Regional Roundup for Week of 9.29.2013

Apologies for all who were looking for a news digest over the weekend, a part of the ExSE team were traveling in southern Yunnan’s Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture. Brian and William were able to visit tea and rubber plantations in the area – look for posts concerning these industries in the coming weeks.

For those in China, ExSE wishes you a happy National Day! Most should have the week off to travel – feel free to send us pictures and reports of what you see, we always like to know what our readers are up to.

Lastly, we will (finally) be releasing ExSE 2.0 on 10/8. Look for a fully redesigned interface, better organization of topics and much more exciting content. All of us at ExSE are very excited about the new release, as I’m sure our readers are too. Once you’ve given it a good lookover, feel free to share your thoughts and opinions, we’re always looking for ways to improve.


Xi stresses CPC criticisms, self-criticisms – Xinhua | Xi Jinping, leader of the Communist Party of China (CPC), has urged leading officials to constantly relay criticisms and self-criticisms to improve capabilities to find and solve their own problems. “Criticisms and self-criticisms are forceful weapons to solve contradictions within the Party,” said Xi, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, while participating in sessions held between Sept. 23-25 as part of the ongoing “mass line” campaign. During the sessions, standing committee members of the Party Committee of north China’s Hebei Province examined their own conduct, laid out major problems, analyzed the causes and set down plans for rectification. “Our weapons for self-protection and disease treatment shall not be discarded,” Xi said.

Pursuing Graft Cases at Higher Levels, Chinese Leader Risks Unsettling Elites – “What’s going on can be called shaking the mountain to scare the tiger,” said Professor Ding, citing a Chinese expression meaning a show of strength to warn others. “It’s also about Xi consolidating control over the key parts of the system,” Professor Ding said. “It says to Zhou Yongkang, ‘We are in the process of collecting all the evidence of people close to you, and if you don’t keep yourself disciplined, we can do more.’ Others will also understand that warning.”

With Official’s Conviction, China Calls Attention to Its Crackdown on Corruption – Mr. Bo is likely to disappear from public life for decades, at least, ending a career in which he defied the staid ways of Chinese politics and reinvented himself as a populist defender of socialist virtues. China’s state-run news media portrayed the judgment as proof that the party leadership under Xi Jinping is determined to end the bribe-taking, graft and brazen self-enrichment that have fed widespread public disenchantment with officials. “The resolute legal punishment of Bo Xilai fully demonstrates that there are no exceptions before party discipline and state law,” said a commentary published Monday in the party’s main newspaper, People’s Daily. The commentary was repeated by many Chinese news Web sites. “No matter who is involved, they will all be investigated to the end and will all be sternly punished according to the law,” the commentary said.

Shamed former railways minister Liu Zhijun tried to bribe his way to power | South China Morning Post Liu had set his sights on being a state councillor or vice-premier, one rank higher than his ministerial position. The document gives a rare glimpse into rampant money-for-power deals on the mainland. It is the first time an official at such a senior level has confessed to trying to further his career through bribery. It also raises questions about who Liu tried to bribe, given that he was already a powerful politician and that only a handful of people could have helped him.

Translation: New Round of Reforms has Already Begun with PetroChina Corruption Crackdown | An Optimist’s Guide to China Below is my translation of an article by Qiu Feng, the head of research at the Unirule Institute of Economics. The article appeared in the Economic Observer (H/T Sinocism), and discusses how the recent corruption crackdown on PetroChina is really the first move in major economic reforms to come. Qiu gives a very harsh judgment on economic reforms under Hu-Wen (saying they stalled and then even regressed), but he seems optimistic about what Xi and Li will push at the 3rd Plenum and beyond.

What books do Chinese leaders read? | South China Morning Post A top 10 reading list published by the State Organs Work Committee of CPC Central Committee offers a rare glimpse into one of the intellectual pursuits of China’s ruling elite.. The books voted to the top 10 list were chosen from among 103 titles, mostly non-fiction, recommended to party leaders and high government officials by the State Organs Work Committee over the past five years, a Beijing News report revealed on Thursday.

