Regional Roundup for Week of 4.13.17

We’ve been away so this news digest covers the last two weeks. Trump and Xi talked missiles and trade over chocolate cake. Asia watches the violent removal of a Vietnamese-Chinese-American from at United flight. The MRC continues to discuss the Pak Beng dam and perhaps a resolution to the Myitsone dam problem in Myanmar is near….

 

EXSE FOCUS

Trump-Xi Summit: Issues at a glance – Bangkok Post Chinese President Xi Jinping touched down in Florida Thursday for a first face-to-face meeting with President Donald Trump, hoping that a basket full of “tweetable” deals will help avoid a public clash.

Related: U.S. Strikes on Syria Put Xi in Tough Position for Trump Meeting – NYT

Related: Xi, the South China Sea, and Mar-a-Lago – The Diplomat

Trump Recycles Overstated Campaign Claims About China and Trade – NYT The president’s claims about the trade deficit with China are exaggerated, and his accusations of currency manipulation are outdated.

Related: Trump: China Is Not a Currency Manipulator – The Diplomat

Related: Trump is reckless – but he knows he can’t afford to antagonise China | Barry Eichengreen – The Guardian

Anger in Asia over passenger forcibly removed from United Airlines flight – The Guardian Call for boycott of company in Vietnam while China’s state-run media sees it as proof of the US’s hypocrisy on human rights.

MRC visits Laos dam ahead of May meet – Phnom Penh Post Representatives from the four Mekong River Commission (MRC) countries visited the site of the controversial Lao Pak Beng hydropower dam yesterday as officials prepare for the second regional stakeholder meeting next month. The MRC will hold its second regional stakeholder meeting in Vientiane on May 5.

Related: Joint panel discusses prior consultation process for Pakbaeng dam – Vientiane Times

A Chinese-Backed Dam Project Leaves Myanmar in a Bind – NYT The unpopular dam poses a daunting test for Myanmar’s leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi: Going ahead with it would anger the public. Killing it would anger China.

Related: China May Scrap Divisive Dam in Burma to Advance Other Interests: Sources – The Irrawaddy

 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Standoff on Cambodia-Laos border intensifies – Southeast Asia Globe It is perhaps business as usual for the two countries, who have before sent soldiers to the border areas over territorial disputes. Just a day after a deal was made between Laos and Cambodia to withdraw forces from the border the countries share, where a tense territorial dispute has been playing out over several months, dozens of Laos soldiers have reportedly begun construction on a post in the area.

Duterte Orders Military to Parts of South China Sea Claimed by Philippines – NYT The step was a significant departure from President Rodrigo Duterte’s previous policy of not antagonizing China, which claims most of the sea.

Related: Duterte cancels visit to disputed South China Sea island after warning from Beijing – The Guardian

Hun Sen endorses ‘One China’ – Phnom Penh Post Prime Minister Hun Sen has reaffirmed the country’s commitment to supporting Beijing’s One China policy during a meeting with a Chinese official, a stance one expert called “obsequious”.

What Can Myanmar Learn From Cambodia’s Peace Process? – The Diplomat Early this March, Prime Minister Hun Sen spoke with Myanmar’s commander-in-chief General Ming Aung Laing about his experience with a “win-win policy” to dismantle armed groups and restore peace in communities formerly in conflict. Hun Sen successfully dismantled armed groups in Cambodia in the late 1990s, bringing lasting peace to the country. ///Don’t forget, peace cannot be made without women’s voices. Myanmar has been denying women’s rights domestically and their experiences during conflicts. If we don’t fight for justice, their voice will never be heard during peace process. Ergo, no peace…

New Thailand-Burma Friendship Bridge ‘ready in two years’ – DVB The construction of a second Thai­-Burma Friendship Bridge is expected to be completed in two years, Thai Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said. The bridge, which will link Mae Sot district in Tak province with the town of Myawaddy in Burma’s Karen State, will help boost the economies and tourism industries of both countries, he added.

