Regional Roundup for Week of 6.21.18


Thai energy review could lead to suspension of Mekong dam–The Third Pole A major energy review by Thailand has delayed the launch of a controversial dam on the Mekong. This could lead to further questions about future hydropower projects along the river. Brian Eyler, director of the Stimson Center’s Southeast Asia programme, said that, “the prospects for the Pak Beng dam to move ahead as originally planned are unlikely given EGAT’s adjustments to a renewable energy transition.”

Renewable energy goal raised to 30%–The Nation Siri, in announcing the target for green-sourced energy, said the drafting of a proposal for a 300-megawatt biomass project in the three southernmost provinces expedited – for completion within two months – before it is forwarded to the National Energy Policy Council (NEPC).

Lao PDR Submits Notification on the Pak Lay Hydropower Project to MRC for Prior ConsultationMRC  The Mekong River Commission Secretariat has received an official notification from the Lao Government that it will undertake the formal process of prior consultation on its Pak Lay hydropower project in the Pak Lay area in the Lao PDR’s northern province of Xayaburi. The run-of-river dam will operate continuously year-round and produce 770 megawatts of electricity. //Still unknown which off-taker market will buy the power generated from this dam…

ACMECS leaders adopt 5-year plan–Bangkok Post The leaders of five Mekong River basin countries on Saturday adopted a five-year master plan focused on improving transport infrastructure, harmonising trade and investment rules, and human resources development.

  Related: Five-nation meeting plays to diverse strengths–Bangkok Post 

     Related:  Thailand Proposes New Fund for Southeast Asian Sub-region–Radio Free Asia

Truly wielding power: How China wants to create the world’s first global electricity grid–OZY Deep in a tangle of planning bureaucracies in western Beijing, the future of a country nearly 3,000 kilometers away is under discussion. Xie Qiuye, president of China’s Electric Power Planning & Engineering Institute, has been charged with developing an electricity plan for Laos, a nation struggling with a glut of the energy supplied by Chinese-built dams on the Mekong river.

Trump, Kim Begin New Phase of Diplomacy–WSJ President Donald Trump launched a high-stakes diplomatic effort to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons, betting that a friendlier approach with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un—including a surprise promise to halt military exercises with South Korea—would work better than intimidation.

   Related: Winners and losers from the Trump-Kim summit–The Washington Post

    Related: Trump to Suspend Military Exercise on Korean Peninsula–NYT

    Related: The Trump-Kim Summit: The View From Japan–The Diplomat

    Related: Southeast Asia’s choice: what the Singapore summit means for the region– Southeast Asia Globe

Related: The North Korea Summit Gave Trump a Genuine Victory. But China May Benefit Most–TIME



ASEM takes action in response to climate changeNhan Dan The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Conference on’ Climate Action to Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – Ways Forward’ took place in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho, on June 19. Discussions focused on development amid climate change, the combination between climate action and sustainable development goals, and measures to boost Asia-Europe climate partnerships toward sustainable development.

ASEAN and the New South China Sea Reality–The Diplomat China is stepping up its efforts to achieve the effective control and militarization of the South China Sea. In mid-May, the People’s Liberation Army announced that it had landed bombers, including an H-6K, on Woody Island, part of the Paracel Islands, over which China has taken effective control.

Malaysia and Australia: New Focus on an Old Scandal– The Diplomat The election of Mahathir Mohamad and the PakatanHarapan (PH) coalition he helped lead last month in Malaysia was a new day for voters who have been governed by the same party since independence. For Australia, however, it also raised the prospect of the days prior to NajibRazak’s leadership of the Southeast Asian state, which were characterized by periods of tension and at times antagonism.

Prayut meets May in London– Bangkok Post Small groups welcomed and protested against the visit as Theresa May urged free and fair elections, as Gen Prayut promised them ‘early next year.Gen Prayut has said his visit is not political, and he seeks only to enhance trade and encourage European investment.

Japan injects 23b kip to promote education in Laos– Vientiane Times The government of Japan recently provided more than 23 billion kip (JPY 310 million) through the Japanese Grant Aid for Human Resource Development Scholarship (JDS) for education assistance in Laos.The scholarship funds will be provided to government officials across the country to upgrade their knowledge and promote the education of future Lao leaders.

 Related: Workers from Laos to upgrade skills in JapanThe Nations

UK to help Malaysia recover assets, rebuild finances– Channel NewsAsia The United Kingdom on Wednesday (Jun 13) expressed its willingness to help Malaysia recover illegal assets in its country.British High Commissioner to Malaysia Vicki Treadell said this after meeting with MrDaimZainuddin, the chairman of the Council of Eminent Persons. She also said that the UK would support the Malaysian government in rebuilding its finances.

Vietnam, Japan enjoy sound strategic relations: Deputy PMNhan Dan Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh expressed his delight at the strong development of the Vietnam-Japan extensive strategic partnership while meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Speaker of the House of Representatives Tadamori Oshima in Tokyo on June 11.

