Regional Roundup for Week of 10.3.2015

EXSE FOCUS

Vietnamese journalist jailed on charge of spying for China – Guardian A Vietnamese journalist was found guilty of spying for China on Wednesday (30 September) and sentenced to a six-year jail term by a Hanoi court after a three-hour trial, his lawyer told Reuters.

           Related: China arrests two Japanese men on spying charges – Guardian

Human rights charges filed against Thein Sein – Reuters Muslim rights activists have filed a lawsuit in the United States against Burma’s President Thein Sein, accusing him and several ministers of human rights abuses against minority Rohingya, just a few weeks before an historic general election. While this is unlikely to have any legal repercussions internationally, it does send a message if the lawsuit is successful. The real issue would be sanctions being restarted in response to the Rohingya situation, but this too is unlikely. A antidemocratic crackdown after elections would start the wheels turning, however. 

Wanda opens 15 billion yuan Yunnan resort – GoKunming China’s richest man is looking to expand his gargantuan real estate empire by diversifying into the tourism industry.

Lao Officials Balk at China’s Loan Terms For Railway Project – Radio Free Asia Lao government officials have expressed concern about the interest rate on a U.S. $500 million loan from China to build a multibillion-dollar, high-speed railway through the Southeast Asian nation, and have asked political leaders to negotiate a lower rate, a high-ranking Lao official said. Any deal for this railway is unwise at this point. Lao PDR just doesn’t need a highspeed rail network at this stage. If it is going to happen, high interest loans should be avoided, though.

Armed groups split on signing of peace pact – DVB Only seven of 19 delegations attending the second day of a summit of ethnic armed organisations today in Chiang Mai have agreed to sign a nationwide ceasefire agreement with Naypyidaw.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

The Trans-Pacific Free-Trade Charade – Project Syndicate As negotiators and ministers from the US and 11 other Pacific Rim countries meet in Atlanta in an effort to finalize the details of the sweeping new Trans-Pacific Partnership, some sober analysis is warranted. The biggest regional trade and investment agreement in history is not what it seems­.  Regardless of how many feel about the little-known details of the TPP, the agreement has been signed. Now, the ratification process will begin. 

          Related: TPP talks snagged over Malaysia’s stand on SOEs – The Star

It’s Official: China, Not Japan, Is Building Indonesia’s First High-Speed Railway – Diplomat China’s offer to build the Jakarta-Bandung line without requiring funding from Indonesia was the tipping point.

ASEAN to Step Up Fight Against Transnational Crime – Diplomat Malaysia pushes for stronger regional response at a key regional meeting.

Asia-Pacific Impacts of the New Global Development Agenda – Diplomat The 2030 Agenda has vital implications for Asia and the Pacific.
Thai-Burma border trade booms – Bangkok Post Cross-border trade between Thailand and Burma through the Mae Sot-Myawaddy checkpoint totalled more than 60 billion in the fiscal year just ended, a rise of 12.3 percent over the 2013-2014 year, a senior customs official said on Thursday. Border trade will only continue to grow with the signing of the ethnic group ceasefire in Myanmar. 

Q. and A.: Eugenio B. Bito-onon Jr. on China’s Island Expansion– NYT Mr. Bito-onon is the mayor of Pag-asa, a small island off the west coast of the Philippines that is one of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, which are claimed by both China and the Philippines.

          Related: Taiwan nearly finishes construction of lighthouse on Vietnam’s island: report – Thanh Nien

Asian markets fall as fears deepen over China slowdown – Guardian Wall Street losses drag down Tokyo and Shanghai indexes with Asia-Pacific markets at lowest level since June 2012

          Related: Slowdown Continues for China in Factories– NYT

          Related: Vietnam Must Better Manage Trade Imbalance With China: Economist– Radio Free Asia

ASEAN, Japan to Boost Fight Against Terrorism, Cybercrime– Diplomat Tokyo’s assistance sought in countering grave threats.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

China’s New Blueprint for an ‘Ecological Civilization’– Diplomat China wants local officials to stop ignoring the environment in favor of the economy.

           Related: China’s climate policies: how have they performed, and where do they need to go? – ChinaDialogue

Domesday scenario – Economist A nationwide carbon-trading scheme, to be set up in 2017, is the most visible example of a broader trend in China towards using market mechanisms in environmental matters.

Govt approves Bt721 million for two drought-busting projects – The Nation A Cabinet meeting, presided over by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, yesterday approved a budget of Bt721 million for two projects to tackle next year’s drought, Government Spokesman Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said yesterday.

          Related: Water Security in Asia: Strong Infrastructure for Healthy Communities – Diplomat

          Related: Farmers to be told to skip dry-season rice crop – The Nation

China’s sponge cities: soaking up water to reduce flood risks – Guardian From permeable roads to rooftop gardens, cities are investing in ways to harvest rainwater

SE Asia Seeks New Strategy to Fight ‘Slash and Burn’ Haze Problem – Irrawaddy The haze has caused health problems, flight delays and school closures across Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore in what has become an annual ordeal that has defied attempts by governments, businesses and green groups to tackle it.

