Regional Roundup for Week of 9.14.2013

The slow creep of internet suppression in China has turned into a full-on campaign this week as China detailed punishments of up to three years in jail for the spreading of rumors on social media sites.  Related to this campaign, yesterday multi-millionaire civil society activist Wang Gongquan was detained in Beijing.  The CCP is trying to control the commanding heights of the media as its leadership attempts to unroll comprehensive reform plans later this fal.  But this top-down, arbitrary supression puts social media users and the social media industry in a holding pattern full of fear and uncertainty.  Further, blogger and author Joshua Kurlantzick suggests in an article listed below that China’s internet suppression tactics are diffusing into Southeast Asia.  For those of us living in the region, the connections are not hard to link together.

The World Economic Forum meets this week in Dalian, the city that Bo Xilai built, but the real meeting that regional watchers should keep an eye on is this weekend’s Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting and energy/trade deals that come forward from it.  More articles on the SCO meeting below.

Yunnan province made international news as well as Luliang county, near Qujing was found to be cooking its economic reports to the tune of $850 mn over it’s actual economic output.

ExSE is still working on its facelift which we hope to unveil by the end of the month.  We’d like to expand into blogging on a wider range of issues in the region as well as attract a few Laos and Vietnam specialists.  Avid readers, we are also hoping to expand our book review category.  If you are interested in joining the ExSE team, already 20 strong, feel free to email at eastbysoutheastmail@gmail.com

 

CHINA

Multi-millionaire investor detained in China’s crackdown on activists – The Guardian Campaigners warn that Chinese police are cracking down on activists after ‘gathering crowds’ arrest of Wang Gongquan. Chinese police have detained a multi-millionaire investor in what human rights campaigners warned is a broadening crackdown on activists.Wang Gongquan was taken into custody by up to 20 Beijing police officers on Friday on suspicion of “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order”, according to supporters. His friend Xu Zhiyong, a well-known lawyer and leading member of a grassroots grouping supporting civil society, was formally arrested on the same charge last month after weeks in detention.

Some of China’s Prominent Internet Voices – NYT A look at leading microbloggers on Weibo and some of their messages.

Crackdown on Bloggers Is Mounted by China – NYT Hundreds of microblog users across the country have been arrested for what Communist Party officials call malicious rumor-mongering online.

China’s Diabetes Epidemic – CFR Asia Unbound These days we’ve been used to China being the land of “the first,” “the largest” and “the highest.”  However, not all of these superlatives are worthy of praise.  China now has the largest diabetic population in the world (114 million), according to a recent study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Chinese bombers prompt Japan to scramble fighter jets | The Japan Times Japan’s Defense Ministry said Sunday two Chinese H-6 bombers flew round trip from the East China Sea to the Pacific Ocean without violating Japanese airspace the same day after overflying waters between Okinawa islands. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force scrambled fighter aircraft, the ministry said. It was the first time the ministry has made an announcement after confirming the passing of Chinese bombardment aircraft through a chain of islands off the southwest coast of Japan.

Scenes From 21st-Century China – In Focus – The Atlantic The People’s Republic of China, the most populous country, and the second-largest economy, in the world, is a vast, dynamic nation that continues to grow and evolve. In this, the latest entry in a semi-regular series on China, we find a tremendous variety of images, including an earthquake in Gansu province, a massive rubber duck in Beijing, a narrow five-story nail house, and a replica of Paris — complete with an Eiffel Tower. This collection offers only a small view of people and places across the country over the past few months.

As Chinese Farmers Fight for Homes, Suicide Is Ultimate Protest – NYTimes.com Amid the turmoil, the government is debating new policies to promote urbanization. A plan to speed up urbanization was supposed to have been unveiled earlier this year, but it has been delayed over concerns that the move to cities is already stoking social tensions. New measures are also being contemplated to increase rural residents’ property rights.

