Regional Roundup for Week of 10.13.18


Cambodia Faces Potential Economic Collapse – VOA Cambodia Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is facing economic pressure to reverse a recent crackdown on opposition groups and basic freedoms in his country. Cambodia faces an economic collapse from the slated withdrawal of crucial European Union trade preferences that will likely force its leader to walk back a prolonged political crackdown, observers and labor groups say.

Related: Cambodia calls EU trade threat ‘extreme injustice’ – Aljazeera

Beware the Thailand King’s New Power Play – The Diplomat The recent reorganization of the Privy Council of Thailand – long held as a key body serving the monarchy in Thailand – may not have been on the radar of outsiders with so many other headlines about Thailand’s wider politics as well as regional developments more generally. Yet the developments in this respect warrant attention. The king’s decision to evict old members of the Privy Council close to his late father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the stripping of the power from its president, General Prem Tinsulanonda, as well as the appointment of his close confidants as new Privy Councilors, suggests that, more than just a process, this is part of the growing aggrandizement of political power of Thailand’s new King Maha Vajiralongkorn, or King Rama X.

Related: What’s Behind the Thailand King’s Rising Security Force? – The Diplomat 

Japan and Mekong countries to boost economic cooperation – Nikkei Asian Review Japan agreed to deepen cooperation with countries in the Mekong region, as Tokyo aims to maintain its influence in Southeast Asia with more and more countries falling under the sway of China. Ahead of a Japan-Mekong summit on Tuesday in Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held individual meetings Monday with leaders of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.

7 ways to speed up Southeast Asia’s switch to renewable energy – Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis The evidence is getting harder to dispute. Clean energy can provide 100 per cent of society’s electricity needs. Current renewable energy technology is reliable 24 hours a day, every day of the year, and industries’ insistence on using coal and other polluting sources for fear of intermittency—the inability of renewable energy to ensure an uninterrupted supply—no longer has a basis. So why does Southeast Asia continue to be a global laggard in renewable energy deployment?



China-Thai Project Seeks to Strengthen Cooperation Mechanism on Water Power Projects – Mekong Institute The Thai Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE), the Government of the People’s Republic of China through the Embassy of P.R. China in Thailand, and Mekong Institute (MI), are signing today a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on a landmark project that endeavors to strengthen cooperation on hydropower projects and the mitigation of associated climate change impacts.

India-Vietnam Coast Guard Ties in the Spotlight with First Visit – The Diplomat This week, a Vietnamese coast guard vessel paid its first visit to India. While this is just one of a series of scheduled defense engagements by the two sides expected this year, it nonetheless put the spotlight on the growing security ties between the two Asian powers in general and between their two coast guards in particular.

Vietnam wants Japan to boost real estate, infrastructure investments – VN Express Vietnam has pledged to create ‘the best opportunities’ for Japan to increase investments in real estate and infrastructure. Addressing the 10th Mekong-Japan Summit in Tokyo that opened Tuesday, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said the country would provide the best opportunities via new policies for Japanese firms to invest into Vietnam’s real estate and infrastructure. He highlighted the need for building houses for manual laborers and the poor; large-scale urban planning; applying new technologies and materials for construction projects.



‘Unprecedented’ action needed to control climate change – Chinadialogue Restricting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius could limit the most disastrous impacts of climate change, but doing so will require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society,” according to a new scientific report commissioned by the United Nations.For this, the world must reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 45% by 2030 (from 2010 levels), and reach “net zero” by 2050, according to a study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Hydropower: Giving more than a dam – The ASEAN Post As Southeast Asia continues to grow at a phenomenal rate, so too does its demand for energy. This demand must be met efficiently and at low costs. One such way of achieving this is to turn to hydropower which – if the country in question is geographically blessed – is a cheaper and relatively cleaner alternative to fossil fuels. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), hydropower capacity in the region grew almost threefold from 16 gigawatts (GW) to 44 GW between 2000 and 2016. The major users of hydropower technology are Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) member states in the Indochinese region and the Philippines. Numbers by the World Energy Council indicate that in terms of installed capacity, Vietnam leads the way in Southeast Asia with 15,211 megawatts (MW).

Myanmar Launches First Inquiry into Agricultural Chemicals and Their Effects – The Irrawaddy The Upper House of Parliament’s agriculture committee has launched its very first parliamentary inquiry into chemicals used in agriculture and their effects on the health and quality of life of farmers, workers and consumers across the country, according to the committee chair. Myanmar’s Upper House of Parliament and chair of the Agriculture Committee, U Aung Kyi Nyunt, told The Irrawaddy, “we will [make an] inquiry into agriculture chemical products used by farmers and how they have been using the chemical products which were imported legally or illegally. We will also [investigate] the chemical residues effects on agriculture.”

