Regional Roundup for Week of 3.29.2015

A big week for the region. The death of Lee Kuan Yew, aged 91, wasn’t shocking news but it has rocked Singapore and the outpouring of grief has been non-stop. Rightfully credited with Singapore’s economic rise, his legacy is complicated and his influence international, especially with regards to China’s own economic development. In other news, Chinese President Xi Jinping opened the annual Boao Forum for Asia this weekend. Expect much of the talks there to revolve around the formal unveiling of China’s ambitious “One Belt, One Road” initiative.  

EXSE FOCUS

Chinese leader Xi Jinping spells out ambitious Asia vision at Boao Forum – SCMP Addressing the annual Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan province, Xi said China welcomed all countries to join the Beijing-led “One Belt, One Road” initiative, which aims to improve regional connectivity in a project inspired by the ancient Silk Road. He stressed the project was not meant to replace existing economic partnerships.

一带一路愿景与行动文件发布 基础设施互通优先Sina Finance “一带一路”是促进共同发展、实现共同繁荣的合作共赢之路,是增进理解信任、加强全方位交流的和平友谊之路。中国政府倡议,秉持和平合作、开放包容、互学互鉴、互利共赢的理念,全方位推进务实合作,打造政治互信、经济融合、文化包容的利益共同体、命运共同体和责任共同体。The official government document detailing the vision and action plan behind China’s “One Belt, One Road” project. The plan is massive in scope and its effects will be deep if it’s successfully implemented. 

Related: 重磅!中国发布“一带一路”路线图:将这样影响我们的生活 – Global Times Finance

 

China Executes 3 Over Deadly Knife Attack at Train Station in 2014NYT The rampage at the Kunming station in Yunnan Province last year killed 31 people and wounded 141. News reports suggests these three were part of the team responsible for planning the attacks. However, with conflicting reports over how many people planned the attacks and how they were caught (post-attack manhunt or picked up three days prior?) the real story of what happened is unclear.

Burmese Leaders Outed by Global Witness Over Alleged Land GrabsThe Diplomat A new report reveals the extent of land grabbing in Myanmar, especially along the border with China. Friends of ExSE have been talking about military land grabs in Shan State for the past few years. 

Despite China’s Warnings, Cross-Border Strikes From Myanmar ContinueThe Diplomat Despite stern warnings from senior Chinese officials, Myanmar forces continue to take their fight against the Kokang rebels across the border. Two separate campaigns against Kokang and Kachin rebels all while ceasefire talks are happening with other ethnic armed groups are happening in Yangon. 

Related: Burmese fighter jets bomb Kachin outposts: KIADVB

Related: ‘The Government Has to Take Great Care in Dealing with China’The Irrawaddy

One In All In, AIIB Gains MomentumThe Diplomat Even with the South China Sea disputes, ASEAN countries insist they are committed to China’s new development bank.

Related: South Korea Joins the AIIBThe Diplomat

REGIONAL RELATIONS

The buds of MarchThe Economist On March 21st the countries’ [China, Japan, and South Korea] foreign ministers met for the first time in three years and agreed to push for a resumption of trilateral summits as soon as “convenient”.

Related: Northeast Asia’s Shared Destiny Project Syndicate

ASEAN Connectivity and China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’The Diplomat Could there be a convergence of interests between these two grand projects?

Related: China summit aims to boost economic connection to ASEANDVB

Related: AEC Dream’s Failure ‘Still A Success’The Diplomat

What’s the big deal?The Economist Negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an ambitious trade agreement linking America, Japan and ten other countries—together accounting for 40% of global GDP—have missed so many deadlines that one more may not seem to matter.

Tug-of-war over Uighurs at Suan PhluThe Nation A family of 17 suspected Uighur Muslims at the centre of a diplomatic tug-of-war between Turkey and China will remain in custody after a Thai court yesterday rejected their argument that their prolonged detention was illegal. Turkey is the hoped-for destination for Uighurs escaping China. With the western gateways to Central Asia closed, more and more Uighurs have been taking the route through Southeast Asia and getting to Turkey via Malaysia and Indonesia.