Speedy Trains Transform China –  Just five years after China’s high-speed rail system opened, it is carrying nearly twice as many passengers each month as the country’s domestic airline industry. With traffic growing 28 percent a year for the last several years, China’s high-speed rail network will handle more passengers by early next year than the 54 million people a month who board domestic flights in the United States….A paper for the World Bank by three consultants this year found that Chinese cities connected to the high-speed rail network, as more than 100 are already, are likely to experience broad growth in worker productivity. The productivity gains occur when companies find themselves within a couple of hours’ train ride of tens of millions of potential customers, employees and rivals…

Measuring the Width of the Wealth Gap – Caixin The income gap found out by the CSER’s survey is also wider than NBS’ estimate, but compared with past data it shows signs of narrowing. The top 10 percent household income is 20.9 times that of the lowest 10 percent, compared with NBS’ 8.6 times. It is, however, lower than the institute’s 2007 survey of 26 times. The picture is different once rural household income is factored in. If we compare the average of top 20 percent urban income and bottom 20 percent of rural income, the gap is 67 times, larger than 2008’s 64.6 times.

China Prepares Big Bang Financial Reforms | Asia Confidential There’s little doubt that these are challenging times for China. The consensus seems to be that China should be ok in the short-term but its long-term growth trajectory is in jeopardy. I lean the other way, thinking the short-term pain is likely to be greater than expected given the popping of a credit bubble. However, structural reforms this year and beyond could put the country on a more sustainable economic footing, albeit at a lower economic growth level than today.

Private Banks Required to Endorse Themselves -Caijing So far, nearly 20 private companies and institutions have expressed their intention to enter the domestic banking industry since the State Council gave the nod to private banks about two months ago. But unlike their peer financial institutions, particularly state-owned banks that are implicitly endorsed by the government, private banks need to take full responsibility for all losses in case of business failure, stressed the chief administrative authority in in a document released July 5 meant to encourage private capital to enter the domestic financial sector.

China says only heavy punches will dent rising monopoly behavior | Reuters “Only heavy punches will work,” Xu Kunlin, head of the anti-monopoly bureau at the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said in a speech to a business forum in Beijing. “It’s easy to find evidence on many firms’ monopolistic behavior in China,” Xu said. “Some of it could be found on the Internet,” he added, noting the ease of discovery was the reason why investigations had been so successful this year.

Shanghai Free-Trade Zone Splits Analysts on Benefits to Economy – Bloomberg Eight of 17 respondents to a Bloomberg News survey said the so-called free trade zone will have no effect or a negligible impact on growth, while eight said it will boost annual expansion by 0.1 percentage point to 0.5 point over the next five years. One economist in the survey, conducted from Sept. 18 through yesterday, said growth would increase by 0.5 point to 0.9 point.

China gets 12.5 percent stake in Russia’s Uralkali | Reuters China, the world’s largest consumer of potash, has acquired a 12.5 percent stake in Russia’s Uralkali (URKA.MM), the world’s largest producer of the soil nutrient, via its sovereign wealth fund, Uralkali said on Tuesday.

China’s Coming War on Coal | Climate Denial Crock of the Week A primary denialist talking point is that any attempts by the US and Europe to address climate change are doomed to failure, because China and India will continue to build their economies on fossil fuels, and wipe out any gains that might be made. But reality intrudes. Any idea that China can blindly follow US development models is faulty.

China Says Consumers Need to Bear Some Costs of Tighter Fuel Standards – The National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic planning agency, said Monday that higher costs to improve nationwide fuel quality will be borne by both the refining industry and its consumers. It didn’t elaborate. “Currently, the situation of the atmospheric environment in China is grim,” the NDRC said on its website. Tiny particulate matter in the air has “harmed the health of the population and has had an impact on society and harmonious stability,” it said.

