Regional Roundup for Week of 6.29.18

EXSE FOCUS

Pak Lay Dam to Displace Residents in More Than 20 Villages in Northwestern LaosRadio Free Asia At least 1,000 families from 20-some villages in northwestern Laos’ Xayaburi province will be forced to relocate if infrastructure officials move ahead with plans to build a fourth hydropower dam on the Lower Mekong River, a provincial official said Monday. The Pak Lay hydropower project is located downstream of the Xayaburi dam, which is now in the final stages of completion. It will be built approximately 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the Thai border.// The Mekong River Commission will soon kick off the local   consultation process in Laos for this project – most important question to ask is – who’s gonna buy this power?

Southeast Asia’s largest solar project to be built in Vietnam–VnExpress InternationalThe $420 million project, a Thailand-Vietnam joint venture, is set to open for commercial use in June 2019. Vietnamese construction firm Xuan Cau and Thailand conglomerate B.Grimm have teamed up to build Southeast Asia’s largest solar power plant in TayNinh Province.//Who needs Pak Lay Dam in 2029 when two of these solar projects will do the trick? And can be ready for operation in less than two years….

 Taiwan‘s New Southbound Policy Meets the US Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy–The Diplomat Taiwan’s NSP has potential convergences with the United States’ Free and Open Indo Pacific (FOIP) strategy. By aligning with FOIP, Taiwan has an opportunity to gain an important seat at the multilateral and international table, one that may help to preserve its autonomy and territorial sovereignty, but may also lead to the island functioning as a bargaining chip for U.S. counterbalances against China. // The Taiwanese government should acknowledge the potential risks of too much alignment with the US’s strategy as China may apply more preasure on Taiwan.

The Belt and Road Bubble Is Starting to Burst– Foreign Policy In a sense, the Sicomines resources-for-infrastructure agreement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been just another underperforming deal in a country with no shortage of them. But it is also more than that — namely, a window into the flaws at the heart of Chinese international economic policy, which is already costing its economy dearly.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

 New joint patrol starts on Mekong River–XinhuaNet A new round of joint patrols on the Mekong River with law enforcement personnel from China, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand started Tuesday, the 71st mission since 2011, to make the border river safer. Ships set sail from Guanlei Port in Xishuangbanna, southwest China’s Yunnan Province, with patrols covering a total of 256 kilometers, according to Yunnan border police.//China is sending four brown water ships up and down the river to make it “safer” – many speculate the patrols also provide cover for the trafficking of drugs, people, and endangered wildlife throughout the Golden Triangle.

Japan Says Will Support Asean Connectivity– Jakarta Globe Japan is keen to support the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, in realizing its vision for centrality, unity and connectivity, a Japanese official said on Tuesday (26/06). “We’d like to support Asean’s centrality, unity and also connectivity – that’s the most important point, because Asean is now focusing on connectivity,” Japan’s ambassador to Asean, Kazuo Sunaga, said.

China in Vogue, But Vietnam Still Hun Sen’s Lifeline– The Diplomat If the secret to notoriety in Cambodia’s fast-vanishing pro-opposition news media has long been to publish stories critical of Vietnam, the unwritten rule of the tightly government-controlled television news media has been to steer as wide as possible of them. With every terrestrial station owned either by top officials from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) or their allies, it’s a norm that those looking to stay in the good graces of leaders installed by Hanoi in January 1979 have done their best to heed.

Japan to help develop Indonesian islands in South China SeaSouth China Morning Post Japan said Monday it will provide 2.5 billion yen (US$23 million) in aid to Indonesia for the development of fishery facilities on remote islands, at a time when China’s clout in the region is increasing.The signing of a document on the aid was witnessed by Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and his Indonesian counterpart RetnoMarsudi in Jakarta, who discussed issues ranging from economic cooperation and maritime security to anti-terrorism measures.

Top Generals From Cambodia, Thailand Meet to Discuss Border Security–VOA Enhancing cross-border security topped the agenda at a meeting between high ranking military officials from Cambodia and Thailand last week. Gen. Pol Saroeun, the Cambodian commander-in-chief, met with Gen. Thanchaiyan Srisuwan, head of the Thai military, on Friday at the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces headquarters in Phnom Penh. //Will this reduce cross border crime and prevent potential border conflicts between Thailand and Cambodia?

