Regional Roundup for Week of 12.15.17

EXSE FOCUS

Dam, mining destabilizing Mekong Delta – Study – SciDevNet The drastic reduction in sediment flow in the Mekong River is threatening the stability of the delta and the livelihoods of millions of people who depend on its resources, says a new study by UNESCO and the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI).

Thailand to avoid Mekong blasting plan at China talks – Nation Thailand will highlight water management, connectivity, sustainable development and people-to-people relations at the 3rd Lancang-Mekong foreign ministers meeting in Dali, China. But the controversial blasting of rocks and rapids to clear a navigation channel in the Mekong River would not be touched on.

Ousted Vietnamese Politburo member Dinh La Thang arrested, prosecuted – Xinhua Dinh La Thang,  former chairman of state-owned giant PVN, was prosecuted for his serious legal violations that caused great economic losses.  In May, Thang lost his membership in the Political Bureau, becoming the third ousted Politburo member so far.

Related: Former PetroVietnam official Dinh La Thang arrested – TuoiTre News

Related: Former Top Vietnam Oil Executive Arrested For Violations – RFA

China looks to nuclear option to end winter worries – SCMP With its smog-prone north desperate to slash coal consumption, China is looking to deploy nuclear power to provide reliable winter heating. State-owned China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) recently conducted a successful 168-hour trial run in Beijing for a small, dedicated “district heating reactor” (DHR) it has named the “Yanlong”.

Cambodia Opposition Chief Kem Sokha Calls on Court to Drop ‘Treason’ Charges – RFA The head of Cambodia’s now-dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) requested that a court in the country’s capital drop all charges against him during a hearing Thursday in which he was questioned over allegations he colluded with the U.S. in a bid to topple the government.

 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

In a first, all Asean leaders to attend India’s Republic Day – Nation  This is the first time that leaders from a bloc, instead of an individual country, will be the chief guests at the parade. The acceptance of the invitation by all Asean members is an indication of the growing importance of their relations with India – both as as a bloc and bilaterally.

As China Courts Neighbors, New Images Show More Building in Disputed Waters – WSJ China has built more infrastructure on artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea in the past year, including underground tunnels and radar installations, even as it has sought to repair relations with other claimants, according to an analysis of fresh satellite images.

China Calmed Asian Maritime Dispute in 2017 Without Ceding Sovereignty – VOA China calmed Asia’s biggest maritime sovereignty dispute in 2017 by offering aid, investment and the pledge of negotiations with weaker Southeast Asian countries as Beijing’s chief nemesis, the United States, kept quiet.

Government, Asean in talks to take IMT highway up to Vietnam – Economic Times India and Asean countries are holding consultations on the extension of the 1,360 km IMT highway — from Moreh in India to Mae-Sot in Thailand — to Laos, Cambodia and to Vietnam.

Japan pursues economic ties with Myanmar, avoids Rohingya criticism – Asia Nikkei Review Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a summit meeting with Myanmar President Htin Kyaw in Tokyo on Thursday, at which the two leaders agreed to cooperate in the areas of urban development, transportation and power infrastructure in the Southeast Asian country.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT 

Breaking news: Nam Theun power project achieves $934.5m financing – Mekong Eye Nam Theun 1 Power Company Limited, an associate company of EGCO Group, has entered into a financial agreement for US$934.5 million (Bt30.5 billion) with commercial banks in Thailand to fund the development and construction of its Nam Theun 1 hydroelectric power project.

Mekong River Commission stations not operational – Phnom Penh Post Less than half of the monitoring stations set up by the Mekong River Commission in Cambodia are operational due to a lack of financial commitment from the Cambodian government, officials said yesterday, jeopardising the collection of important environmental and hydrological data.

Natural gas buses plan will be sped up, PM says – Bangkok Post The long-delayed project to procure 489 natural gas-powered buses for Bangkok will be expedited so a new fleet of buses will hit the roads in time for the new school semester in June, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has assured.

No daylight for Vietnam solar energy – AsiaTimes Vietnam’s slow solar progress stems from a mix of uncertainty on tariffs, the difficulty of working with the state power monopoly, obstacles to creating a wholesale market, technological issues and foreign exchange fluctuations, observers say.

CHINA

Artist Flees Beijing After Filming Devastation of Mass Evictions – NYT Last week, Mr. Hua Yong, like many of the people he has filmed, was forced to leave Beijing. He fled the city after the police came to arrest him for publicizing the evictions. He has relied on friends to move him “from city A to city B.”