China’s Foreign Oil Dependence to Rise to 60Pct This Year: Former Energy Chief-Caijing China’s imports of crude oil this year is expected to hit 300 million tonnes, making the country’s foreign dependency rate at 60 percent, said Zhang Guobao, a former director of the National Energy Administration. Zhang, who is now director of the consulting panel of the National Energy Commission under the NEA, made the remark at the China-Arab States Expo last week.

China Gains New Friends in Its Quest for Energy – China’s urgent quest for energy is the main driver of its strategic interest in a region whose proximity allows huge reserves of oil and gas to be moved overland through Chinese-built pipelines rather than by ship through American-dominated sea lanes from the Middle East. In the long term, analysts say, China’s economic ties with Central Asia could liberate it from any concern that the United States could use its superior naval power to enforce a sea blockade, should relations ever deteriorate to the point of confrontation.

China, Venezuela agree stronger strategic partnership – Xinhua China and Venezuela on Sunday pledged to seek a stronger strategic partnership. The pledge came out of the talks between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro at the Great Hall of the People on Sunday. Xi gave a red-carpet welcome ceremony to Maduro, who is paying his first state visit to China from Saturday to Tuesday.

Russia, China go head-to-head with development of North Korean port – AJW by The Asahi Shimbun Competition between Russia and China is heating up as the two countries independently work to develop neighboring sections of a North Korean port. A joint venture between Russia and North Korea celebrated the completion of repair work to a 54-kilometer railway line linking the Russian coastal district of Khasan with Rajin port in North Korea’s northeastern special economic zone of Rason on Sept. 22…Meanwhile, only a few hundred meters from the site of Russia’s development work, a Chinese company based in Jilin province is exploiting the port’s No. 1 wharf, having acquired use rights for 10 years. The Chinese firm has already finished installing warehouses and other facilities to unload coal from vessels.

Chinese Firm Wins Big Turkish Air-Defense Deal | Defense News | In a multibillion-dollar deal, Turkey agreed Thursday to buy a Chinese-made long-range air- and missile-defense system — a move that could prevent the system from being integrated with Turkey’s existing NATO architecture. A contract valued at a reported $3 billion was awarded to the China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corp. CPMEIC, maker of the HQ-9 long-range air-defense and anti-missile system.

A Top Developer’s Recipe for Controlling China’s Housing Prices: Rule of Law and Moral Values – China Real Time Report – WSJ “People will always rely on home ownership as a safety net unless they see rule of law, a society with strong moral values and authorities that inspire confidence and govern effectively,” said Feng Lun, chairman of Beijing-based property developer Vantone Holdings. Unless these three factors are present, renting can be a risky proposition. If China had stronger rule of law there would be more protection for tenants, he said in an interview in Beijing, adding that the property market needs more transparency.

419 million year-old ‘missing link’ discovered in Yunnan|Go Kunming  It sometimes appears the fossil cornucopia buried beneath Yunnan may be inexhaustible. In a paper published recently by the journal Nature, paleontologists working in the province describe what they believe is a missing evolutionary link explaining the origin of something we all take for granted — faces. The fossil in question is that of a 419 million year-old fish that lived during the Silurian period. Previously unknown to paleontologists, the fish has been given the name Entelognathus primordialis by researchers who unearthed it near Qujing in eastern Yunnan.

Government undertaking aims to flush Dianchi clean| Go Kunming  For years the waters of Dianchi Lake have been fouled by a thick and seemingly intractable algae caused by all manner of pollutants. Several expensive attempts have been made to rectify the situation — ranging from the introduction of an invasive plant species to pumping the lake full of ozone. Earlier this week another financially ambitious effort to save Dianchi went into operation.

China Policy Institute Blog » Crisis in the KMT  Two weeks ago President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan decided to drop a giant rock into the torpid waters of the island’s late-summer political scene when he had his party, the Kuomintang (KMT), remove the KMT Speaker of the legislature, Wang Jin-pyng. This triggered a political crisis that is still rolling waves across the island two weeks later.

