Regional Roundup for Week of 4.19.19

EXSE FOCUS

Southeast Asia’s energy majors pivot sharply to green powerNikkei Asian Review Southeast Asian energy companies, long dependent on fossil fuels, are rapidly turning to renewable energy to answer the mounting demand for electricity in the fast-developing region.// As nations look toward renewable energy, a diverse mix of energy resources will allow Southeast Asia to meet its energy needs without being reliant on one. The type of principal renewable energy resource will depend on the country but it will contribute to a nation’s self-reliance as they invest in their own renewable energy resource.

Indonesia election: What happened on April 17 and what’s nextStrait Times It has been a whirlwind few days since Indonesia pulled off its first simultaneous presidential and legislative elections.// Voting has ended in Indonesia’s elections with unofficial results reporting a President Joko Widodo’s win. Jokowi ran on platform promoting social welfare and infrastructure development. However, compared to 2014, Jokowi won by smaller margins.

The Toll of Tourism: Can Southeast Asia Save Its Prized Natural Areas?Yale Environment From Thailand to Bali, a huge increase in tourists, many from China and other rapidly developing economies, is straining sensitive ecosystems to the breaking point. Some countries are trying to control the boom, with a few closing popular destinations to allow damaged areas to heal.// Nations are forced to address the environmental impacts that are the results of tourism booms from their breathtaking natural sites. While foreign tourism is a significant fraction of Southeast Asian economies, they must create safeguards, reduce the number of visitors, and take time for the environment to heal in order to ensure future prosperity.

Related: Maya Bay to be closed for up to five years – The Thaiger

REGIONAL RELATIONS


Patrick Leahy: War legacies and the expanding U.S.-Vietnam partnership – Burlington Free Press When I became a senator for Vermont in 1975, one of the first votes I cast was for a law to stop funding the war in Vietnam. That law passed by one vote.

Japan pushes Asian Development Bank to end China loans – Nikkei Asian Review The Japanese government has urged the Asian Development Bank to stop granting new loans to China, on the grounds that the world’s second-biggest economy is rich enough to “graduate” from aid, Nikkei has learned.

Green Shoots Sighted for Asia’s Economies – The Diplomat Growth projections remain cautious, but there are promising signs Asia may be snapping out of its slowdown.

The Evolving Australia-Indonesia Relationship Amid Election Season – The Diplomat With Jokowi likely scoring another term in Indonesia, the bilateral relationship’s direction balances on Australia’s pending polls.

Indonesia, South Korea Ink $1 Billion Contract for 3 Diesel-Electric Submarines – The Diplomat The Indonesian Navy is slated to receive three more Nagapasa-class diesel-electric subs by 2026.
Vietnam and Thailand lead drive to make Southeast Asia cashless – Strait Times
Governments across Southeast Asia are pushing ahead with efforts to create cashless economies, with less developed countries such as Vietnam and Thailand leapfrogging richer ones like Singapore and Malaysia in electronic payments.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Palm oil, logging firms the usual suspects as Indonesia fires flare anewMongabay Oil palm and logging companies in Indonesia have come into public glare once again as another season of forest fires flares up in Sumatra.

To rescue Sumatran rhinos, Indonesia starts by counting them first Mongabay The government aims to finalize an official count of the critically endangered rhino within three years, according to the environment ministry.

Malaysia arrests Vietnam poachers and seizes tiger, bear parts – Channel News Asia Malaysian authorities have arrested two suspected poachers from Vietnam and seized body parts from tigers and bears, a minister said Tuesday (Apr 16), as the country clamps down on rampant wildlife trafficking.

Finally, Thailand Starts To Manage Is Plastic Junk ProblemInvestvine Thailand is finally starting to tackle its plastic garbage problem and will ban three types of plastic by the end of 2019 – microbeads, cap seals and oxo-degradable plastics.

Malaysia govt okays controversial project to reclaim three new islands in south of PenangStrait Times Malaysia’s federal government has given the green light for the reclamation of three islands off the southern coast of Penang island, a project that has been panned by environmentalists and civil society groups.

Water situation worrying – Nation Multimedia Minister warns of severe shortage under impact of El Nino if people do not use their resources prudently.

Illegal charcoal trade threatens Myanmar’s remaining mangroves – Mongabay Beyond a metal gate in Ranong, a port town in southern Thailand, a warehouse is filled nearly wall to wall and floor to ceiling with bags of illegally sourced charcoal. Children linger outside the building and ride their bicycles as their parents toil inside.

Agricultural Fires Across Southeast Asia Producing Massive Amounts of Smoke – NASA Huge swaths of smoke hang over the entire Indochina peninsula in this NASA/NOAA Suomi NPP image captured on April 16, 2019. During this time of year farmers across the entire region use the “slash and burn” method to remove the remnants of last year’s crops from fields and to enrich the soil for the coming planting season.

Asia-Pacific countries ranked from being most green to least. Where does your country rank? – Mashable As talks are centred more and more on climate change and the need to reduce carbon emissions along with being much more green, there’s one question that lingers in the minds of people in this region. “Just how environmentally friendly is my country?”.

Hydropower dams linked to poverty and corruption – Environment Journal The study by the University of Sussex and the International School of Management in Germany compared the security, political governance, economic development and climate change performance of major hydropower states against oil-producing and all other countries using 30 years of World Bank data.

