Regional Roundup for Week of 6.24.16


Indonesia, Defying Beijing, Seizes Fishing Boat in South China Sea – NYT The boat and its crew were taken Friday after warships fired warning shots at Chinese vessels suspected of illegal fishing, an Indonesian official said. //This is the newest episode of the illegal fishing saga in South China Sea. This is a multi-country problem where Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and China accuse each other of violating exclusive economic zones in order to fish. China maintains a position that despite international laws, ‘traditional fishing grounds’ should remain open for all.

Related: Indonesia confirms it shoat at ‘criminal’ Chinese fishing boats near its Natuna islands – Quartz

Related: Indonesian navy fires on Chinese fishing boat, injuring one, Beijing claims – The Guardian 

Related: A Third 2016 Natuna Stand-Off Highlights Growing Indonesia-China Tensions 

Revealed: The Truth Behind ASEAN’s Retracted Kunming Statement -The Diplomat New details on the June 14 meeting between ASEAN and China shed light on the imbroglio surrounding ASEAN’s statement. // This story brings very important news about what really happened in the ASEAN-China dialogue. It seems the statement issued was originally agreed to by all members. However, China did not agree to it (obviously!). Malaysia, frustrated by Chinese interference, released the statement to media anyway. Later the statement had to be rescinded.

The ASEAN-China Special Meeting Mystery: Bureaucratic Snafu or Chinese Heavy-Handedness? – The Diplomat Was ASEAN consensus undermined or is there a more mundane bureaucratic explanation for the confusion surrounding the statement?

Not a Repeat but and Echo: ASEAN’s Retracted Statement and the Specter of the 2012 Joint Communique Failure – East by Southeast The emergence of numerous reports that consensus on the statement was withdrawn after-the-fact due to China pressuring Laos appears to many observers a repeat of ASEAN’s failure in 2012 to reach consensus on a joint statement during the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia.


After the South China Sea Ruling – The Diplomat The long-awaited Tribunal’s merits ruling will come soon. What happens then?

Suu Kyi, Thai govt to sign new migrant deal – The Bangkok Post Burma’s Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi and the Labour Ministry plan to solve the issue of illegal Burmese migrant workers by slashing their mandatory “work break” period from three years to 30 days.

Related: Suu Kyi’s Trip to Refugee Camp in Thailand Scrapped

The Lady and a Junta, Thai-Style – The Irrawaddy The visit this week by Nobel Peace Prize laureate and democracy icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will certainly brighten the spirits of the sombre Thai people and could also lift the profile of the Thai junta and Myanmar’s top leader. // important visit as it is expected Suu Kyi and the Thai government will discuss about a host of important issues including hydropower dams in the Salween river. Environmentalists have already urged Suu Kyi to take a stance against dams on Salween because of their perceived environmental risk.

Statement on the Visit of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to Thailand – June 2016 International Rivers General civil society members and environmental activists express concern about infrastructural projects including hydropower projects on the Slaween River.

Related: Suu Kyi urged not to back Salween dams –DVB Multimedia

US, Thailand Conclude Annual Military Exercise – The Diplomat CARAT Thailand 2016 ran from June 16 to 23.

Why Asean must worry about the Mekong Delta – The Nation Grouping is not giving enough attention to water resource security

Mekong countries share land governance experience – The Jakarta Post Increasing security of land rights and transparency of land governance would contribute to government accountability, reduce costs for businesses and strengthen the climate for responsible investment in the Mekong region, a regional land forum in Hanoi was told Tuesday.

China tackles the issues of Greater Mekong Subregion –The Nation (Opinion) This year, many of those present will have heard for the first time of a new multinational agreement driven by China that will play an increasingly important role – namely the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation or LMC (Lancang is China’s name for Mekong). In many ways the LMC is a smaller version of Asean But with just six countries involved and China at the helm, it is expected that results will come more quickly. //LMC brings hope for hydro-diplomacy at the multilateral level in the Mekong region. China has built a cascade of dams in upper Mekong region which controls significant amount of water flow in the downstream region. It is important for all lower Mekong countries to discuss the issue with China and find a way to act collaboratively on this.   


Special economic zone taps into solar power – Phnom Penh Post News Phnom Penh SEZ launched its Clean Energy Initiative yesterday, inaugurating two new solar power systems to supply electricity for water pumps on the 357-hectare industrial park. The initiative, carried out in partnership with Singapore-based Cleantech Solar Corp, is aimed at decreasing CO2 emissions and reducing energy costs.

China to generate a quarter of electricity from wind power by 2030 – The Guardian  Report says figures could rise to nearly one-third with power sector reforms, making it the world wind energy leader by a large margin.

Renewable energy must be boosted five-fold by 2025: Jokowi – The Jakarta Post President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has underlined the importance of clean energy development and energy conservation in the nation’s roadmap of energy development up to 2050. 


Chinese Fishermen: The New Global Pirates? – The Diplomat It’s not just the South China Sea — Chinese fishing vessels have been accused of illegal activities all over the world.

