Regional Round-Up for Week of 8.16.19

EXSE FOCUS

A dam-building race threatens the Mekong RiverDW Low water levels from drought is exacerbated by Chinese dams holding back water. “Downstream countries should not have to ask China to release water to relieve drought,” Brian Eyler, Southeast Asia Program Director at the Washington-based Stimson Center, told DW.// The Mekong River is a lifeline to many communities in Southeast Asia. But an ongoing drought and dozens of hydroelectric power plants are lowering water levels and damaging a fragile ecosystem.

Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake Under ThreatAsia Sentinel
The Tonle Sap’s flood pulse is being monitored. “Traditionally the annual reversal of the Tonle Sap Lake happens in late July or early August, but with this year’s drought, the reversal will come late or perhaps not at all,” said Brian Eyler, the Energy, Water, Sustainability Program Director for the Washington, DC-based Stimson Center. // In July the Mekong River, the precious lifeline for four Southeast Asian countries and China’s Yunnan Province, fell to its lowest levels in 100 years, the victim of increasing climate change, agricultural runoff and a plethora of upstream dams that threaten its existence.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

ASEAN joins the Indo-Pacific conversationEast Asia Forum After months of deliberation and hesitation, ASEAN finally contributed to the discussion on the evolving Indo-Pacific concept. The ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) was officially released at the 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok at the end of June 2019.

A model city in Japan is helping Asian cities go greenUN Environment In the 1960s, officials measuring the levels of dissolved oxygen in the city of Kitakyushu’s Dokai Bay registered an alarming reading: the dissolved oxygen in the bay was near zero. There was virtually none.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Solar to make up 15 pct of local energy production by 2020Khmer Times About 15 percent of all energy produced in the Kingdom will come from solar panels by 2020, the government said yesterday.

Cash for trash: Indonesia village banks on waste recyclingStraits Times Indonesia’s crackdown on imported foreign waste has upset the village of Bangun, where residents say they earn more money sorting through piles of rubbish than growing rice in once-lush paddy fields.

Indonesia forest-clearing ban is made permanent, but labeled ‘propaganda’Mongabay Indonesia’s president has made permanent a temporary moratorium on forest-clearing permits for plantations and logging. It’s a policy the government says has proven effective in curtailing deforestation, but whose apparent gains have been criticized by environmental activists as mere “propaganda.”

CHINA

Philippines expresses concern over Chinese warships in its watersStraits Times The Philippine government on Thursday (Aug 15) expressed concern over the passage of Chinese warships in the country’s waters without prior coordination, saying it was not “an act of friendship”.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Cambodia garment exports at risk as EU wraps up tariff reviewNikkei Asian Review Business groups in Cambodia are warning that tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars worth of exports may be at risk as the European Union comes a step closer to deciding whether it will end preferential trade arrangement for the Southeast Asian country.

Tourism Arrivals In Philippines, Cambodia JumpInvestvine Tourism arrivals have been significantly rising in both the Philippines and Cambodia in the first half of the year, mainly owing to more visitors from China and a shift from traditional holiday countries such as Thailand, which currently suffers from stagnating numbers due to a strong baht, immigration bureaucracy and deteriorating services in the sector.

Cambodian Tycoon Kong Kroeng Detained Over Suspected Illegal Logging OperationRadio Free Asia Powerful business tycoon Kong Kroeng was detained on Thursday after being questioned by authorities in eastern Cambodia’s Kratie province over his alleged involvement in an illicit timber operation, according to the National Military Police.

Acting Cambodia Opposition Chief Sam Rainsy Walks Back Plan to Return From Exile Next MonthRadio Free Asia Acting opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) President Sam Rainsy has walked back plans to return to Cambodia from self-imposed exile by late next month, but said he plans to travel there before “the end of the year,” despite the threat of prison.

Indonesia accounts for almost 80% of hotspots detected in Asean in past monthStraits Times Nearly 80 per cent of hotspots detected in the Asean region over the past 29 days are located in Indonesia, figures from the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC) show.

Jokowi formally proposes moving Indonesia’s capital to BorneoNikkei Asian Review President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo formally proposed to parliament on Friday a plan to relocate Indonesia’s capital from Jakarta to Kalimantan on the island of Borneo.

Water levels at Johor plants fall as dry spell, heatwave continueStraits Times Water levels have fallen at several treatment plants in Johor because of the ongoing dry spell and high temperatures, an official said, adding that two plants in the Malaysian state were close to reaching their critical thresholds.

Myanmar Military Uses Threat of Prison to Stifle Criticism Ahead of ElectionsNew York Times More than two dozen Myanmar Army colonels have bypassed the battlefield to fight their adversaries in civilian courts, using criminal defamation cases to stifle criticism of the army’s authority ahead of parliamentary elections next year.

Myanmar landslide death toll hits 57Straits Times The death toll from a horrific landslide in southern Myanmar reached 57 on Monday (Aug 12) as rain continued to pound the region and submerge villages.

Thailand unveils $10bn stimulus package to ease trade war painNikkei Asian Review Thailand’s Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana on Friday unveiled an economic stimulus package totaling 316 billion baht ($10.2 billion) to support farmers, lower-income earners and ultimately the entire Thai economy.

Thai ruling coalition on shaky ground after party defectionNikkei Asian Review Thailand’s pro-military ruling coalition lost a minority partner Tuesday, putting the Prayuth government’s slim majority at risk less than a month after the cabinet was sworn in.

Southeast Asia poised for export boost from new US tariffsNikkei Asian Review Southeast Asia will likely enjoy a boost in exports from the new U.S. tariffs on China announced recently, with more companies diverting production and shipments through the region in order to avoid higher rates.

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