Related: State visit gives boost to Vietna-Japan relations–VietnamNet



Chinese-backed hydroelectric dam robs Cambodian villagers of homes and livelihoods–South China Morning Post Holdouts of Cambodia’s Lower Sesan II Dam hoping for an eleventh-hour lifeline to maintain ties with their Phnong ethnic roots

Vietnam‘s renewable energy yet to get wind in its sailsVnExpress The target of 800 and 6,000 megawatts of wind power by 2020 and 2030 looks beyond reach. Vietnam is far away from realizing its short and medium term wind power goals, with no ready solution in sight to several impediments, experts say.

Mekong Delta land erosion set to worsen, residents warnedVnExpress The land erosion problem in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta has assumed drastic proportions, officials warned the region’s residents at a meeting held on Monday. The ministry said there were 562 erosion locations with total length of 786 kilometers. This included 55 “critically dangerous” locations that are 173 kilometers long, 140 “dangerous” locations 97 kilometers long, and 367 “normal” erosion spots 516 kilometers long.

An Environmental Report Card for Southeast Asia– The Diplomat While evaluating every environmental issue that has arisen in every country is unfeasible; it is possible to conduct a general overview of what has happened so far in 2018. How are forests, oceans, mangroves, and wildlife faring in the region so far in 2018?

Climate change to slash Cambodia’s productivity–Khmer Times Even if current levels of spending on climate change adaptation are maintained, rising temperatures in the Kingdom will continue to impact economic performance, reducing the country’s GDP by almost 10 percent by the year 2050, a report released Tuesday has found.

Temporary closure not enough to restore Thailand’s Maya Bay–Mekong Eye Starting this month, the tiny and stunningly scenic Maya Bay off Thailand’s Andaman coast, made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio’s 2000 film The Beach, is closed to visitors. Two decades of being Thailand’s top tourist attraction has overwhelmed the island’s ecology.

Thailand becoming ‘garbage bin of world’–The Nation EXPERTS on waste management and environmental protection are warning that Thailand could become the garbage bin of the world, as the government’s policies to promote the waste-to-energy industry have already resulted in plastic waste imports to the Kingdom.

         Related: E-waste shunned by China piles up in Thailand-Bangkok Post

                   Related: Trash-filled turtle highlights ocean crisis-Bangkok Post

Related:  Calls for review of Thailand’s importation of electronic trash– Thai PBS

                   Related:  Wake up to the problem of electronic waste, Myanmar urged–Myanmar Times

How to Promote Investments in Natural Capital in the Greater Mekong Subregion–Development Asia Natural capital has been a key contributor to the Greater Mekong Subregion’s rapid economic growth over the past 3 decades or so. However, the subregion’s key natural capital stocks are in a state of decline. This is evident by the degradation of arable land; considerable losses in forests, wetlands, and mangroves; and many species of fauna and flora becoming endangered or even extinct.

Forest database key for VietnamVietnam News Vietnamese people can control their own forest resources, ensure food security and diversify their income by using Management Information System for Forest Sector  in Vietnam (FORMIS). Hà Công Tuấn, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development made the statement at the forum on information and forest resources database held in Hà Nội on Wednesday by Việt Nam Administration of Forestry (VNFOREST) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development with the support from the FORMIS phase two project.


Why China’s New Cambodia Military Boost Matters– The Diplomat This week, Cambodia revealed that China had given it yet another round of military assistance as part of a visit by its defense minister to the Southeast Asian state. The move represents just the latest effort by both sides to boost their defense ties in 2018 as they commemorate 60 years of their bilateral relations and Cambodia moves toward elections next month, which represents a major test for the ruling party.

Alibaba opens its regional office in Malaysia–New Strait Times Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd (Alibaba) the world’s leading e-commerce company based in China, has opened its first Southeast Asia office here, part of the company’s strong commitment in increasing digital economy in Malaysia and the region.

   Related: Alibaba and Malaysia: A win-win relationship-The ASEAN Post

Free Power From Freeways? China Is Testing Roads Paved With Solar Panels–NYT On a smoggy afternoon, huge log carriers and oil tankers thundered down a highway and hurtled around a curve at the bottom of a hill. Only a single, unreinforced guardrail stood between the traffic and a ravine. The route could make for tough driving under any conditions. But experts are watching it for one feature in particular: The highway curve is paved with solar panels.

Laos ‘not concerned’ about debt from China’s Belt and Road–Nikkei Asian Review Laos is unconcerned about the potential debt burden from a Chinese-led high-speed rail project, its prime minister said on Tuesday, describing the terms of the construction agreement as “favorable” to one of Southeast Asia’s poorest countries.

        Related: Thailand plans regional alternative to Belt and Road-Asian Correspondent

How China Lost Sight of Malaysia’s Changes – The Diplomat  Nonagenarian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad wasted no time in making a much anticipated move, dispatching Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng to renegotiate some of the “unequal treaties” with China. His move has been compared to steps by the then-new Sirisena administration in Sri Lanka to scale back massive deals with China made under the previous government. // Chinese investments have been affected by political changes before, such as when Chinese investment in Sudan was lost when Sudan split into two countries.

