Regional Round-up for Week of 7.26.19

EXSE FOCUS

Relief urged for looming water crisis – Bangkok Post Prime Minster Prayut Chan-o-cha will be asked to approve seven urgent measures to deal with the looming water scarcity in 20 northern and northeastern provinces. // Historical low-level of rainfall itself might be an extreme weather caused by man-made climate change. The test of Xayaburi dam in the upstream Mekong, which is now delayed by Lao government, is another man-made factor worsening the drought in the downstream Mekong.

Pompeo Visit Important for Region, Not Just Thailand – The Irrawaddy When US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo stops in Bangkok for a three-day visit at the end of this month, he will find that Washington’s good old ally Thailand is ready to tango. Relations will no longer be based on reaction and counter-reaction to a cycle of coups. // Secretary Pompeo’s visit to Southeast Asia is expected as reengaging the U.S. role in the Mekong region stronger than before. It should include viewpoints of U.S. contribution to improvement of local people’s livelihood and local ecosystem preservation, not just viewpoints of security cooperation and U.S. firms’ interest.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Cambodia denies deal to allow armed Chinese forces at its naval base – The Straits Times China will be able to place armed forces at a Cambodian naval base under a secret agreement the two nations have reached, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday (July 21), although Cambodian officials denied such a deal had been struck.

Related: Cambodian Opposition Chief Warns Against China’s Growing Dominance, Military Presence – Radio Free Asia

Vietnam demands ‘immediate withdrawal’ of China ship in disputed sea – The Straits Times Vietnam on Thursday (July 25) called for the “immediate withdrawal” of a Chinese ship in the South China Sea, as the stand-off over the disputed waters intensified.

JICA, VASS step up cooperation for Vietnam’s sustainable development – Vietnam Plus The Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences (VASS) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in Vietnam signed a cooperation deal on July 24 in Hanoi, looking to contribute to promoting sustainable development in Vietnam.

SUSTAINABILITY & RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

As global hunger grows, easy solutions disappear – The Third Pole One of the Sustainable Development Goals was to reduce Global Hunger to zero by 2030, but the latest UN report shows the world is going backwards and that goal may not be so easy to reach.

New initiative aims to jump-start stalled drive toward zero deforestation – Mongabay Over the past decade there has been a rise in corporate zero-deforestation commitments, but very few companies have shown progress in meeting their goals of reducing deforestation in their supply chains by 2020.

Plastic from Burlap? Bangladesh Invents a Green Throw-Away Bag – The Irrawaddy As countries around the world try to cut down on throw-away plastic shopping bags, Bangladesh is hoping to cash in on an alternative: plastic-like bags made from jute, the plant fiber used to produce burlap bags.

South Pacific islanders threatened by climate change and overfishing – China Dialogue Ocean Tony Yao used to fish in his outrigger canoe in the coastal waters off Tahiti in French Polynesia. But the decline in fish populations has forced his family to move in order to find less exploited fishing grounds.

CHINA

Caribbean countries turn to China’s Belt and Road – East Asia Forum China’s ability to connect Caribbean nations to the Maritime Silk Road is an important barometer of the Belt and Road Initiative’s (BRI) global applicability. In recent years, the United States has become an absent steward over the Caribbean. Aid is dwindling, ambassador posts remain empty, and a chorus of Caribbean leaders are showing a willingness to accept BRI funding as a way to meet badly needed infrastructure improvements.

Global Warming Reshapes Almanac for Tea Growers in China’s Yunnan – The Irrawaddy Que Liu and his wife Si En spend their mornings picking pu’er leaves in an ancient tea garden in a forest not far from their hillside village, one of many that dot the subtropical highlands of southwest China.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Is Vietnam swimming naked? – East Asia Forum Vietnam’s economy has benefitted from a redirection of FDI from China due to a combination of rising wages in China, a shrinking domestic labour force and trade tensions. With US$1.5 billion entering Vietnam every month, employment is full, poverty is declining and growth sits at a brisk 7 per cent.

Will Vietnam’s Trong loosen his grip on absolute power? – East Asia Forum The Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) is preparing for its 13th Congress scheduled to be held in early 2021. Surely it will elect someone else to take over from 75-year-old Nguyen Phu Trong as general secretary.

Diesel pollution prompts water cuts to consumers in Malaysia’s Klang Valley in second outage in days – The Straits Times A diesel pollutant detected in Sungai Selangor in the Malaysian state of Selangor forced the shutdown of four water treatment plants on Sunday (July 21), affecting consumers in the Klang Valley, one of the country’s most densely populated areas.

Exports dip for fourth straight month in June – Bangkok Post Thailand’s exports dropped for the fourth straight month in June, attributed to weak global demand because of the world’s economic slowdown, ongoing international trade tensions between the US and China, and lower oil prices.

Cambodia Launches Probe Into Chinese Firm That Imported 1,600 Tons of Plastic Waste to Sihanoukville – Radio Free Asia Authorities in Cambodia on Friday said they have launched an investigation into a Chinese firm found to have imported 1,600 tons of banned plastic waste into the coastal city of Sihanoukville, but environmental activists suggested that those conducting the probe are likely complicit in the crime.

Related: Cambodian Authorities Did Not Approve Importing of Banned Plastic Waste, Official Says – Radio Free Asia

Droughts in Cambodia Spell Doom for Farmers and Fishermen – Radio Free Asia An extended drought in Cambodia has caused the tributaries of Tonle Sap lake to dry up, spelling ruin for farmers and fishermen in Battambang province.

Survivors of deadly Laos dam collapse homeless a year on: Report – The Straits Times Thousands are languishing in displacement camps in Laos a year after a dam break unleashed flood waters and killed dozens of people in the impoverished state, a new report on the anniversary of the disaster said on Tuesday (July 23).

Related: Survivors of Dam Collapse in Laos to Receive Half Compensation on Anniversary of Disaster – Radio Free Asia

Related: New Report Pleads for Accountability on First Anniversary of Laos Dam Collapse – Radio Free Asia

At Least 7 Dead, Dozens Missing in Magwe Land Dispute – The Irrawaddy A land dispute between residents of two villages in Magwe Divison’s Yaynanchaung Township erupted into deadly violence on Tuesday, leaving at least seven people dead and 36 missing, according to police.

Low rainfall dries up rice exports – Bangkok Post Low rainfall, if it extends until August, will possibly lower rice exports to 8.5 million tonnes this year, the lowest volume in seven years, according to shippers.

IMF Recommends Thailand Fiscal Reform And Monetary Easing – Investvine In the wake of slowing GDP growth amid rising global trade tensions and the lack of internal stimulus, Thailand should adopt an expansionary policy mix, including fiscal reforms, monetary easing and measures to increase labour productivity in order to help turn things around, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in a statement on July 22.

Foreign Partners Poised to Aid Growth in Myanmar’s Life Insurance Sector – The Irrawaddy While joint-venture proposals from foreign insurance companies are being reviewed by the country’s insurance business regulatory board, some of Myanmar’s largest insurance companies are already building bridges to leverage foreign expertise for the growth of Myanmar’s nascent insurance industry.

Thai govt urged not to buy power from Laos dam – The Straits Times The Thai government must suspend plans to buy electricity from a dam in Laos, conservationists said on Friday (July 26), as water levels along the kingdom’s section of Mekong river plummet to near-record lows.

Missing Mekong waters rouse suspicions of China – The Straits Times By this time of year, the Mekong River should have been rising steadily with the monsoon rains, bringing fishermen a bounty of fat fish.

This week’s news digest was curated by Hiroshi Yasui

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