Regional Roundup for Week of 12.17.16


Today, our focus is on protests in Southeast Asia that are related to environmental concerns. In Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and China, civil society groups have made headlines for pressuring their governments to stop future environmental destruction or to address past destruction.  

Vietnamese Villagers Petition Local Government About Formosa Payouts—Radio Free Asia About 1,000 villagers from Thach Ha district in Vietnam’s north central coastal province of Ha Tinh on Monday submitted a complaint to the local People’s Committee office about what they consider to be unfair compensation for those affected by a Taiwanese steel plant’s toxic chemical spill.

Environmental Advocates Push for More Renewable Energy in Burma—The Irrawaddy Civil society organizations demand cleaner alternatives to planned coal and hydropower plants, which have been objected to by locals

Related: KNU Criticized for Lack of Transparency in Development Projects The Irrawaddy

Critics step up mining bill fight—Phnom Penh Post A network protesting against mining activities vowed Sunday to use every tactic at its disposal to overturn the National Legislative Assembly-approved mining law, saying it would destroy community rights.

China Has Made Strides in Addressing Air Pollution, Environmentalist Says—New York Times Ma Jun notes progress in acknowledging the scope of the problem, despite continuing constraints on public discussion that might stir social unrest.

Related: China’s Environmental Health Crisis: The International and Comparative Perspective—CFR

Related: Time-lapse: 72 hours of air pollution in Shijiazhuang

Related: Smog in China’s Sichuan Sparks Protests From Students, Elderly


Where China stokes conflict, Vietnamese dissidents find opportunity—Southeast Asia Globe Vietnamese dissidents are using anti-China rallies as recruiting grounds for their cause//This is an interesting article that helps shed light on the complexities of Vietnam’s relationship with China.

If Donald Trump Pushes on Taiwan, How China Could Push Back—New York Times The president-elect has suggested that the “One China” policy could be used as a bargaining chip, but China has some leverage of its own.

Images show ‘significant’ Chinese weapons systems in South China Sea—The Guardian Washington-based thinktank says Beijing has installed anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems and guns on artificial reefs

‘There is nothing we can do’: Philippines powerless to stop China building in disputed waters, Manila says—South China Morning Post The foreign minister of the Philippines conceded Friday that it is powerless to do anything about China’s installation of weapons on disputed reefs in the South China Sea

Why does Indonesia cling to its plagued Chinese infrastructure projects?—South China Morning Post China’s signature US$5.1 billion Jakarta-Bandung high-speed rail project has been shelved for now. But Chinese infrastructure developers are still taking a dominant position in Indonesia’s ambitious 35,000MW electricity expansion.//As you would expect, it is because the Chinese infrastructure projects are faster and cheaper than the alternatives

Podcast: A Chinese Perspective on the U.S. Election—CFR On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, Chen Dingding, professor of international relations at Jinan University and the founding director of the newly established Intellisia Institute, offers his advice on how Chinese leaders should approach a Trump administration.

Southeast Asian Nations Assess Options Amid Trade-Deal Uncertainty—Wall Street Journal Southeast Asian officials hunkered together to assess where the region stands in the wake of global shocks, including the near-certain death of a trade deal with the U.S. following the election of Donald Trump as president.


Southeast Asia’s Haze Needs a Global Solution—The Diplomat The world community is a part of Indonesia’s haze problem. It can also be part of the solution.

Green groups raise red flags over Jokowi’s widely acclaimed haze law—Mongabay A crucial new government regulation on peatland management in Indonesia is spurring debate over whether the country is going far enough to prevent a repeat of last year’s disastrous forest fires.

Why is climate-conscious Vietnam choosing coal over nuclear?—South China Morning Post Vietnam’s decision to abandon its nascent nuclear power programme and turn back to cheaper, dirtier, coal says much about where the nation thought it was headed – and about where it has ended up.//One interesting angle to look at is how this affects cooperation between Vietnam and Russia, since according to one expert,“the Ninh Thuan-1 nuclear power plant was supposed to become one of the flagships of Russia-Vietnam cooperation. There was a lot of time and effort invested in the development of the project by Rosatom.”

ADB $400 Million Loan to Help Indonesia Meet Energy Demand—ADB ADB has signed a $400 million loan to help expand the Tangguh liquefied natural gas (LNG) production facility, one of the largest in Indonesia.

Mined-out cities: the true cost of coal—The Third Pole Many Chinese cities were founded on coal but are now being ruined by it. //Great photos in this article

A Glimmer of Hope for the Salween? | Myanmar Times—International Rivers China’s decision to shelve hydropower projects presents an important opportunity for Myanmar to re-evaluate their planned dams on the Salween.

Another victim of illegal logging and forest crime?—Mekong Eye The killing in Myanmar of a journalist who covered issues related to illegal logging in the country must be investigated thoroughly and all findings made public.

China’s clean-energy giants on an overseas shopping spree—Mekong Eye Chinese state-funded renewable energy firms are spreading the net overseas, as quality new projects become harder to come by at home, and have already been successful in snapping up some prime operational projects, while bidding for others, both in developed and emerging markets.