The Return of China’s Environmental Avenger – Diplomat Pan Yue, China’s most outspoken, innovative, and articulate environmental official, is back in action.

Rubber farmers want subsidy – The Nation Rubber farmers, suffering from the slumping rubber price, want the government to approve a rubber-subsidy project to ensure the price would be at Bt60 per kilogram, Sunthorn Rakrong, leader of the country’s rubber growers’ networks, said yesterday.

Southern residents say leaking dam a disaster waiting to happen – Thanh Nien But officials in An Giang Province shrug that off

Ministry committed to maintaining vaccine reserves – The Nation Thailand has enough vaccines on hand for emergency situations, especially during an outbreak, as the country aims to produce its own supplies and join other Asean countries in exchanging knowledge for the health security of the region.

CHINA

China’s Guangxi Rocked by Another Blast After String of Parcel Bombs – Radio Free Asia As authorities in the southwestern Chinese region of Guangxi scrambled on Thursday, China’s National Day, to deal with the aftermath of 17 parcel-bomb explosions that went off the day before, a township in the area was rocked by an 18th blast, residents said. This bombing was the work of a disgruntled local citizen, not Uighur militants. These attacks are quite common in rural China. 

       Related: Difficult to Buy a Gun in China, but Not Explosives – Irrawaddy

Death Toll in Xinjiang Coal Mine Attack Climbs to 50 – Radio Free Asia The death toll in a knife attack orchestrated by alleged “separatists” at a coal mine in northwestern China’s troubled Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has climbed to at least 50 people—including five police officers—with as many as 50 injured, according to local security officials who say nine suspects are on the run.

          Related: China’s ‘Protracted War’ in Xinjiang – Diplomat

China’s $3 Billion Message to the UN: Yes, We Are a Responsible Power – Diplomat By pledging monetary and military aid to the UN and developing world, China is trying to counter old criticisms. An important first step.

China punishes 249 officials for laziness during corruption crackdown – Guardian Some officials have preferred to dither over approvals for major projects so as to avoid scrutiny, leading to sackings, demotions and warnings

Xi Jinping Adviser Has Long Pushed for Powerful Leadership – NYT An article by Wang Huning offers clues on how the party has been trying to reshape itself to lead the world’s second-largest economy without ceding authoritarian control.

The ‘Gatekeeper’ in Xi Jinping’s Inner Circle – NYT Ding Xuexiang has emerged as the latest notable entrant into the Chinese president’s core group of advisers. Mr. Ding was serving as the head of the Shanghai party committee’s General Office in 2007 when Mr. Xi arrived there.

Chinese Official Faults U.S. Internet Security Policy – NYT The official, Hao Yeli, said removing developing countries’ ability to control public opinion through Internet controls and surveillance would not result in more openness.

Xi and Obama Should Make a BIT Breakthrough – ChinaFile Both countries can certainly take the opportunity to speed up talks on a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) to strengthen trade ties.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Lao Court Jails Polish Activist Following Online Criticism of Government– Radio Free Asia A court in Laos has sentenced a Polish activist to nearly five years in prison after he posted criticism of the Lao government online, according to state media, drawing criticism from a diplomatic official who said the defendant was never given access to an attorney. Frightening times in Laos. This activist is not the only falang posting criticism of the government online. 

          Related: Laos in the Spotlight Again Over Human Rights – Diplomat

          Related: US elevates Thailand to best child-labour category – The Nation

Myanmar’s Election: The ‘Real Burmese’ Dilemma – Diplomat A bias for “real Burmese” candidates (and against minorities) threatens the legitimacy of Myanmar’s upcoming election.

          Related: ‘We see, we come, we conquer’- Arakan National Party – DVB

Kachin militia yields to allow political campaigning – DVB An incumbent upper house MP and militia leader in Kachin State’s Special Region 1 who banned parties from campaigning in his constituency has yielded to pressure to abide by electoral regulations.

          Related: Election 2015: Polls won’t open in Karen State’s east – DVB

Gang of four: Cambodia’s new political parties – SEA Globe Four new political parties have entered the fray in Cambodia since the start of the year. And it’s not just the long-ruling Cambodian People’s Party in their sights, but the opposition too.

Cambodian Opposition Senator Sent Back to Prison as Trial Adjourns – Radio Free Asia A Cambodian court unexpectedly adjourned the trial on Friday of jailed opposition senator Hong Sok Hour, postponing the proceedings for five days and refusing his request to be released on bail due to ill health.

Vietnam Is Changing… And So Is the Balance of Power in Asia – Diplomat All signs point to intense internal debate on leadership and foreign policy.

Princess to donate salary to Chulachomklao academy – The Nation HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn is planning to donate the more than Bt26 million in salary and other remuneration she has received from Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy (CRMA) over the past 35 years to the CRMA Foundation for educational purposes and development of the academy.

Cambodia boosts its $2-billion casino industry – Investvine The Cambodian government granted licenses for 10 new casinos in the third quarter of this year, raising their number to 75, according to Ros Phearun, a deputy director general of the financial industry department at the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

          Related: Vietnam casinos earn $61 million last year: report – Thanh Nien

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