New U.S. envoy to Hong Kong vows to push for democracy | Reuters The new U.S. envoy to Hong Kong insisted on Tuesday that Washington would not be silenced by China in calling for democracy in the global financial hub, vowing to continue speaking out for core rights and freedoms. U.S. Consul-General Clifford Hart’s first public speech in the former British colony came amid rising political and diplomatic tensions that have included formal warnings from China that Western nations must not meddle in the city’s politics.



Philippines-US drill raises concern|Politics| China urged regional countries not to act recklessly with the support of parties outside the region, referring to recent joint exercises between the United States and the Philippines near the South China Sea. “Peace, stability and prosperity are desired by people in the region and need to be maintained by all relevant parties,” Ministry of National Defense spokesman Geng Yansheng said on Thursday at a monthly news conference.

Growth Forecast Is Trimmed for Developing Nations in Asia|NYT  The Asian Development Bank said the nations would struggle to maintain high growth as the two largest regional economies, China and India, slowed down.

The Courtship of ASEAN|ASEAN Beat  ASEAN has become the site for proxy power competition. For instance, galvanized by its East China Sea disputes with China, Japan has been busy generating support and political goodwill in Southeast Asia. For example, on a stopover in the Philippines (which has its own maritime issues with China), Tokyo sought to reenergize ties by way of maritime support, increasing economic exchange, an extension of a credit loan and, most notably, the provision of 10 petrol vessels to the Philippines Coast Guard in what is, surely, a pointed message for Beijing.

India and the Rise of the Indo-Pacific| The Diplomat  The Indo-Pacific ranges from East Africa, across the Indian Ocean, to the western and central Pacific, including Japan and Australia. Within this vast area, cooperation between countries and systems of alliances form, such as cooperation between the U.S., Japan and Australia, countering trends such as China’s assertive behavior in the South China Sea and its growing presence in the Indian Ocean. This is not to pit one group against another, but rather to point out that there is a subtle heterogeneity involved in emerging Indo-Pacific relations.

After the Millennium Development Goals: Asia’s Post-2015 Development Agenda| ADB  Asia and the Pacific have made good progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), though greater effort is needed to meet some important targets.

Climate Resilient Rice: More Crops per Drop|ADB  New rice varieties are being developed and water-saving cultivation technologies promoted to help feed Asia’s growing populations.

China and Southeast Asia: Take Three| Asia Unbound  Over the past decade, China’s foreign policy toward Southeast Asia has evolved from the positive refrain of “peaceful rise,” “win-win cooperation,” “rising tide lifts all boats” of the mid-2000s to the more bullying “China is a big country and other countries are small countries and that is just a fact” mantra that emerged by the end of the new century’s first decade. Now, newly selected President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang appear to be trying to marry the two, selling China as a positive economic force within the region, while continuing to play hardball on the security front.

The Futility of Obama’s Southeast Asia Trip?| Asia Unbound  Later this week, President Obama will embark on a six-day trip to Southeast Asia, visiting Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei, to attend the East Asia Summit, the annual ASEAN leaders summit, and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting, along with a global entrepreneurs’ meeting in Malaysia. It might seem surprising that the president would leave the United States at such a critical time in federal budget negotiations, but these are the biggest leaders’ meetings in Asia, and since 2009, the White House has committed to increasing the presence of the president and other top Cabinet officials in Asia.

Obama’s Bold Trade Plan Faces Resistance on Asia Trip| The Irrawaddy Obama, who touts the deal by saying that 5,000 US jobs are created for each extra $1 billion in exports, will have a rare chance to push other leaders personally for breakthroughs at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Indonesia, followed by an East Asia Summit in Brunei, and a visit to Malaysia. But the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), by seeking unprecedented access to domestic markets, is proving highly sensitive in developing countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam, whose political systems could be shaken by intrusions in areas such as government procurement and state-owned enterprises.