 

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Enormous fish make one of the world’s largest migrations – National Geographic Billions of fish make an annual trek through the rivers of Southeast Asia, supporting millions of people. Yet scientists still don’t know much about them. Some of the world’s greatest animal migrations take place on land, one of the most important treks—and definitely one of the largest, in terms of sheer numbers of animals on the move—occurs out of view, in the murky depths of the Tonle Sap River in Cambodia, where each year billions of fish of all shapes and sizes embark on one of the most incredible animal migrations on the planet.

Asean needs to invest in off-grid energy – Bangkok Post About 134 million people in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) region do not have access to electricity.

Clean Energy Is Dirt Cheap – Unless you live in Southeast Asia – Huffington Post
Everywhere you look headlines scream clean energy progress in Asia. Whether it’s 4 cent solar in India or China’s world record solar Installations the clean energy train seems to have left the station. Everywhere that is except Southeast Asia. According to the IEA Southeast Asia has quietly increased its share of coal in the overall energy mix (by 7%) while clean energy development has been stagnant causing clean energy’s portion of the pie to actually decline (by 1%).

China says accord reached at last with Burma on oil pipeline – DVB China and Burma have reached an agreement on an oil pipeline between the neighbouring countries after almost a decade of talks, with the project due to start “very quickly,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said on Monday.

Related: Delayed for years, Sino-Myanmar pipeline revived during meeting of presidents – GoKunming

As drought affects Cambodia’s rice farmers, can building more small-scale reservoirs help? – MekongCommons Over the last few years, and especially in 2016, the Mekong region has been going though severe drought and water scarcity. Many diverse sources of water in rural areas such as wells, lakes and ponds around many villages are running dry. In Cambodia, given rural communities comprise almost 80% of the country’s population, rice farmers are bearing the brunt of the ongoing drought.

Shaping Asia’s Energy Future – ADB Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, on what should drive energy investment decisions in Asia and why the region is critical in the fight against climate change.

 

CHINA

As the US steps back, China must step up on climate leadership – ChinaDialogue Presidents Trump and Xi are scheduled to meet today at Mar-a Lago, Florida, and given the tense state of US-China relations and the political leanings of the Trump administration there is much at stake for cooperation between the countries on the climate agenda – the most important bilateral relationship in the world. To maintain it, both a high-level paradigm shift of China’s diplomatic approach and a considered assessment of feasible areas of cooperation are needed.

Related: Climate change: China calls US ‘selfish’ after Trump seeks to bring back coal – The Guardian

Related: China Poised to Take Lead on Climate After Trump’s Move to Undo Policies – NYT

‘Great chemistry’: Trump abandons China criticism as Russia ties suffer – The Guardian Ties between two largest economies appear to warm as Donald Trump speaks of ‘very good relationship’ with Xi Jinping. Less than two months after branding China the “grand champion” of currency manipulation, Donald Trump has performed a breathtaking pirouette away from those allegations, declaring: “They’re not currency manipulators”.

When Solar Panels Became Job Killers – NYT A policy change in China hurt workers in Ohio, revealing the trade challenges facing President Trump. China’s Answer to the US Military-Industrial Complex – The Diplomat The Central Commission for Integrated Military and Civilian Development represents a new trend in civil-military relations.

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Thailand

In Thailand, a King’s Coup? – NYT King Maha Vajiralongkorn signed into force Thailand’s 20th Constitution on Thursday, three months after surprising the military government by requesting revisions to its proposed charter. The text could not go into effect until the king approved it.//Thailand’s new king is quickly taking on roles previously not anticipated.

Thailand bans online contact with three critics of regime – The Guardian Two academics and a journalist have large followings for their commentary about failings of junta and monarchy. The military-run government of Thailand has announced a ban on all online interaction with three of its most prominent overseas critics.

Thailand gives priority to Eastern Economic Corridor development – Investine Thailand is keen to develop its industrial heartland in the southeastern provinces of Chonburi, Rayong and Chachoengsao into what it calls the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) which aims at becoming one of the most modern economic zones in the ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. or ASEAN.

