Regional Roundup for Week of 11.19.16

Last week, the Trump headlines that dominated most newspapers and news sites were simply too upsetting to engage with in any depth. This week, we’re diving head-first into the fallout from the US election and finding absurd headlines that would have seemed unthinkable a couple of weeks ago.


As Jakarta governor faces trial for insulting Islam, is Indonesian stability about to unravel?—South China Morning Post Indonesia’s decision on Wednesday to proceed with investigating Jakarta’s popular ethnic Chinese and Christian governor over a controversial allegation of insulting Islam could hurt nearly two decades of peace building between the country’s majority Muslims and its minorities

Related: Jakarta’s ethnic Chinese governor ‘Ahok’ named suspect in blasphemy case that sparked mass protest—South China Morning Post

Related: The perils of a protest—New Mandala //More analysis of the Jakarta protests is in the “Southeast Asia “ section below

Another blow to Obama’s TPP after Vietnam says it won’t ratify trade pact—South China Morning Post Vietnam’s government has stopped seeking the National Assembly’s ratification of the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact, as conditions are not sufficient following changes in the United States, the country’s prime minister said on Thursday.

Related: How TPP Can Survive Trump—The Diplomat It’s too early to declare the agreement dead, and countries are already weighing alternatives.//Someone still has hope! Article suggests that TPP may move forward without the US, and the US coming on board later. Many hundreds of hours of labor hav gone into negotiating this agreement, so hopefully this work will not go to waste.

Related: Shinzo Abe and Najib Razak team up to keep their TPP ambitions alive—South China Morning Post

Southeast Asia Responds to the U.S. Election—CFR Asia Unbound While the incoming U.S. presidential administration focuses on domestic issues that drove the presidential campaign, from health care to tax reform, U.S. relations with Southeast Asia are likely to be mostly forgotten. 


Climate change a Chinese hoax? Beijing gives Donald Trump a lesson in history—The Guardian China points out to global warming denier and president-elect that Republicans under Reagan and Bush actually put global warming on international agenda// As with the US abandonment of the TPP, a US failure to fulfill the promises that it made in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement would dramatically damage the credibility of the US around the world. Climate change skepticism in the US government is one of the most dangerous forces affecting US leadership abroad.

Related: China tells Trump that climate change is not a   China Morning Post

Related: Will China take the lead if Trump pulls out of climate change treaty?—South China Morning Post

China threatens to cut sales of iPhones and US cars if ‘naive’ Trump pursues trade war—The Guardian President-elect ‘will be condemned for his recklessness, ignorance and incompetence’ if he imposes tariffs, says Communist party-controlled paper

Should China’s Neighbors Rely on the U.S. for Protection?—ChinaFile President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on a platform of neo-isolationism that could see many traditional U.S. allies in Asia left without Washington’s support in the newly roiled waters of the South- and East China Seas.

Myanmar Government, Anti-Muslim Leaders Alike Congratulate Trump—RFA Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi sent a letter of congratulations on Wednesday to U.S. president-elect Donald Trump, expressing her hope that the two countries maintain and strengthen their ties, while anti-Muslim leaders in the Southeast Asian nation did the same but for different reasons.//The new leader of the United States is receiving praise from the enthno-centric Arakan National Party in Myanmar because of his anti-Muslim rhetoric. Let that sink in.

CPP sees parallels with protests in America—Phnom Penh Post If Prime Minister Hun Sen was not already adequately pleased with Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election last week, officials from his party have this week found one more reason for him to grin: the post-election protests in America.

Trump change ‘points to calmer waters’ on South China Sea horizon—South China Morning Post The transition to a new administration in Washington and stronger ties between Beijing and Southeast Asian nations are expected to calm waters in the troubled South China Sea in the near term, observers said.

Is China Getting Better at Charming Southeast Asia on the South China Sea?—The Diplomat Beijing looks to be getting better at how it uses soft power in the region.

Philippines’ Duterte makes U-turn on US order for 26,000 rifles—South China Morning Post The Philippines police will push ahead with the purchase of 26,000 assault rifles from a US supplier, the police chief said on Monday, following an about-face by President Rodrigo Duterte, who previously said the deal would be scrapped.

