Regional Roundup for Week of 7.8.16

News this week seems overly gloomy, continued trouble in the South China Sea, attacks in Indonesia and Malaysia, Muslims seeking refuge in Burma, brutality in the Philippines…so let’s end the digest on a positive note. Who doesn’t want to see an elephant getting a new prosthetic limb?  And cheers to China for getting in on the search for our extraterrestrial neighbors because after all, The truth IS out there.

LEADERS

Body count rises as new Philippines president calls for drug addicts to be killed – Asian Correspondent – Newly-installed Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has reiterated his tough stance on crime by urging the public to not only kill drug dealers, but addicts as well. /// Who needs rule of law when you have President Rodrigo Duterte? Following up on his promise to be tough on crime, it’s been reported that around 30 ‘drug dealers’ have been killed since he has taken office. Eliminating ‘drug dealers’ isn’t enough for macho man Rodrigo Duterte, though. While speaking to a crowd in a Manila, he exhorted the crowd to kill drug addicts if they knew any. That’s scary. It’s sometimes easy to poke fun at the bombastic Duterte, but statements that ask citizens to murder each other reveal the true character of the man leading the Philippines.

China offers Philippines talks if South China Sea court ignored: China Daily – Reuters – China is ready to start negotiations with the Philippines on South China Sea-related issues if Manila ignores an arbitration ruling expected next week on their long-running territorial dispute, the official China Daily reported on Monday.

Keeping friends close, Thailand Closer – The Myanmar Times – It says something profound about the region that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s first international trips as state counsellor and foreign minister have required photo ops with Southeast Asian dictators.

Hostile Takeover: How Cambodia’s ruling family are pulling the strings on the economy and amassing vast personal fortunes with extreme consequences for the population – Global Witness – Few prime ministers have served for as long as Cambodia’s Hun Sen, in power for 30 years. Even when democratically voted out he has refused to step down, and has systematically quashed political opposition including through the murder, torture and arbitrary imprisonment of his critics.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Thailand to Build Biomass Plan for Phnom Penh – The Phnom Penh Post – Thailand’s Sahacogen (Chonburi) Pcl, an independent producer and distributor of electricity and steam, will form a joint venture with Saha Patthana Inter Holding Pcl, the investment arm of Thailand’s Saha Group, to invest in biomass power plants in Cambodia and Myanmar, according to online business intelligence platform DealStreetAsia.

Visiting PM Thongloun to meet with Prayut – The Nation – Visiting Lao Premier Thongloun Sisoulith will meet with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha today to discuss further cooperation in many facets of the bilateral relationship.

Thailand and Myanmar agree to push long-delayed Border Demarcation Talks – The Nation – Myanmar and Thailand have agreed to resume long delayed land boundary demarcation between the two countries, the Myanmar Foreign Ministry has said.

Burma, Thailand agree to Boost Trade – The Irrawaddy – The Burmese and Thai governments have agreed to boost bilateral trade volume to reach US$20 billion in 2017, Burma’s President’s Office announced on Wednesday.

UQ develops ASEAN poultry welfare standards to further global trade – Asian Correspondent – The chicken and duck industries in 10 Asian countries will benefit from new poultry animal welfare guidelines proposed by The University of Queensland for ASEAN (the Association of South East Asian Nations).

Cambodia and Laos: Toward a New Era – The Diplomat – Recent signals suggest that there might be a new era of better ties between the two Southeast Asian states.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

International Reports warn about disintegration of Mekong River Delta – Vietnam Net – A research work by the National University of Singapore (NUS) on the impact of the Manwan hydropower dam in China in the Mekong Delta showed that 160 million tons of sediment flowed to the delta each year in the past, before the dam was built. /// A study conducted by NUS has found that sediment flows have declined from 160 million tons to 75 million tons. The study predicts that once further dams are constructed in Laos, sediment flows could decrease to 42 million tons. As noted in previous digests, Vietnam is one country that will receive little benefits from hydropower dams while absorbing many of the costs. The importance of sediment flows to the Mekong Delta is paramount as it provides rich soil for rice farmers. As dams are built or proposed, how Vietnam responds will be central to regional cooperation.