One of China’s poorest provinces wants to be a tech hub–The Economist Such space-age fantasy appears incongruous in Guizhou. The mountainous region is one of China’s poorest provinces (see map). More than 4m of its 35m inhabitants live on less than $1.90 a day, according to the government. In 2016 less than 45% of them used the internet. Five years ago, however, Guizhou started selling itself as a good place for big companies to store vast reservoirs of data. Now it is experiencing a tech boom.

Thousands of Seized Logs Smuggled to China, Lawmaker Says–The Irrawaddy Up to 2,000 logs cut from champac and pine trees weighing over 1,300 tons seized by authorities in Kachin State’s Chipwi and Tsawlaw townships have been smuggled to China since late May, according to a Union lawmaker.

China’s clean skies battle expands, clouding economic outlook–Channel NewsAsia  The frontlines of China’s war on pollution are moving beyond smog-prone Beijing and surrounding cities, driven by an effort to improve air and water quality across the country.

China to launch broader environmental inspections this month–Reuters China will expand environmental inspections to more cities and regions in a new round of checks from this month to April next year, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) said in a statement on Friday, part of a three-year anti-pollution plan.


What is the Cambodia-Lao PDR-Vietnam Development Triangle Area?–Back in March, the Prime Ministers of three neighbouring countries Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam (CLV) met and endorsed an action plan to connect CLV economies until 2030. The three leaders committed themselves to building “integrated, sustainable and prosperous CLV economies” which would be located in the larger regional plan of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.

New law sets public debt at not more than 25 percent of revenue– Vientiane Times The government will be the only authority to determine the size of public debt, which must not be over 25 percent of annual state revenue. A debate by National Assembly (NA) members yesterday made this stipulation concerning the Law on Public Debt. // This is an important step for Laos, since its debt has been growing rapidly. This law can potentially bring Laos’ debt growth under control if implemented properly.

Prawit orders end to imports of hazardous waste– Bangkok Post  Deputy Prime Minister PrawitWongsuwon has ordered authorities to find ways to end the importation of hazardous and electronic waste. Lt Gen KhongcheepTantrawanit, the defence spokesman, said Gen Prawit issued the order at a meeting of the committee on the reform of national administration.

Deputy PMs to meet political parties next week– Bangkok Post Deputy Prime Minister PrawitWonsuwon said on Wednesday that he, Deputy Prime Minister WissanuKrea-ngam and the Election Commission planned to meet representatives of political parties next week to discusspolitical activities. He said the meeting would happen while Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was abroad. // Once the political activities ban is lifted, then Thailand can begin the election process. This will significantly improve Thailand’s relations with the EU and the United States.

Thailand plans regional alternative to Belt and Road– Asian Correspondant THAILAND plans to create a regional fund along with several of its neighbors in order to reduce reliance on Chinese investment in Southeast Asia.The Nikkei Asian Review reported earlier this month that Bangkok hopes to launch the fund “as soon as possible”, which would help fund infrastructure and development projects in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Burma (Myanmar) and Vietnam. // If successful, this initiative will lend some foreign policy flexibility for the region.

Laos stresses the need to borrow as West raises debt alarm– Nikkei Asian Review As the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia and one of the least developed ones in the region, Laos seems to have different priorities on growth that are driving it pile on even more debt.Prime Minister ThonglounSisoulith believes adding debt beyond a warning level is necessary for the country to grow and compete internationally as an economy, despite growing wariness among Western donor nations and multinational financial institutions.  // Nearly half of Laos’ debt is owned by China. If the China’s economy slows down, it could potentially cripple the Lao economy.

Heat on Vietnam car barriers rises–Bangkok Post The commerce and industry ministries are escalating demands that the Vietnamese government eliminate non-tariff barriers on cars imported from Thailand, as Thai car shipments to Vietnam have stalled for over six months. // Thailand is Southeast Asia’s largest automotive producer. A lowering of trade barriers in Vietnam would lead to the growth of the automotive industry in Thailand. Lowering of similar trade barriers in Southeast Asia would be beneficial to economic growth in the region.


Guizhou explosion closes key Yunnan petrochemical pipeline–GoKunming A natural gas pipeline exploded in the late hours of June 10 in Shazi (沙子), Guizhou province, Xinhua reports. Responding emergency crews completed search and rescue operations after the ensuing blaze was extinguished, but the cause of the accident is still under investigation.


Going Global: Taiwan Start-ups Aim for Southeast Asia Growth–The News Lens EZTable is one of dozens of Taiwanese tech startups expanding globally after achieving success at home. Southeast Asia is their top destination, but some are expanding to Japan, Korea, and Hong Kong as well. They’re a new breed of Taiwanese tech firm: software-driven, youthful, and multilingual. // Compared to the past, Taiwanese tech start-ups expand their investment globally instead of focusing on domestic market. Southeast Asia is now a hotspot for Taiwanese tech start-ups.

This week’s news digest was curated by Kevin Rutigliano and Chen-Sheng Hong.

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *