Regional Roundup for Week of 10.19.2013

Just links this week.

ExSE Focus

China may be in much better shape than it looks – FT.com But what if the official data were wrong? That is the intriguing claim by two academics, Jun Zhang and Tian Zhu, respectively of Fudan University and China Europe International Business School, who argue that consumption has been consistently underreported. In a recent paper they find three important areas of undercounting. One is housing…Second, they say, a lot of private consumption shows up in statistics as corporate expenses…Third, and most important, they argue, GDP surveys underrepresent high earners, who may not relish the idea of officials with clipboards noting down their every expenditure…Taking these three factors together, the two academics calculate that China underestimates consumption by 10-12 percentage points.// Interesting article, even more so if true, although 12 percentage points seems a little high.

Chinese Reaches Out Again – This Time to Vietnam – China Real Time Report – WSJ Mr. Li’s Vietnam visit to Hanoi follows his visit to Thailand last week, where he signed memoranda of understanding covering trade, infrastructure development and energy. Earlier this month, ahead of major international summits in Brunei and Bali, Indonesia, Chinese President Xi Jinping signed business cooperation agreements worth a potential $5 billion with Malaysia, and $28 billion with Indonesia.//As expected, APEC conference spurs a new set of business deals for SEA states and China. Li’s visit to Vietnam, however, more about South China Sea Issue than trade. 

Chinese state media calls for ‘de-Americanised’ world after US shutdown | South China Morning Post As US politicians of both political parties (fail to find a) viable deal to bring normality to the body politic they brag about, it is perhaps a good time for the befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanised world,” the commentary on state news agency Xinhua said… In a lengthy polemic against American hegemony since the second world war, it added: “Such alarming days when the destinies of others are in the hands of a hypocritical nation have to be terminated. //This article is getting a lot of play abroad. People shouldn’t conflate “de-Americanized” with “un-Americanized. Can’t say I disagree with the premise however. 

Laos plane crash leaves dozens dead| The Guardian An aircraft has crashed into the Mekong river in Laos, killing 39 people. A Lao Airlines official said the plane had crashed at about 4pm local time near Pakse, Champasak province, which is on the borders of both Thailand and Cambodia. Thai television showed a photograph of the ATR 72 turboprop plane partly submerged in shallow water on a stretch of the Mekong, the tail severed. Another television channel showed what appeared to be several bodies on the bank of the river. A television station in neighboring Thailand said 39 people had been killed. Lao Airlines is the national carrier of the communist state and has operated since 1976. Its aircraft carried 658,000 passengers last year and it has a fleet of just 14 planes, mostly propeller-driven. It operates on seven domestic routes and has international flights to China, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore.// Terrible accident, ExSE wishes to express its condolences to the victims’ families and friends.

Infrastructure spending in Thailand: Fast train coming | The Economist The centrepiece of the spending plan is a network of high-speed railway lines to connect the country’s four main regions with Bangkok. (Smaller dollops of cash are to be earmarked for roads and ports.) Two of the lines are part of a broader plan to link China’s Yunnan province with Singapore…China has been looking for reassurances from Ms Yingluck’s government that Thailand’s future really can be expected to pull into the station by 2020. That is when China plans to connect Vientiane, the capital of Laos, to Thailand. In the meantime China plans to sink $6.2 billion into a passenger and freight railway that will run from Kunming to Vientiane, tunnelling through 196km of mountains to get there.//Controversial project in both Thailand and Laos. If completed it would completely transform the region, and if not, could sink the Lao economy. Good primer for those interested.  

China

China Consumer Prices Rise 3.1% as Factory-Gate Deflation Eases – Bloomberg The consumer price index rose 3.1 percent from a year earlier, the bureau said. That exceeded the 2.8 percent median estimate of 44 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News and compared with a 2.6 percent gain in August. Producer prices fell 1.3 percent from a year earlier. The median projection of analysts was for a decline of 1.4 percent after a 1.6 percent drop the previous month

Alibaba to transform China’s ‘e-conomy’ with $500 billion marketplace | Reuters CEO Jonathan Lu says Alibaba expects to nearly triple the volume of transactions on its marketplaces to about 3 trillion yuan ($490 billion) by 2016, overtaking Wal-Mart Stores Inc as the world’s biggest retail network. …”The old companies that aren’t willing to transform will be wiped out by competition,” said Zeng Ming, Alibaba’s chief strategy officer. “Most traditional retailers now understand if they don’t move online, their time is limited.” Analysts predict e-commerce will account for a fifth of total retail sales in China within 5 years, up from just 6 percent last year.