Why Vietnam ranks best in world for living greener and better – Southeast Asia Globe Vietnam performed the best of 151 countries in a study that assessed quality of life versus environmental sustainability. But researchers tell Southeast Asia Globe that, despite its achievements, the best-performing nation on the list still fails to meet the sustainability demands of an increasingly dire ecological outlook



Chinese ODI needs to get its act together – East Asia Forum China has become one of the world’s biggest investors. The explosive growth of its outward investment is helping China connect to world business, absorb advanced technologies, upgrade its traditional industries and stimulate exports. But as China steps up its outward investment, foreign governments are also tightening their regulatory and security review regimes, making the hurdles even higher for Chinese firms looking to invest overseas.

Is the BRI a corruption magnet? – The ASEAN Post China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was intended to empower developing countries with improved infrastructure and trade relations. In the five years since it was mooted, the BRI is now being demonised as a debt-trap that ensnares poor nations into subservience to China. Another unintended consequence is its alleged connection to corruption.

Related: BRI debt trap: An unintended consequence? – The ASEAN Post

China-SE Asia’s cultural ties are as binding as economic ones – South China Morning Post Cultural exchange is just as important to ties between China and Southeast Asia as economic links and investments in technology and science, according to former United Nations under-secretary-general Noeleen Heyzer. “Building the infrastructure, economic corridors and so on won’t have the spirit of humanity if we only have the hardware of roads and rails. What is actually the pulse of the bloodline that will keep this whole thing going and sustainable is actually the cultural exchanges, people to people,” she said.

China investors still keen on Malaysia, says chamber president – Free Malaysia Today The interest of investors from China in Malaysia is still very strong despite decisions by Putrajaya to review several deals, Malaysia-China Chamber of Commerce president Tan Yew Sing said today. Tan noted that in general, there were still investors from China coming to Malaysia and they were waiting for a clear signal on a more pro-business policy. “There is still a lot of investment from China, and there is a lot of interaction going on. A lot of investors from China are still here. The interest (in Malaysia) is still very strong.


Govt urged to ramp up action on greenhouse gas emissions – Bangkok Post Thailand will have to balance economic, social and environmental concerns to achieve the country’s climate change policy and related action plans, according to Phirun Saiyasitpanich, a senior official on climate policy at Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

UN ‘Apologizes’ to End Row With Cambodia Over Poverty Level Measurement – VOA Cambodia The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Cambodia has reportedly “apologized” to the Cambodian government for publishing poverty statistics almost three times as high as the official estimate. Pauline Tamesis, UN resident coordinator in Cambodia, reportedly made the apology to Chhay Than, planning minister, on Monday during a meeting.

Chinese Influx Brings Trash, High Prices to Cambodia’s Sihanoukville – Radio Free Asia A surge in Chinese investment and in the numbers of migrant workers in Cambodia’s port city of Sihanoukville has left local beaches polluted and Cambodian residents struggling to meet higher prices as the cost of living rises, Cambodian sources say. Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service on Wednesday, Muong Sony—a youth leader in the Khmer Student Intelligent League Association—said following a recent visit that conditions in the city have declined dramatically over the last year. The presence in the city of over 100,000 Chinese nationals, many of them workers brought in from China as Chinese firms set up casinos or operate power plants and offshore oil platforms in the area, has only made matters worse, Muong Sony said.

The train of opportunities as Laos builds rail link with China – The Straits Times Laos is speeding up construction of the high speed railway link with China hoping this historic and major investment project will be completed and operational over the next two years. The railway line, from the Chinese border in the northern province of Luang Namtha to the capital Vientiane, will serve as a key link in the land transportation system between southern China and Asean.

Japan pledges 900 mil. yen for Laos bomb removal – The Mainichi Japan pledged Monday to give 900 million yen ($8 million) toward removing unexploded bombs in Laos that were scattered there during the Vietnam War and continue to threaten locals. An estimated 80 million bombs dropped by the U.S. military in the 1960s and 1970s remain throughout the Southeast Asian country. The project, which will run through 2020, will cover the southern provinces of Sekong, Salavan and Champasack and increase the number of unexploded ordnances that are removed yearly from 29,000 in 2017 to 35,000, according to Japan’s Foreign Ministry.

China to hold 70% stake in Myanmar’s planned strategic seaport – The Mainichi Myanmar will hold a 30 percent stake in its strategic deep-water seaport project led by cash-rich China, giving Beijing a 70 percent interest, under their final agreement reached during recent talks between the two countries, according to a visiting senior Myanmar official.

This week’s news digest was curated by Michael De Martino Jensen/

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