Regional Roundup for Week of 4.20.2017

Last week, China resumed a survey of blasting rocks in the Mekong river more than 200 kilometers from its border – and aroused protests. An Indian court has recognized the Ganges and the Yamuna rivers as living entities. Could the Mekong receive similar official recognition? Also, complexities ensure for the China- N. Korea-U.S. relationship. Finally, Blackwater’s Erik Prince is opening a forward base in China’s Yunnan province.

EXSE FOCUS

Chinese survey boats arrive in Chiang Rai to resume survey of Mekong river – Thai PBS Chief of the Chinese survey team, Mr Lieu Jian, said the team would survey 15 points in the Mekong river from the Golden Triangle in Chiang Saen district downstream to Wiang Kaen district. The entire task would take 55 days.

Related: Mekong survey draws protests – Bangkok Post

What Rivers With Rights Mean for the Mekong | The Interpreter – International River In what should be welcome news for the many concerned about the future of the Mekong, an Indian court has recognised the Ganges and the Yamuna rivers as living entities. The decision means that polluting or damaging these rivers will be legally equivalent to harming a person.

Criticism of Beijing’s North Korea Policy Comes From Unlikely Place: China – NYT A rare challenge by a well-known historian shows the renewed debate over China’s longstanding patronage of its unpredictable neighbor.

Related: China urges North Korea and US to step back from brink of war – The Guardian

The American mercenary behind Blackwater is helping China establish the new Silk Road – Quartz As China pushes ahead with president Xi Jinping’s ambitious $1 trillion One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative—which reimagines a historic trade network as an overland Silk Road Economic “Belt” and a Maritime Silk “Road”—protecting Chinese business executives and other personnel and their rapidly growing investments in the region is more important than ever. Enter Erik Prince.

 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Asean’s role with N Korea – Bangkok Post While Thailand has been partying, the first winds of war in years have been stirred in Northeast Asia. US President Donald Trump has effectively warned North Korea that further nuclear or ballistic missile tests will have physical consequences. Pyongyang leader Kim Jong-un has replied with predictable threats of military retaliation.

China Gifts Military Equipment to Laos – The Diplomat Transfer of unspecified equipment typifies the defense relationship between the two countries.

China to Welcome Burma, Other Nations for Biggest Summit of Year on New Silk Road – The Irrawaddy Foreign Minister Wang Yi announces a list of those attending the conference, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Related: China’s biggest Silk Road summit plans omit Thai leaders – Bangkok Post

Cambodian youth: shaping relations with Vietnam – New Mandala Cambodia youth have crucial roles to play in improving and strengthening Cambodia-Vietnam relations, write Kimkong Heng & Sovinda Po.

 

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Climate change is undermining sustainable development in Myanmar. Here is what can be done about it. – Mekong Eye Myanmar’s national government and some international development groups are adopting different but complementary approaches to tackling what many in the country consider to be one of the biggest threats to achieving sustainable development: Climate change. Government officials are working on implementing a new country-wide climate action plan, while several foreign aid groups are going straight to local communities and helping them adapt to the realities of a warming world.

From black gold to wind and solar: How China is turning its back on coal – Mongabay XI’AN, China — On bad air days, Cao Yiyang doesn’t take his 3-month-old daughter out for a stroll. It’s too dangerous. Staying inside, near the air purifier he recently bought, is better. “The air pollution is something my children’s generation will have to live with,” the 27-year-old IT technician said.

 

CHINA

China’s Economy Grows 6.9%, but Warning Signs Persist – NYT Underlying figures back up the view that Chinese growth is humming along, but a government forecast suggests that economists expect slower growth later in the year.

As Zeal for China Dims, Global Companies Complain More Boldly – NYT International firms still fear retaliation but are escalating their behind-the-scenes rhetoric as China becomes a more difficult business environment.

Ivanka Trump brand secures China trademarks on day US president met Xi Jinping – The Guardian Donald Trump’s daughter sparks ethics concerns after gaining approval in country where US business feels increasingly unwelcome

The US-China Fight Over Trade: The Ultimate Test of the WTO Framework – The Diplomat How the U.S.-China fight over market status and antidumping will test the limits of the WTO framework.

China Plans Winter Smog Shutdowns – RFA China’s government is hoping to avoid another smog-blackened winter in Beijing by cracking down on emissions in surrounding cities and cutting production during the cold weather months.

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Thailand Takes Small Steps Forward After Longtime King’s Death – NYT Thais are beginning to accept the king’s disappearance from their lives and the succession of his son to the throne.