Japan to help Vietnam get a better grasp of land prices–Nikkei Asian Review Japan hopes to pave the way for its companies in Vietnam and other Asian markets by exporting techniques for real estate appraisal, creating opportunities by fostering urbanization and financial industries. Vietnam’s northern coastal city of Haiphong will consider introducing the methods this summer with specialists commissioned by Japan’s land ministry.

Indonesia to enhance economic partnership with Tunisia: Minister– Jakarta Post Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita led an Indonesian trade mission to Tunisia to try and enhance the economic partnership between the two countries. The trade mission organized a business forum to foster trade, investment and an economic partnership between Indonesia and Tunisia. The forum was attended by Tunisian Trade Minister Omar Behi and various businesspeople.

Singapore takes over command of multi-national counter-piracy task force–The Straits Times The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has taken over the command of a multinational counter-piracy task force – Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 – from the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force. A change of command ceremony was held on Thursday (June 28) at the Naval Support Activity, Bahrain.

 

 SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Southeast Asian countries zero in on marine protection in Bali meeting– Jakarta Post
Delegates from Southeast Asian countries are sharing their experiences in implementing marine environment protection conventions set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in a three-day high level meeting in Bali. The first high-level regional meeting of the Marine Environmental Protection of the Southeast Asian Seas Project (MEPSEAS Project), an IMO program that aims to increase protection of the marine environment in Southeast Asia, was opened in Seminyak on Monday.

China’s scrap plastic ban saddles neighbors with piles of problems–Nikkei Asian Review The world is awash with scrap plastic, six months after No. 1 importer China closed its doors to the recyclable materials on environmental grounds. The ripple effects are hitting the shores of Southeast Asia’s emerging countries, which have seen a surge in plastic shipments — not all of them legal. //This causes environmental problems in Thailand and is now forcing the Thai government to consider possible actions to take to solve this problem. See below

 Thailand bans scrap plastic imports– Plastics Recycling Update The government of Thailand has banned all scrap plastic from entering its ports, amid a major increase in shipments to the country and others in Southeast Asia. According to a June 24 news release, Thailand’s Department of Industrial Works “has issued a prohibition on further imports of electronic and plastic waste effective immediately, and will be proposing to the Ministry of Industry to issue an indefinite ban on these imports in the near future. Total imports of these wastes into Thailand have already surpassed the totals from 2017.

MRC, JICA Launch a Joint Study on Mekong Forest Conservation for Better Basin Management–MRC
The Mekong River Commission (MRC) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) have launched a joint study on forest conservation and river basin management in the lower Mekong basin as part of their effort to better manage and conserve the environmental health of the basin. The launch was announced at a kick-off meeting held today in Vientiane, Lao PDR, where the MRC and JICA signed the project’s memorandum of cooperation in the presence of 40 officials from both sides.

Achieving universal electricity access in CambodiaThe ASEAN Post Countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar and Cambodia have lower electrification rates compared to the rest of the region, with 95 percent of those without electricity in the region concentrated in these four countries. In Southeast Asia as a whole, Cambodia has one of the lowest electrification rates. Currently, Cambodia’s electrification rate is just 60 percent, with only 62 percent of villages and 53 percent of households having access to grid quality electricity in the country.

Aim for sustainable future, says UNKhmer Times The United Nations Environment Program has urged Cambodia to focus more on sustainable development, while it also applauded the conservation achievements in the country.

Yangon could consume 3,000 MW of electricity by 2021-22Myanmar Times Yangon Region is expected to require 3,000MW of electricity by 2021-22, Daw Su Hlaing Wint, assistant manager of the Yangon Electricity Supply Corporation (YESC) said at the Electricity and Energy Expo in Yangon on June 22. That’s the amount of electricity currently being generated across Myanmar, of which Yangon now consumes just over half at 1,548MW.

CHINA

China steelmakers shift focus to south-east Asia– Financial Times Chinese companies have invested billions of dollars in planned steel and coal projects as they chase new markets by shifting production to south-east Asia.In the past four years, Chinese steel companies have funded 32m tonnes of annual capacity in new steel projects in Indonesia and Malaysia, according to a Financial Times calculation, equivalent to more than 40 per cent of steel consumption in 2016 by the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states.

China hits back at US investment rules– BBC The Chinese government has criticised a US move to expand the powers of its foreign investment watchdog. The government is worried that the move means the US will use national security concerns unfairly in order to restrict Chinese investments.

