Regional Roundup for Week of 3.29.19

EXSE FOCUS

Thailand 2019 Elections: Conflicting Claims as Final Result Wait Continues – The Diplomat A military-backed party that based on unofficial results won the most votes in Thailand’s first election since a 2014 coup said Monday it will try to form a government, after a rival party also claimed it had the right to govern.// After several months of postponements, preliminary Thai election results show Palang Pracharath, the pro-military party allied with the ruling junta, winning 8.4 million votes. The election has been plagued with concern over voting irregularities and distrust of the election commission.

Related: Surprise, suspicion in Thailand as pro-army party leads election race – The Straits Times

The Philippines’ China Dam Controversy – The Diplomat Millions of people in Metro Manila were left without water last week, raising pressure on indigenous communities in the mountains above the Philippines capital as the government seeks to tap their terrain for supply.// Water shortages in Manila caused in part by delays to infrastructure projects like the Kaliwa Dam Project which is being financed through China’s BRI is having adverse effects on already vulnerable indigenous communities in the Philippines.

World’s Energy Transition in Doubt as Progress on Affordability, Sustainability Stalls – World Economic Forum The world’s energy systems have become less affordable and are no more environmentally sustainable than they were five years ago. While access to energy has substantially improved, with less than one billion people now living without access to electricity, concerns over affordability and equity of energy transition are increasing.// According to this new report from the World Economic Forum coal expansion in developing Asia has been partly responsible for the energy transition stall in the last five years.  In order to make progress, developing Asian countries have to make the transition to renewable energies.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

China willing to work with other LMC countries to implement cooperation projects: ambassador to Myanmar – Xinhua Net China is willing to work with the other five-member countries of Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) to plan, design and implement the cooperation projects, Chinese Ambassador to Myanmar Hong Liang said on Tuesday.

What’s in the New Philippines-Cambodia Defense Meeting? – The Diplomat Earlier this month, the Philippines and Cambodia finally held the first iteration of a new defense cooperation meeting that both sides had formally agreed to back in 2017.

Joint Patrols Highlight Vietnam-Cambodia Maritime Ties – The Diplomat Last week, Vietnam and Cambodia held another iteration of their pre-scheduled list of joint maritime patrols. The development offered a glimpse into one manifestation of the defense realm of the bilateral relationship that both sides continue to develop in 2019 amid a range of other domestic and foreign policy developments.

EU risks ‘trade war’ with Malaysia over palm oil: PM Mahathir Mohamad – The Straits Times The European Union risks opening up a trade war with Malaysia over its “grossly unfair” policies aimed at reducing the use of palm oil, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Thursday (March 28).

Thailand-Philippines Defense Ties in Focus With Navy Goodwill Visit – The Diplomat The engagement spotlighted the ongoing development of the security realm of the relationship.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Maximising the wind revolution in energy sector – Vietnam Net The development in both wind and solar power demonstrates ­Vietnam’s efforts to meet the targets set in the ­Revised Power Development Master Plan VII to produce 10.7 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, thanks to a big push for incentives.

ASEAN’s energy transition on the right track – The ASEAN Post Yesterday, the World Economic Forum (WEF) launched the fifth edition of their Energy Transition Index (ETI), ranking 115 economies on how well they are able to balance energy security and access with environmental sustainability and affordability.

Vietnam to end plastic scrap imports from 2025 – VN Express Vietnam will not import plastic scrap from 2025 and will deal with the scrap consignments stuck at ports, the government has said.

Cancerous containers ditched by ‘green’ province – The Nation During the past three years, more than 500 establishments in Songkhla have been certified as being free of disposable food foam containers. At least seven communities and 32 restaurants have also earned such a “green” certification.

Project to restore Central Highlands forests gets nod – Vietnam News More than VNĐ28.5 trillion (US$1.23 billion) has been earmarked for a project to protect, restore and sustainably develop forests in the Central Highlands until 2030. 

ENGIE targets solar mini-grids in Myanmar with Mandalay Yoma – PV Tech ENGIE has teamed up with a Myanmar-focused off-grid energy specialist to help spur rural electrification across the Southeast Asian country with mini-grids combining PV, diesel and battery storage.

Seminar discusses climate change-resilient livelihoods for Mekong Delta farmers – Vietnam Plus A consultation seminar to develop a project on switching livelihoods for farmers in the Mekong Delta was held in Dong Thap province on March 26, involving the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the World Bank and Dong Thap People’s Committee.

Mekong Delta facing grave drought, saltwater intrusion – Saigon Giai Phong In the past few days, various channels and lakes in the desalination areas near Tac Thu – Song Doc, located in Ca Mau Province, have displayed signals of water depletion.

Vietnamese named among world’s most influential climate activists – VN Express A Vietnamese woman has made it to the global list of 100 most influential people in climate policy for her advocacy of sustainable energy solutions.

