Regional Roundup for Week of 3.8.2015

EXSE FOCUS

Documentary on Air Pollution Grips ChinaNYT Since its online debut on Saturday, “Under the Dome” has inspired an unusually passionate eruption of public and mass media discussion.//Given the impressive nature of this important expose, it’s surprising (yet not unexpected to hear local China bash Chai Jing, not for the quality of her documentary, but rather for her former romantic relationships and how she chose to give birth to her child in the US.  

Related: China takes environmental documentary that went viral off the webThe Guardian//still available on non-Chinese sites like Youtube and on Hong Kong’s Phoenix News site.

How China Fuels Myanmar’s WarsNYT Chinese-led development projects stoke ethnic tensions across the border.//NYT and the Guardian deepen their coverage of the China-Myanmar connection, but this is not new news rather this has been happening for decades.  The more interesting news is how Myanmar’s opening up has steered aid from ethnic areas and without support drives ethnic groups to war.  

Related: Ousted Chinese General Aided Myanmar Rebels: Report The Diplomat

Living Next Door to China The Irrawaddy Many Myanmar remain suspicious of Chinese investment and resent past Chinese mega projects that have had negative social and environmental impacts. Thus, a quick embrace of Japanese, South Korean and Western businesses has been evident as the country opens up.

Trashing the ASEAN Brand Project Syndicate Three of Southeast Asia’s most important states – Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia – are raising serious doubts about their commitment to the rule of law, the integrity of their judicial systems, and the quality of mercy in the administration of justice. Worse, their political backsliding jeopardizes the entire region’s prospects.//Since when has the ASEAN brand at its core been about rule of law and quality of judicial systems?  

Villagers Call on Spirit to Curse Officials, Company Behind DamThe Cambodia Daily Villagers in Stung Treng province displeased local authorities on Saturday by holding a traditional ceremony calling upon a powerful local spirit to curse those behind the construction of the Lower Sesan 2 dam.

 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Uighur migrants held in Thailand for 11 months take case to courtThe Nation A Thai court will decide this month whether to release 17 Uighurs from the western Chinese region of Xinjiang, including 13 children, who have been detained for the past 11 months in Bangkok, a lawyer for the group said on Tuesday.

Vietnam arrests 4 for attempting to smuggle 58 workers into ChinaThanh Nien Each of the job seekers has paid them a fee of around US$300

The Rebalance in Southeast Asia: Not About ContainmentThe Diplomat Far from trying to “contain” China, the U.S. is focusing on a wide array of initiatives with regional actors.

Vietnam opposes China’s illegal construction works on Truong Sa Thanh Nien The country has requested China to immediately stop these wrongful actions

Chinese authorities hit back at border restriction ‘rumours’DVB Chinese authorities hit back at media, including DVB, who have reported that China has blocked access to camps at the Sino-Burmese border and sent Kokang refugees back to the troubled region despite fears for their safety.

350 Displaced Civilians Arrive in Shan Border TownThe Irrawaddy More than 350 displaced civilians arrived in northern Shan State’s Chin Shwe Haw on Wednesday after spending several weeks hiding in the forest on the Burma-China border to escape fighting in the Kokang Special Region, an aid worker said.

US to provide 6 patrol ships to Vietnam as ties strengthenThanh Nien US ambassador praises Vietnam for becoming more LGBT-friendly

US Army to Continue Military Dialogue with the PLA The Diplomat US Army Pacific will push for closer ties with the Chinese military.

 

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Thai firms agree Dawei signing ceremonyDVB Two Thai construction companies are expected to sign an agreement with the Burmese government to start developing the first phase of the Dawei megaproject.//Game of ports – one of three critically strategic ports to open on the Andaman Sean in Myanmar in the next 10 years.  

EIA report on Krabi coal port, plant rejectedThe Nation Experts agree it is misleading, incomplete

Fishermen want help cleaning up oil in RayongThe Nation Rayong fishermen and beachside vendors yesterday urged to the government to help clear up an oil slick and garbage from the Mae Rampeung Beach in Muang district.

Vietnam’s prime minister says climate change is real, calls for more responsesThanh Nien “There is still a misconception that climate change is something abstract”

Thailand Tests Floating Homes in Region Grappling With FloodsThe Irrawaddy The 2.8 million baht (US$86,000) amphibious house in Ban Sang village is one way architects, developers and governments around the world are brainstorming solutions as climate change brews storms, floods and rising sea levels that threaten communities in low-lying coastal cities.

Smog up North goes beyond safety levels The Nation The problem of smog in the North is still severe as Chiang Mai province’s PM10 (particulate matter up to 10 micrometers in size) yesterday stood at 143 micrograms per cubic metre – which is beyond the safety level of 120.

Rangoon Govt Power Supplier to Become Corporate Entity – The Irrawaddy The Yangon Electricity Supply Board (YESB) said it will become a government-owned corporate entity on April 1. The move will make the government utility provider financially independent from the Ministry of Electric Power and marks the first phase of a plan to privatize the electricity supplier of Burma’s biggest city.

Vietnam officials say power price hike imminent Thanh Nien They say a new price level is needed to attract private investors

China set to miss safe rural drinking water targetschinadialogue In 2011, China launched a huge policy and investment drive to bring safe drinking water to the entire country, including its remotest areas

 

CHINA

China Lowers Official Economic Growth TargetNYT By cutting its growth target to approximately 7 percent, China is emphasizing more sustainable growth.

China Names 14 Generals Suspected of CorruptionNYT The generals, including the son of a former high-ranking leader, were the latest to fall under President Xi Jinping’s sweeping anticorruption campaign.

China knife attack suspect shot dead after wounding nine people The Guardian Two assailants slashed people at train station in southern city of Guangzhou before police killed one and captured the other

China’s Defense Budget to Increase 10 Percent in 2015The Diplomat Details on what precisely China is spending money on remain murky.

China’s New Silk Road and Its Impact on Xinjiang The Diplomat China’s plans for Central Asia are likely to see Beijing take a tighter grip on the restive Xinjiang region.

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Students, Activists Allege Violence in Rangoon Protest CrackdownThe Irrawaddy After being released from custody early Friday morning, eight people detained after Thursday’s student protest in downtown Rangoon have said they were injured by police and a plainclothes mob during the subsequent crackdown.

Related: Burmese police block student protesters NYT

Related: Junta-Era Thugs Are Back on the StreetsThe Irrawaddy

Michelle Obama to Visit Japan and CambodiaNYT The American first lady, Michelle Obama, will travel to Japan and Cambodia this month as part of an effort to support education for girls, the White House said Tuesday.

UN-Cambodia Tribunal Charges Two More Ex-Khmer Rouge CadresThe Irrawaddy A U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Cambodia charged two former cadres of the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime with crimes against humanity on Tuesday over their alleged roles in the deaths of an estimated 1.8 million people

Cambodia and Australia: Treating Refugees as Bargaining ChipsThe Diplomat The two countries are selective in their interpretation of international laws on the rights of refugees.

Shwe Mann: the right man for the job?SEA Globe With Aung San Suu Kyi likely to be out of the running, some fancy that Shwe Mann will become Myanmar’s next president

        Related: Election will be held in November, says Thein SeinDVB

Related: Observers Lukewarm on Thein Sein, Suu Kyi Dialogue The Irrawaddy

Human-trafficking bill passes first readingThe Nation The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) yesterday agreed in principle to a bill aimed at tackling human trafficking with heavier penalties, including the immediate closure of businesses found to be abusive to employees and death penalty if the abuse results in deaths.

MNDAA claims swelling of its ranksDVB The Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) claims that the number of its troops has risen to around 5,000 since conflict reignited with Burmese government forces on 9 February.

Preah Sihanouk at Center of New Industrial PlanThe Cambodia Daily The Council of Ministers released a new policy on Friday aimed at boosting Cambodia’s industrial development beyond the garment and food sectors, placing Preah Sihanouk province at the center of plans to modernize the country’s economy.

Drowning in debt: the growing threat to Cambodia’s poor? The Guardian In a growing microfinance market, some Cambodians are juggling as many as six separate loans. How can MFIs balance ethical concerns with commercial interest?

Lao Authorities Require Gun Re-registrations to Reduce Illegal FirearmsRadio Free Asia Lao authorities have put in place a new rule that requires the re-registration of firearms—including those owned by police officers, soldiers and village security officials—in an effort to eradicate illegal firearm possession, an Internal Security Ministry official said.

 

YUNNAN

Prince William in China: illegal wildlife trade a ‘vicious form of criminality’The Guardian Speaking at the Xishuangbanna Elephant Sanctuary in Yunnan Province, Prince William said: “it is appalling that elephants – and many others – may be extinct in the wild in our lifetimes”.

Related: China’s illegal ivory traders exploiting online marketThe Guardian

Related: China’s temporary ban on ivory imports to be “ineffective”chinadialogue

Blaze guts Guandu market, killing twelveGoKunming A fire that broke out in a Kunming wholesale market on the afternoon of March 4, claimed the lives of a dozen people and destroyed 50 businesses before being extinguished. Investigators are now combing through the wreckage in attempts to discover the source of the blaze, which witnesses say began with a loud explosion.

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