Regional Roundup for Week of 7.22.16

Shockwaves still ripple from the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s award on South China Sea last week. China is hardening its stance as Philippines and other Chinese neighbors are trying to figure out what to do. Meanwhile, Myanmar continues to be on the edge of ethnic violence and Mahathir Mohamad in Malaysia plots a return to power.

 LEADERS

Wife of anti-monarchist British journalist detained in Thailand – Guardian  //for tweeting photos of Thailand’s crown prince! From the UK! Detectives said the photos shared by Andrew MacGregor Marshall, a former Bangkok-based Reuters correspondent who has been banned from the country since 2011 and now lives in Edinburgh, were fake and violated the kingdom’s royal defamation law. His wife, Noppawan Bunluesilp, was visiting relatives in Bangkok, was detained by police and had electronic items seized. She was accompanied to the city’s crime suppression division by her father and three-year-old son and questioned before being released.

China Hardens Position on South China Sea – The Diplomat Beijing has moved to clarify its position, but in a direction that could cause more friction.

Related: China Begins Air Patrols Over Disputed Area of the South China Sea -NYTimes 

China announces South China Sea military exercise – ABC News China is closing off a part of the South China Sea for military exercises this week, the government said Monday, days after an international tribunal ruled against Beijing’s claim to ownership of virtually the entire strategic waterway.

KFC Targeted in Protests Over South China Sea – NYTimes Accusing the United States of encouraging a case against China’s maritime claims, demonstrators called for boycotts in about a dozen cities.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

The Social Media ‘War’ Over the South China Sea – The Diplomat Vietnamese, Chinese, and Filipinos spar online after the recent tribunal ruling on the South China Sea.

Cambodia to receive $600m in aid from China – Asian Correspondent China has pledged to provide the Cambodian government with nearly US$600 million in aid to develop the country’s election, education and health infrastructures.

Vietnam removes protesters gathered for anti-China rally in Hanoi – The Guardian About two dozen people are bused away even before they begin their protest against Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea. Dozens of Vietnamese who gathered for an anti-China protest in central Hanoi were taken away by authorities on Sunday as they tried to rally support for an international tribunal’s ruling rejecting Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea. About two dozen people were bused away from around the landmark Hoan Kiem Lake in the capital even before they began their protest. There was heavy police presence around the lake with cars briefly banned from around it.

South China Sea dispute: Philippines says China has warned of ‘confrontation’ – The Guardian Foreign minister says Beijing refuses to discuss recent court ruling which rejected claims to almost all of South China Sea. The Philippines has turned down a Chinese proposal to start bilateral talks, it said on Tuesday, because of Beijing’s pre-condition of not discussing a court ruling that nullified most of its South China Sea claims.

Related: Philippines Rejects Conditional Talks With China on South China Sea 

Vietnam, Laos discuss Vientiane-Hanoi expy project –VietnamNet Bridge Representatives of Vietnam’s Ministry of Transport and the Lao Ministry of Public Works and Transport have discussed a major project to develop an expressway linking Hanoi and Vientiane as part of their five-year cooperation plan starting this year. The expressway is planned to start from Vientiane, passing through Laos’ Pakxan and Nghe An Province’s Thanh Thuy, and end in Hanoi.

Thailand considers buying more power from Laos –Bangkok Post Thailand may buy 9,000 megawatts of electricity from Laos this year to ensure sufficient supply to meet rising demand, says a senior official at the Energy Ministry. That is nearly 30% higher than the the 7,000MW Thailand currently buys annually from Laos.

China woos Myanmar, tries to massage its public image –Myanmar Times In what seems likely to be a concerted and protracted charm offensive, China has been inviting hundreds of Myanmar opinion-formers to “improve understanding” on their part of China’s intentions. China is telling Myanmar that it knows Myanmar has changed, and that China’s attitude has changed too.

Related: China launches local charm offensive –Myanmar Times

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Experts warn of over-reliance on coal power – VietnamNet Bridge Foreign experts have issued a warning to the Vietnamese government about its over-reliance on coal to make power, without clear mechanisms to attract investors into renewable energy projects.

Vietnam mulls test of motorbike emissions to curb urban pollution –Thanhnien News The country is considering a plan to test motorbike emissions in its five largest cities after tests found the vehicle has become a major polluter.

France to fund feasibility study for Myanmar’s 690-MW Laymyo hydropower project –Hydro World The French government has agreed to provide US$1 million to help Myanmar perform feasibility studies for the 690-MW Laymyo hydroelectric plant. The cascade system is to include two powerhouses will be located in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

Flood of doubts: sceptical public questions Three Gorges Dam’s capacity to stop disastersSouth China Morning Post Project was touted as a tool to prevent floods but those claims have been watered down and new threats are eroding confidence – and riverbanks.

CHINA

Hong Kong Says Legislative Candidates Must Endorse Chinese Rule – NYTimes As calls for autonomy grow, Hong Kong’s government wants legislative candidates to pledge that the city remains an “inalienable part” of China.

As China’s Economy Slows, Beijing’s Growth Push Loses Punch – NYTimes High debt and a glut of unneeded factories are hindering the government’s usual method of using spending and lending to create more activity.

What China’s Economic Growth Figures Mean – NYTimes China on Friday reported its second-quarter economic growth figures. The numbers are among the world’s most closely watched, but data from the country are notoriously questionable.

Did Russia Just Ask China to ‘Buzz Off’ on the South China Sea? – The Diplomat The Russian MFA statement after the PCA ruling was not as soft on China as usual. Russia refused to take any side in this dispute and called for compliance to international laws including United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Interview: The South China Sea Ruling – The Diplomat International law expert Roncevert Ganan Almond on the recent ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Apocolypse Now on the Mekong River –Boulder Weekly China has built several dams on the river that irrevocably damage the ecology of the waterway, and subsequently the lives of the people living downstream.

6 Chinese fishing boats violate Vietnamese waters –Thanhnien News On Monday morning the local border guard agency was informed by local fishers that the Chinese boats were fishing illegally in the waters around 20 nautical miles north of Con Co Island, or around 10 nautical miles from a joint fishing area’s demarcation line. The boats tried to flee once Vietnamese authorities approached them but were caught and then told to leave Vietnamese waters.

In numbers: Southeast Asia’s military spending – The Sea Globe Sights on the Southeast Asian governments spending big on their militaries and the massive arms manufacturers they buy from.

US pledges $21m to strengthen governance in Burma – DVB Multimedia Group The United States announced on Wednesday that it will provide an additional $21 million in development aid to help strengthen governance in Burma, as a newly elected civilian government settles into its daunting first term.

Optimism Expressed at Economic Forum, Despite Govt Policy Blackout – The Irrawaddy Economists and businessmen gathered at a forum in Rangoon expressed disappointment at sluggish growth under the new government since April—in light of high expectations—but remain convinced of Burma’s economic potential.However, the lack of clarity from the National League for Democracy government on matters of economic policy prevented a more detailed discussion of Burma’s current economic trajectory.

Philippines won’t honour UN climate deal, says president – The Guardian Duterte says Paris climate pact seeks to dictate to developing countries and limit economic growth, reports Climate Home

Myanmar’s Radical Buddhist Group Gets Rebuked – The Diplomat Ma Ba Tha has been dealt some recent blows. // The situation with Ma Ba Tha is of particular significance because the role they have played in recent past in spreading hatred against the minority Muslim community. Previously it was assumed Ma Ba Tha is sponsored by Myanmar’s state mechanism. But the tide has seemingly turned now. The government recently revealed that Ma Ba Tha is not a ‘recognized’ Buddhist organization after a chief minister branded them as ‘unnecessary’. These moves from the government can go a long way in stopping religion fueled massacres in the country.  

Myanmar divided as student activists fight for religious freedom – The Sea Globe As anti-Muslim nationalist groups lash out at the stateless Rohingya, Myanmar’s next generation of interfaith activists is struggling to promote compassion

Dateline Irrawaddy: ‘A Hundred Days, a Thousand Questions: Government Faces Challenges on All Fronts’ – The Irrawaddy The government is in no shortage of challenges as it passes first 100 days in office.// Myanmar government is in tremendous pressure both home and abroad. The Rohingya issue is increasingly contentious while Chinese firms want to build hydro-electric dams which local people oppose. Add to that the tough job of acclimatizing the bureaucracy to a democracy from decades of military led autocracy. NLD government indeed has a lot to do.

Campaigners fight against the Myitsone dam –Mizzima Just a few months before 2012 by-elections, a group of concerned citizens worried about the fate of Myitsone gathered together at a location overlooking the confluence of three rivers in Myitkyina, Kachin State. Thanks to public awareness campaigns launched by environmentalists, protest campaigns launched by CSOs, and media coverage about the dangers of the dam, protests against it construction were launched.

Drugs Worth US$2.5 Million Seized in Northern Shan State – The Irrawaddy Police are hunting for culprits in connection with the seizure of amphetamines valued at 3 billion kyats (US$2.5 million) in a village in Kyaukme Township of northern Shan State.

Robot factories could threaten jobs of millions of garment workers – The Guardian The jobs of nearly 90% of garment and footwear workers in Cambodia and Vietnam are at risk from automated assembly lines – or “sewbots” – according to a new report from the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Who Will Indonesia Execute Next in its War on Drugs? – The Diplomat Confirming details continues to prove elusive.

Govt Forms Committee to Prevent Interreligious Violence – The Irrawaddy Myanmar government has formed a high-level “Emergency Management Central Committee” tasked with preventing and mitigating interreligious violence in Burma, according to a statement from the President’s Office.

Former Malaysian premier Mahathir aligns with foes to oust PM Najib –Asian Correspondent Malaysia’s influential former premier is forming a new opposition party to topple Prime Minister Najib Razak and the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition in the next general election. His party will be part of a coalition also joined by People’s Justice Party, Democratic Action Party and Amanah.

The Philippines’ Triumph: Right Over Might – The Diplomat It is precisely the fairness and impartiality of the process chosen by Manila to vent its claims that China objects to.

Myanmar’s objection may block Thai heritage claim – Nation Multimedia Overlapping of border cited as reason; Thailand has time until October to resolve issue before seeking Unesco recognition for Kaeng Krachan forest.

NEDA and JICA sign MOU on Mekong sub-region development cooperation –National News Bureau of Thailand The Neighbouring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency (NEDA) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) have recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to cooperate in the development of the Mekong sub-region.

Seized Timber Up for Auction –The Khmer Times More than $90,000 worth of luxury timber seized during National Anti-Deforestation Committee (NADC) raids in Stung Treng province will be up for public auction until July 29, the Ministry of Economic and Finance announced last week.

China Firm Now Eyes Power Lines –The Khmer Times The Beijing-based PowerChina Resources Limited (PCR), a shareholder of Sinohydro Kamchay Hydroelectric Project Co. Ltd, which developed the Kamchay hydroelectric dam in Kampot, expressed its interest in building electricity transmission lines in Cambodia. This expression of interest was made when the director general of PCR, Du Chunguo, met the Kingdom’s Minister of Mines and Energy, Suy Sem, in Phnom Penh last week.

China Economy Ripples Into Laos –The Stewardship Report A decade long mining boom, combined with a rapid development of hydropower, has seen Laos’ growth rate reach over 7 percent a year, allowing national output to more than double, generating some half a million jobs. A key player in the economic progress has been China. A recent World Bank report on the Lao economy noted China’s influence was continuing to grow.  China is the leading investor, with $6.7 billion in 760 projects from mining, to energy, agriculture, banking and trade as well as construction of commercial properties.

Singapore seizes assets worth RM717mil in 1MDB-related probe –The Star Authorities have seized assets worth S$240mil (RM717.45mil) in an investigation of 1MDB-related fund flows for possible money laundering, in a probe which has found “deficiencies” at several major banks here.

Related: ‘Malaysian people defrauded on a massive scale’: FBI on 1MDB scandal

YUNNAN

Former propaganda minister indicted for graft – GoKunming Although the rate of Yunnan officials standing trial for graft and abuse of power has slowed considerably compared to 2015, career bureaucrats continue to fall. The most recent instance involves Yang Wenhu, former deputy minister of the Yunnan Propaganda Department and member of the provincial party congress.

 

 

 

 

 

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