New report lays out low-carbon development path for Indonesia – Mongabay News With every tree felled and every piece of coal burned for energy, Indonesia is inching closer to its ecological tipping point.

Asia’s Coal Addiction Puts Chokehold on Its Air-polluted Cities – Voice of America Over the past year, the number of patients treated each day in the hospital unit where cardiologist Ade Imasanti Sapardan works in Indonesia’s capital has almost doubled to about 100.

Ministry to find water for protected wildlife – Khmer Times Due to shortages of water and high temperatures in the Kingdom, the Environment Ministry has said that it will create new water sources for protected wildlife, such as elephants.

CHINA

China Increases Coal Use And Climate Concerns – Radio Free Asia Official energy data from China have confirmed what climate scientists have feared. The world’s biggest coal user has boosted consumption for the second year in a row, posting the largest increase since 2013.

Related: Push for more coal power in China imperils efforts to fight climate change, researchers say – The Straits Times

European leaders demand win-win relationship with China – Channel News Asia China’s President Xi Jinping on Tuesday (Mar 26) attempted to dispel concern about his country’s growing presence in Europe at a meeting with French, German and EU leaders who stressed their desire for a more balanced relationship.

Related: Growing European doubts over China loom large over President Xi Jinping’s visit to France – South China Morning Post

Is China ready to mine the deep sea? – China Dialogue China’s most famous manned deep-sea submersible, recently upgraded at great expense, is named after the legendary aquatic dragon Jiaolong.

China’s latest chemical plant explosion was avoidable – China Dialogue News and social media images of an explosion on March 21 in Xiangshui county, eastern China, call to mind the terrifying blast at a chemicals warehouse in Tianjin in 2015.

A year on, CIDCA struggles to get off the ground – DevEx Understaffing, slowness, and internal politics plague the China International Development Cooperation Agency, or CIDCA, one year after the Chinese government announced its creation in March 2018, leaving some experts asking why so little has happened.

A Need for Concerted Effort: A side forum on Belt and Road Initiative discusses challenges ahead – CGTN As the Belt and Road Initiative reaches further across the globe, it’s picking up bigger players and heavier hitters. With Italy, a G7 member on board, projects aimed at boosting infrastructure, economies, and most of all, connectivity, are gaining new life.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

New network formed to oppose Myitsone dam – Mizzima A new network to oppose the Myitsone dam project will be formed on April 1. Currently this project is being opposed not only by local people at the project site but also people across the country.

Linking BRI with Cambodia’s rectangular development – Khmer Times The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an ambitious international cooperation and connectivity project initiated by China in 2013. Cambodia is one of the staunchest supporters of the initiative with the expectation that BRI will contribute to peace and shared prosperity.

Public criticism pressures Vietnam to back down on new economic zones – China Dialogue In June 2018, public demonstrations swept through major towns in six provinces, catching the Vietnamese government off guard and pressuring it to postpone a law on Special Economic Zones (SEZs).

Philippine Justice, Lawmakers Express Concern over Chinese Loan Details – Radio Free Asia Filipino lawmakers raised concerns Tuesday about financing agreements with China after a Supreme Court justice alleged that Beijing could take over Philippine maritime assets if Manila defaulted on a Chinese loan for a local irrigation project.

Driving gender reform in Vietnam’s Labour Code – East Asia Forum Globally, removing sex discrimination from regulatory texts continues to ride a positive wave. This might be a response to a new generation of free trade agreements, which call for regulatory frameworks to be socially and environmentally compliant with international standards.

Cambodia returns land taken from indigenous people in ‘unprecedented’ move – The Straits Times Cambodia has returned land taken a decade ago from indigenous communities for a Vietnamese company’s rubber plantation, a sign that foreign investors are facing greater scrutiny over rights violations, analysts said on Wednesday (March 27).

Airport rail deal talks put on hold  – Bangkok Post A consortium led by Charoen Pokphand Group (CP Group) has asked to put off Thursday’s talks with the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) over a high-speed rail project linking three major airports.

Vietnam To Get First Licensed Crypto Exchange – Invest Vine Vietnam will get its first licensed crypto exchange after Linh Thanh Group, a large industry, real estate and trading conglomerate, and Kronn Ventures AG, a blockchain company from Switzerland’s “crypto valley” in the Canton of Zug, signed a memorandum of understanding to set such an exchange up in the country.

Cambodia has repaid 8 percent of its debt: report – Khmer Times From 1993 to 2018, the government repaid $1.3 billion of its debt to development partners, roughly 8 percent of the country’s external debt, according to an official report on the country’s public debt.

Cambodia to buy 200 megawatts from Laos – Khmer Times Cambodia will buy 200 megawatts from Laos to feed rising demand for power in the Kingdom. Electricite du Cambodge has signed an agreement to purchase 200 MW from Laos from 2019 to 2021.

This week’s news digest was curated by Kathryn Hundley.

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