China May Allow Foreign Firms to Sell Shares in Free-Trade Zone – WSJ.com The proposed platform, effectively an over-the-counter market, is likely to serve as a test for the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s international board, which would allow foreign companies to sell shares via initial public offerings ahead of listings in China. Shanghai Equity Exchange, in which Shanghai Stock Exchange owns 29%, is considering developing a platform that would enable foreign companies registered in the free-trade zone to sell shares, the second person said. A time frame hasn’t been specified.

Guangdong Eyes a Huge Free Trade Zone of Its Own – Caixin The government of Guangdong Province is mulling a free trade zone that would include its special economic zones, Hong Kong and Macau, an official in Shenzhen says. Tao Peng, director of the trade promotion department of the Shenzhen Qianhai Administration Bureau, said Guangdong will propose a plan to the central government. The plan involves a free trade area that links the Shenzhen Qianhai Special Economic Zone, the Guangzhou Nansha Special Economic Zone, the Zhuhai Hengqin Special Economic Zone, Hong Kong and Macau.

Can Wuhan, With Its Auto Factories, Become the Detroit of China? – China Real Time Report – WSJBut in its quest to become the Chinese auto capital, this city on the front line of China’s manic drive to rapid urbanization is also learning that the combination of too many cars and too many people can be toxic. “Congestion is everywhere. Subways and elevated highways are being built along the vital streets, narrowing the four-lane roads into two-lane ones, while electric bicyclists always intrude into the motorways,” said Li Fuyuan, a 33-year-old taxi driver in Wuhan. Even compared with other cities in the midst of their own construction boom such as Xian, the scale of building in Wuhan is staggering.

Why Xi’s APEC Summit Remarks Are Being Misinterpreted – Caixin–Hu Shuli Unfortunately, some commentators took their analysis of Xi’s words too far, and concluded that they were in fact anti-reform and anti-West. What is the cause and intention of such misinterpretation? At heart, it reflects people’s doubts that reform and opening up is the right path for China. At every step of the road to opening up, interest groups have opposed such efforts and seized on people’s fear of change to create a false mood of nostalgia for the “good old days.” As a result, many people have begun to doubt if reforms are truly needed, and if the government’s resolve to undertake them is truly firm. Xi’s speech in Bali will help to dispel some of these doubts.

China: Urbanization and Hukou Reform | The Diplomat However, genuine and substantive change will only come if hukou reform is pursued as part of a comprehensive and coherent urbanization strategy that addresses rather than ignores many of the related but highly contentious issues. It seems whether this will happen is currently the subject of fierce debate inside the Communist Party. If agreement can be forged and hukou reform is tackled alongside much-needed changes to land and fiscal policy then it looks likely China’s new urbanization strategy will play an important part in shifting the country to a more sustainable development path. If not, further urbanization will in all likelihood only exacerbate many of the already serious problems facing China.

Religion as the Solution to China’s Moral Decline Hard Pill to Swallow for Communist Party – China Real Time Report – WSJ As longtime China watcher Karla Simon notes in an impressive new book, “Civil Society in China: The Legal Framework from Ancient Tiems to the ‘New Reform Era,’” China has already begun to see a proliferation of nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations that  express values based on ethical, cultural, scientific, religious and philanthropic principles.  By the end of 2012, Simon writes, there were about 460,000 social organizations registered with the Ministry of Civil Affairs. Some are closely linked to government agencies, while others have greater autonomy. But she estimates there are probably around “ten times that many” in existence.

Yet Another Way to Mock China’s New Rich – NYTimes.com Tuhao isn’t a new term. Combining the character tu, which means dirt or soil, with the character hao, which can mean despotic or bullying, it is translated in many dictionaries simply as “local tyrant.” Until recently, the phrase had been most commonly associated with a popular slogan used by the Communists during the 1930s: da tuhao, fen tian di (打土豪、分田地), meaning “overthrow the local tyrants and divide the land.” But in a bit of clever wordplay — a national pastime in China — Internet users have managed to deploy this traditional term with Marxist overtones against the new class of wealthy businessmen and officials, and their relatives, who are thriving in what is still supposed to be a socialist nation marching toward an egalitarian utopia. The tu now draws on its colloquial use as a synonym for unrefined or vulgar, and hao picks up a new tone from the Chinese phrase fuhao (富豪), which means rich and powerful.