CHINA

The specter of Chinese investment looms over Indonesia’s electionCNBC Economic nationalism and issues of religious identity are at the forefront of Indonesia’s upcoming elections as the world’s largest Muslim-majority country goes to the polls on Wednesday.

Chinese businesses in Malaysia watch cautiously as Mahathir, Beijing move ahead on railway – CNBC Malaysia’s relationship with China is under scrutiny in the Southeast Asian country ahead of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s expected April visit to Beijing.

Ceremony Highlights China-Malaysia Warships Deal The Diplomat A closer look at the significance of a recent develop within Sino-Malaysian relations.
Related: Chinese businesses in Malaysia watch cautiously as Mahathir, Beijing move ahead on railway CNBC

As the West pulls back, Yunnan reaches out to Cambodia GoKunming Yunnan’s provincial government is looking to strengthen ties with its Southeast Asian near-neighbor, Cambodia. Recent activity in this vein has included a slew of business and investment agreements, as well as a visit to Phnom Penh by Yunnan’s top-ranking politician, Chen Hao (陈浩).

Philippines says considering legal action against China over giant clams – Strait Times The Philippines is considering legal action against China for allegedly harvesting giant clams in a disputed shoal in the South China Sea, the country’s foreign minister said on Tuesday (April 16).

China Adds Coal Capacity Despite Pledge to Cut Radio Free Asia After years of cutting overcapacity in the coal industry, China appears to be reversing course, raising environmental concerns as the government spurs economic growth.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Why Brunei’s New Religious Hardening Matters The Diplomat The new Islamic laws are only the latest symptom of broader issues in the tiny, oil-rich sultanate.

Indonesians Fight for Their Right to Not Vote – Foreign Policy It’s an act of protest—but the government calls it terrorism.

Bomb-Clearing Efforts in Laos Slow Due to Shortage of Funds Radio Free Asia Programs set up in Laos to clear unexploded ordnance left over from heavy U.S. bombing during the Vietnam War are being hindered by shortfalls of funds from foreign donors, sources in the Southeast Asian country say.

Laos To Launch Electric Vehicle Charging System Investvine Laos is stepping up efforts for the use of electric vehicles in the country and will be launching a pilot project for vehicle battery charging stations.

Malaysia to ‘take advantage’ of ECRL deal to sell more palm oil to China: MahathirChannel News Asia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Monday (Apr 15) that Malaysia intends to take advantage of the revived East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project to sell more palm oil to China, after a successful renegotiation saved it from having to fork out RM21.78 billion (US$5.3 billion) in cancellation fees.

Aung San Suu Kyi Has a New Target: Political Satire New York Times Poets were holding court on the street this week in Myanmar’s largest city, laying down satire as thick as the tropical humidity.

Duterte reaches moment of truth over China Nikkei Asian Review Half way into his presidency, Rodrigo Duterte is confronting a rude awakening in the South China Sea. Over the past three months, an armada of Chinese paramilitary vessels has swarmed around the Philippine-occupied Thitu Island, marking a dramatic escalation in the two countries’ maritime disputes.

Philippine President Duterte signs largest national budget of $96.8b, after months of delay – Strait Times Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday (April 15) signed a 3.7 trillion peso (S$96.8 billion) budget for this year, its largest ever, ending months of impasse that forced the South-east Asian country to cuts its growth target.

Singapore regulators reviewing disclosure issues, accounting practices at Hyflux for potential breaches Channel News Asia Singapore’s regulators said on Tuesday (Apr 16) that they have commenced a review into Hyflux to see if the debt-laden water treatment firm has breached any regulations.

Thailand tilts towards Chinese-style internet controls – Bangkok Post A swathe of the world is adopting China’s vision for a tightly controlled internet over the unfettered American approach, a stunning ideological coup for Beijing that would have been unthinkable less than a decade ago.

Tourism Arrivals In Vietnam On Steady Growth Trajectory – Investvine International visitor arrivals to Vietnam in the first quarter of 2019 improved seven per cent to reach 4,500,114 visits, with China, South Korea, Japan, US, Russia and Taiwan being the largest source markets.

Vietnam Vessel Kicks off New ASEAN Maritime Mission – The Diplomat Sailing naval vessel begins trip that covers Indonesia and Singapore.

Vietnam Airlines plans new listing as Hanoi reduces stake Nikkei Asian Review State-owned Vietnam Airlines is set to list 1.4 billion shares on the Ho Chi Minh stock exchange as early as May, marking the next step for the government in its plans to reduce ownership in the airline to 51% by 2020.

Is a Motorbike Ban in Vietnam’s Future? – Voice of America Any traveler to Vietnam knows a trip to the country is not complete until the traveler tries to cross a road. The streets are crowded with motorbikes moving at all different speeds, in both directions.

North Korea could target Southeast Asia’s vulnerable crypto sector, says defense think tankCNBC North Korea’s cyber capabilities and financial networks pose a threat to Southeast Asia’s growing, yet vulnerable, cryptocurrency sector, according to British defense and security think tank Royal United Services Institute.

In Myanmar, Jittery Investors Threaten Long-Term Development – The Diplomat The arrival of Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian-led government to Myanmar in 2016, after decades of military rule, has quickly turned out to be a false dawn for hopeful international investors.

Villagers In Pursat Risk Losing Everything to Dam Development – Voice of America The Cambodian government last week announced an 80-megawatt hydropower dam on the Anlong Krouch river, which flows to the town of Pursat.

This week’s news digest was curated by Anvy Tran.

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