Regional Roundup for Week of 5.11.2016

LEADERS

Pak Mun Dam: 25 years after World Bank’s loan, problems remains – Mekong Commons. The Pak Mun Dam was constructed on the Mun River, a tributary of the Mekong River, in Ubon Ratchathani Province, Thailand. Preliminary construction of the dam began in mid-1990. The dam was met by intense opposition not only by the local communities but also international and Thai NGOs. In December 1991, the World Bank approved financing for the Thailand’s Third Power System Development Project, which included the construction cost for the Pak Mun Dam. As suspected by the local communities and NGOs, the dam has brought significant negative impacts on the natural and social environment, destroying the local fisheries and leaving the local communities impoverished.//The World Bank’s Pak Mun fish ladders never ever worked – so why should we expect something different from similar efforts at Xayaburi and Don Sahong? It’s not the builder that matters, rather it’s the river and conditions therein that do not change.

Dams, Drought and Disaster Along the Mekong River – International Rivers. The dry months before the monsoon rains arrive are often tough for Cambodian fishermen and farmers. But with rivers drying up and drinking water running out, conditions have rarely been as bad as they are now. Climate change will continue to affect the Mekong Basin region, while future droughts are expected to be exacerbated by a string of major hydropower dam projects.

Duterte says he will “be a dictator” after winning Philippine presidency – Southeast Asia Globe Magazine. Controversial former Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte is set to become the next president of the Philippines, after his opponents announced their withdrawal. In his campaign speeches, Duterte, 71, vowed to get tough on law and order, citing his record as mayor of Davao, considered one of the safest cities in the Philippines. While human rights groups have pointed to a rash of extra-judicial killings in the city during his watch, this did nothing to deter voters.//Is Duterte’s rise indicative of the prickly and independent position that Southeast Asian states should be taking? Not to lean too far toward the US, Duterte could be a signal toward Philippine elite seeking to balance both China and the US.

Aung San Suu Kyi Asks U.S. Not to Refer to ‘Rohingya’ – NYTimes. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar’s first democratically elected government since 1962, advised the United States ambassador to Myanmar against using the term “Rohingya” to describe the persecuted Muslim population that has lived in Myanmar for generations.//A Rohingya by another other name….

Trump Accuses China of ‘Raping’ U.S. – The Associated Press. While campaigning in Indiana, the Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump said that the United States cannot continue to allow China to “rape” the country with trade deficits.//The Don is obviously undertrained and underprepared on sexual assault awareness and prevention

 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Japan Promises Full Backing of Development Efforts in Burma – The Irrawaddy. Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, left, and his Burmese counterpart Aung San Suu Kyi hold a press conference in Naypyidaw on Tuesday. Kishida said that Tokyo pledged its full-tilt support for development efforts in Burma.

U.S. Credibility in the South China Sea. – The Diplomat. China’s growing presence in the South China Sea is raising doubts about the U.S. policy there. China continues to militarize the South China Sea, with the manifest intention of making its claim of sovereignty thereto impossible to change.

Foreign Minister Reaffirms Japan’s Economic Ties to Thailand – The Irrawaddy. Japan’s foreign minister arrived in Bangkok on Sunday aiming to reaffirm economic ties after Japanese investments in Thailand slumped last year, amid political concerns as well as stiff competition emerging from more nimble neighbors.

Thailand preparing to return refugees from Burma. – DVB. The deputy-governor of Thailand’s Tak Province said preparations are underway to repatriate more than 100,000 refugees living in camps along the Thai-Burmese border. Tak Deputy-Governor Suttha Saivanid said the Thai government has been taking steps to repatriate refugees since a new government took office in Burma earlier this month.

China and Myanmar Ease Relations – NYTimes. China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, met with Myanmar’s foreign minister, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, in Naypyidaw to congratulate Myanmar’s new government and to build better relations.

