Regional Roundup for the Week of 3.29.14

Links this week include updates on the search for Malaysia Airlines 370, ramped-up concerns on pollution in China, and continued political unrest in Bangkok in anticipation of a renewed rallies and protests this weekend.

Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia made a statement on Monday announcing that according to satellite data from British company Inmarsat, Malaysia Airlines 370 crashed into the South Indian Ocean with no possibility of survival. Search teams from six countries have continued to look for fragments of debris and definitive answers to where the crash occurred but inclement weather has complicated exploration of already slim leads. With the search still continuing, media coverage has shifted to increasing analysis of how Malaysia’s government has handled the disaster and seemingly mismanaged cooperation with China and the United States.

Reports also emerged of the detention in Thailand of 189 refugees presumed to be ethnic Uighurs fleeing from China, which follows a March 14 raid on another camp that netted 220 refugees also assumed to be from China.

ExSE FOCUS

Search for Lost Jet Is Complicated by Geopolitics and Rivalries | NYT — While the United States, China and others have collaborated in the search for the Malaysian plane, each in its own way has been hesitant to reveal the extent of its surveillance abilities.

MH370: 122 objects spotted in Indian Ocean are ‘most credible lead yet’ | Guardian — Satellite imagery showing more than 122 possible objects floating in a patch of the southern Indian Ocean offers the most credible lead yet in the hunt for the missing Malaysian airliner, the country’s transport minister has said.

Jet Fell Into Ocean With All Lost, Premier Says | NYT — Based on analysis of satellite data, Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia said there was no longer any doubt that the plane flew south into remote waters and could not have landed safely.

Thais Detain More Migrants Believed to Be Ethnic Uighurs | NYT — The move brings to 409 the number of people stopped by Thailand this month who are believed to be ethnic Uighurs fleeing China.

A Small Step Forward for ASEAN LGBT Rights | Diplomat — LGBT activists face a tough battle winning acceptance in Southeast Asia, but there are some modest signs of change.

Climate Change Darkens Life in China | ChinaFile — Asia faces a worsening water crisis, according to a leaked report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Government looking to step up supervision of Erhai | GoKunming — Yunnan’s top legislative body is considering the overhaul of long-standing laws governing development of one the province’s premier tourist destinations. Yunnan Standing Committee members are currently holding deliberations on a bill that could expand provincial-level oversight of how Erhai Lake (洱海) and its surrounding watershed are managed.

Kyaukphyu Plan ‘Lacks Purpose’ If China Pipeline Problems Persist | Irrawaddy — Problems afflicting the oil and gas pipelines built by China through Burma could jeopardize the development of a special economic zone (SEZ) around Kyaukphyu on the Arakan State coast, an economist said. Energy industry reports say the natural gas pipeline stretching from Kyaukphyu to China’s Yunnan Province is operating at less than 20 percent of its capacity, five months after it was declared operational by China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC).

CHINA

Most Chinese Cities Fail Minimum Air Quality Standards, Study Says | NYT — Only three of 74 cities monitored managed to meet standards set by the government, with most of the polluted cities in northern China.

On Visit to China, Michelle Obama Eases In Some Political Messages | NYT — What seemed to start as a spring break holiday for the first lady has turned out to be far more substantive than what the cheerful advocate of fitness and healthful eating often displays at home.

Editor Leaves Bloomberg, Citing China Coverage | NYT — Ben Richardson, an editor for Bloomberg News in China, is critical of the way the news agency handled an investigative article that explored the financial ties of the families of top Chinese leaders.

Fissures in China’s Ethnic Policy | NYT — A spying incident at the United Nations by a representative of a group tied to the Communist Party’s United Front Work Department has cast a spotlight on a turf war over ethnic policy, scholars said.

The Politics of China’s Urbanization | Diplomat — Large-scale urbanization is an economic necessity for China, but a political risk for the Chinese Communist Party.

China’s Shadow Banking Malaise | NYT — A severe slowdown in China’s economy would have a modest ripple effect, particularly on global commodity prices, but would not provoke a global crisis, two economists write.

Tracking China’s Hot Money Flows Through Commodities | Diplomat — The issue of misinvoicing of exports and imports can be tracked for commodities.

Wealthy Chinese Snatch Up US Investor Visas | Diplomat — Chinese investors have established a virtual monopoly on a U.S. visa program that offers green cards in exchange for investment.

Expressing the Chinese Dream | Diplomat — Imagery and ideograms in the “Chinese Dream” campaign posters send a message to an increasingly pluralized society.

Tigers slaughtered in show of social stature for Guangdong businessmen | Guardian — More than 10 tigers have been killed as “visual feasts” in China to entertain officials and rich business people, state media reported.

China Reports Gains in Fighting Tuberculosis | NYT — Evidence that a relatively low-tech strategy for combating the disease can work well, if it is rigorously applied.

