straits Times Asean leaders announced a collective vision for the Indo-Pacific region yesterday in an attempt to reclaim the geopolitical narrative amid the strategic rivalry between China and the United States.

Related: Sights set on Indo-Pacific – Bangkok Post

Assessing ASEAN’s New Indo-Pacific Outlook – The Diplomat A look at the regional grouping’s first articulation of its response to the Indo-Pacific concept, and the outlook for its future development.

Asean leaders emphasise economic strength in face of US-China tensions – Bangkok Post Southeast Asian leaders agreed on Sunday to work together on regional economy and security to strengthen their positions amid growing US-China tensions, as they wrapped up the summit.

Asean leaders back Thai push for RCEP deal – Bangkok Post Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have vowed to try to conclude the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) this year, deputy government spokesman Werachon Sukondhapatipak said on Saturday.

Southeast Asia to Launch Joint Bid to Host 2034 World Cup: Thai PM – The Irrawaddy Southeast Asian countries will jointly bid to host the World Cup in 2034, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Sunday, after meetings between the region’s leaders in Bangkok.

PM urges modernisation push for region to stay competitive – Bangkok Post Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand must embrace innovation or else risk losing their competitive edge, Thai Prime Minister, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha on Monday told a sub-regional economic forum.

ASEAN Makes Little Progress on Security Issues, Analysts Say – Radio Free Asia Analysts say the 34th ASEAN summit this weekend made little progress on two key security issues facing the region: Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea and stalled repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar who are languishing in Bangladesh.

REGIONAL RELATIONS- G-20 and others

5 things to watch for at G-20 summit in Osaka – The Straits Times Here are five things to watch out for during the leaders’ pow-wow, and the series of bilateral meetings taking place on the sidelines of the summit.

Can the Osaka G20 summit resuscitate the rules-based trading system? – East Asia Forum Economists are fretting over the trade turmoil that currently roils the world economy. Worst case scenarios are now front and centre, including the prospect of a WTO minus one (the United States or China), or perhaps even the world minus the WTO.

Related: Japan PM Abe calls for strong G-20 message on free trade – The Straits Times

Chinese president Xi Jinping’s G-20 trip to further bolster global consensus on upholding open economy – The Straits Times President Xi Jinping’s upcoming trip to Japan for the Group of 20 Summit will reinforce international consensus on upholding multilateralism and an open economy, amid rising protectionism that looms large over the global economy, observers said.

Trade negotiators hold talks ahead of Xi-Trump meeting: Chinese state media – The Straits Times Top Chinese and US trade negotiators have held telephone talks ahead of a crunch meeting between presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump at the G-20 summit this week, Chinese state media said on Tuesday (June 25).

Related: Chinese state media keeps up criticism of US ahead of Xi-Trump meeting in Osaka – The Straits Times

South East Asia is natural test bed for revamped Belt and Road – Nikkei Asia Review Region can benefit as China tackles transparency concerns and opens program to wider participation

G-20 members at odds over climate change for summit meeting: Sources – The Straits Times Group of 20 negotiators are wrangling over the wording of a summit communique on combating climate change, with the United States pushing to downgrade the language against European opposition, according to sources and drafts of the text.

US urges Cambodia to probe China-owned economic zone for tariff dodgingThe Straits Times The United States on Friday (June 28) urged Cambodia to investigate a Chinese-owned special economic zone after uncovering efforts by firms operating there to evade duties on products destined for export to the US.

SUSTAINABILITY & RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Southeast Asian countries pledge to tackle marine plastic waste crisis – Mongabay  Some of the countries most responsible for the plastic waste that ends up in the oceans have pledged to tackle the problem together, but activists say they’re focusing on the wrong end of the production chain.

Related: Asean still a long way from tackling problem of plastic waste in oceans, but good start made: PM Lee – The Straits Times

Southeast Asia’s trash, Japan Inc.’s power-generating treasure – Nikkei Asia Review Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia are emerging as fertile markets for waste-to-power plants, and Japan hopes to use its expertise in the field to capitalize on the opportunity.

Myitsone Dam Safe, Chinese Company Assures Kachin Lawmakers – The Irrawaddy The Chinese state-owned company behind the controversial Myitsone hydropower project in Kachin State last week tried to assure state lawmakers that the suspended mega dam on Myanmar’s lifeline Irrawaddy River would not collapse despite its proximity to one of the country’s biggest seismic fault lines.

Myanmar’s First Solar Power Plant Joins National Grid – The Irrawaddy An opening ceremony Thursday marked the completion of the first phase of electricity generation from Myanmar’s first solar power plant, which has been added to the national grid to supplement the country’s power needs.

CHINA

China’s Gas Supplies Shadowed by Stalled Pipeline – Radio Free Asia After years of false starts and unexplained delays, China is still counting on completion of a new Central Asian gas pipeline by 2022 to meet its air quality goals.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Smoking at home to soon become a punishable offence in Thailand – The Straits Times People in Thailand will no longer be allowed to smoke at home if their habit has a negative effect on other family members due to exposure to second-hand smoke, once a new law comes into effect from Aug 20.