Peak coal in China | | MacroBusiness Citibank has an impressive note out on the future of Chinese coal usage and the news for Australia is good and bad. Good because carbon emissions are going to fall. Bad because our coal exports face a lot more potential downside

China Shadow Banking Returns as Growth Rebound Adds Risks – Bloomberg “If credit growth picks up persistently from here, China’s current growth recovery may well last a bit longer and go a bit further,” said Yao Wei, China economist at Societe Generale in Hong Kong. “However, that only adds to the downside risk afterwards, as the leverage of Chinese corporates and local governments keeps rising from the already alarmingly high level.” M2 money supply growth accelerated to 14.7 percent, the fastest in three months….A government-engineered cash squeeze in June sent money-market interest rates to record highs and helped curb shadow banking, reducing longer-term dangers while adding to forces slowing economic growth. Now it appears that the crunch in liquidity and credit is over, Wang Tao, chief China economist at UBS in Hong Kong, said yesterday.

Govt Debt may Exceed 15t Yuan: Researcher-Caijing China’s government debt may exceed 15 trillion yuan ($2.45 trillion), said a government researcher, amid an ongoing audit of total borrowing. Zhao Quanhou, head of financial research at the Fiscal Science Research Center affiliated with the Ministry of Finance, suggested that the figure may even run up to 18 trillion yuan.

China-Russia Energy Impasse-Caijing Upon taking office, newly-appointed Chairman of China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) Zhou Jiping proposed making the Henry Hub natural gas futures contract price adopted by the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) the benchmark import price. The Henry Hub price has become the lowest of its kind as natural gas production in the United States saw explosive growth in recent years thanks to the U.S. shale gas revolution. In response, Russia proposed using the Japan Crude Cocktail (JCC) price, the highest of its kind worldwide, as the benchmark price.

Half of China’s Antibiotics Now Go to Livestock | Mother Jones A research team led by scientists from China and Michigan State University recently found “diverse and abundant antibiotic resistance genes in Chinese swine farms,” as the title of the paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, put it. According to a recent analysis by a Beijing-based agribusiness consulting firm, more than half of total Chinese antibiotic consumption goes to livestock.

Brighter Picture? China Has Record Power Output – China Real Time Report – WSJ If the back-of-the-envelope sensibilities of China’s premier are to be trusted, the news so far seems more than reassuring. China on Tuesday posted an all-time record-high electricity output level of 498.7 billion kilowatt-hours in August, rising 13% from a year earlier. Power-generation volumes have risen each month since April, the National Bureau of Statistics said. The year-on-year rate of growth has accelerated every month since May, and the August measurement is the fastest so far this year….Preliminary gauges show early-September power consumption has already fallen back to May levels, Ms. Tian said. “Once you take out the weather factor, it’s premature to say that the Chinese economy has completely rebounded,” she said.

China to cut coal use, shut polluters, in bid to clear the air | Reuters China published the plan on its official website (www.gov.cn), also promising to boost nuclear power and natural gas use. Environmentalists welcomed the plan but were skeptical about its effective implementation. “The coal consumption reduction targets for key industrial areas are a good sign they are taking air pollution and public health more seriously, but to make those targets happen, the action plan is a bit disappointing and there are loopholes,” said Huang Wei, a campaigner with Greenpeace in Beijing.

Media agenda: China buys newsrooms, influence in Africa – The Globe and Mail When one of South Africa’s biggest newspaper chains was sold last month, an odd name was buried in the list of new owners: China International Television Corp. A major stake in a South African newspaper group might seem an unusual acquisition for Chinese state television, but it was no mystery to anyone who has watched the rapid expansion of China’s media empire across Africa.

Why Szechuan Peppers Make Your Lips Go Numb | Surprising Science If, in the midst of a Szechuan pepper-heavy meal, you have the presence of mind to ignore the searing hot pain that fills your mouth, you might notice a more subtle effect of eating the hot peppers: a tingling, numbing sensation that envelops your lips and tongue. What’s behind this strange phenomenon, scientifically known as paresthesia? Scientists believe that it has something to do with a molecule called hydroxy-alpha-sanshool, naturally present in the peppers.

 Rebranding China: will sustainability win through? – The Guardian World Economic Forum debates have focused on whether China’s brand will be defined by the vision and practice of a green economy, or a dirty and increasingly unequal society. Rebranding China has been key to much debate among the several thousand Asian and Asia-facing business executives, politicians and officials at this year’s World Economic Forum meeting in Dalian, one of China’s greener cities. But what brand would suit China’s reinvented world role?

London black cab production restarts six months after Chinese rescue – The Guardian TX4 taxi production line in Coventry was shut down when Manganese Bronze went into administration. The production line for London black cabs resumed on Wednesday, six months after the company behind the famous vehicles was rescued by the Chinese Geely Group.