Asia Trade Focus Shifts From U.S. to China-Led Accord—Wall Street Journal Malaysia pins its hopes on Beijing-led free-trade area after Trump election sinks hopes for American-led one

Related:Australia signals support for Chinese-led trade deals to replace TPP—The Guardian

Cambodia signs MoU with China for tourism—Phnom Penh Post Chinese and Cambodian officials have signed a memorandum of understanding to increase exchanges of investment and training for tourism, the Ministry of Tourism said in a press release yesterday

As Malaysia PM Najib visits, Japan to compete with China for high-speed rail project—South China Morning Post Japan will pitch for a lucrative high speed rail project linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, as Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday for a three-day visit.

Japan to Give Malaysia 2 Large Vessels During Najib Visit—The Diplomat New deal could be inked later this week.


Experts question praise of China’s ‘drought relief’—Phnom Penh Post The Mekong River Commission, in a missive posted on their website on Monday, credited China’s “emergency water release” from its Mekong dams with successfully helping to alleviate the drought in the Mekong River Basin earlier this year, a claim disputed by experts

Indonesia Tries New Tactics to Douse Annual Firestorms—Wall Street Journal The Southeast Asian country is confronting one of the world’s worst deforestation problems, one fueled in large part by global demand for some of its major exports: palm oil, pulp and paper.

Wildlife smugglers using Facebook to sell ivory and rhino horn–The Guardian An investigation reveals the social media site is acting as a shopfront for a multimillion dollar trade in animal parts, centred in a small village outside Hanoi

How China’s bid to curb coal output has backfired, encouraging production and increasing mining accidents—South China Morning Post Government efforts to curb coal production capacity in China have backfired, according to analysts, driving up prices, encouraging production and increasing the risk of mining accidents in the rush to produce more of the fuel

Govt to Resume Harvesting Timber—The Irrawaddy The government will resume the harvest of aged timber in northern Burma but will keep a moratorium on harvesting timber along the Pegu mountain range.

Illegal logging ‘ravaging’ Myanmar’s Indawgyi Lake Wildlife Reserve—Mongabay Monitoring by conservationist group Fauna & Flora International indicates widespread logging activity in or near the sanctuary as recently as October 2016.

Vietnam scraps plans to build nuclear power plants—Investvine Vietnam has decided to ditch plans to build two nuclear power plants in its southeastern Ninh Tuan province owing to soaring costs and safety concerns.

Vietnam reduces number of hydropower plants in its Power Development Plan 7—Mekong Eye Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) today said it will remove 471 small and cascade hydropower plants from its Power Development Plan 7 (PDP 7) that would have had a combined installed capacity of 2,059 MW.

KLCM: Sucking Blood from Earth – Thailand Diverts the Mekong River and Threatens Its Water Security—Mekong Eye

Incomes of Thousands of Cambodian Villagers to be Harmed by Don Sahong Dam—Mekong Eye The lives of the Preag Romkil villagers have turned to grief since Laos started building the Don Sahong Dam on the other side of the border.

Official speaks out against coal power—Mekong Eye If the people say “no” to coal, so do we, say government officials. In an interview with The Myanmar Times this week, a deputy permanent secretary of the Electricity and Energy Department has confirmed that the government has no plans to pursue coal-based energy.

Vietnam Cracks Down on Dissenters—RFA The Vietnamese government is escalating a nationwide crackdown on human rights activists and people critical of the government’s handling of the chemical spill that devastated the country’s central coast, according to Amnesty International and other reports.

Open Letter to the Developers of the Don Sahong Dam—Mekong Eye//Not a new trend, but still interesting to see how Vietnamese NGOs under the umbrella of government control (Vietnam River Network and WARECOD) have signed this letter. It shows that some forms of protest are permitted in Vietnam, so long as they do not threaten the legitimacy of the government

Laos dam projects put entire region at risk—Bangkok Post Almost two weeks ago, Laos notified the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Secretariat of its intention to develop the Pak Beng dam on the mainstream Mekong River, following its previous notifications on the controversial Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams.

Choking off the Mekong—Bangkok Post The Mekong, Asia’s third-longest international river, is increasingly dammed, notably by China in its upper part and Laos in the lower stretches./ The authors  make several recommendations, including this interesting one: “Thailand, as a key power importer from Laos, can do more by lowering its projected electricity demand to a more realistic level to avoid power reserve surpluses.“


Jakarta Protest, Tied to Faith, May Have Deeper Links to Secular Politics—New York Times Analysts say politicians are exploiting religious fervor to challenge the capital’s governor and his close ally, President Joko Widodo.

