Regional Roundup for Week of 9.22.17

EXSE FOCUS

Top Myanmar general defends military’s ‘clearance operations’ as 400,000 Rohingya flee bloodshed – SCMP Myanmar’s army chief has urged the country to unite over the “issue” of the Rohingya, a Muslim group he says has no roots in the country, and which his troops are accused of systematically purging.The military says its “clearance operations” in northern Rakhine state are aimed at taking out Rohingya militants who attacked police posts on August 25. // Much of the world attention in the Rohingya crisis has focused on Aung San Suu Kyi, but Suu Kyi holds little sway has little sway over the Myanmar’s military which has orchestrated the ethnic cleansing drive against the Rohingya.

Related: State Counselor Condemns Rights Violations, Violence in Rakhine – Irrawaddy

Related: Why Aung San Suu Kyi Mostly Ignores the Rakhine Crisis – CFR

            Related: Myanmar Says Security Forces Told to Avoid Collateral Damage in Rakhine – Irrawaddy

            Related: Myanmar Soldiers Confess to Killing Three Kachin Refugees – RFA

Lessons from Bilateral Water Cooperation Shared with Stakeholders in Thailand – MRC Frequent dialogue to understand each other, attention to different needs of the concerned countries, and strong commitment to joint actions are some of the main lessons learnt from bilateral projects of water cooperation among the four Mekong countries of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam, according to a public regional forum organised by the Thai National Mekong Committee.

Faulty Construction, Heavy Rain Cause Dam to Flood Lao Villages – RFA Hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of muddy water have flooded eight villages in central Laos’ Xaysomboun province after the reservoir of the Nam Ao Dam in northeastern Laos’ Xieng Khouang province dam upstream burst its banks following heavy rain, damaging infrastructure, farmlands, and water supplies. Now central and regional government officials say that Bothong Inter Group, the hydropower dam project developer, is legally responsible for repairing the damages.

Related: Under construction Nam Ao dam bursts, causing severe flash flooding, Laos – The Watcher

The Unprecedented Reach of China’s Surveillance State – China File The Chinese Party-state is building a social credit system for collecting information about all of its citizens by police, courts, and other institutions. This enables the government to reach into society to a degree unprecedented in history. The system is already being used by police and other agencies to employ facial recognition as well as other data to locate criminal suspects and persons engaged in illegal conduct.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Australia urged to stop Cambodia returning persecuted refugees to Vietnam – Guardian Cambodia plans to send 29 Montagnard refugees back to Vietnam where they face violence but advocates say Australia can apply pressure to stop move. Twenty-nine refugees from the ethnic and religious minority face deportation to Vietnam, despite the UN’s refugee agency offering to take the group out of Cambodia and protect them while a permanent third-country resettlement is found.

China, Laos Hold New Defense Meeting – Diplomat China and Laos held the first iteration of a new defense consultative mechanism. The convening of the so-called high-level frontier meetings, led by the defense ministers of both sides, has been billed yet another step in the development of security ties by Beijing and Vientiane despite some of the recent challenges inherent in the relationship.

ASEAN’s New Police Database Takes Shape Amid Terror Fears – Diplomat Southeast Asian states officially launched an upgraded database that would allow police forces in the region to exchange intelligence information. The database, which has been in the works for a while, marks the latest sign of cooperation among regional states in response to the terror threat posed by the Islamic State.

Chinese, Vietnamese Communist parties have ‘shared destiny’, says Beijing – SCMP China and Vietnam’s Communist parties have a “shared destiny” and there is great potential for economic cooperation, a senior Beijing official said on a visit to Vietnam, which has clashed with China over the South China Sea.

New diplomatic missions signal Chinese support for Myanmar amid Rohingya crisis – SCMP China established its first diplomatic liaison office last week in Nay Pi Taw, which is still struggling to attract foreign diplomatic missions even though it replaced Yangon as the capital in 2006.The setting up of the Chinese diplomatic liaison office came as Beijing offered its support to Myanmar’s handling of the Rohingya conflict in Rakhine state.

Related: China Offers Support to Myanmar at UN Amid Rakhine Crisis – Irrawaddy

 

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

China, Cambodia agree to nuclear energy cooperationWorld Nuclear News Cambodia has signed a memorandum of understanding with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) on cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The agreement calls for cooperation on human resources development.

Russia, Cambodia ink nuclear cooperation dealAnadolu Agency Russia’s Rosatom and Cambodia signed an intergovernmental cooperation agreement on nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in Vienna. The deal is expected to open up prospects for large-scale strategic projects for Cambodia’s nuclear power.

China to halt new projects in pollution ‘red zones’ – SCMP China will halt major projects in regions with high levels of pollution. Chinese authorities will roll out a new pollution alert system for regions ranging from the cleanest “green non-alert zones” to the most severe “red” zones. For red-alert areas, government authorities will stop granting approval on relevant projects.

