Regional Round-Up for Week of 8.30.19

EXSE FOCUS

A Conversation on the Mekong and a Changing Southeast AsiaThe Diplomat The region awaits for the Tonle Sap River’s annual reversal toward the Tonle Sap Lake which has been delayed.//While the Mekong River – one of the world’s longest and largest rivers – has long been in peril, its future has gotten more attention over the past few years both on its own terms as well as within the context of other geopolitical trends such as the development of mainland Southeast Asian states and the rise of China.

Related: When the river runs dry

Coal plant deemed too polluting for China heads to CambodiaChina Dialogue  Chinese companies and banks have pursued building and financing overseas coal power projects for the past two decades and continue to look abroad for new markets.// In the seaside hills of Ou Treh, Cambodia, Peng Mom led the way to her house along a train track – the only access to her village, which is surrounded by a thicket of palms and vines. Inside, soot coated her cooking pots and furniture.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

New Frigate Upgrade Deal Puts South Korea-Philippines Military Ties Into FocusThe Diplomat Last Friday, the Philippine defense ministry announced that a South Korean firm had won a contract to upgrade some of the Southeast Asian state’s vessels. While the development was only one aspect of the wider South Korea-Philippine defense relationship, it nonetheless highlighted ongoing efforts by both countries to boost their military ties.

Vietnam Seeks Australia’s Support on the South China SeaThe Diplomat Scott Morrison’s visit will mesh with Vietnam’s strategy of seeking assurances over its maritime disputes with China.

Myanmar to join US-Asean maritime drills despite sanctionsThe Straits Times Myanmar’s navy will join maritime drills with the US in South-east Asia next week, a spokesman said yesterday, in a rare show of military cooperation despite Washington slapping sanctions on the country’s top army brass over the Rohingya crisis.

Thai Firm To Build $1-Billion Smart City At The Outskirts Of YangonInvestvine Myanmar’s commercial hub of Yangon will be expanded by a newly constructed smart city in a northeastern district with the help of a Thai industrial estate developer.

Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia Join Forces To Develop Regional TourismInvestvine Tourism officials from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam are discussing a draft plan on tourism development in the triangle area covering 13 provinces of the three countries.

Southeast Asian startups gain global venture capital spotlightNikkei Asian Review Low-profile Southeast Asia has gained the attention of venture capitalists from other parts of the globe where trade fracases are slowing commerce. In the first seven months of this year, VCs collected $2.62 billion in commitments for the region’s unicorns and other promising startups.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Don’t dismiss regenerated forests as ‘green deserts’, scientists sayThe Straits Times Replanted forests and those left to recover after logging activities can preserve vital insect and plant life in a similar way to old-growth forests, scientists have found, as interest grows in expanding the world’s forests to curb climate change.

Thailand steps up efforts to cut ocean plastic waste and conserve endangered marine lifeThe Straits Times Thailand is stepping up efforts to curb ocean plastic waste and conserve endangered marine life, through a comprehensive programme named after well-loved baby dugong Mariam who died after consuming plastic.

Indonesia bans food labeled ‘palm oil-free,’ in move welcomed by industryMongabay The Indonesian government has banned food labeled as being “palm oil-free,” in its latest push to protect the commodity against a growing consumer backlash.

A remote Indonesian district juggles road building with nature conservationMongabay For nearly a week this summer, the residents of Ujoh Bilang in Indonesian Borneo’s East Kalimantan province were virtually disconnected from the rest of the world. Situated in the upper reaches of the Mahakam River, or Mahakam, the villagers rely on the river for transport downstream to the larger towns and the provincial capital, Samarinda.

CHINA

Ongoing Fighting Decimates Myanmar-China Border TradeIrrawaddy Myanmar’s border trade with China through the Muse border trade zone has virtually halted due to clashes in northern Shan State, causing huge losses to Myanmar producers and exporters, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

Duterte meets Xi to build bridges with China, says Philippine envoyThe Straits Times Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Thursday (Aug 29), their eighth meeting in three years in what Manila’s top envoy in Beijing described as a high-stakes meeting with the intent “to build bridges, not to burn”.

China fishing group apologises for Philippine boat sinking in South China SeaThe Straits Times China has admitted that its trawler was at fault in the sinking of a Philippine fishing boat at Recto Bank in the South China Sea in June, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced on Wednesday (Aug 28).

Vietnam seeks ‘peaceful’ solution to South China Sea tensionsNikkei Asian Review Vietnam will work with its Southeast Asian neighbors to seek a peaceful solution to tensions in the South China Sea, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc told reporters here Tuesday after a meeting with Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohamad.

Mine Runoff Adds to Controversy Over Chinese-Backed Nickel Mine in MyanmarRadio Free Asia The Chinese-backed operators of a controversial nickel mine embroiled in a longstanding dispute with villagers in northwestern Myanmar’s Sagaing region over accusations of shortchanging them for land now face allegations that waste byproducts from the metal-processing plant have contaminated local land and water resources.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

The Truth About Cambodia’s So-Called Corruption CrackdownThe Diplomat Over the past few weeks, we have seen some indications of calls for greater focus on anti-corruption in Cambodia.

Cambodia Says EU Rice Tariffs Hurting FarmersIrrawaddy Cambodia said on Thursday European Union tariffs on its rice had hurt half a million farmers with a sharp decline of exports to the bloc, as it reviews the Southeast Asian nation’s duty-free trading access over human rights concerns.

Indonesia’s Jokowi seeks to speed up development of four tourist destinationsThe Straits Times Indonesian President Joko Widodo is seeking to speed up the development of four priority tourist destinations across the country, as part of his administration’s efforts to boost the country’s tourism industry.

Indonesian capital move could prompt new environmental crisis in KalimantanThe Straits Times Abandoning Jakarta for a new capital in Borneo would not save the fast-sinking Indonesian megacity from disaster and could even spark a fresh environmental crisis in a region home to rainforests and endangered orangutans, critics have warned.

Indonesian police investigating palm oil companies over forest firesReuters Indonesian police are investigating three palm oil companies on suspicion of starting fires on Borneo island, where environmentalists say extensive deforestation has occurred to make way for plantations, a government ministry has said.

What’s in the Malaysia Palm Oil Defense Countertrade Chatter?-The Diplomat Earlier this week, Malaysia’s defense ministry again suggested that the country was looking at options with several countries where palm oil would be part of a barter system to buy military equipment.

Myanmar: Filmmaker Jailing Highlights Rising Rights ConcernsThe Diplomat The case comes amid growing worries about a deteriorating rights situation in the Southeast Asian country.

Bodies of 3 Myanmar Workers Killed in Mine Collapse FoundIrrawaddy The bodies of two coal miners killed in Sunday’s collapse of a coal mine in Magwe Region’s Minhla Township were recovered on Tuesday, and a third had been located.

Related: Four Trapped in Collapsed, Flooded Coal Mine in Central Myanmar

Vingroup leans on government and ride-hailer to boost auto salesNikkei Asian Review Vingroup, the ambitious Vietnamese conglomerate that recently added an automaker to its portfolio of companies, is giving the government a sales pitch while offering incentives to ride-hailing drivers looking to buy a new car.

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