Regional Roundup for Week of 2.23.2014

Just links this week – and lots of them…

EXSE FOCUS

Gunmen Wound at Least 35 at Rally in Thailand – AP Assailants in a pickup truck attacked the antigovernment rally held by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee in the province of Trat, about 180 miles east of Bangkok.//much more on the unfortunate news coming out of Thailand below

 Behind Pattern of Global Unrest, a Middle Class in Revolt – Asia Unbound For months now, protesters have gathered in the capitals of many developing nations—Turkey, Ukraine, Thailand, Venezuela, Malaysia, and Cambodia, among others—in demonstrations united by some key features. In nearly all of these places, protesters are pushing to oust presidents or prime ministers they claim are venal, authoritarian, and unresponsive to popular opinion. Nearly all of these governments, no matter how corrupt, brutal, and autocratic, actually won elections in relatively free polls. And in nearly all of these countries the vast majority of demonstrators hail from cosmopolitan areas: Kiev, Bangkok, Caracas, Istanbul, and other cities. The streets seem to be filled with very people one might expect to support democracy rather than put more nails in its coffin. // Kurlantzick’s book Democracy in Retreat is a must read.  Thankfully someone is looking through a classist lens at the perils and effects of globalization

 Kerry Implores Indonesia on Climate Change Peril – NYT Secretary of State John Kerry said Indonesia’s failure to act would jeopardize its resources, damage its economy and put much of the capital under water.

Assessing John Kerry’s Visit to Jakarta – Asia Unbound Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit this weekend (U.S. time) to Jakarta was brief, packed into his whirlwind Asia trip. His short stay in Jakarta was understandable—I think Kerry, despite criticism that he has focused too much on the Middle East, has put in enough of the face time in Asia to justify his claim that he has continued the administration’s policy of re-engagement with Southeast Asia. The fact that Kerry chose to give a speech in front of an audience of students at a cultural center highlighted some of the American embassy in Jakarta’s soft power efforts in the archipelago. And I certainly would agree with most of what Kerry said in his speech on climate change and the threat of global warming—that climate change is a near-apocalyptic threat to the world, that the science about global warming is settled, that Indonesia is one of the developing nations most likely to be affected by climate change, that global warming could prove a death blow to many parts of the archipelago.

Chinese Ask Kerry to Help Tear Down a Firewall – NYT Meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry, a group of Chinese bloggers appealed to the United States to take up the cause of Internet freedom.

 McDonald’s Opens in Vietnam, Bringing Big Mac to Fans of Banh Mi – NYT The fast-food giant is opening its first restaurant in the country, which some see as one of Asia’s last consumer markets with significant untapped potential.

After Winding Odyssey, Tibetan Texts Find Home in China – NYT An American scholar’s trove of 12,000 Tibetan-language texts has a new home, a lavishly decorated library on the campus of the Southwest University for Nationalities in Chengdu, China.

 The Red Chains of Bureaucracy That ‘Torment’ Chinese – NYT A politician in the southern city of Guangzhou has listed more than 100 documents the average citizen needs in a lifetime, arguing that China’s bureaucracy is too tortuous. His proposal for streamlining has been met with approval.

Yes, cats and dogs are special – they deserve our protection in China – The Guardian Pets are still being stolen and slaughtered for their meat, but old ideas are changing. There’s no welcome like it when To Zhai and Muppet come hurtling towards me, after I return home to our bear rescue centre in Chengdu, Sichuan province. These incredibly sociable and outgoing dogs have, thankfully, forgotten that they were both once destined for the dinner table in China.

 PLA Officer: China Must Establish South China Sea ADIZ – The Diplomat A Chinese military officer has said that establishing a South China Sea ADIZ is necessary to China’s national interest.

 China Is Not 1914 Germany – The Diplomat Some critical differences render any comparison badly flawed.

 Japan, ASEAN Discuss Defense Exports, Disaster Relief Cooperation – The Diplomat Japanese and ASEAN officials met to discuss potential Japanese defense exports.

Try Procrastination and Prevarication – Banyan NEGOTIATIONS for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which enter a crucial phase this weekend with a ministerial meeting in Singapore, seem to take place in two parallel universes. In one, the 12 countries pursuing this ambitious “21st-century” plurilateral free-trade agreement, including America and Japan (but not China) and representing 40% of the world’s GDP and one-third of its trade, came tantalisingly close to meeting their deadline of finalising the deal last year, and are now one last big push—perhaps in the next few days—away from success. In the other, TPP talks are bogged down in intractable disagreements on the most fundamental issues. The notion that it might be signed—let alone implemented—in the near future seems a delusion.

Chinese Netizens (Still) Love ‘House of Cards’ – TLN “Everyone in China who works on this level pays who they need to pay.” Mild spoiler alert: These are the words of the fictitious Xander Feng, an influential Chinese billionaire on the Netflix series “House of Cards,” a show that follows the machinations of U.S. Representative (and later Vice President) Frank Underwood to agglomerate power and crush whoever stands in his way. The phrase is also now viral on the Chinese Internet, which has proven surprisingly hospitable to the show’s second season, which debuted on February 14. Despite having its arguably Sinophobic moments—in addition to Feng-as-villain, the show depicts a Stateside Chinese businessman hiring both male and female sex workers, and a U.S. casino laundering Chinese money to fund a Congressional SuperPAC—the show has Chinese social media users applauding what they believe is a largely accurate depiction of Chinese palace politics

China in ‘House of Cards’ – ChinaFile China figures heavily in the second season of the Netflix series House of Cards, but how accurately does the show portray U.S.-China relations? Steven Jiang, a journalist for CNN in Beijing, binged-watched all thirteen recently-released web-only episodes over the weekend. Donald Clarke, professor of Chinese law at George Washington University, responded to our query saying we’d reached his “inner nerd.” Jiang and Clarke started us off putting the lie to Hollywood’s portrayal of U.S.-China relations, and were followed by Kaiser Kuo, Director of International Communications for Chinese search engine Baidu and co-host of the Sinica Podcast, and by Evan Osnos, staff writer at The New Yorker.

Chinese Censors Have Kept Their Hands Off ‘House of Cards’ – NYT The absence of censorship for the Chinese broadcast of the series is somewhat surprising, and it may indicate a more relaxed approach toward the newer medium of online television show imports.

Chinese thriller wins best film and best actor prizes at Berlin festival – The Guardian Asian films take limelight with best actor and best actress prizes but Richard linklater wins best director for Boyhoo

 Party chief: Yunnan ‘embracing a new era of environmental protection’ – GoKunming The most powerful government official in Yunnan, Party Secretary Qin Guangrong (秦光荣), delivered a speech last week in which he at times bluntly addressed many of the environmental concerns facing the province. Although Qin was, perhaps expectedly, speaking in broad terms, he did mention specific goals and characterized environmental issues as the top priority currently facing the province. His opening remarks set the tone for a surprisingly frank monologue.//Believe it when we see it.

 Dawei Awaits Its Destiny – Irawaddy U Aung Myint, a community leader from Mudu village, stands next to a meter-long, gold-colored footprint with 108 Buddhist signs that was carved on a large boulder many centuries ago. “We believe that the Buddha visited here and that this is his left footprint,” he said. The relic, around which a pagoda has been constructed, is part of the heritage of the ethnic Dawei people, who have lived in southern Myanmar’s Tanintharyi Region since the 8th century. The ancient artifact gave the cluster of villages on this remote coastal plain its local name: Nabule. “The Pali word for left foot is Nabule,” U Aung Myint explained.//The Dawei port is a game changer in geo-politics, trade routes and regional relations.  It’s a way for Burma to wean itself further from China and for Thailand to emerge as a stronger regional player.

Overshooting in Emerging Markets – Project Syndicate In the last few years, investors, policymakers, and businesses have been devoting considerable attention to the so-called “middle-income trap.” As a result, emerging markets’ downside risks are increasingly shaping the consensus forecast – a poor basis for investment and policy decisions.

 

ON THE DALAI LAMA’S VISIT TO THE WHITE HOUSE

What Can the Dalai Lama’s White House Visit Actually Accomplish? – ChinaFile On February 21, the Dalai Lama visited United States President Barack Obama in the White House over the objections of the Chinese government. Beijing labels the exiled spiritual leader a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” who seeks to use violence to free Tibet from Chinese rule. The Dalai Lama, who fled to India after a failed uprising in 1959, disavows the use of violence and says he only wants autonomy for Tibetans. He and Obama previously met in February 2010 and July 2011.

On Lamas in the White House… – The Granite Studio Most Chinese are well aware of the “Western” perspective on Tibet and are understandably prickly about the kinds of epithets used to describe Chinese control over the region. I’m not advocating that we (as in the “West”) need to sugarcoat what is happening in Tibet so that our Chinese friends can feel warm and fuzzy, but the habit of talking AT the Chinese about Tibet is likely no less productive in the long run than the Chinese PR ‘strategy’ outlined in this article.

 China denounces Barack Obama’s meeting with Dalai Lama – The Guardian Beijing says White House meeting is ‘gross interference in Chinese politics’ and will damage China-US relations. Barack Obama met the Dalai Lama at the White House on Friday, despite objections from China, which has warned that the meeting would inflict grave damage on Sino-American relations.

 China denounces Barack Obama’s meeting with Dalai Lama – The Guardian Beijing says White House meeting is ‘gross interference in Chinese politics’ and will damage China-US relations. Barack Obama met the Dalai Lama at the White House on Friday, despite objections from China, which has warned that the meeting would inflict grave damage on Sino-American relations.

Obama Walks Tightrope With Dalai Lama Meeting – The Diplomat Obama did just enough to avoid retaliation by Beijing for his meeting with the Dalai Lama.

China Criticizes Obama Over Visit by Dalai Lama – NYT In contrast to previous meetings, the White House seemed unruffled by the diplomatic repercussions of the meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader.

 

CHINA

Beijing Official Detained in Investigation of Former Security Chief – NYT The investigation, centered on the former head of law and order policy, reaches a secretive realm in China’s leadership.

Chinese Officials Widen Campaign Against Vices – NYT The operation appears intended to send a message similar to the so-called anticorruption campaign promoted by President Xi Jinping

Manufacturing Activity Contracts Again in China – REUTERS The slowdown at factories has unsettled markets, although the decline may have reflected in part the annual Lunar New Year holiday.

China Investigating Qualcomm’s Pricing – REUTERS The American chip maker is suspected of overcharging and abusing its market position, the Chinese anti-monopoly regulator said.

Nobel Winner’s Frank Advice to China’s Leadership – NYT To make the transition to a high-income economy, A. Michael Spence calls for bolstering domestic demand and exposing state firms to more market pressure

Taiwan and China Edge Ever Closer – NYT But many Taiwanese prefer the status quo over future unification.

Hunter Gross: What Did China and Taiwan’s Historic Talks Accomplish? Asia Unbound The four-day visit between Zhang Zhijun, director of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) and Wang Yu-chi, chairman of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), has been described as “historic,” “a turning point in relations,” and “unimaginable.” But the meeting is not unprecedented. In recent years, several encounters between Chinese and Taiwanese representatives have led to this moment. This meeting, however, serves as a symbolic affirmation of the relatively stable status quo that benefits both Beijing and Taipei. To be sure, from a diplomatic standpoint, this is the first official meeting between China and Taiwan since the end of the civil war in 1949. Despite the media hype, however, this is unlikely to bring about any substantial changes in cross-strait relations, and a dramatic change was not necessarily the goal.

China’s Fear Strategy – Project Syndicate Not long ago, China was a soft-power juggernaut, seemingly content to allow its own example of success to speak for itself. Today, China, like many large countries, is allowing its internal political battles to shape how it interacts with others, especially with neighbors whose sensitivities it seems entirely willing to ignore.