New Report Says 15% of Corruption Accusations Against China’s Officials Are Made by Mistresses – China Real Time Report – WSJ China’s official Xinhua news agency reported Tuesday that mistresses served as accusers in 15% of corruption cases recently exposed online. The Xinhua report was based on a study conducted by the Center for Public Opinion Monitoring at the government-backed Legal Daily newspaper and was based on an analysis of 26 allegations of corruption made online between January and September. The study found that merchants made up the biggest share of accusers at nearly 27%. Others included businessmen, journalists, other officials and ordinary Internet users. The study didn’t say how many of the allegations were proven to be true.

A Muzzled Chinese Artwork, Absent but Speaking Volumes – NYTimes.com The Ullens Center decided that the current chill on expression in China — most obvious in the detentions in recent months of freewheeling commentators on China’s microblog sites — made it unlikely that “Silence” would be accepted, said the director of the center, Philip Tinari. The entire show would have been put at risk if “Silence” were submitted for approval, he said. Similarly, the organizers of a current show of Andy Warhol’s works at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing said they decided in advance not to hang Warhol’s well-known depiction of Mao.

China’s red tape goes under the knife – Xinhua The discipline watchdog of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has begun the second stage of its campaign to cut red tape in its system. The second wave will run until June next year, and target regulations or normative documents from the founding of the New China in 1949 to 1978, according to a statement by the CPC’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) on Sunday. The move will give the commission a clear picture of the existing regulatory situation and clarify the fight against corruption using legal weapons.

Govt offers 5b yuan to fight pollution |Society |chinadaily.com.cn The central government said on Monday it is offering a total of 5 billion yuan ($818 million) in financial rewards to Beijing and its neighboring provinces to fuel their fight against air pollution. The Ministry of Finance announced that the special budget is up for grabs among Beijing, Tianjin and the surrounding areas of Hebei, Shanxi and Shandong provinces as well as the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, where the air quality did not meet national standards for nearly two-thirds of August.

Yunnan awash in hydropower| GoKunming A decade of frenzied dam building in Yunnan is beginning to serve its intended purpose, at least in terms of electricity generation. The province has been aggressively pursuing a plan to position itself as a renewable energy provider not only internally but for other regions of China and now neighboring Southeast Asian countries.

Middle East Oil Fuels Fresh China-U.S. Tensions – WSJ.com China’s rise as a dominant buyer of Middle East oil presents a conundrum for it and the U.S. For China, it means its economy depends in part on oil from a region dominated by the U.S. military. When tankers depart Persian Gulf terminals for China, they rely in significant part on the U.S. Fifth Fleet policing the area. For Washington, China’s oil thirst means justifying military spending that benefits a country many Americans see as a strategic rival and that frequently doesn’t side with the U.S. on foreign policy.

Turkey missile deal shows China’s growing Mideast clout | ReutersMixing commerce and geopolitics, experts say, is at the heart of Beijing’s approach. Chinese officials have become regular visitors to most Mideast states while a range of regional leaders including Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah have all visited China. The aftermath of the “Arab Spring” and Washington’s abandonment of longtime proxies such as Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, some analysts say, has left some governments keen to find alternative allies. Even longtime U.S. partners feel the draw.

China and Iran: Destined to Clash?| The Diplomat Even as the U.S. considers Iran’s nuclear program as its most immediate threat, a consensus has emerged in the U.S. foreign policy establishment that China’s rise poses the biggest long-term strategic challenge to the country. There is little indication that a similar consensus has taken hold among Iranian elites. It will. Indeed, as Iran has been preoccupied with the U.S. and its allies over the past decade, China has quietly established a growing presence along all of Iran’s borders. In none of these places are Iran and China’s interests perfectly aligned. In some cases, particularly the Middle East, they are starkly at odds. Consequentially, should Iran avoid a conflict with the U.S. in the next few years, it’s likely to find China to be its most menacing threat in the future.

Region

China’s Charm Offensive Signals a New Strategic Era in Southeast Asia | Center for Strategic and International Studies Developments in Asia over the past week show that the trade agenda will forge ahead, with or without the presence of a U.S. president. Negotiations for the 16-member RCEP are getting under way, while China has its own mechanisms for expanding commerce with major ASEAN economies. In this context, it becomes more necessary than ever for the United States and the other 11 negotiating parties of the Trans-Pacific Partnership to conclude their agreement by the year-end target and for Washington to deliver on its intention to make trade the building block of its engagement in Asia.

