Regional Roundup for the week of 6.15.14

It’s a good week for the environment in Southeast Asia with the discovery of over 300 new species in the Mekong river region, as well as the development of a new software program and community engagement plan to model changes to the Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia.

Top news this week also included the lifting of a national curfew in Thailand, as well as a timeline for an interim government to be in place by August. The world’s fourth-largest supermarket corporation Carrefour announced a ban on Thai shrimp products after extensive reports of slave conditions in the fishing industry, and other companies may follow.

Tensions remain high in the South China Sea, with continued back-and-forth diplomatic jabs from China and Vietnam over increasingly escalated confrontations between fishing boats and government vessels from both countries.

ExSE FOCUS

Thailand: Nationwide Curfew Lifted | NYT — Thailand’s military government announced Friday that it had fully lifted a nationwide curfew it imposed after seizing power last month.

A Push to Save Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake | NYT — Scientists are digitally tracking the links between human activity and the fragile ecosystem of Cambodia’s great lake./Ambitious computer modeling project that could help predict the impact of climate change and monsoons (as well as hydroelectric projects) on critical fisheries resources./

Flying squirrel and eyeless spider discovered in Greater Mekong | Guardian — Over 300 new species of animals, fish and plants found in the forests surrounding Mekong river in 2012-13, WWF says. A series of high-flying creatures, including giant flying frogs and squirrels and a parachute gecko, are among the hundreds of exotic new species recently discovered in the greater Mekong region in southeast Asia./Over 300 more reasons for researching the river system and strengthening environmental impact assessment protocols./

Slave labour producing prawns for supermarkets in US, UK: your questions answered | Guardian — A six-month investigation established that large numbers of men are bought, sold and held against their will on fishing boats off Thailand and are integral to the production of prawns sold in major supermarkets in the UK and US.

China Accuses Vietnam of Ramming Ships to Stop Rig | NYT — China says that Vietnamese ships have rammed Chinese vessels 1,416 times since a dispute over a Chinese oil rig in the South China Sea flared up in May.

China joins in world’s largest naval exercises | Guardian — Chinese ships headed for waters near Hawaii on Tuesday to participate for the first time in the world’s largest naval exercises, a rare opportunity to build trust with the US and regional rivals including the Philippines and Japan.

Record-setting turn-out at South Asia Expo | GoKunming — The Second Annual China-South Asia Expo and the Kunming Import and Export Commodities Fair ended on Tuesday after generating 130 billion yuan (US$21 billion) in trade turnover, once again smashing totals from previous years. In addition, contracts signed during this five-day period are estimated to yield a whopping 708.2 billion yuan in capital investment.

CHINA

Arrested Chinese Lawyer Pu Zhiqiang Speaks from Prison | ChinaFile — Early this morning, the Beijing Public Security Bureau formally arrested rights-defense lawyer Pu Zhiqiang on charges of picking quarrels and illegally obtaining personal information about a Chinese citizen. The arrest, announced via one of the PSB’s verified social media accounts, came 37 days after Pu was detained after attending a private commemoration of the June Fourth Tiananmen Square massacre.

Campaign to Crack Down on Fringe Sects in China Worries Mainstream Churches | NYT — The campaign was prompted by the murder of a woman at a McDonald’s that horrified the nation and was attributed to adherents of a religious group.

Square Feet: Chinese Shoppers Change Hong Kong Border Area | NYT — Vast numbers of mainland Chinese traders and shoppers are pumping money into Hong Kong, leading to rapid development of the territory’s border area.

Contributing Op-Ed Writer: The True Cost of China’s Fakes | NYT — The government could learn something from how online shoppers deal with the problem of counterfeit goods.

Huaqiangbei: the mega market with every smartphone part in pictures | Guardian — Huaqiangbei is a gigantic electronics parts market in the middle of Shenzhen, China. To explore it is to enter an Aladdins cave where almost everything you need to build a computer or smartphone – or 100 or 1,000 of them – is available.

Inside Shenzhen: China’s Silicon Valley | Guardian — Just 30 years ago this Pearl River Delta megacity was a mere fishing village. Now home to up to 15 million people it hopes to become a tech nirvana for the world’s hardware startups.

Momo, the Chinese app that exposes sex and generational divides | Guardian — When Chen Xiaozhe downloaded the smartphone application Momo, his intentions were clear. “My principal motive was to try to have sex with a wide variety of girls,” said Chen, 27, who runs an online shop. Momo attracts 100m social networking users, but is trying to shake off its ‘hookup’ reputation.

How Adidas supported worker rights in China factory strike | Guardian — A strike at Taiwanese shoe manufacturer Yue Yuen in Dongguan, China, which supplies athletic shoes to the likes of Nike and Adidas, brought the 43,000 employee outfit to a standstill for 10 days in April. Two months on and the factory still does not appear to have returned to full capacity.

