Regional Roundup for the Week of 3.23.14

“The search continued this week for Malaysia Airlines flight 370, with minimal leads and conflicting reports increasing frustration among relatives of the missing passengers. The current search has shifted to focus on a swath of the southern Indian Ocean where Australian and Chinese searchers spotted debris, however inclement weather prevented confirmation that they were the remains of MU370. Malaysia’s handling of the incident has sparked strong criticism for a lack of transparency to both the public and to countries partnering in the search for the missing plane.

Details also emerged this week of extensive NSA hacking into Huawei servers in order to gain access to both computer and telephone networks, escalating tensions over cyber espionage between the United States and China. Michelle Obama is visiting China for a weeklong visit that is expected to focus on education and away from political topics, while President Obama is scheduled to meet with Xi Jinping at the Hague to discuss Russia and Ukraine.

Thailand’s Constitutional Court voided the results of February elections because of incomplete polling but did not indicate when another election might be held, raising the possibility of fresh protests in Bangkok that had waned since the election.

ExSE  FOCUS

Retracing a Lost Flight: A Routine Flight, Till Both Routine and Flight Vanish | NYT — As the search stretches on, authorities look back at the data for clues of the plane’s whereabouts.

MH370: Chinese satellite spots potential debris | Guardian — A Chinese satellite has made a fresh sighting of potential debris from the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 floating in the southern Indian Ocean, with ships being sent urgently to investigate.

Plane Debris Would Be Modest Clue Two Weeks After a Crash, Experts Say | NYT — If searchers spotted floating debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines jet in the ocean, it would be more dispersed and farther from the wreckage sunk beneath the waves, experts said.

Flight MH370 Shows Limits of ASEAN’s Maritime Cooperation | Diplomat — The limits of regional Search and Rescue cooperation were evident following the disappearance of MH370.

Thai Court Voids Election, Adding to Turmoil | NYT — The Constitutional Court said the election was invalid because voting was not held across the country on the same day, as required by the Thai Constitution.

Politics Won’t Be on First Lady’s China Itinerary, Aides Say| NYT — The White House is billing Michelle Obama’s visit as a cultural exchange, but political overtones will be almost impossible to avoid.

N.S.A. Breached Chinese Servers Seen as Security Threat | NYT — As the United States made a public case about the dangers of buying from Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, classified documents show that the National Security Agency was creating its own back doors — directly into Huawei’s networks.

Surging ASEAN Trade Prompts Banking Realignment | Diplomat — Major banks are realigning their businesses in Southeast Asia, where a winding back of cross-border tariffs and regulations has led to sharp rise in regional trade ahead of the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

Turkestan Islamic Party Expresses Support for Kunming Attack | Diplomat — In an online video, TIP’s leader praised the deadly attack in Kunming and promised further violence.

Suspected Uyghurs Rescued in Thai Raid of Human Trafficking Camp | Diplomat — 200 refugees rumored to be Chinese Uyghurs were rescued from a human trafficking camp in Thailand last week.

Uyghurs Test ASEAN’s Refugee Credentials | Diplomat — Despite facing religious and ethnic discrimination in China, Uyghur refugees are often sent back.

Thousands to March for Termination of Burma’s Myitsone Dam | Irrawaddy — Thousands of protesters are expected to join a march from Rangoon to the site of the proposed Myitsone dam in Kachin State, calling for the Burma government to permanently cancel the project.

CHINA

Developer’s Collapse Adds to China Concerns | NYT — Weak housing prices for February contribute to signs that a slowdown in China’s property sector could represent a systemic risk to the economy.

The World Needs China’s Leadership | Diplomat — A more stable and prosperous world necessitates a China that’s more active and assertive in global affairs.

China Releases Plan to Incorporate Farmers Into Cities | NYT — An ambitious government blueprint is the country’s first attempt to broadly coordinate the introduction of hundreds of millions of rural residents into cities.

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright | SEA Globe — The greatest unsolved mystery in China right now is not the disappearance of Malaysian airliner MH370 but the fate of Zhou Yongkang, the feared former head of China’s security apparatus. From 2007 to 2012 a member of China’s top political body, the Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou is now reportedly under investigation for corruption, casting suspicion on hundreds, if not thousands, of his of his allies, subordinates, and relatives.

China’s Central Bank Allows Its Currency More Volatility | NYT — The bank doubled the amount by which the renminbi would be permitted to rise or fall each day, making it more responsive to market forces.

Xi Jinping and Social Media: Harnessing the People’s Voice | Diplomat — China’s president uses social media to attract public support, while cracking down on social media users.

Obama will meet Xi Jinping of China in attempt to isolate Russia over Ukraine | Guardian — White House extends president’s overseas schedule as adviser Rice says ‘US is leading … in supporting government of Ukraine’

Baucus in Beijing: New Ambassador, Same Priorities | Diplomat — Max Baucus is the latest in a string of trade-oriented U.S. Ambassadors to China.

Is China Underfunding its ‘War on Pollution’? | SEA Globe — China’s environmental spending showed a year-on-year drop of almost ten percent in 2013, according to the budget report delivered at China’s annual parliamentary gathering.

REGION

As Malaysia Goes Its Own Way Over Missing Jet, China Finds Limits to Power | NYT — Within China, relatives and friends of the passengers press for answers, but the government finds itself helpless as Malaysia takes the lead in the investigation.