Chinese Reaches Out Again – This Time to Vietnam – China Real Time Report – WSJ Mr. Li’s Vietnam visit to Hanoi follows his visit to Thailand last week, where he signed memoranda of understanding covering trade, infrastructure development and energy. Earlier this month, ahead of major international summits in Brunei and Bali, Indonesia, Chinese President Xi Jinping signed business cooperation agreements worth a potential $5 billion with Malaysia, and $28 billion with Indonesia.

Premier seeks talks over dispute |China-Vietnam Ties |chinadaily.com.cn Premier Li Keqiang said in Hanoi on Monday that peacefully handling the South China Sea issue matters in the big picture of economic cooperation between China and Vietnam. Observers said Li has sent a clear signal during his three-day visit to Vietnam that bilateral negotiation is the “only worthy way” for resolving disputes, and worsening the situation will only harm the interests of Vietnam itself. “Whether the South China Sea issue is properly handled or not is not only an emotional matter between the two peoples, but also a matter of politics and security circumstances for expanding large-scale cooperation, including infrastructure investment,” Li told General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong.

China, Thailand translate “familial affection” into concrete cooperation – Xinhua The Chinese premier called for full play of the mechanism of an economic and trade committee between the two countries, and closer cooperation in such areas as economy, trade, investment, agricultural trade and processing, and electricity. China is also willing to actively participate in the construction of high-speed railways in Thailand and promote regional inter-connectivity. In order to deepen financial cooperation, Li encouraged the enterprises of the two countries to settle bilateral trade in RMB, and explore the increase in the size of bilateral currency swap, saying that China will consider the establishment of RMB clearing banks in Thailand…China is now the largest trading partner of Thailand, with bilateral trade reaching nearly 70 billion U.S. dollars last year and targeting 100 billion dollars by 2015.

Brunei Caps Off a Solid Year at ASEAN’s Helm| The Guardian The ASEAN Summit ended in Brunei on a high note with leaders of the 10-nation trading bloc striking the right note with China over conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea and reaching an agreement on how best to combat the dreaded haze and promises to forge deeper ties.

Will There Be Another Asian Economic Meltdown?| Asia Unbound Since the middle of this summer, emerging markets, particularly in Asia, have witnessed massive sell-offs of their bonds, enormous slides in their stock markets, and investors dumping their currencies as fast as they can. Many Asian and foreign analysts of Asian nations now worry that the easy credit masked huge problems in the foundations of emerging economies, and that Asia could witness an economic and financial crisis similar to the devastating meltdown that crushed the region in the late 1990s. This time, such a crisis would be even tougher for the world to withstand: emerging markets are far larger than they were 15 years ago, and a crisis in Asia could take down the entire international economy.

Malaria in Asia and the Pacific by the Numbers| ADB The Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance, for which ADB is hosting the secretariat, is being launched in response to the urgent need to reduce the burden of this disease in the region. Here’s a by-the-numbers look at the status of malaria in Asia and the Pacific.

0.3% of GDP Would Protect East Asia from Climate Change – ADB Report| ADB About 12 million people in 23 East Asian cities are at risk from rising sea levels, severe storms, and more intense drought caused by climate change that could jeopardize $864 billion in assets, a new report from ADB warns.

Why should the US be involved in Asia? | The Jakarta Post On regional security, Washington will be better off negotiating a new power sharing arrangements with Beijing, instead of seeking to contain the rise of China by rounding up its allies and friends in the region. One forum these two giants can use to prevent the polarization of Asia into two camps is the annual East Asia Summit, where they can address security concerns jointly with other medium powers in Asia, including ASEAN. For their part, ASEAN countries could help ease the escalating tension in the South China Sea by resolving their overlapping territorial claims with one another. Asia would welcome a US policy that will, of necessity, be vastly different from the 2011 pivot, and one that is more realistic and less gung-ho.–The writers are senior editors of The Jakarta Post and former editors-in-chief of the newspaper. They are Class 1979 and Class 2004 of the Nieman Fellowship program for journalists at Harvard University. Siagian was formerly Indonesia’s ambassador to Australia.

