Regional Roundup for Week of 1.25.19

EXSE FOCUS

Can solar diplomacy green the Belt and Road? – ChinaDialogue The experiences of government agencies, research institutions, and investors form a valuable toolbox that should be exported to rapidly developing BRI countries where a transition to renewable energy is pressingly required. The WRI report found that 31 Belt and Road countries needed about US$235 billion in investments to meet their emissions reduction commitments under the Paris Agreement. //by Stimson’s Brian Eyler

Belt and Road Initiative touted at WEF – Asia News Geopolitics cannot be divorced from China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, but the mega project will create plenty of economic opportunities and growth for countries, said panelists at a World Economic Forum discussion in Davos on Tuesday (Jan 22). // WEF panelists made sure to address critics by ensuring that China would not be funding vanity projects and emphasized the economic gains developing countries would make from the aid provided through BRI.  As 2019 progresses we will see if China has learned from its past mistakes regarding BRI and if the positive outlook the BRI received at the WEF was warranted.

Thailand to hold first general election since coup on March 24 – Reuters Thailand will hold a general election to restore civilian rule on March 24, the election commission said on Wednesday, announcing a new date for the often postponed vote, which will be the first since a 2014 military coup.//A potential end in sight: After several postponements and intense civil unrest the Thai government has avoided further protests as the election commission announces an official date for the upcoming general election.   However, given the continued uncertainty surrounding Thailand’s politics many are still questioning whether the election will actually happen or not.

Related: General election on March 24 – Bangkok Post

Laos dam collapse victims languish as supplies dry up – Phnom Penh Post Even six months after the collapse of the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy hydropower dam, which washed away numerous homes in southern Laos, the victims are still having to live in temporary shelters with no certainty about their future.//An underrepresented story of how livelihoods are impacted by the development of dams.  The dam collapse lead to widespread destruction and homelessness among the local population that is still experiencing the damages of the collapse six months later.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

More China Battle Tanks for Thailand? – The Diplomat Last week, reports surfaced that Thailand was planning a new order of Chinese battle tanks. While the reports were far from surprising given Bangkok’s long-held needs and existing collaboration between the two countries, they nonetheless once again put the spotlight on ongoing Sino-Thai defense cooperation, which has been on the uptick in recent years under the junta-led government.

Cambodian leader Hun Sen, in Beijing, says China pledges S$800m in aid – The Straits Times China has pledged four billion yuan (S$800 million) in aid to Cambodia from 2019 to 2021, Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Tuesday (Jan 22), highlighting strong ties between Beijing and Phnom Penh amid a European Union threat of trade sanctions.

Asean Must Make the EU a Strategic Partner – The Irrawaddy Asean foreign ministers are meeting with their EU counterparts in Brussels early this week to discuss bilateral relations. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini will co-chair the one-day meeting with Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan. Asean and the EU will discuss cooperation on climate change and strengthening the rules-based multilateral system, among other things.

More Cambodian trade centres planned in Chinese cities – The Khmer Times The Ministry of Commerce plans to expand its network of commerce centres in China to showcase Cambodia’s trade potential and lure new investors. Speaking at the Cambodia-China Business and Investment Promotion Forum in Beijing on Tuesday, Minister Pan Sorasak said the existing trade centres have successfully spur trade and investment between Cambodia and the world’s second-largest economy. ddf

China’s Six Belt and Road Projects in Myanmar to Watch in 2019 – The Irrawaddy The Myanmar government recently agreed to begin work on key projects under the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) agreement which is part of Chinese’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. Experts, including voices from the World Bank, have pointed out that Myanmar’s growth will largely depend on major BRI infrastructure projects that get underway this year.

Cambodia Faces Next Trade-Sanctions Move by the European Union – Cambodia Daily The European Union moved closer to imposing trade sanctions against Cambodia as a result of alleged human-rights violations in the country.

US lawmakers reintroduce legislation enforcing fair trade with China – The Economic Times Two US lawmakers – one each from the Republican and the Democratic party – on Wednesday reintroduced a legislation in the House of Representatives to safeguard American assets from Chinese influence and possession, as well as protect American businesses from China’s tools of economic aggression.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Drone zone: Smog battle takes to skies – The Bangkok Post Authorities are toying with the idea of using drones to combat haze caused by PM2.5 which has shrouded Bangkok and its surrounding provinces for over two weeks.

One endangered-species marine creature injured or killed by garbage in Thai waters every 68 hours – The Nation Over the past year, 129 marine animals from endangered species have been injured or killed by sea garbage in Thai waters, which means one has been tortured or died every 68 hours from ingesting our rubbish.

Cambodian startup lands $10k for smart recycling solution – Southeast Asia Globe The team of young entrepreneurs won the Toyota Impact Challenge for their startup that aims to promote recycling through smart technology. SmartBIN’s message of effective and eco-friendly waste solutions is a timely one, as Phnom Penh is facing a mounting problem of streets overflowing with trash and littered with garbage piles that are often left for days or even weeks at a time.

