Regional Roundup for Week of 3.17.17

This week we heard different opinions about the Pak Beng dam in Laos.  South Korea-China relations have worsened as the US deploys THAAD in South Korea. Also, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson started his first Asia trip.



The proposed Pak Beng dam in Lao PDR: Is the “transboundary impact assessment” adequate? – Sumernet The 1st Regional Stakeholder Forum on the Pak Beng Hydropower Project organized by the Mekong River Commission (MRC) last month debated whether the transboundary social and environmental impact assessment done for the proposed Pak Beng is adequate given the serious environmental and social concerns surrounding this mainstream Mekong dam. ///The first regional stakeholder forum was no doubt an improvement of the MRC to engage stakeholders to discuss dam projects in the region. However, the transparency of the ESIA process and the effectiveness of the assessments were not some issues that could improve over night. The MRC should keep playing its leading role during the technical review process. Many stakeholders are watching and looking forward to seeing the results in the second regional stakeholder forum in May.

 Rebuttal to MRC CEO Statement: “Hydropower Development Will Not Kill the Mekong River” – The Mekong Eye In this commentary submitted to The Mekong Eye, the Viet Ecology Foundation responds to MRC CEO’s recent interview on the future of the Pak Beng dam project.

 South Korean Stores Feel China’s Wrath as U.S. Missile System Is DeployedNYT Anti-South Korean sentiment has broken out across China after the South’s embrace of a U.S. missile defense system that China says can be used to spy on its territory. ///An interesting point about the patriotism and nationalism raised in this article. China has one of the world’s largest populations. It is powerful when this population unite to boycott another nation’s business. But is it real patriotism? And what are the consequences and at what cost? Perhaps, each person has their own answer to that.

Related: THAAD and the Future of Strategic Stability in East Asia – The Diplomat

Tillerson Goes to Asia: What’s on the Agenda – The Diplomat U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will travel to Asia on his first trip to the region as the top U.S. diplomat.

Why Rex Tillerson Must Bring Up Human Rights on His First Asia Trip – The Diplomat As Rex Tillerson prepares to head to China, Japan, and South Korea on his first major trip, he can’t forget about human rights.

Related: Why and How Tillerson Should Address Human Rights on China Visit – The Diplomat

Related: Tillerson Travels to Asia Amid Rising Tensions in Region – WSJ



Regional Security Stakes In Southeast Asia – The Diplomat Insights from Joseph Chinyong Liow.

TPP Signatories to Meet in Chile to Explore the Future of the Agreement – The Diplomat The meeting will be the first high-level summit between the 12 countries since the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement.

What’s Behind the New China-Philippines Coast Guard Exercise? – The Diplopmat New bilateral engagements appear to be on the horizon despite lingering challenges.

Related: Philippines in new spat with China over sea territories – Southeast Asia Globe Magazine

How Did Myanmar’s Reforms Change Its Relations With China? – The Diplomat Public opinion in Myanmar has turned increasingly negative toward China.

Vietnam protests Chinese cruise ships in South China Sea – Southeast Asia Globe Magazine Earlier this month, a Chinese cruise ship made a stop at the Paracel Islands, an archipelago in the heavily contested South China Sea. With more than 300 passengers on board, the ship has now become the centre of a public spat between Vietnam and China, as Vietnam has publically demanded on Monday that China stop sending cruise ships to the Paracel Islands.

Will the North Korea-Malaysia Crisis Cause a Shift in Southeast Asian States’ Relationships with Pyongyang? – Asia Unbound Malaysia is but one of many Southeast Asian nations that have relatively robust diplomatic ties with Pyongyang. Or at least—Malaysia had relatively robust ties with Pyongyang. Those ties existed before the brazen killing in Kuala Lumpur’s international airport, the travel ban by Pyongyang on Malaysian citizens in North Korea and Malaysia on North Korean citizens in Malaysia, and the increasingly hostile rhetoric between Pyongyang and Kuala Lumpur.

Duterte on first presidential visit to Thailand – Investvine Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will pay an official state visit to Thailand from March 20 to 22, the Thai government announced on March 15. It is the first official visit of Duterte after he became President of the Philippines



AIIB plans to “conditionally” support coal power – The Third Pole The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which is led and largely funded by China, has closed its second public consultation on its future energy strategy.

Water-saving Technology Grows Hope in Burma’s Dry Zone – The Irrawaddy Farmers in Burma’s Dry Zone will bear the brunt of climate change, but water-saving technology could stave off disaster.

Myanmar’s toxic legacy of large dams – The Third Pole The country’s first strategic environmental review provides a chance to demand more from investors and dam builders, but is still being seen as too little, and leading to fierce resistance by marginalised communities.

Indonesia’s clean coal dreams – Mongabay The Indonesian government is relying on so-called “clean coal” technology to help reconcile its climate goals with plans to rapidly expand coal-fired energy. But even in countries with far greater resources than Indonesia, clean coal is often called a pipe dream or an oxymoron. The most advanced technologies can, in theory, remove some 90 percent of carbon and harmful particulates from coal exhaust. But they drive up the cost of building a coal-fired power plant by about 70 percent.