India-China visa row erupts ahead of PM Singh’s visit to Beijing | Reuters Two teenage female archers from Arunachal Pradesh, who were due to participate in the World Archery Youth Championships in Wuxi, were barred from boarding a Guangzhou-bound flight late on Thursday. China refuses to stamp visas on Indian passport holders from disputed territories, but staples them instead, a practice that infuriates India. At times, even Chinese companies, like China Southern Airlines involved in Thursday’s incident, reject such visas.

U.S. gives tacit backing to Philippines in China sea dispute | Reuters “All claimants have a responsibility to clarify and align their claims with international law. They can engage in arbitration and other means of peaceful negotiation,” Kerry told leaders at the East Asia Summit in Brunei, including Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

China, India look to Burma’s abundant rice fields| DVB Burma is aggressively looking for foreign investment in its rice sector to help the country regain its status as a prominent rice exporter. Currently, rice production in Burma is below potential partly due to fluctuating prices and constant farmer debts. The Irrawaddy Delta in Burma is larger than Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, and foreign investment in the region could boost Burma’s rice production and exports significantly.

Malaysia to establish marine corps, naval base close to James Shoal – IHS Jane’s 360 According to the statement, the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) base will be established at Bintulu on the South China Sea (SCS) to protect the surrounding area and oil reserves. Unstated by the minister is the base’s proximity to James Shoal, which is 60 n miles away and was the location for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) exercises on 26 March that were the most recent example of China asserting its claims to most of the SCS.

Asia’s Lands of Charm and Cruelty|NYT Close calls, lessons learned: Tales from two decades of traveling and listening.

Reforming the Cambodian People’s Party| The Diplomat Although the challenges are tremendous, the CPP has avenues by which it can win back what it lost in the recent election. The good news for the party is that some of those who have switched their allegiance to the CNRP simply want to punish the CPP for its failure to deliver on its past promises. They are less interested in an actual change of government. People are outraged by the fact that many are struggling to live even at a subsistence level, while party elites enjoy glamorous lifestyles. They just don’t see the benefits of the so-called double-digit economic growth trickling down to them; what they see instead is growing inequality. Worse, the CPP seems to have lost touch on this issue: its leaders frustratingly argue that they have achieved much during their time in government, contrary to the evidence in front of many voters.

Cambodia

Cambodian Hero and Socialite “Fabricated” Sex Trafficking Stories| The Guardian Illegal orphanages that beef-up numbers by accepting children who are in fact not orphans, the bribing of witnesses to testify in their favor in relevant court cases, allegations of bribing officials and turning charities into industries with expats funded by exorbitant pay packages are all common complaints. Then came Afesip – an NGO that rescues children who have been trafficked for sex. Its president is Somaly Mam, whose celebrated work has won international awards. Afesip initially entered the public spotlight and attracted enormous financial and celebrity support largely on the strength of the testimony of a young woman called Meas Ratha. Somaly Mam’s problem – according to a special report by the Cambodian Daily – is that Meas Ratha has now come forward and admitted that as a 14-year-old she was coached into making up the story for a documentary designed to help win Afesip support among the foreign financial donor community.

Laos

Laos air crash: rescuers lack equipment to find bodies| The Guardian Only 17 victims have been retrieved from the Mekong river as divers search in vain for plane’s fuselage

Lao PDR submits notification on Don Sahong Hydropower Project| MRC The Lao Government has notified the Mekong River Commission (MRC) of its decision to proceed with the development of the Don Sahong Hydropower Project in the Siphandone area of Southern Laos.

Malaysia

Soaring Crime Rate Takes a Growing Malaysia by Surprise| NYT Once one of Asia’s safest cities, Kuala Lumpur now finds that most residents have a story about a purse snatching, a burglary or worse.

In Malaysia, It’s Two Words for One God|The Guardian “They are allowed to use the word ‘Allah,’ also in our worship, prayers, we use the word ‘Allah’ without any difficulty, as much as in the Middle East,” Father Lawrence Andrew, the editor of The Herald, told a regional broadcaster. He has vowed to appeal the decision in Malaysia’s High Court arguing a ban on the word in his Catholic publication was unconstitutional.

Myanmar/Burma

Chinese president meets Myanmar defense chief – Xinhua Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s Defense Services, on Wednesday in Beijing. Xi, also chairman of the Central Military Commission, hailed the bilateral relationship and described China and Myanmar as “good neighbors, good friends and good partners.”

