Regional Roundup for Week of 3.9.17

This week, China had ‘Two Sessions’ addressing the country’s economic and political concerns. Also, March 8 was the International Women’s day with the theme of “women in the changing world of work”. So, let’s take this opportunity and look at women – their achievements, struggles and future, in the region.



MRC CEO: “Hydropower development will not kill the Mekong River”  The Mekong Eye “Hydropower development will not kill the Mekong river.” Those words are what Mr Pham Tuan Phan, MRC’s CEO, said to media on the sidelines of the Pak Beng dam forum “Regional Stakeholder Forum on the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA).” Correspondents for The Mekong Eye interviewed Mr. Pham

China’s ‘Two Sessions’ and the 2017 Economic Outlook – The Diplomat Li’s work report was light on new economic reforms, indicating that stability remains the government’s main goal.

Chinese premier warns world entering period of political and economic upheaval – The Guardian Li Keqiang urges China to brace for ‘graver situations’ ahead in apparent reference to President Donald Trump. China’s premier has warned the world is entering a period of profound political and economic upheaval as the spectre of Donald Trump hung over the opening day of the country’s annual national people’s congress.

China’s economic concerns mount as thousands gather for congress – The Guardian Premier Li Keqiang will deliver his annual report against the backdrop of a falling currency and an ever-growing housing and debt bubble. China’s rubber-stamp legislature convenes this weekend with the script focused on containing economic risks while president Xi Jinping consolidates power ahead of a pivotal Communist party meeting later this year.

International Women’s Day: How a “changing world” can affect equality in decision-making – Mekong Eye The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is “women in the changing world of work,” which aims to right the inequalities that currently exist in the global labor force. This is a worthy cause, but what happens when the change in work comes about due to more major livelihood changes that transform the gender dynamics of work and decision-making in whole communities? /// In the Mekong region, relocation of a family may have strong impact on traditional gender norms, practices and decision-making, and therefore influence women and men differently because of their different roles in the household. Gender division of labor, as a very important factor, is always overlooked by policy makers in the resettlement policies. The good sign is that more researches focusing on  Mekong issues are starting to look through a gender lens. Hopefully, these voices can be heard by policy makers. 

Thailand ranks third in Asia Pacific for having high ratio of women in senior management positions – Thai PBS This was revealed today in the Grand Thornton’s annual survey of 36 countries of senior management roles held by women, to mark the International Women’s Day today.The survey by the professional services firm Grant Thornton showed that women in Asia Pacific held a wider management role, with the ratio increasing to 25% from 23% in 2016.

Women workers in Thailand’s caring economy – New Mandala To mark International Women’s Day, Kriangsak Teerakowitkajorn reports on the challenges facing working women in Thailand, and the critical need to change gender norms and recognise caring and reproductive labor.

Rights Group Chides Vietnam For Treatment of Women, Human Rights Defenders – RFA The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights called on the Vietnamese government on Tuesday to release all women detained for demanding human rights and revise provisions of the criminal code routinely used to imprison female activists.

I went to jail for handing out feminist stickers in China – The Guardian The backlash is painful, but it coexists with progress as women activists manage – slowly – to bring about a change in attitudes.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Encourages Women to Participate in Peace Process – The Irrawaddy Speaking at an International Women’s Day celebration, the state counselor says she wants 50 percent participation for women in Burma’s peace process. /// Yes, women’s participation is extremely important for peace process in a country like Burma. BUT, where are they? Businesswomen cannot present the majority women that have been, for a very long time, discriminated by the society, or sexually and physically violated by their husbands at home or by military forces during conflicts. Sadly, the group who will have the strongest voice in peace process are still invisible in the country.



ASEAN readies to boost fight against transnational crime – DVB The first­-ever regional centre set up to fight transnational crime in ASEAN and share information could be up and running by next year. Suriya Jindawong, deputy director-­general of the Thai Foreign Ministry’s department of ASEAN affairs, said an anti­transnational crime centre will support information-­sharing to prevent several kinds of cross­-border threats.

Is Indonesia Choosing the Indian Ocean Rim Association Over ASEAN? – The Diplomat Indonesia’s substantial involvement in IORA signifies a stage of crisis for ASEAN.

Govt adopts ‘defence diplomacy’ with China – Bangkok Post The current military government has adopted “defence diplomacy” when it comes to handling international relations. Such a diplomatic approach has helped it forge closer ties with China, resulting in strengthened cooperation on a new defence and weapons industry in Thailand along with planned purchases of Chinese armaments and armoured vehicles including submarines.