‘Empty Forest Syndrome’ Creeps into Northeastern Cambodia – Asia Sentinel The roar of the tiger has been replaced by the growl of the chain saw in Northeastern Cambodia’s Virachey National Park, along with the honking of great hornbills, which has been supplanted by the chirping of crickets. Once-majestic stands of old-growth forest are now vast fields of bamboo, which is actually just grass. This is what empty forest syndrome looks like.

Towards sustainable tourism in ASEAN – The ASEAN Post Southeast Asian tourism officials once again stressed the need for sustainable tourism as the region’s annual tourist arrivals grew by 7.6 percent in 2018.  Close to 129 million tourists visited ASEAN member states last year according to figures released during last week’s ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) in Vietnam. Except for Malaysia, all ASEAN member nations saw an increase in arrivals.

Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake: where fishermen have no fish and no hope – South China Morning Post The body of water, which relies on the Mekong reversing its flow to replenish supplies, provides most the country’s protein production. But overfishing and climate change threaten life on the lake

Dams still best way to manage water resources: govt agencies – The Nation Thailand clearly has faith in its traditional water-management system to cope with extreme weather brought on by climate change. However, environmentalists warn that instead of relieving the negative effects of climate change, dams and large-irrigation projects only cause further damage, as dams only intensify the already heavy pressure on the ecosystem. 

CHINA

China vows no leeway for underperformers in war on pollution – The Straits Times China will order detailed punishment measures for officials in regions that miss air quality targets this winter, refusing to accept unfavourable weather or mounting economic pressure as excuses, an environment ministry official said on Monday (Jan 21).

Related: Chinese officials warned they will face punishment if they do not meet air quality targets – The Straits Times

China warns US, Canada over extraditing Huawei CFO – The Straits Time China has warned the United States against proceeding with the extradition of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, threatening action if it does.  China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying issued the warning at a regular press briefing yesterday after news broke that Washington intended to file an extradition request for Ms Meng, who is currently under house arrest in Canada.

Related: China’s Huawei in Unprecedented Media Blitz as it Battles Heightened Scrutiny – The Irrawaddy

China’s Economy, by the Numbers, Is Worse Than It Looks – The New York Times China’s economy is slowing, and the slowdown is probably worse than Beijing says.  Official numbers released on Monday show an economy that is posting new, but manageable, lows. For the last three months of 2018, growth came in at 6.4 percent compared with a year earlier. That’s the slowest pace since a decade ago, when China was grappling with the global financial crisis.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative will add US$117 billion to global trade this year, a new study shows – South China Morning Post Merchandise trade between China and the countries targeted by its “Belt and Road Initiative” is predicted to grow by US$117 billion this year, according to new analysis. For China, this will mean US$56 billion in additional exports, while it will import an extra US$61 billion worth of goods from the 80 countries named in the Chinese government’s official manifesto, research from trade credit insurer Euler Hermes shows.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Embassy supports Vietnamese Cambodians in Tonle Sap Lake – Vietnam Plus While extending Tet greetings to the overseas Vietnamese living in the Tonle Sap Lake who are now temporarily relocated in Chong Kok village of Phsar Chhang district, Minh affirmed that the Party, State, Government and the Embassy of Vietnam will launch more activities in the coming time to help poor Vietnamese Cambodians to stabilise their lives, especially those on Tonle Sap Lake who are required to be relocated.

Southern Philippines Votes on Autonomy After Long Peace Effort – The Diplomat Muslims in the southern Philippines voted Monday in a referendum on a new autonomous region that seeks to end nearly half a century of unrest, in what their leaders are touting as the best alternative to a new wave of Islamic State (ISIS)-inspired militants.

Related: Philippines holds referendum for Muslim autonomy in troubled south – The Straits Times

Cambodia 3rd in Asean for tourist growth – The Khmer Times In 2018 Cambodia experienced the third largest increase in international tourists in Asean, behind only Vietnam and Indonesia, according to data recently released by the Ministry of Tourism.

How 5G can transform Southeast Asia – The ASEAN Post Southeast Asia is fast becoming one of the hubs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Over the past five years, the region has established itself as a leader in implementing the latest technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, cloud computing and fintech among others. However, for such technologies to truly reach their fullest potential, the current state of the internet, simply will not be enough.

Overflowing dam kills at least 30 in Indonesia – The Straits Times An overflowing dam has killed at least 30 people in Indonesia and forced thousands to flee their villages, the authorities said on Thursday (Jan 24). Twenty-five people are missing.

Vietnam makes safe-haven pitch amid US-China trade conflict – The Straits Times Vietnam is quietly positioning itself as a safe haven for manufacturers wary of getting caught in the crossfire of the tariff war between the US and China. With Vietnam having a raft of free trade agreements, relatively cheap labour and close proximity to China, Mr Phuc has a good story to tell the global executives he will meet in Davos.

This week’s digest was curated by Kathryn Hundley.

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