Regional Roundup for Week of 5.18.2016

LEADERS

Obama in Vietnam Will Focus on Future, Rather Than the Past – NYTimes. For Mr. Obama, the trip to Vietnam offers an opportunity to help solidify not only his promised pivot of American policy toward Asia, but also to deepen economic and security ties with an increasingly important regional player. But for the U.S.’ Vietnam War veterans, a presidential trip is weighted with powerful emotions and never-ending debates about that war’s consequences.//The countdown is on for Obama’s historic visit to Vietnam starting this weekend. Pronouncements on climate change in the President’s speeches will go far to strengthen US-Vietnam cooperation on this critical regional issue. If he listens to the Vietnamese leadership, he does need to address war legacy issues first before the relationship is taken into the future.

Laos New Premier in Vietnam for First Ever Overseas Visit – The Diplomat. Laos’ premier is in Vietnam for his first trip abroad since assuming office last month following leadership transitions in the two communist neighbors. The two countries discuss bilateral and regional issues following key leadership transitions.

Peace Process” Versus “Peacebuilding Project” – Why Nuance Matters in Myanmar’s Development Landscape – East by Southeast. Development practitioners in Myanmar should view the phenomenon of “peacebuilding” as two separate, but intersecting projects—one driven by Myanmar nationals, and the other driven by international actors. The “peace process” is a closed system invested in the balance of power between ethnic communities and the Myanmar government, while another project—what I call the “peacebuilding project” represents, among other things, an international contest for geopolitical control in Mainland Southeast Asia.

U.S. condemns arrest of Thai activist’s mother over one-word Facebook post – The Guardian. Patnaree Chankij charged with violating Thailand’s severe royal defamation law on Friday and could face up to 15 years in prison. The United States has condemned Thailand’s arrest of an activist’s mother for allegedly insulting the royal family in a one-word Facebook post. Patnaree Chankij, 40, was charged with violating Thailand’s severe royal defamation law and could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Welcome, Lord Prime Minister: Cambodian media told to use leader’s full royal title – The Guardian. Print, radio and TV organisations told to use Hun Sen’s honorary six-word title in opening lines of all stories about him or face legal action. For years, some Cambodian media have referred to the country’s longtime leader as Prime Minister Hun Sen – but, as of Thursday, authorities have warned that this must stop. Starting in August, all media must use his full, honorary, six-word title – “Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen” – in the opening lines of print articles, radio and TV stories about him.

Related Article: Plight of journalists in Cambodia

Aung San Suu Kyi and the Cult of Personality – The Diplomat.  Aung San Suu Kyi’s contributions to Myanmar’s democracy are undeniable. She endured 15 years of house arrest under the country’s military junta. She has helped release political prisoners. And she has brought international attention to a nation that desperately needed it. The saintly status surrounding Suu Kyi has led to tunnel vision in the NLD and the international community.

Xi Jinping Tech Speech Signals Tougher Times for Foreign Firms – The Diplomat. Xi’s latest remarks on cyber tech hint that Beijing remains determined to push foreign firms out of the Chinese market.

 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Indonesia’s Grand Defense Vision – The Diplomat. Indonesia’s new Defense White Paper, released at the end of April 2016 (originally due in 2013-2014, but delayed due to a change of administration and consultations), offers a comprehensive view of Indonesia’s defense grand vision, incorporating various issues and dynamics. However, it reiterates lofty ambitions, with little advice on how to turn vision into reality.

How Far Have India-US Ties Come After Two Years of Modi? – The Diplomat. The Modi government, over the past two years, has certainly scored major victories in building positive ties between India and the United States. The prime minister himself has taken proactive measures to build a rapport with important U.S. political leaders. He met Obama six times just in his first 24 months in office and visited the United States three times.

Australia, Thailand Host Regional Peacekeeping Exercise – The Diplomat. Australia and Thailand are co-hosting a regional peacekeeping exercise this month. The exercise, which initially involved only the two nations, is now conducted with regional military, police and civilian training audience participation.

Philippines, France Ink New Defense Pact – The Diplomat. Last week, the Philippines and France inked a new defense pact in a boost for bilateral cooperation. Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and French Ambassador to the Philippines Thierry Mathou signed the agreement at a ceremony at the Department of National Defense in Camp Aguinaldo on May 11. Both sides had been negotiating the defense pact since 2014.

How China Boosts Japan’s Security Role in Southeast Asia – The Diplomat. China’s claims to the South China Sea are accelerating a trend of growing security cooperation between Japan and ASEAN.

Burma MPs look to Japan for training assistance – DVB Multimedia Group. The lower house’s Committee or the Promotion of Education said technical training may be provided for Burmese citizens with Japan’s assistance.

US to renew most Burma sanctions with changes to aid businesses – DVB Multimedia Group. The United States plans to renew the bulk of its sanctions against Burma when they expire next week, but will make some changes aimed at boosting investment and trade, according to several senior US officials and congressional aides.

 

SUSTAINABLE AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Thailand closes ‘overcrowded’ Koh Tachai island to tourists – The Guardian. Andaman Sea island to close for indefinite period from October as record numbers of tourists threaten beaches and coral reefs. Thailand has closed an island in the Andaman Sea to visitors in an attempt to ease the negative effects of tourism on its once-pristine beaches and surrounding coral reefs. Koh Tachai, an island in the famous Similan national park in south-west Thailand, would close for an “indefinite period” from 15 October, the Bangkok Post reported.

