Regional Roundup for Week of 5.3.19

EXSE FOCUS

Giving a dam about the Mekong – ASEAN Post Originating in the Tibetan highlands and running through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia, and Vietnam, the Mekong and its tributaries provide water, food and income for 60 million people.// Sheith Khidir provides insight into the effect dams are having on fish populations, food security, livelihoods, and development in the Mekong River.

Indonesia’s election leaves a polarised nation – East Asia Forum Indonesia’s national elections took place on 17 April 2019, after an eight-month political contest that was characterised by some as ‘the most polarised election campaign in Indonesian history’// Incumbent President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo leads in the polls following the April 17th election.  The Indonesian Election Commission is expected to announce the final results of the election on May 22nd however many expect Widodo’s opponent, Prabowo Subianto, to challenge the results.

Last Days of the Mighty Mekong: A Review – CFR The Last Days of the Mighty Mekong, by Brian Eyler, director of the Southeast Asia program at the Stimson Center, takes the reader on a journey from glaciers in China to rice fields in Vietnam, stopping along the way in Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand.// Review of Stimson’s Brian Eyler’s book The Last Days of the Mighty Mekong.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

China throws Hun Sen an economic lifeline – Asia Times It is becoming a regular occurrence: Every six months or so, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen jets to Beijing and returns with a bounty of new trade deals, investment promises and assurances of the Chinese government’s backing against Western criticism.

Myanmar and China may have no choice but to scale back and move their troubled dam project – SCMP Aung San Suu Kyi wants cooperation with China and says backtracking on Myitsone would be a blow to Myanmar’s reputation.  However, intense local and environmentalist opposition to the project may force a change, if not an outright scrapping.

Laos, China sign more deals – Vientiane Times Laos and China have signed a new package of cooperation documents, which is expected to take collaboration between the two nations to new heights.

PM Lee Hsien Loong and Chinese leaders discuss Sino-US relations, Belt and Road cooperation and smart cities – Straits Times Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong met President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang separately on Monday (April 29), and discussed the progress of their governmental collaboration projects and other areas where they can work together.

Thailand and Cambodia reopen rail and sea links as ties blossom – Nikkei Asian Review Thailand and Cambodia have ramped up efforts to bolster diplomatic and economic ties with the aim of doubling bilateral trade by 2020.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Rubbish piles up in Vang Vieng – TTR Weekly Not that anyone noticed, but we have just completed the first quarter of Visit Laos-China Year, which I assume rolls out the red carpet to welcome more Chinese tourists.

Vietnam Uses so Much Rhino horns, and here is why – The Science Times Vietnam is listed as one of the world’s largest consumers of rhino horn, which makes them a top contributor to the poaching of rhinos in the wild.

Controversial aquaculture projects threaten Myanmar’s remaining mangroves – Mongabay Most of the waterways surrounding the islands of the Mergui archipelago in the Andaman Sea are lined with mangroves, and the one leading into the island of Kala from the east was no different.

ASEAN’s pangolin disaster – ASEAN Post Unprecedented seizures of pangolin scales in Singapore last month – when the island-state seized a world record 25.6 tonnes in five days – is drawing more attention to the trade of the little-known creature.

New-styled cooperatives in Mekong delta make breakthrough – Saigon Online The Mekong Delta is facing climate change with extreme impact of natural disasters causing difficulties for agricultural production, especially smallholder farmers are extremely vulnerable to agricultural risks and climate change.

Smog from sugarcane burning is fading – just for now – Thai PBS Smog from sugarcane burning may have faded, after sugarcane harvest season this year is about over. However, it does not mean the black smoke will disappear from the sky forever.

Hanoi takes initiative in reducing greenhouse gas emissions – Hanoi Times Joining the Ambitious City Promises project, funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, since October 2017, Hanoi is making every effort to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Wealthy Countries’ Trash Overwhelms Southeast Asia – VOA Wealthy countries are exporting millions of tons of plastic waste to Southeast Asia where the recycling systems are becoming overwhelmed, leading to widespread pollution problems, according to a joint investigation by Greenpeace and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).

Ministry campaign tackles plastic – Phnom Penh Post The Ministry of Environment has chosen Battambang as the first province to launch its plastic reduction campaign, to be followed by Siem Reap and Preah Sihanouk.

Asian Development Bank to earmark $80bn for climate change impact – Nikkei Asian Review The Asian Development Bank plans to spend $80 billion through 2030 to build infrastructure that will help protect Asian countries from the impact of climate change, a central topic at the board of governors meeting that began here Wednesday.