China on Indonesia’s Detention of Boat –NYTimes A Chinese spokeswoman accused Indonesia of breaking international law by holding the crew of a Chinese fishing boat that was operating in the South China Sea.

China’s ‘Historic Rights’ in the South China Sea: Made in America? – The Diplomat The current understanding of “historic rights” in the South China Sea in China can be traced back to a U.S. diplomat.

A Chinese River’s Uncertain Fate – NYTimes Environmentalists have defended the Nu, in Yunnan Province, for more than a decade, battling state hydropower firms intent on building dams.

China’s Ambitious New ‘Silk Road’ Trade Route Takes Shape in Africa – Chinafile Four years and hundreds of billions of dollars later, China’s ambitious global trading strategy known as the “New Maritime Silk Road,” or “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR), is now coming to life, particularly in parts of East Africa where major infrastructure and defense projects are being built.

China’s plan to cut meat consumption by 50% cheered by climate campaigners – The Guardian New dietary guidelines could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1bn tonnes by 2030, and could lessen country’s problems with obesity and diabetes.


Presidential Spokesman Hits Back Against UN Criticism Over Rohingya – The Irrawaddy Magazine Zaw Htay, Spolesman for the President’s office of Myanmar says the UN and international community should focus on ongoing reforms inside Myanmar rather than human rights abuses by the former government. The comment came after UN criticized Myanmar’s handling of religious and ethnic minorities, especially the Muslim Rohingyas.

Related: Arakanese and Rohingya Criticize New Govt Term for Muslims 

EU Says Burma Needs “Space” to Deal with Rights Abuses – The Irrawaddy The European Union said on Wednesday that Burma needed “space” to deal with human rights abuses in its restive northwest, adding it would respect the call by country leader Aung San Suu Kyi to avoid the term “Rohingya” to describe persecuted Muslims there.

War of lexicon in Arakan State – DVB Multimedia Group The Arakan National Party (ANP) has condemned the Burmese government’s suggestion that the ethnic Rohingya be referred to as the “Muslim community in Arakan State”.

Related: UN Rapporteur Avoids Contentious Terms with Arakan Chief Minister – The Irrawaddy

Jokowi to visit Natuna to uphold RI’s sovereignty – The Jakarta Post President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo will visit Natuna, Riau Islands province, on Thursday to demonstrate Indonesia’s sovereignty over the waters in the outer part of the archipelago. // This visit, combined with the incident of Indonesia seizing Chinese fishing vessels mean Indonesia is very serious about establishing an authority over disputed waters in South China Sea. It will be interesting to see how China reacts to this in the coming days. 

PDF REPORT Analysis on ADB Investments in the Greater Mekong – NGO Forum on ADB ADB funded projects have failed to take into consideration the vulnerable livelihoods of the poorer communities in the Greater Mekong Sub-region.

Don Sahong Dam Construction Creates Uncertainty Over Future of Regional Fisheries and Food Security – International Rivers General Construction work on Don Sahong Dam has started blocking crucial fish migration channels and raising questions about food security and livelihoods of people living on the up and downstream of the river.

Slight Increase in Dolphin Numbers –Khmer Times Cambodia’s freshwater Mekong dolphin population has increased by four, adding a quartet of calves in the first five months of 2016 while also seeing a drop in the mortality rate compared with last year. This was encouraging news for environmentalists in a region where increased dam construction has raised concerns over the dwindling numbers of dolphins.

Villagers condemn logging and mining –Eleven Myanmar A press conference was held in Yangon, on June 16 exposing illegal mining and logging operations along the Chindwin River in Kachin State and Sagaing Region. The event, organised by the Red Shan Youth group and Kuki Women’s Centre, they said illegal activities had destroyed around 60 per cent of the forests along the river. Researchers claimed that more than 250,000 acres in Kaniare was being used for illegal and legal gold mining.

Bob Kerrey and the ‘American Tragedy’ of Vietnam: Op-ED – NYT EVEN today, Americans argue over the Vietnam War: what was done, what mistakes were made, and what were the lasting effects on American power. This sad history returns because of Bob Kerrey’s appointment as chairman of the American-sponsored Fulbright University Vietnam, the country’s first private university.

Myanmar to export 515 billion cubic feet of natural gas this fiscal year –Eleven Myanmar The Yadana, Yetagon, Zawtika and Shwe gas projects are expected to collectively produce 515 billion cubic feet of natural gas for export and 160.6 billion cubic feet for local use in the 2016-2017 fiscal year, according to the second five-year National Development Plan (from 2016-2017 to 2020-2021).


Kunming’s twin expos bigger, more important than ever – GoKunming In a mark of the spring city’s growing importance, both on the domestic and international stage, 5,000 businesses and nearly as many officials from eighty-nine countries converged on Kunmingon the occasion of  fourth annual China-South Asia Expo (CSAEXPO) and twenty-fourth Kunming Import and Export Commodities Fair (KIEF).

Big thanks to Ash Chowdhury for compiling this week’s digest and providing analysis!


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