Where Are India-Myanmar Naval Ties? – The Diplomat A visit by a Myanmar Navy delegation to India is just the latest sign of deepening defense cooperation between both sides.

Beijing says over 20,000 people from Burma seeking refuge in China – DVB China’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday more than 20,000 people from Burma are seeking refuge in China from fighting in northern Shan State, as fighting threatens Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s top goal of reaching peace with minorities.

Related: 20,000 Refugees Flee Myanmar’s Kokang Conflict Across The Border Into China – RFA 

Church underpins Cambodia-Vietnam ties – Phnom Penh Post For decades, political and economic upheaval in Southeast Asia separated ethnic Vietnamese communities in the United States from those in Asia, as their lives followed radically divergent trajectories.



Solar power growth leaps by 50% worldwide thanks to US and China – The Guardian UK leads Europe for solar growth despite drop in installations after government cut subsidies. The amount of solar power added worldwide soared by some 50% last year because of a sun rush in the US and China, new figures show.

A look inside Xayaburi dam – Mekong Eye The Xayaburi dam, with installed capacity of 1,260 MW, is the first one among 12 mainstream dams on the Mekong river. Located approximately 30 kilometers east of Xayaburi district, in northern Laos, this $3.2 billion dam is a controversial case: while Laos and dam-developers are steadily confirming that Xayaburi is a run-of-river (ROR) project, the dam’s water retention is 1-2 days, meaning it does not qualify as a real ROR dam.

Source of Mekong, Yellow and Yangtze rivers drying up – Chinadialogue In 2015, the Chinese government announced plans to set up a new nature reserve in the Sanjiangyuan (“three river source”) region of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. This area is a key source of fresh water for Asia and is known for the rich biodiversity of its high-altitude, arid ecosystem. It is also one of the areas in the world most vulnerable to climate change.

‘Parched’ Chinese city plans to pump water from Russian lake via 1,000km pipeline – The Guardian Urban planners in Lanzhou have drawn up proposals to pipe water into the chronically dry region from Siberia’s Lake Baikal.China is reportedly considering plans to build a 1,000km (620 mile) pipeline to pump water all the way from Siberia to its drought-stricken northwest.


Building Trade Walls – NYT The Trump administration faces the problem that China’s high trade barriers are allowed by the World Trade Organization, because China entered the group as a developing country and insists it still is one.

The future of Xi’s Belt Road Initiative – New Mandala China’s One Belt One Road initiative will shape global politics in years to come. But, at the moment it is a vision lacking strategy, writes Jacob Mardell. Xi Jinping’s signature development strategy for Eurasia and beyond, the Belt Road Initiative (BRI), means different things to different observers. At the same time as being an economic strategy for boosting China’s flagging exports, it is also a geopolitical power play, and a bid for energy security.

As Leaders Argue, South Korea Finds China Is No Longer an Easy Sell – NYT China, long a major customer of Korean companies, is emerging as a competitor — showing the cracks in South Korea’s decades-old economic growth model.

Related: China Warns of Arms Race After U.S. Deploys Missile Defense in South Korea – NYT

          Related: North and South Korea Give China a Double Headache – NYT

 China gives initial approval of Trump trademarks for hotels and escort services – The Guardian Ethics lawyers raise alarm over constitutional violation if president given special treatment in quickly securing 38 new trademarks to develop potential businesses.

China’s premier unveils smog-busting plan to ‘make skies blue again’ – The Guardian Li Keqiang promises to intensify battle against air pollution as he unveils series of measures at annual people’s congress.

Xi Jinping’s Failed Promises Dim Hopes for Economic Change in 2nd Term – NYT As China’s president prepares for another five years in power, critics of his record are asking whether he was ever really serious about liberalizing the economy.

China to Raise Military Spending, but Less Than in Recent Years – NYT The defense budget would rise by about 7 percent, suggesting that China’s leaders do not plan to engage President Trump in an arms race.

       Related: China Slows the Pace on Its Defense Spending Growth in 2017 – The Diplomat

BBC crew attacked in China and forced to sign confession – The Guardian Journalist says crew trying to interview villager about land reform had cameras smashed and confiscated.

The Islamic State Just Threatened China. What Will Beijing Do? – The Diplomat A recent Islamic State video featuring Uyghurs threatening China shouldn’t have come as a surprise.