 Sun, Partnerships Power Thailand Solar Project – The Asian Development Bank – Thailand’s first large-scale solar power plant demonstrates the feasibility of large, private sector solar farms, and leads the way to a greener future.

Nineteen Solar Farm License Revoked – The Bangkok Post – The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has revoked the solar farm development licenses of 19 holders who failed to start operations by June 2016.

No more coal power plants needed – The Bangkok Post – Last Thursday, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) confirmed that it will construct six new coal-fired power plants by 2025. On many levels, building these new power plants seems not to be a well thought-out plan.

Regional Journalists examine impacts of Don Sahong Dam on Dolphins, Fisheries, Villagers – Mekong Eye – Journalists from across the Mekong region met villagers, government officials and NGOs to understand and write stories about the costs and benefits of the Don Sahong dam.

Sustainable energy in Asia by 2050 – CSR Asia – A new report from WWF argues that South East Asia’s energy needs could be met from non-polluting sources by 2050. Nations such as Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand are all relying heavily on environmental damaging coal as an energy resource. But according to WWF’s studies the massive coal consumption and associated pollution could be exchanged with sustainable energy.

Mekong Basin Stirs up Region – Thai and Cambodian Water Projects bring Risks – The Mekong Eye – While Laos utilizes water from the Mekong River for hydropower dams to become “the battery of ASEAN,” Cambodia and Thailand are following a different trend by keeping and diverting water to expand rice farming. /// The drought in Thailand coupled with water mismanagement could have lasting effects for water policy in Thailand. Diverting water from the Mekong is not a solution but a gigantic band-aid. Rather than divert water, Thailand would be wise to improve irrigation techniques, grow less water-intensive crops, and have contingency plans in place for droughts.

CHINA

China Environmental Press Awards Winners in Pictures – The Guardian – From exposing environmental crimes to a campaign to save a wildlife reserve, the awards, created by chinadialogue and the Guardian in 2010, recognize journalists making outstanding contributions to the field in China.

Chinese, Japanese Warplanes in Close Encounter – The Nation – Beijing and Tokyo were at loggerheads Tuesday over accusations Japanese warplanes locked their fire control radar onto Chinese aircraft, as state-run Chinese media said the country needed to be ready for “military confrontation” elsewhere.

China’s White-Collar Blues – The Bangkok Post – Lower labour costs in Thailand and emerging Southeast Asian economies have eroded China’s competitiveness, prompting a growing number of businesses to relocate their production from the mainland to Asean.

China top polluter Hebei province promises to clean up act – Reuters – Northern China’s Hebei, home to seven of the country’s 10 smoggiest cities, has pledged to double up its efforts to tackle hazardous pollution following an environment ministry report accusing the province of failing to rein in law-breaking industries.

SOUTH CHINA SEA

Philippines offers China talks on maritime Disputes – The Bangkok Post – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday offered China conciliatory talks on a long-awaited international tribunal ruling over Beijing’s maritime claims, a week before the verdict.

 China to hold drills in South China Sea ahead of court ruling – Reuters – China will hold military drills around the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, the maritime safety administration said on Sunday, ahead of a decision by an international court in a dispute between China and the Philippines.

Vietnam urges ‘fair’ ruling from court handling South China Sea case – Reuters – Vietnam has called for an international tribunal in The Hague to deliver a “fair and objective” ruling in an arbitration case lodged by the Philippines that challenges China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea.

Indonesia and the South China Sea: Jakarta’s war on illegal fishing – Asian Correspondent To an uninterested observer, the lines on the map of territorial claims in the South China Sea looks like the work of a child with a box full of crayons.

Vietnamese Fisherman versus China – New Mandala – Tensions in troubled waters see more and more attacks and the undermining of precarious livelihoods. 

NGOs ‘lend support’ to PM’s stance on South China Sea – The Phnom Penh Post – Buffeted by international criticism over his stance on the South China Sea dispute, Prime Minister Hun Sen this week found support for his position on the home front, albeit from a source analysts were quick to question.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Vietnam Blames Toxic Waste Water from Steel Plant for Mass fish Deaths – The Guardian Taiwanese firm Formosa Plastics that owns the plant says it will pay $500m towards clean up and compensation.

Plastic buckets, broken printers shine light on Hanoi’s poor –  Reuters – Vietnamese families living in slums along the Red River in Hanoi are using red plastic buckets and old printers to help light homes, cook meals and slash electricity costs by as much as a third. /// It’s heartwarming to see innovation reaching some of Vietnam’s poorest. Kudos to Le Vu Cuong and his group at Hanoi University!

WB, Singapore-based fund invests in Vietnam’s hydropower – VietnamNet Bridge – IFC and Armstrong, with a combined stake of 36 percent, will take a 16 and 20 percent equity stake in GEC, respectively. For both it is their first investment in Vietnam’s power sector. The investment will help the company expand its hydropower portfolio and invest in other renewable energy segments, such as wind and solar power.

Related: IFC, clean energy fund to invest in small hydropower developer in VietnamHydroworld – IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and Armstrong S.E. Clean Energy Fund are investing in Gia Lai Electricity Joint Stock Company (GEC), which is a small hydropower developer in Vietnam

Clean energy prices fall as more enterprises enter field – VietnamNet Bridge – More foreign conglomerates have expressed their desire to develop clean energy projects in Vietnam, but the number of investors remains modest.

Malaysia ruling party VP quits, says ‘no justice’ amid 1MDB row – Reuters – A senior leader of Malaysia’s ruling party quit on Monday, the latest among several party officials to leave or be sacked after criticizing Prime Minister Najib Razak over a multi-billion dollar financial scandal involving a state-owned fund.

Malaysian nightclub bomb attack linked to Islamic State, police say – Asian CorrespondentMalaysian police have confirmed that a grenade attack at a nightclub near Kuala Lumpur last week is linked to terrorism activities in what could be the first attack to be carried out by the Islamic State in the country.

Thirty killed in four days in Philippine war on drugs – Reuters – Thirty “drug dealers” have been killed since Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in as Philippine president on Thursday, police said, announcing the seizure of nearly $20 million worth of narcotics but sparking anger from a lawyers’ group.

Manila Bay reclamation to destroy environment – The Manila Times – Senator Cynthia Villar warned against the implementation of more reclamation projects in Manila Bay, saying it will adversely affect communities and the livelihood of fishermen.

Manila gets US Upgrade on Human Trafficking – The Nation – Philippines has finally moved up to Tier 1-the highest rating by the US State Department in its annual report on countries’ efforts to combat human trafficking, including prostitution and forced labor.

‘Rubber Stamp’ Congress emerging, warns lawmaker – The Manila Times – Returning Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman of the Liberal Party (LP) has called on his party mates to stop what he said was a sinister plot to turn Congress into a “rubber-stamp” with a company-union style administration and opposition bloc.

Burma: Thousands of Buddhist monks hold anti-Muslim rally in Rakhine Asian Correspondent – Buddhist Monks in Burma gathered on Sunday in the thousands in the strife-ridden Rakhine State to hold a fresh round of protests against the Rohingya Muslim community. /// Intolerance reigns supreme in Burma. With the government refusing to acknowledge the Rohingya, the combination of nationalist fervor and religious discrimination will inevitably continue. One can only hope that international pressure or a change in domestic attitudes will prompt the government to change its tune, but every week it seems like we take another step down the rabbit hole as over a million people are continually denied basic human rights while religious fanatics seek more punishment.

Mob burns down Muslim Prayer Hall in Hpakant Township – The Irrawaddy – A Muslim prayer hall in Lone Khin village of Hpakant Township, Kachin State was burned down by a mob on Friday afternoon.