Floods Kill 23 in Thailand, 30 in Cambodia, as More Storms Loom| The Irrawaddy  Thai authorities said Tuesday that floods have killed more than 20 people and affected areas across the country over the past two weeks, though experts say there is little risk of a repeat of the devastation that occurred during record floods two years ago. Thirty-two out of 77 provinces have experienced flooding since mid-September and 23 people have been killed, the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department said in a report, adding that 25 provinces still have flooding. It said more than 2.8 million people were affected by the floodwaters and 15,254 had been evacuated from their homes. Deputy Prime Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi said Thailand was not at risk from the remnants of Tropical Storm Wutip, which reached the northeast on Tuesday. However, he said the country should be ready for other storms.



Sugar Industry Highlights Conflicts Over Trade Pacts and Land|NYT For Cambodia and other poor nations, trade agreements that foster exports can also encourage land grabs by wealthy, politically connected families.

Cambodia: Chut Wutty’s legacy creates an opportunity for land justice|The Guardian  Cambodia, there is talk of change. Not just from Hun Sen, the prime minister, who has promised reforms after his party suffered a significant blow in recent elections, but from environmental activists and campaigners, who say there has never before been such an opportunity to lobby a government that has long ruled with an iron fist.



World Briefing | Asia: Indonesia: Australian Leader Aims to Halt Flow of Asylum Seekers|NYT Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia pledged Monday to work with Indonesia to stop the flow of people
traveling by boat to Australia to seek asylum.

Fighting yesterday’s battles| Banyan Tree It is not hard to see why Mr Prabowo, a son-in-law to Suharto, Indonesia’s 20th-century strongman, is one of the leading candidates to succeed Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose final term as president ends next year. Mr Prabowo is an articulate and entertaining speaker. His attacks on established political leaders (the elite, as he likes to call them) for not having the “guts” to confront things like corruption resonate with voters who are fed up with Mr Yudhoyono’s weak leadership.



Laos in space| Banyan Tree Based on this data the scientists are able to make their estimates of economic activity in Laos at the district level. So far their technique appears to work extremely well at spotting the impact of foreign cash from space. The districts with the fastest-growing rate of non-agricultural activity in the period between 2003 and 2010 are: Vilaboury, the location of the country’s largest gold-and-copper mine (with an annual rate of 23%); Pakkading, home to Laos’s largest hydroelectric project (at 22%); Xayboury, the conduit for trade from Vietnam on the Thai-Laotian border (21%); and Ton Pheung, which a Chinese-backed casino plans to make into a “Macau on the Mekong” (it’s no Macau yet, but paddling away at rate of 20%). Their attention to agricultural economic activity has produced results that are no less intriguing. For example, the scientists estimate that four out the seven districts in the province of Oudomxay, which borders China’s Yunnan province, have among the fastest-growing rural economies in the country.



Malaysian PM Najib Razak Warns of the Battle for Islam|ASEAN Beat  “Our religion,” he said, “is being twisted by extremists who are deploying false arguments to foster division and justify violence. Across the Islamic world, extremists are wrapping their perverse agenda in religious cloth; tearing families, countries and the Ummah apart.” Malaysia tries to portray itself as a moderate Islamic country but often bows to hard-line Muslim clerics demanding bans on Western performers and even on the use of Islamic words by non-Muslims. Muslims were banned from Black Eyed Peas concert because it was sponsored by Guinness – an alcoholic brewer.

Keeping the past perfect| SEA Globe  For the past three decades, century-old shophouses and small town landmarks in Malaysia have been crushed by the necessities of progress such as intertwining highways, skyscrapers and shopping malls, as the country bids to become a fully developed nation by 2020. In recent months, conservationists in northern Malaysia’s fast-developing town of Kuala Terengganu have been campaigning against a plan by the state government to redevelop a landmark marketplace into a shopping complex and five-star hotel.

