Regional Roundup for Week of 4.26.19

EXSE FOCUS

‘Green Belt and Road’ in the spotlight – China Dialogue “Promote Belt and Road cooperation for high-quality development” read welcome banners for the second Belt and Road Forum flying over Beijing’s boulevards. The forum, running from 25-27 April, will convene 37 heads of state to discuss China’s flagship global infrastructure plan.// During the 2nd Belt and Road Forum, Beijing looks toward greening the initiative and will ask delegates for their views on promoting green development. This could be the beginning of exchange between China and its partner countries.

Related: BRI opens opportunities for both big and small firms: SBF chairman

Illegal Charcoal Trade Wrecks Myanmar’s Bulwark Against CyclonesAsia Sentinel The depletion of mangroves in southern Myanmar is impacting local fisheries near the island villages and playing havoc with the mangrove forest that protect the coastline from extreme weather events.// While charcoal production for commercial use is illegal in Myanmar, the underground charcoal trade endures due to a lack of law enforcement. Burmese-sourced charcoal ends up in various Asian countries. The lucrative trade is threatening the environment and livelihoods.

Vietnam just observed its highest temperature ever recorded: 110 degrees, in April-Washington Post Vietnam broke its national high temperature record Saturday, the latest in a mounting list of records to fall as the world continues to warm.// Although the peak of summer is usually observed in June or July in Vietnam, the country recorded its highest temperature yet this month.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Transatlantic Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific: Where Does Southeast Asia Fit in?Diplomat As the United States and Europe commemorated 70 years of the transatlantic alliance earlier this month, there has been a natural uptick in conversations regarding how both sides can collaborate in various regions, including Asia, over the past few weeks.

Cambodia and Thailand reconnected by rail after 45 yearsStrait Times A railway reconnecting Cambodia and Thailand was officially inaugurated on Monday (April 22) in a bid to slash travel times and boost trade between the South-east Asian neighbours.

Thailand, Laos, China To Sign Pact On High-Speed Railway-Investvine Thailand has agreed to sign a memorandum of cooperation with China and Laos for a rail link aimed at connecting the three countries when Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha visits Beijing this week for the second Belt and Road Forum, the Thai foreign ministry said.

Japan Keen On Investing Further In Hybrid Car Industry In ThailandInvestvine Japanese companies are interested in investing more in hybrid car manufacturing in Thailand, the National News Bureau of Thailand cited Hiroki Mitsumata, president of the Bangkok branch of the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO), as saying.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

China plastic waste ban throws global recycling into chaosAsian Correspondent FROM grubby packaging engulfing small Southeast Asian communities to waste piling up in plants from the US to Australia, China’s ban on accepting the world’s used plastic has plunged global recycling into turmoil.

Report finds World Bank’s coal divestment pledge not stringent enoughMongabay Indonesia provides a litmus test for the World Bank’s commitment to divest from coal, with a recent report revealing its continued indirect financing of some of Indonesia’s most destructive coal-mining companies.

Tourist influx blamed for widespread reef damageBangkok Post  Park chief Narong Kong-iad confirmed that damage occurred in many locations, mostly around Koh Kradan after the island was overwhelmed by tourists.

Việt Nam ignores air pollution: expertsVNS Việt Nam lacks comprehensive studies on air pollution and its impacts on health, life and the economy, experts said at a conference in HCM City on Friday (April 19).

Coal-fired power plant development must come with environmental protection – Vietnam News Việt Nam has 25 coal power plants operating commercially. Their gas emissions, solid industrial waste and environmental issues have been closely monitored in accordance with Vietnamese standards issued by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE).

Cambodians try out smartphones to track – and ease – climate woes – Reuters Yin Socheat, a 29-year-old Cambodian farmer, is immersed in her smartphone – but it isn’t the latest viral meme she’s looking at.

How an unlikely household item is fixing the coral reef at Thailand’s most famous beach – Telegraph Scientists have come up with an unlikely way to restore marine life to a Thai beach that’s been ravaged by overtourism: superglue.

HOW A $4 DEVICE IS SAVING FARMERS FROM CLIMATE DEVASTATION – OZY As American bombs rained down on the flooded rice fields of the Mekong River Delta, an adolescent Duong Van Ni would submerge himself in the water to avoid detection, breathing through a lotus stem. “That’s how I survived,” Ni says. “I want to teach people that the environment is our friend and will always help us if we protect it.”

CHINA

Cambodia embraces Belt and Road InitiativeKhmer Times President Xi Jinping’s announcement of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013 was widely welcomed by many Asian countries.