After Protests, State Government to use only ‘Arakanese’ Race – The Irrawaddy –The Arakan State government has bowed to the demands of Arakan nationalist groups by issuing a statement on Monday that it would refer to the Buddhist majority as the “Arakanese Race,” instead of “the Buddhist community in Arakan State.”

After a year, Rohingya Family Still Separated and stranded – The New York Times – For Hasinah Izhar, it seems a lifetime since she scrambled onto a boat on a muddy shore of Myanmar, clutching three of her children, and joined the exodus of the persecuted Rohingya minority, hoping for a better life in Malaysia.

Township tells famers not to protest over land – The Myanmar Times – A group of farmers in Rakhine State’s Kyaukphyu township are hoping for negotiations with the Southeast Asia Gas Pipeline (SEAGP) company, after being told by local authorities not to sue the firm over damage to farmland.

Cambodia’s Rice Industry needs New Strategy – New Mandala – Without a dramatic change in policy and direction, the industry could collapse in two to seven years. 

Cambodia’s Economic Status raised to Lower-Middle Income – The Phnom Penh Post-The World Bank has officially revised the status of Cambodia’s economy, moving it up a rung from the low-income bracket into lower-middle income territory – a reclassification that economists expect will lead to a scale-back of foreign aid and preferential trade access over the coming years.

Outgoing USAID Cambodia Director Reflects on Achievement – The Phnom Penh Post –It goes against the purpose of many, but for Rebecca Black, former mission director for USAID Cambodia, eventually working herself out of the job would mark a measure of success.

USA and the Kingdom’s Continued solid Relations – The Phnom Penh Post – As the United States of America celebrates its independence day today, Post Plus highlights some of the U.S.’ most notable contributions to the Kingdom of Cambodia within the past year.

Cambodia’s Factories Improving, report finds – The Phnom Penh Post – The latest Better Factories Cambodia report has found that 47 per cent of 381 assessed factories complied with its most important working conditions – up from 28 per cent in 2014.

Government will start chipping away at Protected Areas – The Cambodia Daily – Between 2009 and 2012, the Ministry of Environment went on nationwide leasing spree, signing over vast swaths of the country’s nominally protected areas to private companies for rubber plantations and other agribusiness ventures.

UN does not want to Monitor Referendum: CDC – The Nation – Charter drafter spokesman Norachit Sinhaseni says the United Nations has not requested being allowed to observe the upcoming referendum on the constitution but believes the public should be allowed to participate in the process.

Thai Delegation offers UN assurance on Referendum – The Nation – A Thai delegation has met a senior United Nations official in New York to promise that the referendum on the draft constitution will take place on August 7, as scheduled.

Government aims to improve on tier 2 Ranking – The Bangkok Post – The police chief has vowed to intensify a crackdown on those blacklisted for being involved in human trafficking in a bid to help the country secure an improved ranking in the US State Department’s Trafficking.

Thailand sets-up security centers ahead of referendum – The Irrawaddy – Thailand’s military government has set up security centers around the country ahead of an August referendum on a new constitution, a spokesman for the government said on Monday.

Police Investigate site of Surakarta Attack – The Jakarta Post – Central Java Police Indonesia Automatic Fingerprint Identification System (Inafis) personnel continue to investigate the scene of a suicide bomb attack at the Surakarta Police headquarters on Tuesday morning.

China to Hunt Alien Life – The Bangkok Post – China on Sunday hoisted the final piece into position on what will be the world’s largest radio telescope, which it will use to explore space and help in the hunt for extraterrestrial life, state media said.

WATCH: Elephant injured by mine near Thailand-Burma border gets new prosthetic limb – Asian Correspondent – Mosha, the world’s first elephant to receive a specially-designed prosthetic limb, has to switch to a new prosthetic every few years due to wear and tear, as well as physical growth.

This week’s news was authored by Pete Telaroli.

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