Politics in Malaysia: Bumi, not booming| The Economist  Previously, a mere 2,600 members, those who attended the party’s convention, had a say. UMNO’s boosters claim that these new elections will restore vim to an ageing organisation. They say it will make it the most genuinely democratic party in the country. Not bad for an outfit with a past reputation as a ruthless political machine.Yet what might be therapeutic for UMNO could prove the reverse for Malaysia.

Malaysia says Obama cancels visit due to shutdown| The Nation  Kuala Lumpur – President Barack Obama has canceled a planned visit to Malaysia next week because of the partial US government shutdown, Malaysia’s leader said Wednesday.



World Briefing | Asia: Myanmar: Buddhists Kill Woman, 94|AP  Buddhist mobs killed a 94-year-old Muslim woman and burned more than 70 homes on Tuesday as sectarian violence again gripped Rakhine State.

Burma president Thein Sein visits Rakhine after fresh sectarian clashes|The Guardian  Thein Sein’s visit to the divided region was his first since sectarian violence broke out in Rakhine more than a year ago. He arrived in the state capital, Sittwe, and was scheduled to travel to several more towns in the area, including Maungdaw and Thandwe, according to a senior official.The sectarian clashes have spread from Rakhine to towns and villages nationwide. Hundreds of people have been killed and more than 140,000 have fled their homes, the vast majority of them Muslims.

Wanting more| Banyan Tree  AT a press conference on September 23rd as she was about to leave Singapore after her first-ever visit, Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar’s opposition, spoke about the many links between the island-city and her homeland: the thousands of Burmese who live here; the many children of the elite who go to school here; the shared history of British colonialism. But if her hosts had hoped that she would cite Singapore as a role model for Myanmar, they were disappointed.

Burma’s Old Guard Clings to $8B Jade Empire| The Irrawaddy  But rare finds by small-time prospectors like Tin Tun pale next to the staggering wealth extracted on an industrial scale by Burma’s military, the tycoons it helped enrich, and companies linked to the country where most jade ends up: China.

Burma remains ‘strongly committed’ to Dawei, says Thai minister| Bangkok Post  Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisan said on 1 October at the recent tripartite meeting with Thailand and Japan that Burma remains strongly committed to Dawei, saying that the project will play a significant role in the nation’s future economic development.

Japan Interest in Dawei Industrial Zone Seen as Unlikely| The Irrawaddy  Efforts by the Thai government to attract Japanese investment in a port-industrial complex at Dawei on Burma’s southeast coast are doomed, a prominent regional economist said. “I don’t think the Japanese are at all interested in Dawei. To the extent their name keeps cropping up, I expect it reflects the desire of the zone’s promoters, now essentially the Thai government, to have them involved,” Sean Turnell a professor in economics and co-editor of the Burma Economic Watch bulletin told The Irrawaddy this week.

KIO, govt confirm October peace talks| Democratic Voice of Burma  The Burmese government’s Union Peace-making Work Committee is set to meet for a series of talks with the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) in state capital Myitkyina starting on 2-3 October.

CPI Falls Short on Environmental Impact Assessment of Myitsone: Experts| The Irrawaddy  A Chinese corporation’s environmental impact assessment of the controversial Myitsone dam project in north Burma is not complete, international experts say. The assessment by China Power Investment Corp. (CPI) fails to clarify the social and environmental consequences of the Kachin State dam project, as well as its potential effects on fresh water species, according to experts from several countries around the world. “CPI should do more sufficient and wider environmental impact assessment research by taking many years,” International Rivers, a US-based NGO that works with groups in Burma and elsewhere in the region to stop destructive dam projects, said in a statement on Monday.

Myanmar Plans Electricity Expansion with Assistance from ADB, Japan| ADB  ADB, through $2.85 million in grant financing from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, will help the Government of Myanmar formulate a long-term energy plan and prepare to expand and upgrade its power grid.



Philippine Standoff Ends, but Fighting Goes On|NYT  Sporadic clashes between soldiers and rebels continued in Zamboanga City after officials had declared an end to a three-week standoff.