‘They Do Not Count Us’: Resisting the Myitsone Dam Beyond China, the US, and Big Geopolitics – The Irrawaddy Laur Kiik talks with a Kachin elder who was at the root of the Myitsone resistance.

Australian Mining Firm Abandons Exploration Bid in Contested Karenni State Area – The Irrawaddy The firm, which is undergoing a restructuring and name change, had been seeking to explore for minerals in an area beset by decades of conflict.

Nearly 170 Houses Relocated As Irrawaddy River Bank Erodes – The Irrawaddy Locals in nearby villages raise concerns as riverbank erosion forces houses and a high school in two villages to move.

Suu Kyi plans visit to Europe, China – DVB Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi will pay official visits to four European countries at the end of April, followed by a trip to China in May, according to Zaw Htay, the deputy director general of the Office of the State Counsellor.

Burmese magazine publisher killed in his office – DVB A Burmese publisher whose magazine has criticised the military, political and business establishment was found stabbed to death in his office at the weekend, police said on Tuesday.

4 killed as Cyclone Maarutha hits Irrawaddy Delta – DVB Four people have been killed and about 60 houses destroyed as storms caused by Cyclone Maarutha wreaked havoc in the Irrawaddy Delta.

Stop the Suu Kyi Blame Game in Myanmar – The Diplomat Don’t rush to judgement on Aung San Suu Kyi just yet.

Tepco, Toshiba to manage power grids in CambodiaNikkei Asian Review Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings will team with Toshiba to manage power grids in Cambodia, hoping to secure a new earnings source as the utility grapples with soaring cleanup costs for the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster.

Rice exports show slow growth – Phenom Penh Post Cambodian rice exports declined dramatically in March, causing the average export growth of the Kingdom’s dominant cash crop to increase by only 3 percent during the first quarter of this year, nearly wiping out the double-digit growth seen in January and February.

PM: More roads, bridges – Khmer Times Prime Minister Hun Sen has highlighted his government’s achievements in building new infrastructure as part of a message to commemorate Khmer New Year.

Vietnam’s Quiet Human Rights Crisis – The Diplomat A dearth of coverage, competing global interests, and an omnipresent police state render violations largely unnoticed.

Vietnam Farmers Free 15 Police Detained Amid Land Clash – RFA Farmers involved in a land dispute in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi freed 15 riot police Tuesday held in the aftermath of a clash with authorities over the weekend and said they are preparing to release around 20 additional local officials, according to state media.

Vietnam’s Prime Minister halts $10.6 bln steel plant over questions of demand, pollution – Mekong Eye Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has halted work at a $10.6-billion steel plant that had previously been vouched for by the trade ministry, calling for more studies to be conducted into demand and environmental impacts.

Natural disasters cost Vietnam $1.7 billionVietNamNet The PM made the statement at a meeting to review disaster prevention and control in 2016 and layout tasks for 2017. Nguyen Xuan Cuong, head of the Central Steering Committee on Natural Disaster Prevention and Control, said, 2016 saw multiple extreme weather phenomena such as droughts, extreme cold weather, floods and storms, causing losses of VND39.7 trillion (US$1.75 billion).

What’s Behind Laos’ China Banana Ban? – The Diplomat Recent reports are yet another testament to the growing scrutiny over Beijing’s influence in the Southeast Asian state.

Field Report on Laos’ Nam Theun 2 Dam – Mekong Eye From 5-7 January 2017, Mekong Watch visited villages affected by the Nam Theun 2 Hydropower Project in Lao PDR. We visited and conducted interviews with 16 households in 6 villages relocated from the reservoir area on the Nakai Plateau, as well as 11 households of the 2 villages downstream on the Xe Bang Fai River.

Xamtay to Vietnam road construction expects delays – Vientiane Times Construction of a new road connecting Xamtay district in Huaphan province to Thua Thien Hue province, Vietnam will not be finished according to plans, say officials of the project.

Maximum concession period cut to half century in investment promotion overhaul – Vientiane Times A newly-amended Investment Promotion Law has moved to cut by half the maximum investment period for new concession projects to 50 years, down from previous maximum period of 99 years.

 

YUNNAN

Yunnan’s Myanmar borderlands becoming more accessible – GoKunming There are places which seem so close, but remain hard to reach. Kengtung, the main town in the far east of Myanmar’s most eastern Shan state, is one of those places. It is less than 150 kilometers from Jinghong (景洪), the main city of Yunnan’s Xishuangbanna Prefecture, and it shares many similarities, yet there is one barrier — the border. Currently no foreigners can go across from Dalou (打洛) to Mongla, though there is talk that soon that border might allow access as part of Myanmar’s process of opening up.

This week’s news digest was curated by Sonya Zhao.

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