Obesity: Chubby little emperors | Economist — With rising incomes and more diverse diets, Chinese people are consuming much more fatty food and fizzy drinks. Meals now contain more than twice as much oil and meats as in the 1980s.This is producing a health calamity, both in heart disease (which now accounts for over a third of deaths) and in a less-noticed explosion of diabetes, which is closely linked to obesity.

Malnutrition: The hungry and forgotten | Economist — Widespread malnutrition still threatens to hold back a generation of rural Chinese.China used to have more undernourished people than anywhere in the world except India: about 300m, or 30% of the population in 1980. Economic growth has pulled half of them out of poverty and hunger. But that still leaves about 150m, mainly in the countryside.

REGION

Border Makes China and India Bristle, Even as They Seek Closer Ties in Trade | NYT — As the neighbors try to reinvigorate their economic relationship in meetings this week, India’s support for Tibetan exiles who seek regional autonomy is an abiding source of conflict.

Establishing Quid Pro Quo on the India-China Border | Diplomat — Establishing Indian sovereignty in Arunachal Pradesh could solidify Chinese claims in Tibet.

China Calls Japan the Aggressor in Flybys Over Sea | NYT — China contradicted Japan’s account of the latest close encounters between military aircraft, further escalating tensions between the two countries.

Vietnam and the South China Sea: Rigged | Economist — Vietnam and China share a long history of enmity—and of managing to patch things up when they go wrong. But their latest dispute is not running true to form.

How Indonesia and the Philippines Solved Their Maritime Dispute | Diplomat — The recent Indonesian-Philippine maritime pact offers important lessons for the South China Sea disputes.

CAMBODIA

Cambodian Activist’s Fall Exposes Broad Deception | NYT — Activists say the story of Somaly Mam is part of a larger tale of deception meant to attract foreign money into impoverished Cambodia./Unfortunately a widespread problem in Cambodia, many NGOs are well-intentioned but poorly managed, and others are dysfunctional to the point of corruption./

Rolls-Royce to open showroom in Cambodian capital | Guardian — A British luxury car manufacture will soon be marketing its goods in one of the world’s poorest countries: Cambodia. Rolls-Royce announced on Monday that it has joined with a Cambodian business partner to open a showroom in the capital Phnom Penh next month.

INDONESIA

Jokowi’s Plans? | Diplomat — The frontrunner in Indonesia’s presidential election has been remarkably vague on his policies.

MALAYSIA

World Briefing: Malaysia: Jet Insurance Payments Begin | NYT — Malaysia Airlines has begun giving out $50,000 in advance insurance payments to families of people aboard the missing Flight 370, but many Chinese relatives have indicated that they will reject the money.

MH370 families in drive to raise $5m to entice ‘whistleblower’ to solve mystery | Guardian — Several families of those aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 launched a drive on Sunday to raise $5m for any insider who can resolve the mystery of the plane’s disappearance three months ago.

MYANMAR/BURMA

World Briefing: Myanmar: Opposition Is Dealt a Blow | NYT — A parliamentary committee has voted against changing a clause in Myanmar’s Constitution that bars the opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, left, from becoming president.

Op-Ed Contributor: The People vs. The Monks | NYT — Never before have so many lay Buddhists in Myanmar pushed back against the monks.

PHILIPPINES

Top Militant Leader Is Arrested in Philippines | NYT — Khair Mundos, 50, a leader of Abu Sayyaf, was arrested on Wednesday morning in southern Manila, according to a statement from the police.

THAILAND

Interim Thai government in place by August, says junta leader | Guardian — The head of the junta that seized power in Thailand last month has said an interim government will be set up by August the first time he has given a clear date on the military handing back any sort of power in the country.

In Thailand, Growing Intolerance for Dissent Drives Many to More Authoritarian Nations | NYT — Since the military coup last month, academics and activists have been driven to flee a nation once considered a liberal haven in Asia.

US may blacklist Thailand after prawn trade slavery revelations | Guardian — The US is considering downgrading Thailand on a human trafficking blacklist, following revelations in the Guardian that slaves are being used in the production of prawns sold in leading American, British and European supermarkets.

Carrefour stops buying prawns from CP Foods following slavery revelations | Guardian –Supermarket group Carrefour has decided to stop buying prawns from the Thai company CP Foods, following a Guardian investigation which revealed slavery in the supply chain. The French retailer, which is one of the four largest in the world, announced that it had suspended purchases while it audited the complex chain.

VIETNAM

In Vietnam, Paying Communities to Preserve the Forests | NYT — The country is the first in Southeast Asia to make ecosystem payments a national policy through a 2010 law that established an incentive program./The program is paid for mainly by state-owned hydroelectric operations, and provides subsidies to farmers to reduce the incentive of illegal logging or coffee planting. Could be a promising model but has significant shortcomings./

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