World Briefing | Asia: Myanmar: More Mysterious Explosions| NYT Three bombs went off in eastern Myanmar, killing one person and wounding six, the latest in a series of unexplained explosions. The police have arrested four people, but it is unclear who is responsible for the blasts. style=’orphans: auto;text-align:start;widows: auto;-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; word-spacing:0px’ v:shapes=”_x0000_i1027″>

World Briefing | Asia: Myanmar: Police Have Theory for Blasts| NYT A series of bombings in Myanmar was aimed at scaring away foreign investors, the national police chief said Friday. v:shapes=”_x0000_i1026″>

Hold fire, if not ceasefire| Banyan Aung Min, the gung-ho minister in charge of all the negotiations with Myanmar’s various ethnic rebels on the fringes of the country, has managed to sign ceasefire agreements with 14 of the relevant ethnic groups, leaving only two outstanding: the Kachins and the Palaung.

U Sein Win, Champion of Myanmar Press Freedom, Dies at 91|AP Mr. Sein Win, who was the Associated Press’s Yangon correspondent from 1969 to 1989, was jailed three times during his career but lived long enough to see censorship lifted.

The Philippines

Death toll in Philippines quake reaches 110| The Nation Cebu – The death toll from a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck the central Philippine island of Bohol reached 110 Wednesday with only three people pulled alive from rubble.

Singapore

Singapore and the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter| The Diplomat A densely populated island nation sitting at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore sits at a choke point along the vital sea lines of communications between the economic powerhouses of East Asia with the Middle East and, further afield, Europe. Its deepwater port is the lifeblood of a booming economy, while world-renowned Changi International Airport serves as a vital Asian air hub for travellers throughout the globe. With so much to defend and so little strategic depth (the main island measures just 723 square kilometers or approximately 277 square miles), Singapore has responded by building a powerful military, widely regarded as among the best in Asia. Singapore joined the F-35 program in February 2003 as a Security Cooperative Participant (SCP). As an SCP, Singapore is believed to be able explore configurations of the JSF to meet its unique operational needs and form its own program office. However, the island nation’s interest in the STOVL variant started to catch the eye only in 2011, when Rolls-Royce revealed that Singapore had launched studies aimed at considering the F-35B.

Thailand

Rihanna’s sex show tweet leads to third Thai arrest| The Guardian “Authorities found out about this bar the morning after Rihanna tweeted about it, but we were not able to catch them violating the law until Saturday night,” the local district chief Weera Kerdsirimongkon said. “We had been waiting for them and finally caught them red-handed.”

Floods in East ‘will last 6 weeks’| The Nation Flooding in the eastern provinces looks likely to drag on till the end of November.

Bringing peace home in the deep South| The Nation REPORTING TO Thai authorities under a new peace initiative called “Bring People Home”, men subject to security-related arrest warrants in Yala province – in areas where insurgents are active – could see their lives return to normal, with the opportunity to travel freely, both domestically and abroad.

US Budget Crisis Hits Home for Burma-Thai Border Refugees| The Irrawaddy Though Washington has sent its federal employees back to work after a 16-day crisis of governance, Burmese refugees in Thailand who were preparing to resettle in the United States are still finding those plans put on hold a day after most US government services resumed. Vivian Tan, spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Bangkok, confirmed to The Irrawaddy that resettlement flights have been temporarily suspended due to developments in Washington. “Our partners working in the resettlement program in Thailand have been informing the affected refugees. Everything should resume once the shutdown is resolved,” Tan said on Thursday. “Should” being the operative word. As of Friday, an official at the US Embassy in Rangoon said the program for refugees in camps along the Thai border remained on hold, despite the resumption of most federal government services on Thursday.

Vietnam

State capitalism in Vietnam: Blowing in the trade winds| The Economist Yet the government’s legitimacy hinges on making life better for the country’s 90m people. In recent months, officials have started to plan substantial economic reforms. Encouraging signs include an April resolution by the party’s Politburo that made economic integration its top priority, and recent debates among Vietnamese lawmakers over how to “equitise”, or partially privatise, SOEs. Nguyen Tan Dung, the prime minister, also pledged in September to treat the country’s 1,300 SOEs like private companies and raise from 30% to 49% the share in any local bank that foreign investors may own.

Mourning a People’s Hero| NYT General Giap was honored as a symbol of decency, dignity and rectitude that no longer exist in the ranks of Vietnam’s leaders.

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