Illegal logging poised to wipe Cambodian wildlife sanctuary off the map – Mongabay As you approach Beng Per Wildlife Sanctuary, five hours north of Phnom Penh, it’s difficult to tell exactly where the park begins.

Solar cell recycling beckons  – The Bangkok Post Local companies are keen on investment in solar panel recycling plants under the flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) scheme to capitalise on growth of solar panel installation in Thailand. 

CHINA

How China is redrawing the map of world science – Nature The Belt and Road Initiative, China’s mega-plan for global infrastructure, will transform the lives and work of tens of thousands of researchers.

China’s multiple coal deals – The Ecologist Investment deals emerging from China’s belt and road summit 25-27 April show continued support for controversial coal projects, despite leaders’ green rhetoric.

Related: Why Is China Placing A Global Bet On Coal? – NPR

China will build string of military bases around world, says Pentagon – The Guardian The US Defense Department expects China to add military bases around the world to protect its investments in it ambitious One Belt One Road global infrastructure program, according to an official report released on Thursday.

China’s coastline in transition – China Dialogue Aquaculture has spurred economic growth in Shandong province, but it has also seriously polluted its coastline. In the last two years the government has responded by curtailing fish farms in wetlands and mudflat ecosystems.

Curbing deadly ship emissions – China Dialogue Emissions from ships caused the early deaths of more than 20,000 Chinese people in 2015. China has been taking steps to curb this blight, notably by expanding its domestic emission control areas (DECAs) to cover the country’s entire coastline.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

ADB boosts support for region – The Nation TheAsian Development Bank (ADB) has vowed to deepen its support for Southeast Asia in development assistance, reflecting the region’s rising stature as a destination for trade and investment.

Aung San Suu Kyi Returns From China With 1 Billion Yuan Grant For Myanmar – Radio Free Asia Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi returned this week from a visit to China with a grant of 1 billion yuan (U.S. $148 million) for development projects, while her spokesman said a controversial Chinese dam project on the Irrawaddy River was not on the agenda.

New industrial zone proposed northwest of Yangon – Myanmar Times Golden Myanmar Investment Consortium, which was formed by investors from China, Hong Kong and Myanmar to develop industrial zones, is planning to set up a new zone in Htantabin township, Yangon, the Yangon Region government and Yangon Region Investment Committee have announced.

Lao gov’t promulgates new law for railway development – Xinhua Net Lao President Bounnhang Vorachit has issued a presidential ordinance promulgating the new Law on Railways, which provides guidance on railway development, local media reported on Tuesday.

Cambodia’s failing education system – ASEAN Post In December 2018, Cambodian Senate president Say Chhum had encouraged the country’s youth to study hard in order to become future leaders. 

Heat wave sends Saigon power consumption to 10-year high – VN Express According to the Ho Chi Minh City Power Corporation (EVN HCMC), the highest power consumption on a day in April was measured at nearly 90.04 million kWh, a 10-year high, 2.5 times higher than the figure recorded on February 6 at 35.5 million, the lowest so far this year.

Prayut tentatively embraces China’s Belt and Road strategy for Thailand – The Thaiger Thai PM’s appearance at the second Belt and Road Initiative forum in Beijing last weekend suggests the luke-warm relations between China and Thailand persist.

More power projects under way – Eleven Myanmar Construction works for electricity projects that will electrify more than 75,000 households in seven regions and states, will complete within one and a half year, said Union Minister for Electricity and Energy Win Khaing, at a ceremony to sign the contracts with tender-winning companies for the construction of power grids for the National Electrification Plan (NEP) being implemented with the World Bank’s loan on April 30.

Thai King’s formal coronation caps eventful two years on throne – Straits Times Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn will be crowned in an elaborate ceremony on Saturday (May 4), capping a busy period in which he displayed a different approach from his father since taking the throne more than two years ago.

While Locals in Laos Still Reel From Belt And Road, President Offers Full Support – Radio Free Asia The president of Laos is fully behind China’s Belt and Road initiative, saying that the Lao-China railway will transform the country’s infrastructure and improve the lives of the people by jumpstarting economic development and connecting the land-locked Southeast Asian nation with many other countries.

In Laos, A Chinese-Funded Railway Sparks Hope For Growth — And Fears Of Debt – NPR In Southeast Asia’s only landlocked country, the Mekong River is a lifeline.

Philippine midterms could extend Duterte’s rule – Asia Times Midterm elections in the Philippines will serve not only as a de facto referendum on President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial rule, but could also strengthen his grip on power, smooth the way for an anointed successor, or even extend his tenure beyond the current one-term limit.

This week’s news digest was curated by Kathryn Hundley.

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