Overseas NGOs in China: Left in Legal Limbo – The Diplomat As many feared, the new law in practice seems designed to make life difficult for international organizations.


Southeast Asia’s $3.5 trillion infrastructure crisis – Southeast Asia Globe Rapid economic growth, a skyrocketing population and devastating climate change mean Southeast Asia will need to ramp up its investment in infrastructure if it is “to maintain its growth momentum [and] eradicate poverty”, according to a recent report from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

UN Agencies Turn to New Technology to Tackle Old Problems in Southeast Asia – RFA Shortly after Jonathan Rivers arrived in Cambodia in 2014 to work as a technical officer for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), he noticed how much time he and his colleagues spent retrieving data from different departments for their food security analysis work.

Govt pushes Krabi coal plant forum – Bangkok Post The government has pressed ahead with its plan to improve the public’s understanding about new environmental and health impact assessments needed for the Krabi coal-fired power plant project, saying they have to be completed within a month from now.

Thailand tops “happy country” list for low unemployment, stable inflation – Investvine Thailand is the world’s happiest country, and Venezuela is the most miserable – this is the result of Bloomberg’s newly released Misery Index which ranks 65 countries globally and was released on March 3.

Attacks by Rebels in Myanmar Leave Dozens Dead – NYT The assaults by an ethnic Chinese group were said to have targeted a hotel, casinos and police and army posts in an escalation of a long-running conflict.

Why Myanmar’s New Peace Process Is Failing – The Diplomat So far, the NLD government efforts to end armed conflicts have failed.

Thousands of Rohingya refugees return to Burma – DVB Thousands of Rohingya who took refuge in Bangladesh after fleeing violence in Burma have returned home because of a Bangladeshi plan to house them on an uninhabited flood-prone island, community leaders said Wednesday.

Related: Burma set to dodge full UN probe on Rohingya abuse – DVB

ADB to Support Yangon Region Through PPP Promotion – ADB ADB and the Yangon Region Government have agreed to partner up in promoting public-private partnerships (PPP) in the urban infrastructure sector.

Lao Police Confirm Arrest of ‘Major Drug Trader’ – RFA Police in Laos have confirmed the arrest of one of the country’s biggest drug kingpins as part of a crackdown on dozens of suspected smugglers over a five-month period ending in late January.

Hanoi’s iconic lakes need urgent clean-up help – Mekong Commons Hanoi: A city of lakes that could soon become a city of rubbish.

‘Environmental refugees’ in Mekong River Delta expected in future, experts say – Vietnamnet An environmental refugee is defined by Prof Essam El-Hinnawi as someone forced to leave their traditional habitat, temporarily or permanently, because of a marked environmental disruption. Vietnam, instead of ‘environmental refugees’, uses the world ‘resettlement’ or ‘migration’, because ‘refugee’ proves to be a ‘sensitive word’ in Vietnamese.

Cambodia’s Ruling Party Threatens Lawsuit Over Opposition Slogan – RFA Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodia People’s Party (CPP) has threatened the opposition with legal action for suggesting ruling party commune chiefs have neglected the interests of their constituents ahead of local elections in June.

PM Hun Sen leaks more chats – Phnom Penh Post The steady stream of purported leaked conversations among Cambodia’s political elite continued to flow yesterday. The latest batch casts the spotlight on opposition lawmaker Mao Monyvann and his relationship with the premier, who openly boasted about sending the latest round of messages to a local media outlet.

The Importance of Timor-Leste’s 2017 Elections – The Diplomat The March 20 presidential election in particular is a big test for the Southeast Asia’s youngest country.

Unlocking Timor-Leste’s road to ASEAN – New Mandala The longer Timor-Leste’s membership is delayed will only reflect negatively on ASEAN’s decision-making process, writes Khoo Ying Hooi.



Report: Kunming to add two Metro lines — GoKunming Only a few days after reports surfaced regarding at least some progress on the city’s under-construction subway lines, Kunming officials once again upped the development ante. On Sunday March 5, the Kunming Municipal Transportation Bureau (昆明市交通运输局) announced plans to build two new Metro lines.



Book Review: Why Govern? Rethinking Demand and Progress in Global Governance – The Diplomat The transition to multipolarity may be destabilizing, but it is undoubtedly a democratic one.

This week’s news was curated by Sonya Zhao. 

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