China must manage the conflict between coal and water – The Guardian New coal-fired power plants in water-stressed regions could threaten water security for China’s farms and communities. China faces a serious conundrum. The country, already the world’s largest coal consumer, wants to significantly increase its coal electricity generating capacity in order to expand its economy. But this introduces a critical resource concern: more than half of the proposed plants will depend on water resources that are under high or extremely high stress.

Chinese statistics bureau accuses county of faking economic data – The Guardian  Companies were reportedly pressured into boosting industrial output figures in Luliang. China’s National Bureau of Statistics has accused a county government in southern China of faking economic data by coercing local companies to boost industrial output figures, state media have reported. Luliang county in southern Yunnan province pressured 28 local companies to report 6.34bn yuan (£665m) of industrial output last year, while according to “initial calculations” the true figure was less than half of that, the state newswire Xinhua reported on Thursday night.

 

CHINA in the WORLD/REGION

China’s Internet Suppression Tactics Diffuse into Southeast Asia – CFR Asia Unbound In an excellent new piece on Voice of America (VOA) news, Steve Herman analyzes how several nations in Southeast Asia appear to be moving to “emulate China” in the way that these countries, like China, regulate and harshly restrict social media. In Thailand, for example, which has one of the harshest climate for Internet speech in the world—despite being theoretically a democracy—the government is now moving to crack down on Facebook users who just post or “like” any articles that could be deemed insulting to the Thai monarchy. Unlike in most other countries that still have lèse-majesté laws on the books, Thailand actually enforces its  lèse-majesté laws, and anyone—not just the king, queen, and other royals—can file a lèse-majesté charge against anyone else in Thailand. As a result, the  lèse-majesté law has become an oppressive tool of political repression by all sides in Thailand’s never ending political drama.

Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Not Quite the New Silk Road – The Diplomat  Presaging his stopover in Kyrgyzstan, President Xi Jinping delivered a speech in Kazakhstan in which he spoke of establishing a “Silk Road Economic Belt” that would bind China to its Eurasian neighborhood. A trip so far focused largely on Afghanistan and trade, the stopover in Bishkek for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit is the capstone to what has been a successful trip, tidily wrapping the two subjects up in a bow largely of China’s making.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization: China’s NATO? – The Diplomat On Friday leaders of Central Asian nations will meet at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. China arguably wields the most power of the countries involved, and the propaganda mills in Beijing are pumping out content hailing the importance of the upcoming meeting. In the end, though, what does it really mean for the Middle Kingdom? The SCO, previously known as the “Shanghai Five,” is made up of major and minor players; while China and Russia are the main attractions, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan sit on the sidelines, hoping for a spot in China’s “Go West” strategy. There is a lot on the agenda to cover, from China’s pipelines to security in Afghanistan. However, one thing is clear: China holds the reins.

China’s Developing World Edge – The Diplomat Since Deng Xiaoping’s administration launched its Reform and Opening Up policies in the late 1970s, China has integrated hundreds of millions of its citizens into the global economy, resulting in poverty alleviation on an unprecedented scale. This is in no small part due to sustained investment in both physical and social infrastructure. By focusing on upgrading its water, energy, transport and telecommunications systems, China has shown an intrinsic understanding of an indispensable developmental building block.

China in Central Asia: Rising China, sinking Russia – The Economist LESS than a decade ago little doubt hung over where the newly independent states of Central Asia had to pump their huge supplies of oil and gas: Russia, their former imperial overlord, dominated their energy infrastructure and markets. Yet today, when a new field comes on stream, the pipelines head east, to China. As if to underline the point, this week China’s president, Xi Jinping, swept through Central Asia, gobbling up energy deals and promising billions in investment. His tour left no doubts as to the region’s new economic superpower.In Turkmenistan, already China’s largest foreign supplier of natural gas, Mr Xi inaugurated production at the world’s second-biggest gasfield, Galkynysh. It will help triple Chinese imports from the country. In Kazakhstan $30 billion of announced deals included a stake in Kashagan, the world’s largest oil discovery in recent decades.

Chinese, Tajik presidents agree to accelerate gas pipeline construction – Xinhua Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rakhmon met here Thursday and agreed to accelerate the construction of Line D of the China-Central Asia gas pipeline. Recalling that the two countries established a strategic partnership during Rakhmon’s visit to China in May, Xi urged both countries to continue to be each other’s good neighbors, good friends and good partners.

Chinese president calls for more trade between China’s Xinjiang, Kyrgyzstan – Xinhua | Stressing that his country welcomes Chinese investment, he said Kyrgyzstan is ready to work with China to properly carry out such big projects as the China-Central Asia gas pipeline. He also called for joint efforts to promote infrastructure cooperation and boost exchanges between the two countries’ border areas. Xi arrived here Tuesday for a state visit to Kyrgyzstan, the last stop of his ongoing overseas tour, which has taken him to Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and a Group of 20 summit in the Russian city of St. Petersburg. The Chinese president will also attend a Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit to be held here later this week.

China buys into giant Kazakh oilfield for $5 billion | Reuters Under the Kashagan deal, Kazakhstan will sell 8.33 percent of the offshore oilfield in the Caspian Sea to China for about $5 billion. The sale and purchase agreement was signed by the heads of Kazakh state oil and gas company KazMunaiGas and China National Petroleum Corp CNPET.UL (CNPC) in the presence of the two presidents. “We suppose that the transaction will be closed by late September or late October,” a Kazakh official told Reuters.

Xi suggests China, C.Asia build Silk Road economic belt – Xinhua Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed here Saturday that China and Central Asia join hands to build a Silk Road economic belt to boost cooperation. In a speech delivered at Nazarbayev University, Xi suggested that relevant countries enhance communication and green-light regional economic integration in terms of both policy and law.

Thailand to Scrap Luxury-Goods Tax to Lure China Travelers – Bloomberg The duty on some luxury goods will be cut to zero from 30 percent by the end of the year, Permanent Secretary for Finance Areepong Bhoocha-Oom told reporters in Chonburi province. Thailand’s SET Index jumped 3.6 percent, as Minor (MINT) International Pcl led gains among tourism-related stocks on optimism the tax reduction will boost travel demand.

China to dictate tough terms on BRICS rescue fund – Telegraph “Currency intervention would not be a good use of money,” said Daokui Li, a member of the Communist Party’s upper chamber (CPPPC) and a key economic strategist. “China will only act together with the International Monetary Fund, which has the ability to impose strict conditions,” he told the Daily Telegraph.

Guiding Principles of China’s New Foreign Policy-Carnegie-Tsinghua Center The new Chinese administration, led by President Xi Jinping, has made notable changes to the country’s foreign policy agenda. China has begun to play a more active, innovative role in international affairs and has adopted a new global perspective. In a Q&A, Zhao Kejin explains that despite those changes, the core principles guiding the country’s foreign policy remain the same. Beijing’s primary goal of promoting a fair and peaceful international order informs all aspects of the country’s international relations and will shape the future of Chinese foreign policy.

China, U.S. vow to enhance Asia-Pacific military ties – Xinhua Chinese and U.S. defense authorities met in Beijing on Monday, vowing to increase strategic mutual trust and strengthen relations in the Asia-Pacific region. The consultation was co-chaired by Wang Guanzhong, Deputy Chief of General Staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Miller. Wang said Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama have reached an important consensus on building a new type of relationship between major powers.

China’s ‘Carrier-Killer’ Was Born in the Balkans — War is Boring — Medium In 1999, the U.S. was engaged in an air and missile war with Serbia. As NATO bombs exploded around Belgrade — part of a campaign to force an end to the ethnic cleansing of Kosovar Albanians by Serb forces — several U.S. missiles slammed into the Chinese embassy. It was the most controversial U.S. action of the war. China’s leaders were outraged, but could do little in response. The result? The bombing became a pivotal moment in the decision to pursue a sophisticated weapons project: a ballistic missile that can knock out American aircraft carriers from 1,500+ miles away.

Japan could anger China by putting government workers on isles | Reuters A year ago on Wednesday, the Japanese government bought three of the isles from a private owner, inflaming anger in China where there were big anti-Japan protests over the purchase…Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, speaking on the eve of the sensitive anniversary, said it was “extremely regrettable” that Chinese government ships had repeatedly entered what he described as Japan’s territorial waters…Asked if Japan might station government workers on the islands, Suga said: “That is one option”.