Vietnam ‘caught between a rock and a hard place’ as US-Russia rivalry deepensThanh Nien Major power competition has intruded into the politics of the South China Sea

Bukit Asam, Sinar Mas secure loans from Chinese lendersThe Jakarta Post State-run coal producer Bukit Asam and conglomerate Sinar Mas Group have secured billion dollars worth of loans from Chinese lenders to finance their mega power plant projects, the companies say.

Could Thailand Become the Transport Hub of Indochina?The Diplomat New agreements to upgrade the country’s rail network could make Thailand a major regional transportation hub. Getting the trains to run on schedule and stay on the track would be a miracle. 

ADB President and PRC Premier Li Keqiang Discuss Deepening PartnershipADB ADB President Takehiko Nakao today met Premier Li Keqiang of the People’s Republic of China and discussed deepening the partnership between ADB and the PRC.

Are Slaves From Burma Catching the Fish You Buy?The Irrawaddy Here, in the Indonesian island village of Benjina and the surrounding waters, hundreds of trapped men represent one of the most desperate links crisscrossing between companies and countries in the seafood industry.

Lao Workers Protest Over Salary Withheld by China-Backed Potash PlantRadio Free Asia Scores of laborers who work for a Chinese-backed potash plant in Laos have held a rare protest in the one-party communist nation to demand salary they say the facility’s owner never paid them, according to sources.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Oil exports resume on Thai-Burma borderDVB Burmese soldiers have reopened ports on the Moei River opposite to Thailand’s Tak Province to trade after Thai authorities allowed oil exports to resume through pipelines to Burma’s Myawaddy Division.

Karen Groups Aim to ‘Save the Salween’The Irrawaddy “Save the Salween,” organized by a network of civil society organizations, will bring together local river-reliant communities, environmental experts, and the general public for panel discussions, an art exhibition and a field visit to a Karen village that is likely to affected by proposed hydropower projects. With the Irrawaddy unofficially deemed ‘off-limits’ to hydropower, the Salween is likely to become Burma’s whipping boy, plenty of Thai and Chinese projects planned on one of Asia’s great rivers.

International Green Group Calls Attention to Negative Impacts of Dam Projects in LaosRadio Free Asia The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) says the much-criticized Xayaburi and the Don Sahong hydroelectric dam projects along the Mekong River in Laos will threatened the area’s freshwater resources.

Don Sahong fish studies will continueVientiane Times The developer of the Don Sahong Hydropower Project has said channel modification and monitoring of fish species and fish passages in the Siphandone area will continue as preparations are made to start construction.

Hanoi Citizens Protest Tree-Felling PlanThe Diplomat Plans to chop down the trees that line the city’s historic streets have met with a vigorous response.

Related: In Logging Hotbed, 7 Arrested for Felling TreesThe Cambodia Daily

Krabi residents demand details on coal power plant, threaten major protestsThe Nation Local villagers and tourist business operators in Krabi oppose the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT)’s plan to build a port for coal imports and an electricity-generating plant in Nuea Khlong district.

Related: Tourism worries over Krabi coal plantThe Nation

Vietnam province refuses to pull plug on controversial river constructionThanh Nien “There’s no reason to ask us to stop this project,’ a Dong Nai official says

Garbage impeding flow of rainwater: BMAThe Nation More than 10 tonnes of garbage has been retrieved from pipes and sieves at each of Bangkok’s pump stations every time city officials rush there to facilitate the flow of water out of the capital.

Water users to pay for what they useThe Nation Residents of Bangkok, Nonthaburi and Samut Prakan provinces will pay for tap water according to what they use, from April 1 onwards.

Conserving the benefits of floating rice in VietnamMekong Commons Despite increased production from high yielding rice varieties, agricultural intensification has increased water scarcity and agro-chemical pollution, and reduced soil fertility in the Mekong Delta. Questions about the long term sustainability of this system have thus been raised.