Vietnam PM to share talk on Mekong Delta sustainable development model – Mekong Eye A conference on shaping the shift to sustainable development model adaptive to climate change in the Mekong Delta will take place in Can Tho city on September 26-27. Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc will chair the event. The meeting will review challenges faced by the Mekong Delta between now and 2100, particularly those related to the management of water resources, and opportunities for regional sustainable development.

 

CHINA

Emboldened China Wields Its Laws to Silence Critics From Abroad – New York Times The proceedings against the activist Lee Ming-cheh from Macau punctuated what critics have warned are China’s brazen efforts to extend the reach of its security forces to stifle what it perceives as threats to its power emanating from overseas.

S&P cuts China’s credit rating to A+ over rising debt fears – The Guardian China’s credit rating has been downgraded by Standard & Poor’s amid fears rising debts are adding to economic and financial risks. The agency lowered China’s sovereign rating by one notch to A+ from AA-. This is the second downgrade from a major ratings agency for Beijing this year and comes at an awkward time before next month’s Communist party congress.

What Will Be Added to the Chinese Communist Party’s Constitution? – Diplomat new amendments to the Party’s constitution will include “the key theories and strategic thoughts”. It is widely believed that the “key theories and strategic thoughts” exactly would be included in the party constitution will be the thoughts of Xi, as only Xi’s political thoughts have been addressed as “key theories and strategic thoughts” by Chinese authorities in the last five years.

Chinese universities encourage professors, students to post online content that promotes ‘socialist values’ – SCMP China’s top universities are encouraging academics and students to write online articles promoting socialist values, with some offering authors the same academic credits they would get for papers published in journals. The policy, which follows calls made by President Xi Jinping late last year for academics to become advocates of socialist values and firm supporters of Communist Party rule, has upset some people in the world of academia.

Former student leaders handed community service over chaotic University of Hong Kong siege – SCMP Two former student leaders were spared jail on Thursday after admitting they had been wrong and apologising for the chaotic siege of a University of Hong Kong governing council meeting last year. Former student union president Billy Fung Jing-en, 23, and his then vice-president, Colman Li Fung-kei, 22, was sentenced to 240 and 200 of community service respectively.

China security chief calls for greater use of AI to predict terrorism, social unrest – SCMP Meng Jianzhu, head of the Communist Party’s central commission for political and legal affairs in charge of the country’s massive security and intelligence systems, pledged at a meeting in Beijing to use artificial intelligence through machine learning, data mining and computer modelling to help stamp out risks to stability.

Student union removes Hong Kong independence banner – but warns it may come back – SCMP A student union at a Hong Kong university removed a controversial banner that called for the city to break away from China, six days after calls from the institution’s president to take it down. But the union warned it would display the same banner again if Chinese University failed to hold talks with teachers and students to set out clear rules regarding using the space at the Cultural Square.

Related: Carrie Lam voices support for universities’ plan to remove Hong Kong independence banners – SCMP

Ai Weiwei attacks latest Chinese crackdown on free speech and sees little hope Communist Party Congress will bring changes – SCMP Ai Weiwei denounced China’s crackdown on lawyers and free speech adding that he had little hope that the upcoming Communist Party Congress would lead to more freedoms.The dissident artist spoke while inaugurating an exhibition in the Swiss city of Lausanne that includes some of his political works symbolising repression.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam lashes out at UK politicians for ‘disrespectful’ comments on jailing of activist trio – SCMP Hong Kong’s leader has strongly defended the city’s judicial independence before top officials and business leaders in London, lashing out at “disrespectful” and “disturbing” remarks by British politicians and commentators who objected to the jailing of three pro-democracy activists last month.

Chinese software developer gets three days’ detention for helping internet users to bypass Great Firewall – SCMP A Chinese software developer was detained last month for selling computer services that allow internet users to bypass China’s Great Firewall, which blocks access to thousands of websites and social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter.

Pro-democracy activists plan National Day march amid calls to sack Occupy co-founder Benny Tai – SCMP Hong Kong’s pro-democracy bloc vowed to launch a black T-shirt march on National Day in protest over “political persecution” by the “authoritarian government”, while thousands of pro-establishment protesters gathered to demand the sacking of a law scholar who co-founded the 2014 Occupy movement.

Related: Occupy co-founder Benny Tai calls on Hongkongers to defy ‘sugar-coated authoritarianism’  – SCMP

China Strikes Off Defense Lawyer in ‘Steamed Buns’ Presidential Nickname Case – RFA Authorities in Shandong stripped a defense attorney of his license to practice after he defended a social media user jailed for two years after he called President Xi Jinping by a forbidden nickname in an online post. Zhu Shengwu, who represented defendant Wang Jiangfeng after he used Xi’s nickname “steamed buns” online, had his license to practice suspended as an administrative punishment.