Campaign to Drive Out Migrants Slams Beijing’s Best and Brightest – NYT As Beijing has launched its most aggressive drive in decades to rid itself of unwanted migrants, the brunt of the crackdown has fallen on laborers from the countryside. But it has also hurt a different kind of migrant: educated and ambitious white-collar workers drawn to the city’s new economy of tech, finance and hospitality industries.

Chinese authorities collecting DNA from all residents of Xinjiang – Guardian Officials build database of iris scans and blood types of everyone aged 12 to 65 in region home to 11 million Muslim Uighurs. Chinese authorities are collecting DNA samples, fingerprints and other biometric data from every resident in a far western region, Human Rights Watch has said.

Chinese prosecutors back leniency for entrepreneurs tangled up in graft cases – SCMP The Chinese justice system should show some leniency to businesspeople forced to give bribes to officials, the top prosecutor’s office has said in new guidelines to fortify the country’s entrepreneurs.

Eight northern Chinese cities fail to achieve air quality targets, despite smog crackdown – SCMP Eight northern Chinese cities failed to meet air quality targets in October and November, even as local authorities launched rigorous steps to cut emissions during the winter, the government said.

China opens criminal case against former rising star Sun Zhengcai on graft charges – SCMP China’s prosecutor has begun formal legal proceedings for alleged corruption against the former senior politician Sun Zhengcai, once considered a contender to be one of the nation’s top leaders. The case was proceeding, it added, without giving any other details.

Beijing to set out Hong Kong’s role in China’s global trade strategy during Carrie Lam visit – SCMP  The office of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said she would be bringing home new tasks handed down by China’s National Development and Reform Commission after her maiden duty visit to the capital from Wednesday to Friday.

Chinese local governments accused of faking economic data – SCMP Chinese local governments have been accused of faking economic data following the latest round of nationwide audits that found evidence revenues had been inflated and the extent of their debts had been downplayed.

China is racing down the path of global digital domination, with Xi Jinping in the driver’s seat – SCMP China’s government will allocate more resources toward the implementation of big data analysis and digitalising the world’s second-largest economy, part of a US$150 billion strategy to turn the nation into the global innovation hub for artificial intelligence by 2030.

Nearly 10 Percent of Residents of a Xinjiang Township Detained by Chinese Authorities – RFA Authorities in northwest China’s Xinjiang region have detained nearly 10 percent of the population of a township in ethnic Uyghur-dominated Kashgar (in Chinese, Kashi) prefecture, according to sources, following an incident three years ago.

Checkpoints, Guards Block Road to Sichuan’s Larung Gar –RFA Authorities in western China’s Sichuan province have further tightened controls at the Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, setting up checkpoints at which monks, nuns, and visitors must now show permits allowing them to enter, Tibetan sources say.

China Moves Ahead With Subversion Trial of Rights Website Founder Liu Feiyue – RFA Authorities in the central Chinese province of Hubei are moving ahead with the subversion trial of rights website founder Liu Feiyue after holding him for more than a year.

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

 EU withdraws support for Cambodia election authority after opposition dissolved – France24 The EU said that the Supreme Court’s decision “denies the choice of those who voted for the party in the elections in 2013 and 2017”. Support provided by the EU to Cambodia’s National Election Committee (NEC) includes funding for voter education materials, deployment of advisers, and assistance for a preliminary results management system.

EU countries move to limit rice imports from Cambodia – UkrAgroConsult Italy, along with six other European Union countries, has filed a fresh request to European Commission to limit the volume of rice imported from the Kingdom by activating a “safeguard clause” that allows EU member states to impose barriers to protect against trade imbalances.

US Lawmakers Call For Sanctions List, Review of Trade With Cambodia Amid Crackdown – RFA The Committee on Foreign Affairs for the U.S. House of Representatives has called for a list of individuals and businesses in Cambodia who should be subject to sanctions and plans to review trade agreements with the country as part of a bid to pressure its government to reverse restrictions on democracy ahead of a general election next year.

Supreme Court upholds Boeung Kak convictions – Phnom Penh Post The Supreme Court today upheld the convictions of three Boeung Kak activists – including Tep Vanny – for allegedly obstructing and insulting public officials during a 2011 demonstration outside Phnom Penh City Hall. Their six month sentences were also upheld.

Aung San Suu Kyi Quashes Rumors About President’s Health – RFA Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi quelled rumors about the health of President Htin Kyaw in response to a post on social media indicating that the head of state will soon resign.