 

Myanmar

After Aung San Suu Kyi’s First Year in Power, Dismay Swirls in Myanmar – NYT Her efforts to quell ethnic fighting are faltering, the military is accused of abusing Rohingya, free speech is under threat — and her public is losing patience.

In rare interview, Suu Kyi denies ethnic cleansing of Rohingya – DVB Aung San Suu Kyi has denied security forces have carried out ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Burma, speaking to the BBC after the UN rights council agreed to investigate allegations of rape, murder and torture against the army.

 

Cambodia

The Trouble With Cambodia’s Two-Party System – The Diplomat The lack of a formidable third party is hurting the country’s opposition. Cambodia kicks out US aid programme – Investine The Cambodian government scrapped a long-standing U.S. military development aid programme and ordered its members to leave the country.

Cambodia Slams West, NGOs For ‘Disinformation’ Undermining Ruling Party – RFA Cambodia’s government on Tuesday slammed what it said is an ongoing campaign of “disinformation” led by Western governments and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) against Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling party as part of a bid to unseat it.

Protesters seek answers on planned railway road – Cambodia Daily About 30 villagers protested outside Phnom Penh’s City Hall on Tuesday, demanding an update on a road planned along a stretch of long-abandoned railroad tracks that could lead to more than 1,000 evictions, even as officials promised they would minimize the impact on residents. Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong announced plans in December for the new 5-km road in Russei Keo district, saying that displaced villagers would be given either compensation or alternate living arrangements.

 

Vietnam

Foreign paper factory admits to pollution in Mekong Delta – Vietnam Net Chung Waifu, the company’s General Director, has sent a report to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment’s inspection team about the pollution, including during a trial run of its waste treatment plant on March 7, the province’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment has said. In it, the company admits to causing noise, dust and a bad odour affecting nearby households. The pollution was caused by coal dust from a coal warehouse.

Environmental groups call for reconsideration of thermal power planVietNamNet Several coal thermal power plants are expected to be built in the Mekong Delta under the 2011-2020 plan for national power development. What are the options for energy development in Vietnam?

Thermal power plants next to HCM city raise concerns about pollution – VietNamNet Vietnam has been warned that it would be one of the most polluted countries, just after China. If it continues developing thermal power plants, the danger would be more visible. “The pollution level in Vietnam may be even higher than China,” he warned, adding that Vietnam needs to be very cautious with the thermal power development.

Ha Tinh Villagers Protest in Bid to Get Formosa Payouts in Vietnam – RFA Hundreds of residents from Thach Banh village in the Loc Ha district of Vietnam’s Ha Tinh province protested at the local people’s committee office on Wednesday in a bid to obtain compensation for pollution caused by a massive toxic spill from the Formosa steel plant nearly a year ago.

Related: Vietnamese Environmental Group Seeks to Monitor Formosa Payout Process – RFA

Laos

More Chinese-Owned Banana Plantations to Close in Laos – RFA Lao government orders closing down environmentally destructive Chinese banana farms, first reported in January in Bokeo province, are now in force in six other provinces in the Southeast Asian country, sources say.

SK E&C Completes Hydroelectric Power Plant and Dam in Laos – Business Korea SK Engineering & Construction (E&C) held an impounding ceremony to fill water after the completion of the Xepian-Seamnoi Hydroelectric Power Plant and Senam Noi Dam in Laos on March 31.

Lao Villagers Face Eviction From Dam Sites After Refusing ‘Unfair’ Compensation – RFA Residents of three villages in southern Laos are facing forced removal from their homes by the end of March if they fail to move from the sites of planned dams to an area they are calling unsuitable for farming, sources in the Southeast Asian country say.

 

YUNNAN

Up to 1,000 Dali businesses to close in face of new policy – GoKunming A new edict has come down from the government of Yunnan’s Dali Prefecture (大理州), one with the potential to shutter 1,000 service industry businesses for more than a year. Effective immediately, all companies operating in close proximity to the shores of Erhai Lake (洱海) must conform to updated sewage disposal requirements or close until they do.

 

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