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Cambodian Opposition Politicians Barred From Visiting Kem Sokha in Jail – RFA Cambodian opposition party lawmakers were turned away from a prison in the country’s Tbong Khmum province following a failed second attempt to visit jailed CNRP leader Kem Sokha, who is being held on a charge of treason.

Hun Sen Asks US Peace Corps to Pull Out of Cambodia – RFA Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen called on the United States to withdraw its Peace Corps volunteers from his country a day after he said he was suspending cooperation with Washington to find the remains of Americans killed in the Vietnam War.

Cambodian Environmental NGO Disbands, Citing Threats – RFA The Cambodia-based environmental group Mother Nature was formally shut down at the request of its director who said that he and other members were being threatened by government authorities over their activism. The group has now had its name removed from an Interior Ministry registry.

Cambodia retaliates for visa ban, suspends US MIA searches – AP Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said he would retaliate against a U.S. halt on the issuing of most visas to senior foreign ministry officials and their families by suspending missions by U.S. military-led teams searching for the remains of Americans missing in action from the Vietnam War.

Related: Cambodia voices regret over US visa ban – Bangkok Post

Myanmar army chief urges internally displaced to return to Rakhine – Reuters General Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar’s army chief, called for people internally displaced by violence in Rakhine to go home, but made no mention of 422,000 Rohingya Muslims who fled to Bangladesh to escape his force’s operations. He said the military had handled the situation as best as it could.

Rohingya Militants Vow to Fight Myanmar Despite Disastrous Cost – New York Times The radicalization of a new generation of Rohingya adds fuel to an already combustible situation in Rakhine, Myanmar’s poorest state. There is also concern that the Rohingya militants and the broader Rohingya population will be exploited by international terrorism networks.

Suu Kyi says Myanmar does not fear ‘international scrutiny’ over Rohingya crisis – SCMP Aung San Suu Kyi said in a televised address that she does not fear global scrutiny over the Rohingya crisis, pledging to hold rights violators to account and to resettle some of the 410,000 Muslims who have fled army operations in her country.

Related: US Embassy ‘Appreciates’ State Counselor’s Pledges on Rakhine – Irrawaddy

            Related: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Denies Going ‘Soft’ on Military  – Irrawaddy

‘No sign’ of Yingluck in Cambodia – Bangkok Post Cambodian government officials have again denied claims that former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra fled her country via Cambodia to escape judgement in a court case.

Thai authorities detain firebrand Buddhist monk who attacked Muslims and called for mosques to be burned – SCMPThai authorities have detained a Buddhist monk who has posted online videos that harshly denounce Islam. Apichart has spoken out on many issues but is best known for posting a suggestion that a mosque be burned down anytime a monk is killed by Muslim separatist insurgents in the country’s deep south.

Abhisit blames Yingluck government for politicizing the 2010 anti-red crackdown case – Thai PBS Democrat party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said Tuesday (Sept 19) that the case regarding the 2010 crackdown on red-shirt protesters should have been settled with justice delivered to all parties concerned had the government of Ms Yingluck Shinawatra properly done its job and did not politicize the case.

Vietnam Jails Prominent Blogger For Five Years – RFA A court in Nghe An province sentenced blogger and former political prisoner Nguyen Van Oai to five years in prison and four years of house arrest for resisting police officers and leaving his home while on probation.

Toll from typhoon rises to at least 9 in Vietnam; 4 missing – AP Typhoon Doksuri that battered the central coast of the country killed at least nine, with four people still missing. It also injured 112 people and destroyed or damaged more than 150,000 houses in six provinces.

Related: Typhoon Doksuri: Vietnam hit by ‘most powerful storm in a decade’ – Independent

Vietnam seeks death penalty for embezzlement by ex-chairman of state energy firm – Reuters Prosecutors in Vietnam said they were seeking the death sentence in an embezzlement case against a former chairman of state energy firm PetroVietnam on charges that include wrongdoing with serious economic consequences and abuse of power to usurp assets, as the communist country steps up one of its biggest corruption crackdowns.

Top leaders named and shamed in latest scandal to hit Vietnam’s ‘most livable city’ – VnExpress  The two top leaders of the central city of Da Nang are facing “disciplinary measures” for misconduct, mismanagement and dishonesty, the Communist Party’s top watchdog announced, a path reminiscent of how the top leader of Ho Chi Minh fell from grace last May.

YUNNAN

New Kunming hospital to spearhead provincial heart health drive – Gokunming The Fuwai Cardiovascular Hospital, located in the far north of Wuhua District, was opened to address the province’s most pressing issues. The facility was jointly built at a cost of 3.1 billion yuan (US$470 million). The state of the art medical center specializes in non-communicable heart issues, the most common and deadly health issue facing Yunnan residents.

This week’s news digest was curated by Nguyen Ngoc Le.

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