Philippines mulls removing “Chinese” blocks at shoal – Channel NewsAsia Philippine officials are considering removing concrete blocks allegedly installed by China on a disputed shoal in the South China Sea, the Filipino navy chief said on Tuesday.

Sri Lanka chases the Chinese bandwagon | beyondbrics Cabraal and his delegation hope to convince Chinese banks to invest more in Sri Lankan banks in addition to helping develop trade financing in the country. “There is scope for greater engagement (with Chinese banks)… that is why the top bankers in Sri Lanka are joining me in Beijing,” says Cabraal. If that does not work, there is always Japan. Cabraal says Japanese companies have shown more interest in Sri Lanka since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took power last year.

Advantage China in Diaoyu dispute – OP-ED – Globaltimes.cn Yesterday was the one year anniversary of Japan “nationalizing” the Diaoyu Islands. In the past year, China and Japan almost completely turned against each other because of these islands. The economic and political relationship between both nations has stagnated and even regressed. To be honest, neither China nor Japan can regard it as a win-win situation. But it is also too arbitrary to judge that China and Japan are both losers in the last year. Japan has failed in its effort to consolidate its actual control of the Diaoyu Islands. It did not only underestimate China’s resolve to defend the integrity of its sovereignty, but miscalculated China’s assertive response to its aggressive action.

China turns to stock market to fund navy – FT.com Launching what it described as the start of a new push to use capital markets to fund China’s defence industry, state-controlled China Shipbuilding Industry Co, the country’s biggest shipbuilder, said it would raise Rmb8.5bn ($1.4bn) through a private placement of shares to buy production facilities and equipment to make warships. Chinese investors cheered the prospect of being able to invest in their country’s military-industrial complex, driving the Shanghai-listed shares of China Shipbuilding up by the daily limit of 10 per cent. Shares of other companies expected to benefit, such as Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries, a maker of large steel structures, also surged.

China cool on French U.N. proposal for Syria weapons | Reuters Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei would not say explicitly whether Beijing would back or oppose the French proposal, but implied some reservations. “China supports the U.N. Security Council in playing an important role on issues of world peace and security and is willing to remain in touch with all sides on the next steps by the security council,” he told a daily news briefing. “We also believe that action by the Security Council must be based on consensus reached after full discussions by all sides, should help ameliorate the present tension in Syria, be helpful to maintaining peace and stability in Syria and the region and be helpful to a political resolution.”

Xi welcomes talks on Iran nuclear issue |Asia-Pacific |chinadaily.com.cn Xi made the remarks in talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the first meeting between the two since they took office earlier this year. The two leaders are in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek to attend a Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit on Friday.

Japan’s Companies Shun China for Southeast Asia – WSJ.com Japanese investment in Southeast Asia jumped 55% in the first six months of 2013 from the year before, to $10.29 billion, while outlays in China tumbled 31% to $4.93 billion, according to statistics from the Japan External Trade Organization, a government agency.

 REGION

History Wars: A Long View of Asia’s Territorial Disputes – The Diplomat   Next month, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will deliver its verdict in the case of Cambodia and Thailand’s territorial dispute over the Preah Vihear temple. For several months, the court has been poring over a judgment it made on the same issue fifty years earlier. That judgment was partly based on interpretations of old treaties, old maps and other fragments pertaining to the temple’s 900-year history. The whole exercise, in other words, has been as much an historical investigation as it has been a legal process.

Shark Finning: Appetite for Extinction? – The Diplomat A trip to the fishing docks of Kesennuma City, Japan, is not for the squeamish. With assembly line efficiency, men clad in industrial overalls oversee a process that begins with an early morning mass dumping of dead sharks and ends with innumerable plastic buckets full of severed fins. The sharks’ remains are unceremoniously forklifted onto trucks. Kesennuma netted some 14,000 tons of sharks in 2009, for which the industrial scale operation earned more than 2.4 billion yen.

Rape in Asia: Too much of bad thing – The Economist THE Delhi rape and murder brought attention to violence against women in India. But the situation in neighbouring countries is none too bright, according to new research in the Lancet Global Health, a medical journal. More than one in ten men surveyed in six Asian countries said they had raped a woman who was not their partner—and that figure rose to nearly one in four when wives and girlfriends were included among the victims. For the study, part of a UN project, researchers surveyed more than 10,000 men aged 18-49 in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka. The men were asked (by male interviewers) not about “rape”; rather, they were asked if they had “forced a woman…to have sex”.

ADB in Stockholm ― World Water Week 2013 — by Water Team – ADB The Stockholm World Water Week (SWWW) is the leading annual gathering on water issues, bringing together technical specialists, political leaders, private sector actors, civil society, researchers and students.

 Interview: Economic ecologist Yi Zhuangfang – Go Kunming Growing rubber as a cash crop has come as an economic blessing to many farmers in southern Yunnan. But along with money have come several little-discussed environmental and societal problems for many of the area’s Dai minority smallholders. Yi Zhuangfang (依庄防) has been immersed in the story of rubber in Xishuangbanna for more than half her life. Her parents own a small rubber plantation and after earning a bachelor’s degree in physical geography from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou she returned to Yunnan to begin her PhD studies at Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, under the supervision of tropical ecologist, Dr Charles H Cannon.

Blink and You Will Miss It: Obama’s Quiet Pivot Progress – CFR Asia Unbound Amidst the din of Syrian intervention talk and Fed picks, the Obama administration is pushing forward quietly, but determinedly, to flesh out the pivot to Asia. While most of the critical attention on the pivot or rebalance is paid to what is transpiring on the security front, there is real, albeit slow, progress on the trade front and the potential for significant advances in other areas such as environmental protection.

 

 CAMBODIA

Hun Sen’s Victory, Cambodia’s Mess – The Diplomat Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has been confirmed as the nation’s leader following the release of the official results for the July 28 polls. His Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won 68 seats in the 123-seat national Assembly, a substantial drop in their parliamentary majority. The results were an anathema for the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), which held protests on Saturday in an attempt to drum up support and maintain their rage over widespread allegations of electoral fraud.

Election Results Ratified in Cambodia, but Opposition Plans Boycott – AP The opposition said it would boycott the opening session of Parliament and carry out more street protests, arguing it would have won the election if the vote had been fair

Cambodian election challenge rejected – The Guardian Government-appointed board upholds victory of Hun Sen’s ruling party but opposition vows to continue protests. Cambodia’s government-appointed election board has ratified the victory of incumbent prime minister Hun Sen’s ruling party, rejecting opposition claims that the polls were unfair.

Why Rallies Are Not Really Rallies in Manila and Phnom Penh – The Diplomat Since last month, Cambodians and Filipinos have been staging massive outdoor rallies in their respective capitals but curiously they are denying that these are protests.  After accusing the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) of manipulating the July 28 election results, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) organized an assembly on August 6, presumably to protest the election fraud. But party leaders clarified that the aim of the gathering at the Phnom Penh Freedom Park was simply to thank supporters and voters. Another outdoor “meeting” was called on August 26 to inform the people about their demand for the establishment of an independent committee to probe the recent elections.

 

INDONESIA

Harrison Ford Gives Indonesian Minister Shellacking on Climate Change – The Diplomat In his roles as Han Solo and Indiana Jones, Harrison Ford has taken on many foes. Now he’s battling a new one as himself: climate change. While taking part in an environmental documentary episode for Years of Living Dangerously, broadcast on the U.S. television network Showtime, the Hollywood icon left Indonesia’s forestry ministry Zulkifli Hasan “shocked” yesterday. Apparently the 71-year-old actor’s verbal shellacking was sufficient to warrant a potential deportation by Jakarta. It didn’t matter in the end, as Ford, Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for Conservation International, was leaving later the same day. The topic at hand: illegal logging.

 

 LAOS

Controversial Mekong dam could devastate local population – SCMP Environmentalists are again raising concerns about the controversial Xayaburi dam on the Mekong River, saying efforts to make the project in Laos more “fish friendly” are not serious, and employ untested technology.

 

MYANMAR/BURMA

Myanmar Civil Society Going to Lose Another One? – The Diplomat Since Myanmar’s reform process began in earnest in 2010, Myanmar civil society activists seem to have won one victory after the next. Indeed, the apparent change in the power of civil society, from before 2010 to today, has been probably the most striking aspect of Myanmar’s transition. Although the political system has opened up, there has not yet been a national general election since 2010; although the military is not as omnipresent as it was before 2010, it remains the central institution in the country, its role as a political actor untouched in many respects; although the business climate undoubtedly has improved, many Western and Japanese investors who have come to Myanmar in the past two years have returned home disappointed that, in reality, graft, poor infrastructure, uncertain regulations, and poor quality labor remain huge impediments to doing business

Why Peace Is Still a Tough Sell – The Irrawaddy Burma has witnessed the breaking of many political taboos over the past two years. Perhaps the most significant example is the use of the word “federalism” by the powers-that-be. During his recent visit to the country’s northeast, Thura Shwe Mann, the speaker of Parliament, said that Burma should adopt a form of federal union. That Shwe Mann, once the number-three general in the former ruling junta, now sees fit to express public support for the federalist idea suggests that the elite’s long-held phobia about decentralization is losing steam.

Rubber Tappers Say Burma Army Is Blocking Plantation – The Irrawaddy A rubber plantation in southern Ye township that local rights group HURFOM says has been confiscated by the military. Rubber tappers in Southern Burma’s Mon State say a battalion in the Burma Army is blocking them from their plantations after they attempted to raise in Parliament the issue of their land being seized by the military.

Tuberculosis medication to ‘run out’ by October – DVB Vital tuberculosis (TB) medication is running worryingly low across Burma, with medical officials in Rangoon saying supplies will run out by October. Tin Mi Mi Khine, the tuberculosis officer for Rangoon, is worried about what will happen when stocks run out. “The supply we have now will dry up after distributing it to the patients in September. In October, there will be patients but no more drugs, how are we supposed to deal with this?” said Tin Mi Mi Khine.

Foreign investors call for land price regulation in Burma – DVB Investors met in Naypyidaw this week to discuss ways for Burma to harness its skyrocketing land prices, which analysts say are preventing foreign businesses from entering the market. Attendees at the Myanmar Investment Forum, held in Naypyidaw from 10 to 11 of September, called on the government to take the issue seriously or risk derailing Burma’s fragile economic transition.

Burma Govt Denies Reports That It Holds $11B in Singaporean Banks – The Irrawaddy RANGOON—Burma’s government on Thursday denied reports that it holds up to US$11 billion worth of foreign reserves in several bank accounts in Singapore. The figure was first mentioned by an independent financial researcher, who said that World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) officials had provided him with estimates of Buma’s overseas reserves.

THAILAND

Thailand’s Air Force: A Leading Power in ASEAN? – The Diplomat Thailand will have one of the most powerful air forces in Southeast Asia by the end of the decade, a Thai military official told reporters in Bangkok on Wednesday.According to Thai News Agency, Thai Supreme Commander General Thanasak Patimapragorn said that the Thai Air Force’s procurement of Gripen Fighters will make it a leading force in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) by 2019.

Militants kill five Thai police – The Guardian Separatists step up attacks in south of Thailand as peace talks between government and Muslim insurgents stall. Suspected Muslim insurgents killed five policemen in Thailand’s south on Wednesday in one of the most serious attacks since the stalling of talks between a major Muslim rebel group and the government aimed at ending nearly a decade of conflict. “A special investigative unit was on duty when rebels opened fire on their car … Everyone on the team died,” a police official in the area told Reuters.

Two forest rangers killed in gun battle with tiger hunters – The Nation TWO FOREST rangers were killed and two others seriously injured in the latest fierce gun battle in Tak with a group of tiger hunters.

Capital to get a new storm tunnel – The Nation A new tunnel in Bangkok to drain floodwater from five inner districts northwards to a Chao Phraya outlet in Nonthaburi will be ready for use by September 2016, after a contract was signed yesterday between the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and the contractors.

 

VIETNAM

 Vietnam War Photos That Made a Difference – The Guardian Richard Pyle, the last surviving Saigon bureau chief for The Associated Press during the Vietnam War, recounts how the wire service marshaled the talents of a legendary corps of photographers in pursuit of the truth.

Direct action versus awareness raising: why it is not a zero-sum game – The Guardian In response to a piece arguing that anti-trafficking NGOs should focus more on rescue and rehabilitation, Tara Dermott defends the role of campaigning. In a recent piece by Michael Brosowski from the Blue Dragon Foundation, tells the story of Ngoc, a young boy from central to southern Vietnam trafficked to sell flowers on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City. Organisations, like Blue Dragon, who help children like Ngoc, should be commended for not only identifying him as a victim of human trafficking, but also for doing something about it..

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