Regional Round-up for Week of 6.7.19

EXSE FOCUS

No need to dam free-flowing rivers to meet world’s climate and energy targets – Mongabay In a comment article published in the Nature last month, scientists argue that an “energy future in which both people and rivers thrive” is possible with better planning. // Energy future around precious free-flowing rivers like the Mekong should be planned among a broader strategy for clean energy transition. In order to ensure a more sustainable future, the social & environmental benefits from the renewable energy revolution should be maximized and paired with strategically selected hydropower projects.

ASEAN faces key challenge: Go green or choke on air pollution, says US energy specialist – The Straits Times Increasingly foul air from rapidly growing cities and industry could force South-east Asian nations to speed up the switch to cleaner sources of energy and to meet UN climate goals, says a leading energy specialist. // As a consequence of an economic development & urbanization, air pollution has been repeated in the world’s history. Now, it’s the Southeast Asian turn. Whether Southeast Asia can avoid this historical stumble depends on learning from other cities’ example such as Beijing of 10 years ago, utilizing the region’s plenty of natural gas resources as a transitional energy source to low/zero carbon, and investing in technological innovation on renewable energy.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

BoI targets relocations from China, Japan  – Bangkok Post The Board of Investment (BoI) has been ordered to establish special task forces to rev up investment from Japan and China, which are expected to relocate their production bases to other countries like Thailand. According to Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, high-tech industries like IT and electronics are likely to move out of China amid the heightened trade row between that country and the US.

Assessing the US Indo-Pacific Strategy Report: Current Opportunities and Future Uncertainties –The Diplomat While the much-anticipated report is a notable development for US Asia policy and offers much promise, there remain uncertainties about how rhetoric will translate into reality.

China’s Southeast Asian neighbors mixed on Huawei for 5G networks amid security concerns – Radia Free Asia China’s Southeast Asian neighbors have expressed mixed interest in offers by telecom giant Huawei to roll out mobile wireless 5G networks and other products in their countries, amid concerns over the firm’s links to Beijing and how its technology could compromise national security.

Renewed partnership with Murray-Darling Basin Authority will prepare Mekong for current and future challenges – Mekong River Commission for Sustainable Development Mekong basin-wide planning, environmental monitoring, flood and drought management, climate change adaption, and stakeholder engagement are some of the key areas to benefit from a renewed partnership between the Mekong River Commission (MRC) and Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) of Australia.

Mike Pompeo to visit Bangkok, commit to South-east Asia: Official – The Straits Times Mr Pompeo will travel to the Thai capital for the July 29-Aug 3 ministerial meeting of the Asean bloc and will lead talks on the Lower Mekong Initiative, said Mr Mark Clark, a US official in charge of the region.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Fish outta water: Reservoir giants killed by Thailand’s drought – Coconuts Bangkok A graphic video showing dozens of gigantic catfish carcasses being pulled out of a dried-out reservoir then lugged away from its muddy banks does not bode well for Thailand’s climate situation.

Local options key to FDI – Bangkok Post Thailand is moving ahead with plans to overhaul its infrastructure to build up transport networks and improve logistic efficiency across the country.

Better water resources management can address water security challenges in Vietnam – Modern Diplomacy Ensuring future water security in Vietnam will depend on meeting a host of critical challenges including emerging water stress, fast deterioration of water quality, and rising water-related disaster risks, resulting in a must to implement solutions to improve water productivity.

UN agencies urge stronger efforts to stop illegal fishing – Bangkok Post Major United Nations agencies are urging major fishing nations to join efforts to fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing as an activist warns that Thai vessels are being registered overseas to bypass the kingdom’s tough new laws.

Bloomberg downbeat on ASEAN EVs – Bangkok Post Prices not yet affordable as region still develops.

Plastic reduction efforts ‘a success’ – Bangkok Post Thailand’s Pollution Control Department (PCD) says the first year of the country’s effort to reduce plastic waste has been successful and has received cooperation from the business sector. 

Twice as many fishing vessels now, but it’s harder to catch fish – Mongabay The global fishing fleet has more than doubled from about 1.7 million boats harvesting fish in 1950 to 3.7 million fishing vessels in 2015. The growing fishing fleet is, however, catching less seafood for the same effort.