Jakarta’s water management fight echoes around the world – Southeast Asia Globe Magazine. Jakarta’s water is controlled by big businesses, but activists are pushing for the city to follow a worldwide water management trend back to public ownership.

Indonesian fisheries minister Pudjiastuti making waves – Southeast Asia Globe Magazine. Susi Pudjiastuti’s tough stance on illegal fishing is doing wonders for her public profile but angering local fishermen and neighbouring countries. Inside the formerly dull Indonesian Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, a recent, sleek renovation of the buildings is reflective of ongoing efforts to overhaul the country’s maritime sector.

 

Indian air pollution a “national crisis” – The Third Pole. Air pollution in cities is rising at an alarming rate, new data from the World Health Organisation has revealed, particularly in emerging economies like India, where pollutants harm human health and hastening glacier melt.

 

CHINA

China Quietly Targets U.S. Tech Companies in Security Reviews. – NYTimes. Chinese authorities are quietly scrutinizing technology products sold in China by Apple and other big foreign companies, focusing on whether they pose potential security threats to the country and its consumers and opening up a new front in an already tense relationship with Washington over digital security.

Landslide at Chinese dam site signals looming risks – The Third Pole. Thirty four construction workers were killed after a torrent of mud and rocks tore through a hydropower dam site on May 8 in Taining county in China’s southeast Fujian province. The landslide was believed to have been triggered by heavy rain.

Chinese Newspaper Breaks Silence on Cultural Revolution – NYTimes. Fifty years to the day since Communist Party leaders formally set in motion Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, miring China in a decade of bloody political upheaval, the party’s main newspaper broke the general silence about the anniversary and urged people to accept the past condemnation of the event and focus on the future.

Huge security operation in Hong Kong as senior Chinese official visits – The Guardian. Thousands of police officers deployed as Zhang Dejiang becomes highest-ranking Communist party official to visit the territory since 2012. Hong Kong authorities have rolled out a massive security operation as they braced for protests during a top Beijing official visit to the semiautonomous city, which has been the scene of rising discontent with Chinese rule. Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the National People’s Congress, China’s parliament, is the highest-ranking Communist party official to come to Hong Kong since then-president Hu Jintao paid a visit in 2012.

            Related: Hong Kong glues bricks to pavements as top Beijing official makes visit

Escalation in the South China Sea – ChinaFile. International tensions are rising over the shipping lanes and land formations in the South China Sea. Last week, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force scrambled fighter jets in response to a U.S. Navy ship sailing near the disputed Fiery Cross Reef. Sometime very soon, possibly this month, the United Nations is expected to resolve South China Sea claims by the Philippines, where the President elect, Rodrigo Duterte, is making offers to broker peace in the region.

Why China’s Nuclear Exports May Struggle to Find a Market – ChinaFile. 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. But despite an increasingly clearer field for Chinese nuclear exports—mainly because of the woes dragging down French and Russian competitors—selling reactors abroad is likely to prove to be a much tougher task than had first been thought.

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Vietnamese bank foils $1m cyber heist – The Guardian. Tien Phong Bank says it spotted the fraud on the Swift messaging system quickly enough to prevent Bangladesh-style theft. A Vietnamese bank has foiled an attempted cyber heist that involved the use of fraudulent messages, the same technique at the heart of February’s theft from the Bangladesh central bank. Hanoi-based Tien Phong Bank said on Sunday that in the fourth quarter of last year it identified suspicious requests through fraudulent messages on the global interbank messaging system Swift to transfer more than $1m.

Why Restoring Cambodia’s Lost Tigers May be a Good Idea – The Diplomat. When Cambodia announced plans to reintroduce tigers into the wild, the response was predictably negative. The country’s overarching reputation for corruption and mismanagement rose to the fore with its critics using an endangered species to carp about well-documented inadequacies.

Singapore Responds to First Zika Virus Case – The Diplomat. Singapore has responded swiftly to the first ever case of Zika virus reported in the city-state, making it the latest among Southeast Asian states to be hit.

Koh Tao defense team ready to submit appeal – DVB Multimedia Group. A team of representatives appointed by the Burmese embassy in Thailand to assist two Burmese nationals on death row for the murder of two British tourists on the holiday island of Koh Tao said an appeal against the defendants’ guilty verdict has been prepared and is ready to be presented in court on 23 May.

Philippine President-Elect to Offer Cabinet Post to Rebels – The Irrawaddy. Presumptive Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte said Monday he will re-impose the death penalty, offer Cabinet posts to communist rebels, and move to amend the constitution to give more power to the provinces, in some of his first policy pronouncements since winning last week’s election based on an unofficial count.

Blasts Rock Two Jade-Mining Companies in Northern Myanmar – Radio Free Asia. Unknown assailants blew up the offices of two jade-mining companies in Hpakant township in northern Myanmar’s Kachin state on Sunday, destroying heavy vehicles, trucks and workers’ hostels, a local official said. The blast appeared to be a retaliatory act for the operator’s refusal to give in to demands for “taxes” by local extortionists, Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) reported, citing locals.

 

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