China vows to hunt down officials who sheltered Liu Han’s ‘mafia gang’ – The Guardian Authorities to punish Sichuan officials who protected former mining tycoon Liu Han and his gang during ’10-year crime spree.’ Chinese authorities will hunt down the officials who gave protection to a “mafia-style” gang run by a former mining magnate charged with crimes ranging from murder to gun-running.  Liu Han – the former chairman of Hanlong Mining, which attempted to take over Australia’s Sundance Resources Ltd – led his gang on a crime spree for more than a decade in China’s south-western province of Sichuan, state media said.

Chinese government sacks Dongguan police chief over prostitution scandal – The Guardian Yan Xiaokang removed from posts of police chief and vice mayor following televised report into underground sex industry. The Chinese government has sacked the police chief of Dongguan following a report by the main state broadcaster,China Central Television (CCTV), on the underground sex industry there, the Xinhua news agency has reported.

China Will Have to Face a Stronger US-Japan Alliance – The Diplomat Despite its wish for a new type of relationship with the US, China will face a stronger US-Japan alliance in coming years.

China: The Insecure Global Power – The Diplomat Faced with growing expectations, China’s foreign policy is actually becoming more insecure.

Local-government debt: Bridging the fiscal chasm – The Economist CHINA’S provincial administrations are often referred to as “local” governments. But the phrase does not do them justice. The province of Guangdong, for example, boasts more than 105m people and a GDP worth more than $1 trillion. Only 11 countries (including China itself) have a bigger population and only 15 have a larger economy.Equally impressive is the scale of provincial debts. At the end of 2013 China’s national auditor revealed that the liabilities of local governments had grown to 10.9 trillion yuan ($1.8 trillion) by the middle of last year, or 17.9 trillion yuan if various debt guarantees were added.

Academic freedom: Don’t think, just teach – The Economist A MOTTO of Peking University, one of China’s leading academic institutions, is “freedom of thought and an all-embracing attitude”. But in recent months it was not all-embracing enough to allow Xia Yeliang, an outspoken economics professor, to keep his job. Economics was not the subject on which Mr Xia was most forthright. He was a signatory of Charter 08, a petition drawn up in 2008 that called for sweeping political change, and he was known for his liberal political views.

 Pollution Tax Suggested for Wealthy Chinese Fleeing for Greener Pastures – ChinaDialogue Environmental problems have become an important factor causing the rich to leave China—but one academic has now suggested that they should first pay an environmental levy. Chen Guoen, a professor at Wuhan University, said that some Western investment-for-citizenship schemes are tempting China’s rich to emigrate and enjoy cleaner air. According to Chen, China should respond by imposing an environmental restoration levy on those leaving—their accumulation of wealth will have had environmental consequences, and they should not be allowed to take that money and run.

Yunnan province increasingly feeding China’s hungry north – GoKunming China’s ever-growing cities need food, massive amounts of it, and are often unable to grow enough locally. One of many attempts to address this problem was implemented in 2011, when a program designed to send produce grown in the country’s less populated west to teaming cities elsewhere in China was instituted. An article originally published in the Spring City Evening News, and then redistributed nationally by Xinhua, reports the initiative has proved successful enough to warrant further expansion and investment.

 

REGION

Asylum Fraud in Chinatown: Industry of Lies – NYT More Chinese immigrants seek asylum than any other immigrant group in the country, and most of them apply from New York, where federal officials regard the applicant pool with suspicion.

U.S. Army Seeks Better Ties With China’s Military – NYT As tensions rise between China and other Asian nations, a top U.S. general is working on improving contacts with China’s military.’ v:shapes=”_x0000_i1026″>

 Ecuador pursued China oil deal while pledging to protect Yasuni, papers show – The Guardian Negotiations took place while the country sought funds to forgo oil exploitation in pristine forest under the Yasuni-ITT scheme. The Ecuadorian government was negotiating a secret $1bn deal with a Chinese bank to drill for oil under the Yasuni national park in the Amazon while pursuing a high-profile scheme to keep the oil under the ground in return for international donations, according to a government document seen by the Guardian.

Wealthy Chinese buyers are making Sydney’s housing problem worse – The Guardian Last year median house prices in Sydney rose by 15%, and in some suburbs by up to 27%. Cash pouring in from foreign investors is one of the drivers of this change.

 A U.S.-China Summit Diplomacy Rivalry – The Diplomat With a new summit this year, the U.S. can begin to compete with China for influence in Africa

China Offers To Finance 30 Percent Of Indian Infrastructure Spending Through 2017 – The Diplomat The offer would see $300 billion of Chinese funding flow into India through 2017.

 America and China’s Perception Problems – The Diplomat Around the world China is increasingly seen as the bully while the U.S. seems more and more irresolute.

Closing the Distance: Investing in the Pacific Transport Sector – ADB Island countries in the Pacific need a strong transport sector to support economic growth. ADB’s transport strategy in the region focuses on improving access to markets and social services and building integrated transport systems.

Lee Hsien Loong on What Singapore Can—and Can’t—Teach China – Caixin As one of the Four Asian Tigers, Singapore is known for its strong economy and orderly society. The city-state, with its population of 5.3 million people, is listed by the World Bank as fourth in the world in terms of per capita income. As a regional business hub, it is lauded for its sound business reputation and the transparency of its government. Singapore has also been something of an example for China over the past three decades. A visit by Deng Xiaoping in 1978 provided inspiration for China’s reform and opening up.

Asia’s New Security Trifecta – Project Syndicate Winter is India’s diplomatic high season, with the cool, sunny weather forming an ideal backdrop for pageantry. But this winter has been particularly impressive, with leaders from Japan and South Korea joining Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to advance the cause of security cooperation in Asia.

A Clear Case for Golden Rice – Project Syndicate In some environmental circles, blanket opposition to genetically modified organisms is like taking a loyalty oath – dissidents are regarded as traitors in league with the evil biotech industry. It is time to move beyond such a narrowly ideological stance.

The Davos Apocalypse – Project Syndicate At the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos last month, leading participants called for a rapid shift to cleaner energy to tackle climate change. There was something unsettling about the global power elite jetting into an exclusive Swiss ski resort and telling the rest of the world to stop using fossil fuels.

India’s disappearing glaciers – The Third Pole The base camp of the Chhota Shigri glacier –  one of the few glaciers monitored regularly in the Indian Himalayas –  stands amidst stones, where once ice flowed 50 metres thick.  The Chhota Shigri glacier is one of three glaciers that has been monitored regularly in the Indian Himalayas over the past decades. (Photo by Ranvir Singh). The Chhota Shigri base camp offers a breath-taking view of the northern ridge of the Pir Panjal range in the Indian Himalayas that reach up to 6,500 metres (21,325 feet). Lateral moraines, the accumulation of boulders and stone deposited by a glacier, form parallel ridges about 50 metres high and 170 metres wide.

 

CAMBODIA

Cambodians board Phnom Penh’s first public buses in more than a decade – The Guardian Authorities hope road users will swap motorbikes taxis for buses to ease congestion on city’s traffic-clogged roads. Motorcycles, cars, tuk-tuks and the humble rickshaw dominate its traffic-clogged roads, but Phnom Penh has a new weapon in the fight against chronic congestion – its first public buses in more than a decade. Cambodia’s transport system lags behind many of its south-east Asian neighbours, which long ago resorted to public vehicles to ease gridlocked roads in major cities.

Getting Stares on the Streets of Cambodia: Buses for the Masses – NYT Phnom Penh is experimenting with a public transportation system, beginning with 10 buses, in a program underwritten by the Japanese government.’ v:shapes=”_x0000_i1030″>

 Mending hearts – SEA Globe At SL Factory in Phnom Penh, young women sort through piles of blue jeans; their colourful clothes strike a contrast against the steel tables and grey walls. Down a corridor, geysers of steam erupt from massive steel washing machines. Pairs of young men wheel plastic carts of soggy garments, some eventually to be sold in Gap and H&M stores around the world, to the drying room. A man stares into the distance, his mind thick with imagination. Behind him, sheets of scalding water begin to leak from the metal hatch of his washing machine. He jumps and hits a button to release the pressure.

 

LAOS

Young Laotians Learn Chinese to Improve Job Prospects – NYT Many Chinese schools have sprung up in towns along the Laos-China border, and the schools in Vientiane are gaining popularity.