CHINA

China has whole towns focused entirely on making electric cars – The Straits Times Pieces of an electric car hang from the ceiling of a Chinese real-estate developer’s showroom, evoking an edgy installation at a modern art museum. In reality, they’re a symbol of the nation’s industrial ambitions.

US must bear sole and entire responsibility for talks setback: China – The Straits Times China has pinned the blame of the worsening trade war squarely on the United States, saying that it should bear “sole and entire responsibility” for the talks going south.

No longer just a trade war: The China and US fight starts to spread –The Straits Times The souring of ties between Washington and Beijing – already abundantly evident in the brewing trade war – today spilled over to the issue of the Tiananmen protests in 1989.

Related: China warns tourists, companies about risks in US – The Straits Times

China’s polluted land sold off – Chinadialogue Inadequate soil checks by local governments are allowing contaminated land to hit the market, risking public health.

IMF lowers China growth estimate because of trade tensions – The Straits Times The IMF lowered its forecast for China’s economic growth this year to 6.2 per cent from 6.3 per cent on Wednesday (June 5), just two months after upgrading it, warning that “uncertainty around trade tensions remains high and risks are tilted to the downside”.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Cambodia’s outlawed opposition seeks support via noodle gatherings – The Straits Times Cambodia’s outlawed opposition party is aiming to reinvigorate grassroots support by having local party members continue to meet over noodles nationwide this week as a means of “passive resistance” to the government, an exiled party leader said.

Strong headwind slows growth – Bangkok Post Major Thailand-based airlines have set modest goals for themselves by looking closer to home for a risk-limiting expansion, as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced a downgrade of its 2019 outlook for the global air transport industry and a decline on 2018 net post-tax profits.

Fitness boom in Cambodia and Vietnam attracts Japan Inc muscle – Nikkei Asian Review Bulging waistlines in Cambodia and Vietnam are luring Japanese companies looking to cash in on the growing demand for health-related products and services.

Australia, Malaysia to meet over rare earths on June 20 – The Straits Times Australian and Malaysian government officials are due to meet later this month, a state mining spokesman confirmed, and the plan for Lynas Corp’s controversial rare earth waste storage in the country is likely to be at the top of the agenda.

Myanmar manufacturing PMI records highest in over a year – Nikkei Asia Review Myanmar’s manufacturing sector registered solid improvement in growth during May with quicker expansions in output and new orders, as well as strong client demand.

Related: Vietnam manufacturing PMI shows continuous growth in May – Nikkei Asia Review

Survivors of Lao Dam Collapse Want to Grow Rice, Not Bananas on Compensatory Land – Radio Free Asia Survivors of Laos’ worst flooding in decades are at odds with the government after land they were promised in compensation was granted to a Chinese-backed firm to grow bananas.

Thai Parliaments elects Prayut as PM for a fresh term – The Straits Times Thailand’s new Parliament voted yesterday to give a fresh term to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, three months after landmark elections.

Related: Thai junta chief Prayut vows to ‘do his best’ as civilian PM – The Straits Times

Related:Economic Woes Face Thailand’s Junta Chief Turned Civilian PM – The Irrawaddy

Successes and Failures of the Yangon Govt’s Third Year in Office – The Irrawaddy Yangon Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein has touted the municipal elections, a revamped public bus system and upgraded public parks as the main accomplishments of his government in its third year of administration.

MRT line to Tha Phra planned on Mother’s Day – Bangkok Post Mother’s Day on Aug 12 this year has been picked for the official launch of the MRT extension service from Hua Lamphong to Tha Phra before expanding to the last station a month later. 

Energy Ministry has high hopes for solar scheme – Bangkok Post Thailand’s Energy Ministry expects the solar power project for household rooftops to achieve its projection of 15,000 participants by year-end thanks to the popularity of the trend globally and declining investment costs in the sector.

World Bank trims growth view to 3.5% (Thailand) – Bangkok Post The World Bank has cut its Thai economic growth forecast for 2019 to 3.5% and plans to review the economic outlook again after a new cabinet line-up is announced.

Related: Singapore GDP growth slows sharply, recession expected for 2020 – Investvine

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

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