China says first draft of South China Sea code of conduct ready – Reuters A first draft of a code of conduct for behavior in the disputed South China Sea has been completed, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Wednesday, adding tension in the waterway had eased notably.

U.S. May Soon Increase Pressure on China to Constrain North Korea – NYT A senior administration official said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would warn China to restrain North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

Trump, China’s Xi Planning to Meet Soon – WSJ President Donald Trump is tentatively set to meet in coming weeks with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, officials from both nations said.

China’s Premier, Li Keqiang, Strikes Upbeat Tone Amid U.S. Tensions – NYT Mr. Li stressed common interests at his annual news conference despite differences over hot spots in Asia and President Trump’s anti-China rhetoric.

Related: Li Keqiang warns Donald Trump against trade war with China – The Guardian

‘Airpocalypse’ smog events in China linked to melting ice cap, research revealsThe Guardian Stagnant weather caused by fast-melting Arctic ice helped create conditions for China’s recent extreme air pollution events, scientists say. Climate change played a major role in the extreme air pollution events suffered recently by China and is likely to make such “airpocalypses” more common, new research has revealed.

China: Xi Jinping wants ‘Great Wall of Steel’ in violence-hit Xinjiang – The Guardian Authorities blame apparent increase in bloodletting on Islamic extremists and separatists. Chinese president Xi Jinping has urged security forces to erect a “Great Wall of Steel” around the violence-hit western region of Xinjiang after an apparent spike in bloodletting that authorities blame on Islamic extremists and separatists.



National power plan revisions afoot – Bangkok Post Energy policymakers will revise the national power development plan (PDP 2015-36) in order to generate sufficient power for the country if plans to develop the two coal-fired power plants in the southern region — in Krabi and Thepha district in Songkhla province — are further delayed or scrapped.

Fisheries expert suspects something wrong with the Thai sea – Thai PBS The latest casualty is a 12-metre Bruda whale weighing about two tonnes washed ashore in Village 9 of Tambon Thongchai, Bang Saphan district of Prachuab Khiri Khan. Thorn said that this latest Bruda whale which was not an aging whale appeared to have died from unnatural cause – an indicative that there was something wrong with the sea.

Egat fires up coal plant plans – Bangkok Post The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) says it will launch a new environmental and health impact assessment (EHIA) for the planned coal-fired power plant in Krabi and an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for its deep-sea port within three months.

Groups march against EIA, projects in South – The Nation A 101-KILOMETRE march was launched yesterday to highlight the flaws of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and protest against the planned Songkhla-Satun Landbridge project and the proposed Pak Bara seaport.

Myanmar’s Rohingya Crackdown ‘Crimes Against Humanity’: Top UN Official – The Diplomat Rapporteur says Aung San Suu Kyi must answer for atrocities.

Related: What’s Next for Myanmar’s Rakhine State? – The Diplomat

Rising Intimidation in Cambodian Politics Calls for Urgent Solidarity – The Diplomat The worries continue to grow as elections approach.

Cambodian Villagers Displaced by Dam Complain of Nonarable Land, Access to Fishing – RFA Cambodian villagers who have been relocated by the government from areas near the U.S. $781 million Lower Sesan 2 hydropower dam project on Mekong River tributaries said Thursday that they cannot eke out a living in their new locale.

Villagers affected by dam meet with government officials – Phnom Penh Post Villagers from Stung Treng whose homes stand to be flooded by the Lower Sesan II dam met with representatives of the Ministry of Mines and Energy at an NGO Forum-sponsored meeting in Phnom Penh yesterday, in hopes of establishing a dialogue towards a long-awaited compromise.

Climate change to challenge Mekong River Delta in 2017 – Vietnamnet Signs of growth stagnation in the Mekong Delta in recent years have been blamed on climate change, which has contributed to drought and saline intrusion.

South to see less drought, more dry season rain – Vietnamnet Weather experts expect the southern region to  experience less drought and salinity and more unseasonal rain during this year’s dry season.

Mekong Delta takes urgent steps to prevent drought – Vietnamnet Last year’s drought devastated crops and caused serious losses for farmers in the Mekong Delta. This year, authorities are restructuring crops, building dykes and erecting sluices in anticipation of continuing weather disasters.

Gov’t Plans to Promote Transport Infrastructure – Lao News Agency (KPL) The Lao government is preparing to initiate investment promotion for developing and improving transport infrastructure through the Public Private Partnership mechanism, which is considered as a favorable option.



Myanmar conflict crosses into Yunnan as refugee numbers swell – Go Kunming Fighting in northeastern Myanmar once again spilled over the border last week, leaving one Chinese man dead and several others injured. More than a week of intensified mortar and small arms exchanges near the Yunnan town of Nansan (南伞) have also sent tens of thousands of Burmese refugees into makeshift camps maintained by the People’s Liberation Army and staffed by villagers from both sides of the border.

Related: Refugees surge into China as Kokang border conflict escalates – DVB

This week’s news digest was curated by Sonya Zhao.

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