Regional Round-up for Week of 8.9.19

EXSE FOCUS

One Year After Laos Dam Disaster 10,000 Survivors Have Returned Home But Still Struggle to Rebuild-Radio Free Asia Villagers are still contending with the consequences of the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy dam collapse in Laos one year later. The disaster highlighted one of the risks that poor dam construction can impose on downstream communities.// One year after a dam collapse in Laos caused a major flooding disaster, 10,000 survivors have returned to their villages, but are still suffering hardship as they try to piece their homes and lives together.

Giant freshwater fishes are in alarming decline-Nature The Mekong River is home to the critically endangered Mekong giant catfish that has been at risk due to habitat loss and overfishing. The pattern of  freshwater megafauna numbers dwindling can be seen from all of the world’s rivers and lakes.//Freshwater megafish — giants weighing more than 30 kilograms that can live for decades — declined by more than 94% between 1970 and 2012, according to a recent study.

Myanmar floods force tens of thousands from homesStrait Times Extreme weather conditions from the monsoonal rains have caused flooding, landslides, and displaced thousands of people.// Raging floods across Myanmar have forced tens of thousands of people from their homes in recent weeks, officials said Thursday (Aug 8), as monsoon rains pummel the nation.

Related: Weather Concerns Halt Water Transit in Irrawaddy Region

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Indonesia’s Jokowi moots cooperation or merger of state oil companies with Malaysia-Strait Times The state oil companies of Malaysia and Indonesia could cooperate or even merge to expand their businesses together, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Friday (Aug 9) during a state visit to Kuala Lumpur.

Myanmar, Korea to Build Industrial Facility North of Yangon-Irrawaddy Myanmar’s Urban and Housing Development Department (UHDD) on Thursday signed a joint venture agreement with Korea Land and Housing Corporation to establish a joint industrial complex in Hlegu, north of the commercial capital Yangon.

Japanese Firms to Push Growth in Myanmar Insurance Market-Irrawaddy With Myanmar’s Ministry of Planning and Finance giving the green light to six joint ventures between local and foreign insurance companies at the end of July, Japanese insurance firms are poised to dominate the country’s insurance market.

Can a Japan–China rivalry drive high-speed rail sustainability?-East Asia Forum Seeking transparent, responsible and sustainable financing for quality infrastructure projects, the G20 leaders endorsed the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment at this year’s summit.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Australian leaders agree to ban exports of recyclable waste-Strait Times Australia has signalled its commitment to stop exporting recyclable waste, amid a pushback by regional neighbours, including Indonesia and Malaysia.

Land use and abuse in South-east Asia have implications for global climate change: Experts-Strait Times Between a garden salad and a slab of steak, which is the more environmentally-friendly option? The answer is the former.

Indonesian farmers need help to clear land with tractors, not with burning: President Jokowi-Strait Times Indonesian President Joko Widodo has called on all related parties, including provincial governors, to help farmers acquire equipment such as excavators and tractors to ensure they do not resort to the slash-and-burn method when clearing plantation land.

CHINA

Is Malaysia benefitting from the US–China trade war?-East Asia Forum It has been almost a year since the first round of US tariffs were imposed on US$34 billion worth of Chinese imports. 

Philippines to protest against Chinese ships’ presence amid troubled ties-Strait Times The Philippines will lodge a protest over the unannounced presence of two Chinese research vessels in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), one of at least three diplomatic challenges in recent weeks amid a souring of relations.

Related: Philippines’ Duterte plans China visit to discuss South China Sea ruling

Vietnam says Chinese ship has left its waters-Strait Times A Chinese survey ship embroiled in a tense month-long stand-off with Vietnamese vessels has left Vietnam’s continental shelf, the South-east Asian nation’s Foreign Ministry confirmed yesterday.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

‘Fake news’, the law and self-censorship in Southeast Asia-East Asia Forum In recent years, Southeast Asian governments have been actively enacting new laws governing the spread of online disinformation and misinformation, also known as ‘fake news’. What are their stated reasons for doing so? What are the new legislations’ potential consequences for freedom of expression in the region?

Related: Vietnamese Activists Cry Slander at Documentary Accusing them of Incitement

EU struggles to strike trade pacts with major ASEAN countries-Nikkei Asian Review After the European Union secured free trade agreements this year with Singapore and Vietnam, there is even greater incentive for other large Southeast Asian economies to speed up the pace of clinching their own trade pacts, but negotiations with the EU are certain to prove difficult.

Tiny Loans Lead to Bigger Debts, Land Losses in Cambodia-Reuters The rapid rise of tiny loans aimed at helping poor Cambodians has led to more debt, with many borrowers forced to sell land, migrate or put their children to work, human rights groups said on Wednesday.

Indonesia President Jokowi criticises state power company over blackouts– Strait Times Indonesian President Joko Widodo has chastised state-owned electricity company PLN for the massive blackout that hit Jakarta and its neighbouring provinces on Sunday (Aug 4).

Oil spill affects 13 villages, at least 7,800 people in West Java-Strait Times Oil spill affects 13 villages, at least 7,800 people in West Java.

Indonesia threatens tariff hike on EU dairy in trade spat-Strait Times Indonesia’s trade minister on Friday (Aug 9) threatened to impose higher tariffs on European Union dairy imports in response to the bloc’s proposed move to hit biodiesel made from palm oil with anti-subsidy duties.

Indonesia’s biggest party PDI-P re-elects Megawati, chairman of 20 years-Strait Times Indonesia’s biggest political party PDI-P has elected Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri as its chairman by acclamation, continuing her grip on power after 20 years at its helm.

Is Indonesia’s anti-corruption reform slipping?-East Asia Forum Until July 2019, Indonesia’s Anti-Corruption Commission (KPK or Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi) had not, since its establishment in 2003, lost any of the hundreds of cases it brought to full trial. This was a remarkable achievement in a country renowned for entrenched and widespread corruption at the highest levels.

Indonesia’s Jokowi says he’ll fire officials if they fail to tackle forest blazes
Strait Times With a surge in forest fires in Indonesia threatening a repeat of the deadly haze that blanketed much of Southeast Asia in 2015, President Joko Widodo said officials failing to tackle the menace will be fired.

Lao Protest Villagers Held Since 2017 Have Been Sentenced-Radio Free Asia Nine Lao villagers held for over two years for protesting the loss of land awarded by the government to a Vietnamese rubber company have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to six years, sources in the communist Southeast Asian state said.

Philippines ‘open’ to dengue vaccine as outbreak kills hundreds-Strait Times As hundreds die in a severe dengue outbreak in the Philippines, many of them children, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday (Aug 8) he was open to lifting his government’s blanket ban on the Dengvaxia vaccine.

Vietnam mulls importing US coal for power generation as it looks to narrow trade surplus-Strait Times Vietnam is considering importing coal from the United States to meet rising demand for fuel for power generation, state media reported on Tuesday (Aug 6), as the South-east Asian country plans to build more coal-fired power plants.

This week’s news digest was curated by Anvy Tran.

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