Regional Roundup for Week of 10.23.2016

EXSE FOCUS

In Western Myanmar, a Lockdown and Fears of More Violence—New York Times Aid work has ceased in the north of Rakhine State after attacks on police officers, and videos purporting to show local Muslims urging jihad have added to fears of unrest.

Related: Violence Erupts in Myanmar’s Rakhine State—The Diplomat

Related: New fears of communal violence in Myanmar—The Economist

Vietnam gives thumbs-up to US regional role as pivot stumbles—South China Morning Post Vietnam supports US “intervention” in the Asia-Pacific if it helps keep peace and stability, the defence ministry said, in a timely endorsement of a continued U.S. presence amid uncertainty over Washington’s faltering “pivot”

What’s going on in Thailand?—New Mandala With the passing of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX, his son and heir apparent, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, should have been named King Rama X. He hasn’t.  As Andrew MacGregor Marshall writes, Thailand’s succession struggle isn’t over yet.// New Mandala has published several excellent articles in the past week that provide in-depth analysis of the political situation in Thailand following the death of King Bhumibol

Related: Thailand Looks to Likely Future King With Apprehension—New York Times

Related: Thailand is on tenterhooks over the king’s health—The Economist

Thai people encouraged to ‘socially sanction’ critics of monarchy—The Guardian Justice minister appears to back vigilantism which has risen in wake of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s death

Related: Thailand to ask other countries to extradite suspected critics of royal family—South China Morning Post

Philippines’ Duterte praises China on Beijing visit—Channel NewsAsia Visiting Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had praise for China on Wednesday, setting aside a maritime dispute as the combative leader reconfigures his country’s diplomatic alliances.

Related: Philippines’ Duterte Not Planning to Raise South China Sea Disputes in China Visit—WSJ

Related: South China Sea dispute to ‘take back seat’ in talks with Xi, Duterte says—South China Morning Post

Related: Rodrigo Duterte arrives in China with ‘make friends, not war’ message—The Guardian

In China, Rodrigo Duterte and Philippines May ‘Pivot’ Away From U.S.—New York Times The Philippine leader’s talks in Beijing are likely to signal how far he is willing to go in building closer ties with China and reducing American military influence at home.

Related: Duterte’s pivot—The Economist

Related: Rodrigo Duterte and Xi Jinping Agree to Reopen South China Sea Talks—New York Times // Duterte’s remarks have left many American officials puzzled. State Dept spokesperson, John Kirby responded saying, “We are going to be seeking an explanation of exactly what the president meant when he talked about separation from us…It’s not clear to us exactly what that means and all its ramifications (via inquirer.net)

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Indonesia President Steers Cautious Course in Tense South China Sea—Wall Street Journal

President Joko Widodo wants to keep the sprawling archipelago out of an intensifying great-power conflict while he tries to revitalize ambitious economic plans that have so far fallen short.

Is the Belt and Road Initiative Globalizing China’s National Security Policy?—The Diplomat Chinese security policy experts use potential threats to BRI projects to highlight the necessity of a globalized security posture.

Makers of Agent Orange to be tried for ‘war crimes’ by a people’s tribunal—Southeast Asia Globe Five decades after being commissioned to produce Agent Orange, which the US military dropped on Vietnam with devastating effects, a people’s tribunal is putting Monsanto ‘on trial’ for war crimes.

Rainsy says China aid to blame for rights abuses—Phnom Penh Post Days after signing a statement welcoming Chinese President Xi Jinping to Cambodia, opposition leader Sam Rainsy took to Radio Free Asia to slam China for enabling human rights abuses in the Kingdom with no-strings-attached loans.

China to help Cambodia modernise its armed forces, officials say—South China Morning Post China has agreed to help modernise Cambodia’s military, Cambodia’s defence minister said on Monday, after the two countries signed new agreements to boost military aid.

Judges and Rice: Cambodia’s Expanding Reliance on China—The Diplomat Is there a limit to Beijing’s largesse for its southern ally?