CHINA

China rejects international pleas to release five feminists from jailThe Guardian Britain, the EU and US ambassador to the UN among those calling for activists detained just before International Women’s Day to be freed.

China, Kazakhstan Sign $23 Billion in DealsThe Diplomat China expands its economic ties with an important partner for its Silk Road Economic Belt project.

China’s Master Plan for Remaking Its CourtsThe Diplomat Analyzing the Supreme People’s Court’s outline for reforming China’s courts.

Related: China gives list to US of ‘corrupt’ officials it would like sent backThe Guardian

China faces ‘grave risks’ from climate changeThe Third Pole Head of China’s weather service warns that climate change could make droughts, crop failures and energy shortages increasingly likely in the world’s most populous country.

China Court to Hear NGO Lawsuit Targeting Polluter’s ProfitsChinaFile An environmental group has filed a lawsuit for 30 million yuan (U.S.$4.8 million) to seek compensation from a Shandong chemical company for pumping out harmful substances—a legal action thought to be the first public interest litigation for air pollution under China’s new environmental law. This is a big case. If the suit is successful it will pave the way for many other lawsuits to go forward – industry captains and NGOs carefully watching. 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Lee Kuan Yew obituaryThe Guardian The founding prime minister of an independent Singapore, he sought to encourage prosperity through ensuring a dominant role for the state

Related: Lee Kuan Yew: The Father of Modern China?The Diplomat

The pen and the swordThe Economist Ten months after seizing power in a coup, Thailand’s junta chafes at still having to defend its record.

Related: We’ll probably kill journalists who don’t report the truth, says Thai leaderThe Guardian The amount of verbal gaffes Gen. Prayuth has made is astounding. 

Related: Thai Junta Targets Dissent with Visits to Student Activist HomesThe Irrawaddy

Seven arrested as student protests reignite across BurmaDVB Burmese students and activists took to the streets again on Friday morning, calling for the release of fellow protestors and denouncing the watered-down amendments bill on the National Education Law, which was passed by the country’s upper house of parliament on Thursday.

Cambodia Defends Its Human Rights RecordThe Diplomat The country has presented a human rights report to the UN in Geneva.

ADB predicts 8.3% growth in Burma for 2015DVB The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Tuesday predicted economic growth in Burma will surge by over eight percent for the next two years as it urged the nation to press on with reforms before landmark elections.

Ethnic Reps Remain Wary During Pause in Peace TalksThe Irrawaddy While government and ethnic peace negotiators catch their breath before talks on a nationwide ceasefire agreement recommence next week, various representatives from the ethnic groups’ Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) highlighted the fragility of ongoing deliberations.

13 confirmed dead, 28 injured in Vietnam scaffolding collapse as rescue mission endsThanh Nien Authorities are investigating into the accident, the worst of its kind in eight years

Related: More than 50 injured in train crash in Thailand’s Ayutthaya provinceThanh Nien

KRT Charges Second Suspect In Case 004The Cambodia Daily Former Khmer Rouge official Ao An, better known by his alias “Ta An,” on Friday became the third mid-ranking cadre to be charged this month by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia over alleged crimes against humanity committed during the Pol Pot era.

Four Children Injured by UXO Blast Near SchoolThe Cambodia Daily Four children were injured, two of them seriously, after playing with unexploded ordnance near their school in Siem Reap province’s Chi Kreng district on Tuesday, police said Thursday.

Of Catfish Wars and Shooting WarsNYT Graves in the life-giving rice paddies along the Mekong Delta suggest the Asian gift for acceptance.

YUNNAN

Infrastructure money continues to pour into KunmingGoKunming The seemingly unlimited supply of development money made available to Spring City urban planners shows no signs of letting up. 

REVIEWS

Searching for a Magical Creature, Finding a Need for Wild PlacesNYT William deBuys’ lyrical work “The Last Unicorn,” about the saola in Southeast Asia, reminds readers that what drives conservationists most is beauty.

 

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