China’s coal heartland to put emissions caps on industry as part of battle against pollution–South China Morning Post The major coal producing province of Shanxi in northern China will impose special emissions restrictions on big industrial sectors by October as part of its bid to curb smog, a local environmental official said. Shanxi, together with neighbouring Shaanxi, is set to be included in China’s new three-year action plan to curb air pollution, with emissions in the two provinces second only to the smog-prone Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei industrial region.

The AIIB needs to deliver governance to match its rhetoricChinaDialogue When the bankers descend on Mumbai next week for the third annual general meeting of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), many will ask whether the world’s newest multilateral development bank has lived up to its promises since it was founded in 2015.

Focus on cities could cut China’s emissions by 30pct- researchersReuters China could slash its climate-changing emissions by 30 percent if all its cities cleaned up pollution from their dirtiest power plants and factories, researchers said on Wednesday. The world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases needs to focus on its urban areas in order to meet national-level targets under the international Paris Agreement to curb global warming, according to scientists at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

Japan to help China tackle air pollutionNHK Japan’s environment minister and his Chinese counterpart have agreed to work together to tackle air pollution in China. Masaharu Nakagawa met with Li Ganjie on Saturday in the eastern Chinese city of Suzhou. Their discussions were held the day before a trilateral meeting of environment ministers that South Korea’s environment chief will also attend.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Regime signals polls could be delayed until May– Bangkok PostThe 2019 general election will likely be held by May 5 next year, Deputy Prime Minister WissanuKrea-ngam after a pre-poll meeting at the Army Club between politicians and the regime.Politicians appeared satisfied as they emerged after the discussion on Monday afternoon, citing “positive signs: even though the poll date and the political activities ban have yet to be resolved. //Second election delay in the past 6 months, which will increase the political tension already present in Thailand.

Overcoming the outages: how to keep the lights on in Myanmar– Southeast Asia Globe
Tales abound in Myanmar of surgeries completed using light from cell phones and cars crashing immediately after the lights go out. About 41% of Myanmar people are without access to electricity at all, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Anti-Chinese protests in Vietnam fuelled by fears at home carry risk– South China Morning Post
Anti-government protesters in Vietnam who are using historic wariness towards ethnic Chinese as a cover for their frustrations are treading a damaging path. The nations are working together on the shared development offered by the “Belt and Road Initiative”, but the demonstrations stir unjustified anger and resentment.

Acceleration propelling mega-project development, PM tells legislators–Vientiane Times
Mega-development projects with construction underway are being accelerated in an effort to bolster economic growth, Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith told the National Assembly (NA) recently. Presenting the socio-economic development report to the ongoing 5th Ordinary Session of the NA’s 8th legislature, the nation’s Head of the Government said action is being intensified to realise the benefits of mega infrastructure projects.

Vietnam to host first UN peacekeeping course in Southeast AsiaVN ExpressVietnam has been selected as the first destination for the United Nations Peacekeeping training course in the Southeast Asian region.The United Nations announced the decision after making an evaluation that facilities in the country meet international standards.

Malaysia to review national service programme– Channel NewsAsia Malaysia will review its national service programme, which was compulsory for randomly selected batches of 18-year-old Malaysians before it was reintroduced in 2016 as a voluntary programme. In an interview with Channel NewsAsia, Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu said he will hold a meeting on the matter on Thursday (Jun 28), and a review of the entire national service programme will be raised in the Cabinet.

New partnership to build Cambodia’s biggest data centreKhmer Times A new joint venture of local and international companies will result in the creation of the biggest data centre in the country, boosting the Kingdom’s capabilities to provide digital and cloud services.

Laos faces structural issues despite robust expansionThe Nation Laos is still grappling with several challenges and pending issues impeding macroeconomic development despite robust expansion of the country’s economy when compared to regional peers.

 

YUNNAN 

Province-wide dragnet targets illegal ivory trade–GoKunming A wide-ranging law enforcement sweep of Yunnan border areas ended recently with the confiscation of an enormous amount of ivory. The operation targeted illegally imported rare animal products, with a focus on those coming from elephants. Police and local media outlets are extremely confident in the anti-trafficking measures, declaring that the ivory trade in Yunnan has “essentially been eliminated”, media outlet Yunnan Net reports.

This week’s news digest was curated by Chen-Sheng Hong and Kevin Rutigliano. Chen-Sheng is moving on to greener pastures and we wish him the best!

 

 

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