Related: Aung San Suu Kyi Moves Closer to Leading Myanmar

Brunei to Get Its First China Bank. – The Diplomat. The Bank of China Hong Kong Limited was granted regulatory approval by Brunei’s Monetary Authority to open a branch in the sultanate, making it the first Chinese financial institution to do so. The move will be read as a sign of Beijing’s growing presence in the country.

Vietnam, Laos Tackle South China Sea, Mekong in Bilateral Meeting – The Diplomat. Both Vietnam and Laos tackle transnational issues pertaining to the South China Sea and the Mekong River during the Lao president’s first overseas trip.

Phnom Penh, Hanoi to Investigate Alleged Attacks Along Border – Cambodia Daily. Cambodia and Vietnam have agreed to create a joint working group to investigate the CNRP-led trip to a disputed border marker in Svay Rieng province late last month, where opposition lawmakers Real Camerin claims it was assaulted by Vietnamese civilians backed by soldiers.

 

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Lao Farmer Still Use Dangerous Herbicide Despite Ban – Radio Free Asia. Farmers in the northern Lao province of Xiangkhouang are using so much of their herbicide paraquat on their crops that questions have been raised about the impact of the chemical on the environment and the government’s ability to control its use.//Taking cues from the Chinese farmers who train them, the Lao farmers use up to 25X the recommended daily application of paraquat, and they do this at risk to their personal health and to consumers. 

Drought is Unlikely to East Its Grip in Laos Anytime Soon – Radio Free Asia. The drought gripping Laos and other Southeast Asian countries will continue unabated for at least a few more weeks as 100-degree temperatures push the rainy season back even further, Laos top weather forecaster told RFA.//Anytime soon refers to this century. Climate change ensures rainy seasons will be starting later each year into the near and distant term.

Mangrove trees to be replanted in Tanjung Piai – The Star Online.  Some 5,000 new mangrove trees will be replanted in the Tanjung Piai National Park to help preserve the wetlands at the southernmost tip of mainland Asia. The new plants were contributed by state-owned investment arm Johor Corporation (JCorp) and the Raja Zarith Sofiah Wildlife Defenders Challenge 2016 programme.

Villagers Pinned Down by Landslides, Floods in Northern Kachin State. – Irrawaddy. Landslides and flooding caused by heavy rains have destroyed hundreds of houses in northern Kachin State’s Chipwi Township, according to sources in the region, with rescue personnel struggling to reach the affected population.//unlike the rest of mainland Southeast Asia, northern Myanmar and China’s Yunnan province have experienced unseasonably high volumes of rain during the end of what typically is the dry season.

Myanmar Villagers Protest Resumption of Copper Mine Production – Radio Free Asia. About 200 villagers on Wednesday protested against a Chinese company that will resume production at the controversial Letpadaung copper mine in northwestern Myanmar’s Sagaing region, a villager said. The large project operated by China’s Wanbao Mining Copper Ltd. Company and Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. (UMEHL), a Myanmar army-owned conglomerate, has come under fire by local farmers who have long protested the company’s land takeovers in the area.

Plans for coal-fired power in Asia are ‘disaster for planet’ warns World Bank – The Guardian. Experts have offered stark warnings that proposed power plants in India, China, Vietnam and Indonesia would blow Paris climate deal if it moved ahead.

            Related: Donald Trump’s election would derail Paris climate deal, warns its architect.

            Related: Paris agreement is a strong signal that ‘we will solve climate crisis’, Al Gore says

 

CHINA

China Panel Rules against Plaintiff in Transgender Job Discrimination Case – NYTimes. A labor arbitration panel in the southwestern Chinese province of Guizhou ruled on Tuesday against a transgender man, the plaintiff and his lawyer said, in what has been described as the country’s first transgender case.

Cultural Revolution Concert fuels China power struggle rumors – The Guardian. With just days to go until the 50th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s devastating Cultural Revolution, a Maoist revival show staged at the nerve centre of Chinese politics has sparked a ferocious political row, fuelling persistent rumours about a struggle for power at the top of the Communist party.