Related: Sihanoukville: A Cambodian City Losing Its ‘Cambodian-ness’Diplomat

No land given to China in ECRL deal, says Malaysia’s Finance Minister Lim Guan EngStrait Times Malaysia’s Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng says that he is unaware of claims that substantial acreage of land was “given” to China under the renegotiated East Coast Railway Link (ECRL) deal.

Related: Malaysia’s Evolving Approach to China’s Belt and Road Initiative-Diplomat

Fast track: Indonesia, Malaysia rail projects may give China more dealsStrait Times In a rural part of Indonesia’s Java island, two orange-clad workers confer in Mandarin over plans to lay tracks on a stretch of a US$6 billion (S$8.1 billion) high-speed rail project between the capital Jakarta and the textile hub of Bandung.


Related: Malaysia Revives Another Chinese-Backed Mega-Project – Investvine

China Digs Deep in Landlocked LaosDiplomat China’s presence is growing in strategically located Laos, but the trend is often overlooked.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Opposition ‘Congress’ Wraps up With Call For Inclusive Restoration of Democracy in Cambodia – Radio Free Asia Cambodian opposition leaders and supporters wrapped up a weekend gathering in South Korea with a call for a concerted effort to “restore” democracy to Cambodia and an appeal for support from signatories of the Paris Peace Agreement, which reestablished elections there after years of conflict.

What Does Jokowi’s Win Mean for Indonesia’s Economy?-Diplomat The Indonesian president has made progress, but has unfinished business to complete in his probable second term.

Malaysia minister says plastic waste is being smuggled into countryStrait Times Plastic waste is being smuggled into Malaysia using shipping containers by being falsely declared as another type of import that do not require a permit, says the country’s Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin.

Water levels at three Johor dams fall below critical markStrait Times The water levels at three dams in Johor, which supply raw water to treatment plants that serve about one million people in the state, are below the critical mark.

Selangor water disruption for repairs at plant to hit 4 millionStrait Times Over four million consumers in Malaysia have been advised to store two days’ worth of water, ahead of the biggest water cut so far in Selangor state beginning next Wednesday.

More than 50 feared killed in landslide at Myanmar jade mineStrait Times More than 50 people were feared dead after a landslide in northern Myanmar engulfed jade miners while they were sleeping, local police said on Tuesday (April 23), the latest deadly accident in a notoriously dangerous industry.

Top Myanmar court rejects appeal of award-winning Reuters reporters – Strait Times Myanmar’s top court on Tuesday (April 23) rejected the appeal of two Reuters reporters sentenced to seven years in jail for breaking the Official Secrets Act, in a landmark case that has raised questions about the country’s transition to democracy.

Thousands of Downstream Villagers Protest Against Myitsone Dam – Irrawaddy Thousands of residents of Waimaw Township in Kachin State staged a protest on Monday calling for the suspension of Myitsone Dam and other dams upstream of the Irrawaddy River.

KIA, Myanmar Army Clash for Several Days in N. Shan State – Irrawaddy The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Myanmar Army have engaged in a series of clashes since late last week in northern Shan State’s Muse Township as the end of the military’s self-imposed four-month truce nears, sources on both sides said.

Related: Violence Flares Amid Myanmar’s Faltering Peace Dialogue – Asia Sentinel

Death toll climbs to 16 as second quake hits Philippines – Strait Times The death toll from a strong earthquake that rocked the Philippines on Monday (April 22) has climbed to 16, while an even more powerful tremor struck the country’s central regions less than a day later.

Duterte wants to get tougher on drug menace – Strait Times More than 5,000 have died so far in President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on the narcotics trade – nearly all suspects killed in raids or by motorcycle-riding hitmen – yet illegal drugs continue to flood the Philippines.

Manila water utility apologizes to shareholders amid shortage – Nikkei Asian Review Privately run utility Manila Water issued an apology during Monday’s shareholders meeting for the chronic interruptions to the water supply affecting half the population of the Philippine capital, but restoration of full service does not appear imminent.

CP Foods taps into Vietnam’s TPP access to drive poultry exports – Nikkei Asian Review Thailand’s Charoen Pokphand Foods is boosting investment into Vietnam, marking one of the first big moves to piggyback on Vietnamese access to Trans-Pacific Partnership countries since the pact took effect at the turn of the year.

Vietnam’s Mekong Delta suffers tourist drought over lack of development strategy – Tuoi Tre Despite being well known for its waterway landscape and the greenery of numerous paddy fields and verdant orchards, tourism in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta remains underdeveloped, with experts pointing the finger at the lack of a well-planned strategy for tourism development in the region.

US-Vietnam Relations in the Headlines with First Indo-Pacific Commander Visit-Diplomat Last week, Philip Davidson, the commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, embarked on his first visit to Vietnam in his current capacity.

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

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