Ahok, the FPI and PilPres 2019—New Mandala The angry protests against Ahok weren’t about his race. Instead they were aimed at bringing him down for his efforts against religious groups and their illegal cash flows, writes Russell Dunne.

Violence Escalates Between Myanmar Forces and Rohingya—New York Times After two soldiers were killed by attackers, troops of the Buddhist-majority government burned villages in Rakhine State close to the Bangladesh border.

Related: Burma Army Says 86 Killed in Fighting in Arakan State—The Irrawaddy

Related: What is Happening in Western Myanmar?—CFR Asia Unbound

Hundreds of Rohingyas flee to Bangladesh—DVB Hundreds of Rohingya Muslims are fleeing a military crackdown in western Burma to Bangladesh, trying to escape an upsurge of violence that has brought the total number of dead confirmed by the army to more than 130.

ASEAN lawmakers call for Arakan probeDVB A group of parliamentarians from member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are calling on Burma’s government to investigate alleged abuses in northern Arakan State as a military lockdown in the region continues in the wake of a series of attacks on border police early last month.

Govt Refutes Human Rights Report on Arakan State Violence—The Irrawaddy The govt refutes a Human Rights Watch report that said more than 400 buildings in three Rohingya Muslim villages in Maungdaw Township were burned.

Burma’s Abused, Intimidated LGBT People Long for Acceptance in New Era—The Irrawaddy One year after the election that brought the NLD to power, many LGBT activists are disappointed by a lack of progress toward ensuring their rights.

Myanmar struggles to control tumbling currency—Investvine Myanmar’s central bank has increasing difficulties to prevent the depreciation of the country’s currency, the kyat, which has reached new record lows these days.

One year later, Rainsy’s ‘escape’ remains divisive—Phnom Penh Post A year ago today, opposition leader Sam Rainsy turned his back on a promise to return to Cambodia and face down a two-year prison sentence for defamation revealed while he was abroad.

Malaysia Silences 1MDB Whistleblower in Blow to Rights—The Diplomat The sentencing of an opposition politician is just the latest attempt to cover up a deepening 1MDB scandal.

Anti-Najib alliance brings Anwar Ibrahim back into the crosshairs—Southeast Asia Globe The case of jailed opposition heavyweight Anwar Ibrahim has never been far from Malaysia’s consciousness, but a new pact with former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has returned him to the spotlight

Mahathir Mohamad urges Malaysians to join protest rally against Prime Minister Najib Razak as tension grows—South China Morning Post Former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad on Wednesday threw his weight behind a massive rally planned for this weekend to demand that scandal-tainted Prime Minister Najib Razak resign, with clashes feared between protesters and pro-government groups

Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste Prepare for Strategic Elections—The Diplomat Elections in the two countries could determine their future interactions with ASEAN neighbors.

Got milk? Demand for dairy soars in Southeast Asia—Southeast Asia Globe Thanks to rapid urbanisation and rising incomes, Southeast Asia is consuming dairy at one of the fastest-growing rates in the world

Thai company ordered to pay Burmese workers—DVB Over 180 Burmese migrant workers who were left unpaid by their employer in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai were awarded more than five million baht (US$140,000) in compensation by the Chiang Mai Labour Protection and Welfare Office on Monday.

Lao Lawmakers Approve Restrictive Amendment to Media Law—RFA Lawmakers in Laos have approved an amendment to the country’s media law that further tightens the government’s control of reporters, ensuing that they disseminate the policies of the ruling communist party in a country where press freedom is already nonexistent.

Duterte’s Descent into Authoritarianism—New York Times Who will stop him? And what will he stop at?

When A Populist Demagogue Takes Power—The New Yorker Since Rodrigo Duterte was elected President of the Philippines, in May, more than three thousand people have been killed in a vicious drug war.


Charting conflict and peace in a new Myanmar—New Mandala Michael Wesley reflects on a new volume examining Myanmar’s path to peace and political transition.

This week’s new digest was curated by Gabriella Neusner.

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