Closed Doors and Quiet Times in China’s Sin City | NYT — At the Dongguan Exhibition International Hotel, a karaoke club and a sauna are closed until further notice, markers of a crackdown on vice across the city known as China’s sex capital.

REGION

China’s Criticism Over Handling of Missing Flight Stirs Malaysian Backlash | NYT — Many on social media in Malaysia have denounced China this week, noting that Malaysians as well as Chinese died on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Search for Missing Jet Is Moved Nearly 700 Miles, Based on Radar Analysis | NYT — The revision of the search area, based on further analysis by an international team working with Malaysian officials, means that Australia is redirecting the search far from the floating objects seen in the previous search area.

New Satellite Images Said to Be ‘Credible Lead’ in Malaysia Jet Hunt | NYT — Malaysia’s defense minister said satellite images taken Sunday showed 122 objects floating southwest of Australia.

Is a Philippine-Vietnam Alliance in the Making? | Diplomat — Trends indicate that cooperation between the Philippines and Vietnam is expanding, but is an alliance on the horizon?

CAMBODIA

After the storm | SEA Globe — Cambodia’s health system struggles to cope with a high incidence of mental disorders – a festering legacy of the Khmer Rouge regime.

Hidden habitat | SEA Globe — We’re in the depths of the Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary, a watery 213-square-kilometre refuge to more than 200 bird and reptile species, and one of Cambodia’s best-preserved tracts of wilderness. The sanctuary sits at the northwestern edge of the Tonle Sap lake […] which yields more than half of all the fish caught in Cambodia, is Southeast Asia’s largest and a Unesco Biosphere Reserve.

INDONESIA

Indonesia Candidate Tied to Human Rights Abuses Stirs Unease | NYT — Prabowo Subianto, an ex-special forces commander accused of torture and abductions, has announced his candidacy for president, putting the Obama administration in a difficult position.

LAOS

Laos, south-east Asia’s new emerging economy | Guardian — Laos has long been seen as a poor, landlocked, sparsely populated country. But it is at last emerging from its isolation. Once a part of French Indochina, ranking as the poor relation among its neighbours, it is now shaping up as a new contender in south-east Asia, with growth slated to exceed 8% this year, the highest in the region.

Sex Trafficking Victims Go Unnoticed in Laos | Diplomat — There is little assistance available to the many victims of sex trafficking in Laos.

MALAYSIA

Obama’s Upcoming Trip to Malaysia: Going to Be Prickly and Tough | Diplomat — The recent reality in Malaysia is at odds with the White House narrative.

Can Malaysia Restore Its Public Image? | CFRThe Malaysian government probably has done more over the past week to undermine the international image of Malaysia than anyone else in the country’s nearly sixty years as an independent nation. Asia Unbound —

MYANMAR/BURMA

Shine’s Off the Apple as Burma Govt Marks Three Years | Irrawaddy — President Thein Sein’s speech to Parliament this week, marking the third anniversary of his government, received a lukewarm reception among the Burmese public, adding to indications that doubts are growing over the direction and substance of the country’s reform process.

Burma Awards Offshore Oil and Gas Deals to Foreign Firms | Irrawaddy — Burma’s Ministry of Energy on Wednesday announced that it has awarded international firms, mostly from Western nations, 20 areas in its waters to explore for oil and gas.

PHILIPPINES

World Briefing: The Philippines: Peace Accord Is Signed | NYT — The Philippine government signed a peace accord with the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, on Thursday, the culmination of years of negotiations.

SINGAPORE

Singapore Criminalizes Cyber Bullying and Stalking | Diplomat — Concerns have been raised over how the law will be interpreted for journalists and those critical of the government.

THAILAND

Grenade Attack on Thai Anti-Graft Office Ahead of PM Hearing | Irrawaddy — Grenades were thrown at the offices of Thailand’s anti-corruption agency, which has summoned the prime minister to answer charges of dereliction of duty next week, as protesters trying to oust her prepared for a big weekend rally. Nobody was injured in the overnight attack, the second on the agency’s offices this week, police said on Friday.

Redshirts in Isan, north-east Thailand, keep faith with benefactor Thaksin | Guardian — Rural minority support the return of the exiled former prime minister, who improved their standard of living.

Thai villagers pan for gold  in pictures | Guardian — Villagers from Wang Nuea in northern Thailand look for gold in the river every year during the dry season. They can make about $15 a day, though two years ago they reached $200 in a single day when the river level dropped more than usual.

VIETNAM

Vietnamese guards brave attack to reverse destruction of the forest | Guardian — Vietnam’s remote forests have finally come to the attention of ecologists, but efforts to protect wildlife and people risk being stymied by the habits and hardship of poachers and loggers.

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