National environmental policy gets an update—Mekong Eye Myanmar will get a new national environmental policy in early 2017, say officials from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation. The retooled version will update the 22-year-old policy currently in place.

Launch of Open Data Portal Brings Environment and Development Data to Myanmar—Mekong Eye USAID-supported Mekong Partnership for the Environment (MPE) partners have launched an innovative data portal in Myanmar

Singapore, Malaysia must try to increase fresh water supply from Johor river: Masagos—Channel News Asia  Singapore and Malaysia need to look at ways to increase the supply of fresh water from the Johor River, even as a new barrage there is already helping to make a difference, said Singapore Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli on Friday (Dec 16).


Caught in Quicksand’: Gay and HIV-Positive in China—ChinaFile China is a country with giant cities, huge skyscrapers, and the world’s second largest economy. But underneath its modern looking facade, the country is still very traditional; this is especially true of attitudes toward homosexuality.


Hun Sen and Duterte: strongmen plan crackdown on regional crime—Southeast Asia Globe Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, whose war on drugs has claimed almost 6,000 lives since July, touches down in Phnom Penh today

Related: A budding friendship Phnom Penh Post

Singapore expands its paternalistic policy on race—The Economist The president will now be chosen partly on racial criteria

Thai fishing industry: abuses continue in unpoliced waters, Greenpeace claims—The Guardian Report alleges exposure of human rights abuses including trafficking and labour exploitation has simply prompted move to more remote waters

A new chapter, but the same old story—New Mandala With the new Thai king crowned and his Privy Councillors appointed, Pavin Chachavalpongpun argues that cooperation between the monarchy and military will be closer than ever, in a blow for hopes of pro-democratic reform.

Sam Rainsy’s last stand?—Southeast Asia Globe After losing four elections and with cracks in his party widening, the 2018 general election could be Sam Rainsy’s last as the leader of the Cambodian opposition

Related: Interview: ‘Change is Imminent. Dictatorship Will be Uprooted’—Radio Free Asia//An interview with Sam Rainsy

A reforming minister tries to spur Indonesia’s economy—The Economist But the country’s growth remains disappointing

The rise of political Islam requires a balancing act from Indonesian President Joko Widodo—South China Morning Post As the ranks of protesters thickened in central Jakarta on December 2, turning into Indonesia’s biggest mass demonstration since the end of authoritarian rule in 1998, President Joko Widodo grappled with a dilemma: should he join the rally or stay away?

Related: Jokowi’s calculated soft approach to Jakarta’s radicals New Mandala

UN urges Suu Kyi to visit northern Arakan State—DVB The United Nations urged State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday to visit the country’s divided Arakan State to reassure civilians they will be protected amid accusations that soldiers have raped Rohingya Muslim women houses and killed civilians.

Myanmar’s Rohingya insurgency may have links to hardliners in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia—South China  Morning Post A group of Rohingya Muslims that attacked Myanmar border guards in October is headed by people with links to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said on Thursday, citing members of the group.

Myanmar government ‘following the law’ in Rakhine, probe panel says—South China Morning Post A commission set up by Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi to investigate attacks on border posts and the army’s brutal response on Wednesday said security forces had abided by the law in a Muslim-majority area of northwestern Rakhine State.

Related: Myanmar’s Rakhine Commission Wraps up Visit to Maungdaw as Grim New Report Surfaces—RFA

Members of Parliament to Study Chinese Language—The Irrawaddy ‘It is not a bad idea to learn Chinese since China is our neighbor and also a superpower,’ says Dr. Kyaw Than Tun.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has signed executive order to amend the constitution—South China Morning Post Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has set into motion a proposal to amend the 1987 constitution to set up a federal system of government to end conflict and give a further boost to the economy.

Standing Up to a Strongman—New York Times The people of the Philippines are taking to the streets to protest their brutal new president.

Related: ‘If You Resist, You Get Hurt, or Die’: Filipinos Praise Duterte’s Antidrug Campaign—New York Times

Philippine President Duterte Admitted to Personally Killing People—Foreign Policy “I was really looking for a confrontation so I could kill.”

U.S. Halts Aid Package to Philippines Amid Drug Crackdown—New York Times The decision reflected “significant concerns around the rule of law and civil liberties,” a spokeswoman for the American Embassy said.

Viet Nam Schools in a Class of Their Own—ADB The latest results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), published earlier this month, confirm that secondary schools in the southeast Asian country are in many ways in a class of their own.

Wildlife smugglers using Facebook to sell ivory and rhino horn—China Dialogue Wildlife traffickers from a small, sleepy village in Vietnam are using Facebook to offload large amounts of illegal ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts, an investigation has revealed.

Thailand to Resume Peace Talks with Muslim Separatists in Malaysia—The Irrawaddy ‘Our goal is to minimize losses and violence. Talks right now are at the trust-building stage,” says Thai negotiator.


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