Tomorrow’s Women Water Leaders in Lao PDR – ADB Scholarships for young women in Lao People’s Democratic Republic are helping today’s students become tomorrow’s water leaders.

 

MYANMAR/BURMA

Myanmar: Signs of Unrest Raise Alarms – REUTERS

Burmese Refugees in Thailand Are Running out of Options – Irawaddy Win Myint and his two younger sisters fled Burma in June 2011, after months of harassment by plainclothes officers because of a documentary about the Burmese army featuring their exiled younger brother, a former soldier who later spent 15 years in jail for his pro-democracy activism. The officers accused them of distributing the film and warned them they could be jailed. “They told us not to go anywhere overnight. They also followed me to places I gave tuition. They accused our younger brother of trying to break the unity of the armed forces,” said Win Myint, speaking by phone from Umpiem Mai refugee camp in northern Thailand. “We didn’t feel safe,” said Myint, a 63-year-old former teacher and a Muslim.

At the mercy of the winds -  SEA Globe Artisans fear their skills won’t survive the onslaught of time and increasing modernity in Myanmar. Hpan Myay Hman Myay can’t quite remember his age. “More than 60, but not yet 70,” he says, sitting in the shade of a rust-ravaged roof. In the more than 1.5 hectares that surround him, the fruits of his labour for more than 60, but not yet 70 years, are scattered, piled high on the damp soil and half-hidden under leaf litter and sprouting shrubs encroaching on this hidden treasure. It is here, on the outskirts of Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, that Hpan Myay Hman Myay joined his father in Myanmar’s first hand-blown glass factory.

Poppy replacement in Shan State will take time, money – DVB In eastern Burma, efforts are underway to hamper opium production in Shan State, which, combined with adjacent parts of Laos and Thailand, produces a staggering 18 percent of the world’s opiates. Crop substitution schemes currently being implemented in three townships are unlikely to spread to other areas without a cash injection.

Anti-corruption commission to be formed – DVB President Thein Sein proposed on Thursday that a commission be formed to begin tackling corruption in Burma. In a letter to the Chairman of the Union Parliament, Thein Sein recommended 15 members; five were selected by the president, five by the Pyithu Hluttaw (lower house) and five by the Amyotha Hluttaw (upper house).

Development needed to ensure peace: KPC – DVB Brig-Gen Timothy Laklem of the Karen National Union Peace Council (KPC), an offshoot of the Karen National Union (KNU), has said that peace with Naypyidaw will only be possible once poverty has been reduced in Karen State. “Ethnic leaders are much more likely to sign the [nationwide ceasefire] agreement if there is a guarantee for people’s development,” Timothy Laklem said at a press conference in Rangoon on Thursday.

 Govt urged to settle land grab claims by September – DVB The Burmese Parliament on Thursday called on relevant government bodies to implement settlement claims over land confiscation cases by September at the latest, though the number of cases remains disputed.

From Jade Land to a Wasteland – Irawaddy “They eat up the hills like they’re devouring cakes. Hills three or four hundred feet high are completely flattened, or even turned into holes 300 feet deep. Where there used to be mountains, now there are lakes,” said U Cho, a resident of Hpakant, a town in Kachin State famed for its jade mines. Like many others in the area, U Cho is a jade dealer. But even he struggles to comprehend the scale of the destruction wrought by the jade mines here.

Manufacturing Could Start in Burma’s Thilawa Zone in Mid-2015 – Irawaddy RANGOON — About 40 foreign manufacturers are interested in setting up in the Thilawa economic zone being developed with Japanese help outside Burma’s main city, Rangoon, and commercial operations could start in mid-2015, a Burmese official said. Burma has opened up since a quasi-civilian government took office in 2011 after decades of military dictatorship and foreign firms are looking to benefit from cheap labor and a virgin market in thriving Southeast Asia.

 

MALAYSIA

Malaysian Restaurants Busted for Putting Endangered Species on the Dinner Menu – The Diplomat Special Valentine’s Day courses offered flying fox, civet and pangolin meat among others.

 

THAILAND

Court in Thailand Limits Crackdown on Protesters – NYT The Bangkok court barred the authorities from dispersing protesters one day after violent clashes left five people dead.