Why China’s nuclear exports may struggle to find a market – China Dialogue. China’s nuclear power industry has eyed up a big push to export its technologies as countries around the world consider low-carbon alternatives to coal.

China May Release Last Known Tiananmen Prisoner in October – NYTimes. A man believed to be the last person still in prison for participating in the 1989 Tiananmen protests is scheduled to be released later this year, a human rights group said.

U.S. Diplomat’s Same-Sex Marriage Causes Stir in China – NYTimes. Hanscom Smith, the United States consul general in Shanghai, married Lu Yingzong in San Francisco. Their photographs generated interest in China, which does not allow same-sex marriage.

China Puts a Tycoon, Ren Zhiqiang, on Probation for Criticizing Policies – NYTimes. Chinese Communist Party officials have put an outspoken property tycoon who is a party member on a one-year probation for writing online comments criticizing President Xi Jinping’s propaganda policies, according to reports published on Monday by Chinese news websites.

Apple loses ‘iphone’ leather goods case in Chinese court – The Guardian. A Chinese court has ruled against Apple in a case over the use of its iPhone trademark, permitting a small maker of ‘iphone’-branded leather handbags to continue selling goods, state media reports.

China’s military appeals to younger generation with ‘kill, kill, kill’ video – The Guardian. China’s military is appealing to the younger generation with a slick new recruitment video featuring aircraft carriers, rocket launchers, tanks and fighter jets, all set to rousing rap-rock soundtrack.

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Thai junta to get its report card – New Mandala. Many have promised to bring Thailand together, but only succeeded in uniting people against them. The increasingly-isolated Thai junta could soon get the measure of their own popularity, Paul Sanderson writes.

United States Urged to Renew Burma Sanctions – The Irrawaddy Magazine. U.S. President Barack Obama should renew the country’s sanctions on Burma in light of ongoing abuses against minority groups, two international human rights groups said on Monday.

Myanmar Villagers Protest Resumption of Copper Mine Production – Radio Free Asia. About 200 villagers protested against a Chinese company that will resume production at a controversial Letpadaung copper mine in northwestern Myanmar’s Sagaing region, a villager said.

Myanmar Buddhist Monk Erects Another Pagoda on Disputed Land – Radio Free Asia. A Buddhist monk and 300 of his supporters erected a pagoda on Monday on the grounds of an Anglican church in eastern Myanmar’s Karen state, adding to religious tensions in the area, a local Anglican bishop said.

Cambodian Opposition Activists Are Denied Aid to Repair Storm-Damaged Homes – Radio Free Asia. Two families living in a storm-hit village in northwestern Cambodia’s Battambang province have been refused government help in repairing their homes, prompting charges by family members that they are being discriminated against because of their affiliation with an opposition political party.

Cambodia Opposition Dismisses Summons of its Lawmakers as Illegal – Radio Free Asia. The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) on Wednesday dismissed the Phnom Penh court’s summons notice for its deputy leader and two other sitting members of parliament, arguing the move “abused the constitution” by ignoring parliamentary immunity.

Malaysia’s Najib Has Little to Cheer Over Sarawak Triumph – The Diplomat. Victory for the incumbent at Malaysian state elections in Sarawak has been billed by the government-friendly press as a turning point for the embattled Prime Minister Najib Razak. The state poll was won by chief minister Adenan Satem and Najib was quick to claim the credit.

Japan, Philippines to Finalize New Military Aircraft Deal For Five TC-90s – The Diplomat. The Philippine defense chief said Tuesday that he would discuss with his Japanese counterpart the specific terms of the lease of five Japanese surveillance planes as Tokyo and Manila seek to make further progress in their burgeoning security partnership during the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties.

India, Indonesia Kick Off Joint Naval Patrol – The Diplomat. Last week, India and Indonesia began another iteration of their biannual joint naval patrols which will last until May.

Coffee, Kingdoms, and the Peace of Southern Laos – The Diplomat. The area around Pakse, the largest city in southern Laos, is best known for its coffee production and the ruins of an ancient empire.

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