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

China Using Ecological Protection to Boost Claims in Disputed Waters –VOA China’s public order to keep away from a rare, environmentally unique ocean sinkhole in the Paracel Islands signals a new effort to tighten its grip on a tract of water disputed with Vietnam and monitored by the United States.//This is ironic, considering that China’s activities in the South China Sea have caused catastrophic damage to coral reefs and fish stocks in the region. See this report by Yale Environment 360 for more information on this.

A plan to save the Mekong Delta—Mongabay This is the final installment of an in-depth, four-part series exploring threats facing the Mekong Delta and how they might be addressed.

Government urged to work with Cambodia on solutions to water resources—Mekong Eye Scientists have urged the Vietnamese government to cooperate with Cambodia and draw up a plan to take full advantage of water resources.

Will Hydropower Turn the Tide on the Salween River?—Mekong Eye Both history and future development plans point to risks for the Salween River and its eco-systems and communities. Over-development, lack of public consultation and the appetite for energy threaten Asia’s last free flowing, international river.

Vietnam playing ‘key Mekong sub-region role’—Mekong Eye Vietnam has been making practical contributions to turning the Mekong sub-region into a dynamic and prosperous economic area via two crucial cooperation frameworks.

Manila is set to agree on joint petroleum exploration with Beijing—Thai PBS The Duterte administration is set to enter into an agreement with China to jointly explore energy sources in the disputed West Philippine sea

On the Role of Chinese Religion in Environmental Protection—New York Times In an interview, Prasenjit Duara, an Indian-born historian of China, discusses how traditional values can be a force motivating people to action.

As China Shifts From Exporter to Importer, Fortunes Change—New York Times The country’s energy sector has gone through a major reshaping, perhaps nowhere more so than in the city of Daqing, home to China’s biggest oil field.

Biomass power plants affect health: study—The Nation A recent study on health risks from biomass power plants in Surin province has confirmed that nearby residents are being exposed to tiny dust particles in amounts that exceed the level recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Chinese nationals nabbed for mining sandstone in Shan State—DVB Chinese nationals allegedly caught mining sandstone without official permission in Shan State’s Muse District were apprehended by local villagers on Monday.

Production Slowing at Wa Tin Mine—The Irrawaddy Output from a mysterious Burma tin mine that has disrupted the global market in the metal is falling sharply and deposits could be depleted in “two to three years”

Company Accused of Bribing, Misleading Locals to Build Coal-Fired Power Plant—The Irrawaddy Questions were raised in the Rangoon Division parliament about an unnamed company using underhanded methods to induce locals of Zweba Kone village, in semi-rural Kyauktan Township on the outer fringes of the city, to consent to the building of a coal-fired power plant.

Hanoi Moves to Derail Drive to File Lawsuits Against Formosa in Vietnam—RFA The Vietnamese government is attempting to prevent Catholic parishioners from filing more lawsuits against the Taiwan-owned steel company responsible for a chemical spill that devastated the country’s central coast,

Laos Orders Factory to Stop Recycling Spent Beer Malt Over Pollution Concerns—RFA The Lao government ordered a factory in the capital Vientiane that recycles 80 tons of spent beer malt a day to shut down after its owners failed to control pollution from the process, RFA’s Lao Service has learned.

To Fix the Mekong, Just Look at the Evidence: Q&A With Dr. John Ward—Mekong Eye Dr. John Ward is a research scientist at the Mekong Region Futures Institute specializing in integrated natural resource management. He spoke with VOA’s Neou Vannarin about the future of the Mekong, the effects of climate change, hydropower development, and the impact on the environment and people of the region.

Xi’an Under Security Alert After Thousands Protest Incinerator Plant—RFA Authorities in the northern Chinese city of Xi’an have issued a security alert after thousands took to the streets this week at the weekend over a waste incinerator plant planned for their neighborhood.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Thailand’s New Uncertainty—Project Syndicate Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s death, though long anticipated, still came as a profound shock to the country. Following the death of a unifying – if not always pro-democratic – political leader who reigned for 70 years, what comes next for Thailand and its military junta is unclear.