The Philippines: Counting the Costs in Zamboanga|ASEAN Beat  In the Philippines, authorities are counting the costs of the damage inflicted by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) following its pointless raid on Zamboanga in the country’s troubled south and the lengths to which the emergency services had to go, to protect the innocent. About 132 people have been killed, with 213 wounded and 118,000 civilians fleeing their homes. Of the dead, the majority were rebels but the toll also included 12 soldiers, five policemen and 13 civilians.



Singapore Leads Asia-Pacific in First-Ever Human Capital Index|Asia Life  Discussions about economic outlook tend to revolve around GDP growth. Human capital – people who keep the machine running – is seldom considered. In an attempt to assess how well countries around the world are making use of their respective work forces, the World Economic Forum has compiled the first-ever Human Capital Index. And based on a brief glance at the report – with the exceptions of Singapore, Japan and Australia – the Asia-Pacific region has some work to do. Ranked third of the 122 countries in the study, Singapore is the only state in the region to make it into the top 10, surpassed only by Switzerland and Finland. As we’ve noted in the past, Singapore is no slouch when it comes to rankings, from its airportto its knack for innovation. Other nations in the region should take note of Singapore’s success.

Singapore Underground: The Lion City Frees Up Space Below| Asia Life  “Singapore is small, and whether we have 6.9 million or not, there is always a need to find new land space,” Zhao Zhiye, the interim director of the Nanyang Center for Underground Space at Nanyang Technological University, told The New York Times. “The utilization of underground space is one option for Singapore.”



Thai shrimp produced by forced labour reaching EU and US, warn campaigners| The Guardian  Thailand is the world’s largest exporter of shrimp. It exports about 90% of its seafood, mainly to the US, Japan and EU countries. Once considered a delicacy, shrimp has become increasingly popular in the west. On average, every American consumed nearly 2kg of the crustacean in 2011; in the same year, Thailand was the UK’s largest supplier of shrimp, with Britain snapping up an estimated $195m-worth. The executive director of EJF, Steve Trent, says the abuse of workers in the shrimp business is key to the industry’s success. “If you look at the economic model [in Thailand], this kind of labour abuse forms an inherent part of it – it’s what drives down costs,” says Trent. “Everyone in Thailand knows this is going on, for them it’s good business.”

Two soldiers killed in bomb attack in Yala Wednesday| The Nation  Two soldiers were killed Wednesday in bomb attack in Yala’s Krong Penang district. Suspected Muslim rebels detonated a roadside bomb about 200 metres from the Ban Sa-ai school in the district.

Chain of command| SEA Globe  Prior to signing an agreement with Thailand’s National Security Council on February 28, Hassan Taib was a largely unknown figure in the southern Thailand insurgency. Taib is said to be one of the Muslim leaders who met with Thailand’s exiled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in Malaysia for attempted peace talks less than 12 months before negotiations began in March this year.

Anti-dam marchers win warm welcome in capital| The Nation  13-day walk against Mae Wong Dam project garners wide support among those who say govt is ignoring environmental issues.



Vietnam’s Trade of Underaged Species|NYT  Why Vietnamese police investigate cases of child labor but rarely prosecute offenders.

Arsenic Contamination Threatens Water in Hanoi|NYT  Aggressive pumping is draining aquifers, creating an opening for arsenic-contaminated water to leach into a major drinking-water aquifer that serves Hanoi, Vietnam, researchers say.

How eating dog became big business in Vietnam|The Guardian  Down the leafy streets of north Hanoi’s Cau Giay district, not far from Nguyen’s family business, sits one of the city’s most famous restaurants, Quan Thit Cho Chieu Hoa, which has only one thing on the menu. There’s dog stew, served warm in a soup of blood; barbecued dog with lemongrass and ginger; steamed dog with shrimp-paste sauce; dog entrails sliced thin like sausage; and skewered dog, marinated in chilli and coriander. This is just one of a number of dogmeat restaurants in Cau Giay, but it is arguably the most revered, offering traditional dishes in a quiet setting along a canal.


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