Regional Roundup for the week of 6.23.14

Top links this week include international scrutiny on Thailand, beginning with the military junta. In addition to increasing pressure on activists, the government has cracked down on illegal labor, prompting a reverse flow of migrants back to other parts of Southeast Asia and Cambodia in particular. Thailand’s fishing industry remains under fire for slave labor and human trafficking problems, causing the U.S. to downgrade Thailand’s status and raising the possibility of economic penalties.. Major agricultural conglomerates Tesco and CP have so far refused to boycott Thai fishmeal producers.

ExSE FOCUS

U.S. Gives Thailand and Malaysia Lowest Grade on Human Trafficking | NYT — A State Department report released Friday ranks the two Southeast Asian countries with North Korea, Iran and Zimbabwe.

CP Foods condemns slavery and human trafficking in fishing industry | @guardianletters | Guardian — As chairman of Charoen Pokphand (CP) Foods, I want to confirm our position regarding Thai fishing boats supplying fish for the production of fishmeal to the feed mill industry, including CPF (The supermarket slave trail, 11 June).

Thai Police Detain 8 Anti-coup Protesters | Irrawaddy — Police in Thailand arrested eight people on Sunday for demonstrating against the nation’s increasingly repressive military junta, including a man who was dragged away by undercover officers for reading a copy of George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” outside one of Bangkok’s most luxurious shopping malls.

Laos extradites drug suspects to Yunnan | GoKunming — Yunnan has long been the country’s main entry point for illegal drugs. Despite increased interdiction efforts, international law enforcement cooperation and recent large-scale busts, it appears the province’s ‘Drug War‘ is becoming more costly and having only a small effect on the overall flow of narcotics across the border.

CHINA

World Briefing: China: Police Kill 13 in Attack in Xinjiang Region | NYT — Police officers shot dead 13 attackers on Saturday who rammed a vehicle into the main police station in the region of Xinjiang, according to media reports.

Sinosphere Blog: The Latest Icon in Artistic Rebellion: A Cabbage | NYT — There’s a reason the Chinese authorities are not known for their sense of humor. They even stopped the artist Han Bing when he went to Tiananmen Square with the latest trendy object in the Chinese art world — a pet cabbage.

Leaning In … to Corruption | ChinaFile — It’s no secret that graft is an essential part of climbing the Chinese Communist Party ranks. Now, according to Chinese state media, ambitious female cadres are increasingly being caught taking bribes and trading favors.

From Half the Sky to ‘Leftovers’ | ChinaFile — “There’s very little evidence that urban women have turned their scarcity into economic gain,” former journalist and sociologist Leta Hong Fincher writes in Leftover Women, the result of three years voluminous research towards a Ph.D. at China’s prestigious Tsinghua University, which will be released on May 1 in the United States by Zed Books.

In Hong Kong, an Unofficial Election Draws Beijing’s Ire | NYT — More than 350,000 Hong Kong residents voted Friday in a nonbinding referendum on how their next leader should be chosen. The Chinese government called it “illegal and invalid.”

Chinese Government Tightens Constraints on Press Freedom | NYT — China announced restrictions Wednesday requiring reporters to receive permission from employers for investigative work and banning personal websites.

China’s Retiring Migrant Workers Have No Place to Call Home | ChinaFile — A generation of Chinese people from rural areas who moved to the big cities to find work is reaching retirement age, but many are finding they have been left outside the country’s urban pension system despite extensive reforms in recent years.

Tibet: Taming the west | Economist — WHEN it opened eight years ago, the railway from Golmud to Lhasa was one of the most ambitious rail ventures ever attempted. This September, an extension of the line will open from Lhasa to Shigatse, the first part of a further plan to knit Tibet into the rest of China.

REGION

In Push to Assert Rights, China Plans to Send 2nd Oil Rig to Waters Near Vietnam | NYT — Even as the two countries are in dispute over a Chinese oil rig in the South China Sea, Beijing is pressing ahead with new plans to assert its rights there.

To Bolster Its Claims, China Plants Islands in Disputed Waters | NYT — China is moving sand onto reefs and shoals to add new islands to the contested Spratly archipelago, alarming Vietnam, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations that claim sovereignty over it.

China Sends Top Diplomat to Begin Talks With Vietnam | NYT — A senior Chinese official will meet with Vietnam’s deputy prime minister in the first high-level discussions since tensions between the countries escalated in May.

Fearing a Junta Crackdown, Cambodian Workers Stream Out of Thailand | NYT — In a chaotic exodus, tens of thousands of Cambodians have left the country, apparently driven by fears of a crackdown on illegal laborers by the military junta that seized power last month.

A Largely Indian Victory in World War II, Mostly Forgotten in India | NYT — The memory of the bloodiest battle of the war there, a 1944 encounter that cost the Japanese much of their best army in Burma, is complicated by India’s colonial past.

CAMBODIA

Cambodia blames Thailand as 220,000 migrant labourers cross border | Guardian — Cambodia has blamed Thailand’s military junta for a mass exodus of migrant workers that has seen 220,000 labourers flee the country and allegedly claimed the lives of several people amid fears of a crackdown on illegal labour.

The Cambodian People’s Party: A Deficit of Leadership | Diplomat — The party needs to allow its members to speak freely if it is going to make the reforms it needs to survive.

INDONESIA

Political Upstarts Work to Propel Change in an Indonesia Tired of Corruption | NYT — A small but growing group of political upstarts is emerging and its members seem united in a belief that the Indonesian public is fed up with the level of corruption in the nation.

A Contest to the Death in Indonesia | Irrawaddy — The Pasola festival on the Indonesian island of Sumba is a ritual confrontation of spear-wielding warriors on horseback that occurs annually. Two clans line up some 20 horsemen, who each attempt to prove their bravery by attacking members of the opposing clan on a sacred field.

LAOS

The disappeared | SEA Globe –The whereabouts of renowned Lao development worker Sombath Somphone remain unknown and the case has become a cause célèbre. Southeast Asia Globe spoke to his wife, Shui Meng, about the man behind the media attention.

MYANMAR/BURMA

Myanmar Camps Denounced | NYT — A senior United Nations aid official said Tuesday that in camps for the stateless Muslim group known as the Rohingya, in Myanmar, she witnessed the worst human suffering she had ever seen in such places.

Burma Gas Exports Worth $3.3Bln Last Year After Slight Drop | Irrawaddy — Burma’s earnings from natural gas exports fell in the last fiscal year as more of the resource was consumed domestically but shipments of greater volumes to China as a new pipeline comes up to speed are expected to boost earnings this year.

PHILIPPINES

US-Philippines to Hold South China Sea Naval Drill | Diplomat — Later this month, the U.S. and Philippine Navies and Marines will hold a joint drill near the Scarborough Shoal.

THAILAND

What Will Thailand’s Post-Coup ‘Democracy’ Look Like? | Diplomat — When democracy does return to Thailand it will surely be very unlike anything the country has seen before.

Thai Telcos ‘On Hold’: Interventionist Junta’s First Economic Casualty | Irrawaddy — Thailand’s telecoms sector is fast emerging as the first economic casualty of an interventionist junta in a country that has swung between democratic and military rule more times than any other nation in Southeast Asia.

The family | SEA Globe –When it comes to wealthy Thai families, none can compete with the Chirathivats. Not many can compare when it comes to business nous either. Busaba Chirathivat, Thailand’s queen of retail, sits down with Southeast Asia Globe to discuss family ties, shopping malls and equal opportunities.

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