Thailand Bids Farewell to Beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej—Time Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej was the superlative monarch.//A particularly good obituary of King Bhumibol with photo series and video

Related: Over 500,000 gathered to see royal procession—The Nation

Related: Bhumibol, a King of the People, Leaves Them to the Generals—New York Times 

A Serious Concern Over the First Use of E-Voting in Thailand—The Diplomat If not implemented transparently, the initial e-voting system in Thailand may trigger internal political conflict.

Vietnam floods: deaths reported, tens of thousands of homes destroyed—The Guardian Local authorities mobilise army and police to rescue trapped residents in central Vietnam following torrential rain

ADB approves $230 mln loan to help Vietnam improve power transmission—Mekong Eye The Asian Development Bank on Thursday signed a loan agreement of $231.31 million with the Vietnamese government to help build and upgrade the transmission networks in the southern region.

Malaysia’s Growing Crackdown on Dissent—The Diplomat A new report sheds light on a disturbing trend.

Supertyphoon Haima slams into northern Philippines; following hard on typhoon Sarika —South China Morning Post Super Typhoon Haima slammed into the northeastern Philippine coast late Wednesday with ferocious winds and rain that rekindled fears and memories from the catastrophe wrought by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

Jakarta offers $1.50 reward for each rat as it launches massive rodent hunt—South China Morning Post The Indonesian capital Jakarta, one of the world’s most overcrowded and polluted megacities, has launched a new bid to rid its streets of vermin – by offering residents $1.50 for every rat they catch. //Interested to see how effective this policy is. The rat race is on.

Indonesia tracking dozens of militants returned from Syria, police chief says—South China Morning Post Dozens of Indonesians who joined Islamic State in Syria have returned home with combat experience and pose a major threat to the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation, the police chief said on Monday.

90 refugees set to return to Karen State next week—DVB Ninety residents of the Nu Po refugee camp in Thailand’s Tak Province are set to return to Burma next week in the first round of official repatriations for refugees since a peace deal was struck late last year.

UN aid not reaching Arakan, as lockdown continues—DVB Violence in a Muslim-majority region of Burma is stopping aid agencies from delivering food and medicines

Related: NGOs Face Difficulties Getting Aid to Maungdaw Residents in Myanmar’s Rakhine State—RFA

End To US Sanctions a Boon to Burma’s Economy, But Woes Remain—The Irrawaddy KFC’s grinning Colonel Sanders and his goatee are among the few prominent signs of US brands or business in Burma’s biggest city, Rangoon.

Philippine Police Van Rams Protesters at U.S. Embassy, Hurting Dozens New York Times Dozens of protesters were hurt on Wednesday after a Philippine police officer used a van to ram into them during a demonstration against the United States in the capital.

Duterte administration to seek loan from AIIB for infrastructure projects—Thai PBS The Duterte government is gearing up for the Philippines to formally join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in time for President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to Beijing this week

Kem Ley’s Spirit Still Powerful in Cambodia—RFA The spirt of slain government critic Kem Ley still casts a shadow over Cambodia as thousands of people clogged the main roads on Sunday for the close of his 100-day ritual ceremony and some of his former students began selling a compilation of his political essays.

Cambodia worst in region for rule of law: report—Phnom Penh Post Cambodia ranked 112 out of 113 countries surveyed globally and dead last in the East Asia and Pacific region when it comes to the perceived rule of law, a new report released today states.

Failure of dams leads to flooding in Phnom Penh, Kampong Speu—Phnom Penh Post Thousands of homes in Phnom Penh and Kampong Speu have been flooded after three dams were seriously damaged following two weeks of torrential rain and warnings from government officials.

Singapore Unveils New ASEAN Cyber Initiative—The Diplomat City-state steps up efforts to promote regional cooperation in the cyber domain.

 

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