Economic Growth in Thailand Cools to 0.6% – NYT The unrest that has shaken Thailand since November is taking a potentially lasting toll on the country’s economy, just when regional growth over all is facing headwinds.

Thailand unrest: court prohibits use of force against protesters – The Guardian Two government orders deemed unconstitutional as violent protests continue against PM Yinluck Shinawatra. A Thai court has ordered the government not to use force against anti-government protesters after clashes between riot police and demonstrators left five dead and nearly 70 wounded.

Four killed as Thai police clash with protesters in Bangkok – The Guardian Reports of multiple gunshots from both sides as authorities attempt to clear protest sites around government offices. Four people have been killed and more than 60 injured in Bangkok after a gun battle erupted between police and anti-government protesters who have spent the past month calling for an end to the current regime.

Thailand protesters besiege temporary government HQ – The Guardian Hundreds of protesting rice farmers breach perimeter of military compound used by Yingluck Shinawatra’s mobile government. Thai opposition demonstrators have surrounded government offices – including a compound used as a temporary headquarters by the prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra – in defiance of authorities who have vowed to reclaim key state buildings.

Protests in Thailand: Stagnant revolution – The Economist AS ARMED police moved in to clear an opposition protest site in central Bangkok on February 18th, it appeared that the gridlock that has paralysed the city for three months might be reaching a dénouement. Four protesters and one policemen were killed and dozens injured in the clashes that followed. But carnage did not lead to catharsis. Just a day later, a civil court ruled that police could not break up any more demonstrations.On the same day the election commission cancelled polls that had been rescheduled for April after a widespread opposition boycott of a general election on February 2nd.

Last gatekeepers – Banyan A HANDWRITTEN piece of paper affixed to one of the entrance gates of Government House reads: “Get out (of) this land”. There, sandbags and a barricade of rubber tyres fortified with razor wire protect the young men who, bucketful by bucketful, are raising a cement wall. They are sealing off the office of the prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, so that she cannot return “in this life or the next”. The arrival of food, energy drinks and more cement bags suggests that they are serious. No one will rule Thailand from here, or from anywhere else for that matter, at least for a while.

 

PHILIPPINES 

The Philippines social workers who are still battling typhoon Yolanda – The Guardian Rory Truell, secretary-general of the International Federation of Social Workers, visits Filipino social workers who put their personal losses aside to support their community. The peoples of the Philippines know about hardship, surviving poverty and resilience. Despite enduring the same terrible conditions as other survivors, the social workers in Tacloban carried on doing their jobs – supporting people in restoring their lives.

15,000 Donated Boats to Replace Those Lost in Philippine Super Typhoon – The Diplomat Also: Husband joins search for missing Japanese diver in Bali, peat fires rage in Malaysia.

 

VIETNAM

UK warned that aid to Vietnam inadvertently supports death penalty – The Guardian Charities link British funding for UN anti-heroin initiatives with executions for drug-smuggling in the country. The UK’s decision to send millions of pounds in aid to Vietnam has been called into question after the country confirmed that it is to execute 30 heroin smugglers.

Bird feeders – Banyan LAPPY BIRD is a wildly popular game played on smartphones. As well as being compulsively playable, it is also frustratingly difficult: the bird has a habit of dying at the slightest slip of the index finger. To cap it all, this month its Vietnamese creator, Nguyen Ha Dong, suddenly withdrew the game from download sites such as Google Play and Apple’s App Store. Vietnam’s budding tech industry has come a long way in the last decade, but the withdrawal points to how far it still has to go.

Hyper-super hype? – Banyan ON FEBRUARY 8th Vietnam’s first McDonald’s opened with great fanfare in Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s business capital. The event was rich in both saturated fat and historical irony: the outlet, a potent symbol of American capitalism, sits in a city that was, until 1975, a key outpost in America’s struggle against communism. The company’s local franchisee, a Harvard-educated, Vietnamese-American tech tycoon, is the son-in-law of Nguyen Tan Dung, the prime minister, who presides over a nominally communist nation.

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