Rohingya return deal bad for refugees, says HRW – AniNews An agreement by Bangladesh and Burma to begin returning Rohingya refugees to Burma by January 23, 2018, creates an impossible timetable for safe and voluntary returns and should be shelved, Human Rights Watchtoday said in a letter to both governments.

Rohingya Muslim death toll hit 6,700 in one month, charity says – SkyNews Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres or MSF) says its survey of refugee camps in Bangladesh put the death toll at around 9,000 between 25 August and 24 September. It said 6,700 died as a result of the violence, adding that of those 730 were children under the age of five.

EU Parliament calls on Myanmar to free Reuters journalists – Reuters A former journalist, the president of EU Parliament said the arrests of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who had been working on stories about a military crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority, increased the EU’s concerns over the Rohingya crisis.

Related: Britain expresses grave concerns over arrest of Reuters journalists in Myanmar – Reuters

Related: U.N. chief presses for release of arrested Reuters journalists in Myanmar – Reuters

UN official urges accountability for Rohingya ‘ethnic cleansing’ – Asian Nikkei Review The international community must take “swift and serious action” in response to the “ethnic cleansing” of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims, the U.N. envoy on sexual violence in conflict told Security Council members Tuesday.

Related: Rohingya crisis: what to expect from the UN Security Council meeting – Verdict

Aung San Suu Kyi stresses literary development for nation building – Straits Times Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi has stressed the development of literary sector to help build a federal union, emphasising the important role of literary workers in producing literature of excellence for the intellectual and spiritual development of citizens  in the nation-building

One third of Myanmar’s population remains in poverty – Myanmar Times One third of the population in Myanmar either lives in poverty or are near-poor, despite the significant reduction in poverty over the past decade, according to a new estimate based on 2015 living conditions released by the Ministry of Planning and Finance and the World Bank.

Thailand welcomes easing of EU political sanctions – ABC News Thailand’s military junta has welcomed the European Union’s decision to ease political sanctions imposed against it for overthrowing an elected government in 2014. The EU’s announcement is “good news” that underscores positive developments under military rule, Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai said Tuesday.

Activists blast junta on Constitution Day – Prachatai Pro-democracy activists gathered at the Democracy Monument on Constitution Day to remind the public that the junta’s constitution is undemocratic. About 100 people marched from Thammasat University to the Democracy Monument amid tight security.

Lawyer calls for Suthep to be indicted – Bangkok Post A human rights lawyer yesterday submitted a fresh petition to prosecutors demanding they proceed with indictments against former protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban and several others for their actions during the political protests between 2013 and 2014.

Cadet’s family to sue as Army concludes death from natural causes – Nation  Phakhapong’s family said they were disappointed at the conclusion and intended to sue the Army. A second autopsy has indicated that Phakhapong had suffered a physical attack, raising concerns that corporal punishment may have caused his death.

Vietnam prosecutes former state rubber firm chairman amid corruption crackdown – Reuters A former chairman of state-run Vietnam Rubber Group (VRG) and four other officials from its units have been issued with prosecution and probation orders for alleged violations of state rules, Vietnamese police said.

Vietnam to sell stakes in refinery, power firm – Reuters Vietnam’s government hopes to raise at least $297 million by selling a 20 percent stake in Petrovietnam Power Corporation and at least $155 mln by selling 7.79 pct of the Binh Son Refining and Petrochemical company, it said on Saturday.

‘No human rights at all’: Vietnamese drug addicts undergo ‘work therapy’ while authorities collect profits – SCMP Rights groups accuse officials at the centres of skimming from those salaries or pocketing boarding fees paid by some users’ families, and say addicts are detained against their will.

American evangelist leads rare prayer event of thousands in communist Vietnam, hoping to be considered ‘best citizens’ – SCMP More than 10,000 Vietnamese filled up a stadium in a rare Christian evangelistic event led by the Reverend Franklin Graham, who said he wants the communist government to consider Christians its best citizens.

Laos Cracks Down on Trafficking on Border With Thailand – RFA Lao authorities are tightening controls at a crossing on the border with Thailand, posting warning signs and interviewing travelers in a bid to end the exploitation of young Lao citizens for sex or labor in the neighboring country.

 

YUNNAN

Scientists “99 percent” certain SARS originated in Yunnan bats – GoKunming It appears the longstanding and deadly mystery surrounding the origin of the SARS virus has been solved. Virologists have been scouring China for clues since the 2002 outbreak, finally stumbling upon a cave in Yunnan where they believe with near certainty the contagion originated.

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