Nations Start to Collaborate in the Search | NYT — The expansion of the multinational operation off the western coast of Australia illustrates how the hunt for the Malaysia Airlines plane has helped dampen regional tensions.

Ripple effect | SEA Globe — The tightening of the US Federal Reserve’s monetary policy will confront Asean member states with tougher financing conditions and lower capital inflows, putting growth prospects at risk.

Could Flight 370 Damage China-Malaysia Relations? | Diplomat — Frustrations in China towards Malaysia’s handling of the search and rescue mission could spill over to affect ties.

China’s Newest Maritime Dispute | Diplomat — China’s hardly in need of more territorial disputes with neighbors. Yet, it has started a new one with Indonesia.

What Flight MH370 Tells Us About the US in Asia | Diplomat — In the wake of a terrible tragedy, the U.S. is proving why it is indispensable to the Asia-Pacific region.

Malaysian Firms Eye Construction Prospects in Burma | Irrawaddy — With its companies doing over US$1.6 billion worth of business in Burma, Malaysia was ranked as the seventh-biggest source of foreign investment into the country by the end of January 2014.

CAMBODIA

Top 10 books about Cambodia | Guardian — From a portrait of Pol Pot to a collection of ancient oral tales, here are 10 titles essential to understanding the Asian nation.

Pushing the boundaries | SEA Globe — Thy Sovantha was born in 1995, the year after Cambodia’s opposition leader Sam Rainsy left his post as finance minister to start his own political party. Almost two decades later, Sovantha, whose personal Facebook page has more than 215,000 followers and counting, is an entirely new political entity: a young woman with huge support in a country where politics is the realm of old men.

INDONESIA

Indonesia’s forest fires feed ‘brown cloud’ of pollution choking Asia’s cities | Guardian — An acrid blanket of haze is hanging over the cities of south-east Asia, where 700,000 people a year die prematurely from the effects of air pollution. Industry and climate change are being blamed, but governments are slow to act.

Indonesia: A Legal Plot to Thwart Corruption Fight | Diplomat — Legislators try to hobble the country’s popular anti-corruption body.

Battle for lashes | SEA Globe — The price of Western beauty may be too high for the 100,000 workers who toil in central Java’s lucrative false-eyelash industry.

MALAYSIA

George Town Memo: Malaysia’s Deep Political Rifts Exposed Amid Mystery of Missing Flight | NYT — Malaysia’s opposition leaders have strongly criticized the government for focusing public attention on Flight 370’s pilot, an opposition supporter.

The Lede: Malaysian Opposition Leader Calls Speculation About Pilot of Missing Jet ‘Absurd’ | NYT — Malaysia’s opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, dismissed speculation that the pilot of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, a supporter of his movement for democratic change, might have hijacked the plane for political reasons, in an interview with Britain’s Channel 4 News on Friday.

Pilots’ Possible Role in Flight 370 Vanishing ‘Unthinkable’ to Friends | NYT — The two men at the controls of Flight 370 led ordinary lives that revolved around family and flying, those who knew them said.

MYANMAR/BURMA

Burma’s homosexuality law ‘undermining HIV and Aids fight’ | Guardian — A law criminalising “unnatural” sex is reinforcing the stigma that leaves gay men in Burma hidden, silenced and shamed, hindering efforts to contain HIV/Aids, claim experts and activists.

Myanmar: The Worsening Plight of the Rohingya | Diplomat — It has been a tragic start to the year for Myanmar’s persecuted Muslim minority.

Myanmar Fighting a Losing Battle Against Opium Addiction | Diplomat — Myanmar, formerly the world’s largest opium producer, is experiencing a resurgence in poppy cultivation as the government seeks truces with rebel groups. In opium-growing areas, such as the village of Nampakta, officials estimate that half of the population is addicted.

Burma’s Marine Eden Braces for Tourism | Irrawaddy — The Mergui archipelago has been called the “Lost World,” but outsiders have found it—first fishermen, poachers and loggers, and now developers and high-end tourists. The people losing this world are the Moken, who have lived off the land and the sea for centuries.

PHILIPPINES

Communist Party Chief Held in Philippines | NYT — Philippine security forces arrested the chairman of the underground Communist Party of the Philippines and his wife on Saturday, the military said, dealing the biggest blow in years to the decades-old rebel group.

Eyewitness: Luzon Island, Philippines | Guardian — Photographs from the Guardian Eyewitness series

SINGAPORE

Seeing red | SEA Globe — Eager collectors and rabid critics ate up Art Stage Singapore 2014, bolstering the city-state’s presence on the global art radar.

THAILAND

Thailand to stage fresh elections after court rules February poll invalid | Guardian — Thailand’s constitutional court has ruled that a general election held in February was invalid, setting the stage for a new vote and further deepening the country’s political crisis.

Thailand needs friends to help it through its crisis | Jonathan Prentice | Guardian — Thailand faces truly existential challenges. It is riven by social, economic, ideological and regional divisions. Resignation seems to give way only to heightened extremism; vituperative intolerance has damaged any prospect of talks. Outside powers should not misinterpret a lull in the streets as progress. Without a concerted attempt to alter course, Thailand remains at risk of tipping into violent confrontation.

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