Vietnam shivers as China’s steel capacity glut returns – Nikkei Asia Review The U.S.-China trade war is stoking fears of another steel glut, which has Vietnam’s largest steelmaker thinking about putting plans for a third blast furnace on hold.

Malaysia Seeks To Recover $5 Billion In 1MDB Assets – Investvine Malaysia is looking to recover about $5 billion worth of foreign assets linked to scandal-ridden state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) set up in 2009 by then prime minister Najib Razak.

15 Dead in Collapse of ‘Illegal’ Chinese-owned Building in Cambodia’s Sihanoukville – Radio Free Asia At least 15 people were killed and 24 were injured when an under-construction building collapsed on Saturday in the Cambodian coastal town of Sihanoukville, officials and state media said, describing the building as an “illegal” structure for which four Chinese and Cambodians were arrested.

Related: Cambodia charges Chinese nationals over deadly building collapse – The Straits Times

Related: At Least Five Illegal Projects Uncovered in Cambodia’s Sihanoukville Following Fatal Building Collapse – Radio Free Asia

ADB President Meets with Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and Discusses Operations in Myanmar– Asian Development Bank Myanmar State Counselor Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi met with ADB President Mr. Takehiko Nakao today on the sidelines of the ASEAN Leaders’ Summit. They discussed ADB’s continued engagement with Myanmar.

Malaysia PM Will Not Serve More Than 3 Years – Says He “Underestimated” The Challenges – Investvine Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who will count 94 years of age on July 10, said that he will step down within three years of his term of office and hand over the reins to Anwar Ibrahim — his protege-turned-rival before the two reconciled again to win last year’s general elections.

Train service to Cambodian border to start July 1 – Bangkok Post The new daily train service between Bangkok and Ban Klong Luk border station in Sa Kaeo province will start running on July 1, the State Railway of Thailand announced.

13 awards given to research, innovation science projects – Bangkok Post The Thailand Science and Research Innovation (TSRI) on Wednesday gave awards to 13 research and innovation projects, among them a shirt that can tell a person’s health condition from body smell, and a computer 3-D model that can help restore historic sites.

Govt Has Duty to Solve This: Kayah Farmers – The Irrawaddy At a press conference in Loikaw on Wednesday, farmers in Kayah State appealed to the Union government for help solving ongoing land disputes between them and the Myanmar army.

Indonesia court upholds Jokowi win, rejects Prabowo challenge – The Straits Times Indonesia’s Constitutional Court yesterday ruled to uphold the results of the April 17 presidential election that handed President Joko Widodo a second term at the helm of the world’s third-largest democracy.

Two Years Later, 60 Families in Laos Still Waiting for Compensation for Dam Collapse – Radio Free Asia Sixty families in Laos who were affected by the collapse of a small hydroelectric dam two years ago may finally learn when they can expect cash compensation now that a central-government-backed investigation into the damages is complete.

BUSINESS & INVESTMENT

Thai Billionaire To Build Country’s First Own Electric Cars – Investvine Energy Absolute, Thailand’s second-largest electricity generating company by market capitalisation owned by Thai billionaire Somphote Ahunai, plans to start mass production of the country’s first homegrown electric vehicles for use in urban transport.

Thai tourism still wounded – Bangkok Post Next week will mark the one-year anniversary of the fatal tour boat accident in Phuket, and Thai tourism is still paying the price from the incident.

Southeast Asian unicorns’ appetite for acquisitions grows – Nikkei Asian Review Go-Jek, Grab and Tokopedia are driving exits of regional startups

Measures to curb hot money ahead – Bangkok Post The Bank of Thailand is set to implement measures to curb hot-money inflows after the baht recently rallied to a more than six-year high.

Foreign Developer Proposes 7,000-Acre Project in Sittwe – The Irrawaddy Foreign developer Gold Coast KTMG Myanmar has proposed a US$38 billion “new city” project in the suburbs of Sittwe, Rakhine State’s capital.

Japanese Firm to Help Build Industrial Zone for Agricultural Goods in Yangon – The Irrawaddy A Japanese company will develop an industrial zone in Yangon focusing on the production of value-added agricultural goods.

Cross-border exports up slightly – Bangkok Post The total value of border-trade exports rose 0.31% year-on-year to 321 billion baht while corresponding imports rose 4.94% to 256 billion baht in the first five months of this year, for a 65-billion-baht trade surplus.

Austria’s Lenzing Goes Ahead With To Build World’s Largest Lyocell Fiber Plant In Thailand – Investvine Austrian industry group Lenzing AG, which makes cellulose fibers used in textiles, is now going ahead with the construction of a lyocell fibers plant in Prachinburi, Thailand, with a capacity of 100,000 tonnes at an investment of around €400 million.

This week’s news digest was curated by Hiroshi Yasui.

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