Regional Roundup for the week of 7.18.14

The top stories this week included the formation of a $100 billion BRICs development bank in a major play to reshape investment in Asia and challenge Western-dominated financial institutions like the World Bank. It will be based in Shanghai and managed by India for the first five years, followed by Brazil and Russia.

In Cambodia, opposition politicians were detained and charged with insurrection following an altercation between protestors and security forces on Tuesday. The arrests come just before the anniversary of disputed elections.

Thailand has allowed former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra to leave the country on the premise of joining her brother Thaksin Shinawatra (another ousted prime minister living in exile) in Paris for his birthday.

China has moved a contentious oil rig from disputed waters in the South China Sea, although tensions remain high in the region. See Brian Eyler’s analysis of how trade between China and Vietnam is likely to decrease in the coming months as an impact of these tensions.

ExSE FOCUS

Brics countries create $100bn bank to ease western grip on global finances | Guardian –The leaders of the Brics emerging market countries have launched a $100bn (£58.3bn) development bank and an emergency reserve fund in their first major step towards reshaping the western-dominated international financial system. The Brics group comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The bank, aimed at funding infrastructure projects in developing nations, will be based in Shanghai, and India will preside over its operations for the first five years, followed by Brazil and then Russia.

Cambodia: Opposition Politicians Are Charged With Insurrection | NYT — Six Cambodian opposition politicians were charged Wednesday with leading an insurrection movement after a clash with security forces who prevented their followers from rallying in a public park.

Cambodia: Protest Turns Violent | NYT — Opposition demonstrators disarmed Cambodian security forces and beat them with batons and flagpoles on Tuesday, two weeks before the anniversary of a disputed general election.

What Does Indonesia’s Election Standoff Mean for Indonesia’s Next President? | Asia Unbound — As I have previously blogged, unless Prabowo Subianto is able to steal four to six million votes in the days before the official vote tally is released, an unlikely possibility, Jakarta governor Joko Widodo will be declared the winner of the presidential election sometime next week. However, Prabowo is not going to go quietly.

Thai junta allows ex-PM Yingluck Shinawatra to leave country | Guardian — Thailand’s junta has given permission to ousted former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra to leave the country for the first time since the 22 May coup, a military spokesman said on Thursday. Yingluck is expected to travel to Paris next week to attend the 65th birthday party of her elder brother, the fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Chinese Oil Rig Near Vietnam to Be Moved | NYT — A Chinese energy company said it would move a giant oil rig from disputed waters off the coast of Vietnam, two months after its arrival raised tensions.

Stronger than the bullet | SEA Globe — Southeast Asia is a vast and complex region, comprising countries with remarkably diverse histories and cultures. Against the backdrop of rapid economic development and social transformation in several countries, some nations have adopted democratic institutions, while others have maintained stable authoritarian systems or accepted communist regimes./Great infographic of registered voters, political turnout and number of political parties across ASEAN nations./

Yunnan to spend 70 billion on infrastructure in 2014 | GoKunming — Yunnan lawmakers were busy over the past seven days, earmarking billions of yuan for building projects across the province. The vast majority of the money will be used to fund the ongoing construction of 26 major highways. Other money has been set aside for waterway maintenance and “disaster mitigation” projects.

Typhoon Kills at Least 38 in the Philippines, Heads for China | Irrawaddy — Typhoon Rammasun, the strongest storm to hit the Philippines this year, was heading towards China after cutting a path across the main island of Luzon, shutting down the capital and knocking down trees and power lines, causing widespread blackouts.

CHINA

Russian Reliance on Chinese Loans May Blunt the Impact of U.S. Sanctions | NYT — Energy companies form the backbone of the Russian economy, and they increasingly turn to China when they need cheap capital.

Star Anchor’s Real Sin May Have Been Hypocrisy | NYT — Liberal intellectuals are offended by the detained CCTV anchor Rui Cheng’s grandstanding manner of touting the Chinese system while cozying up to Westerners.

In Expansion, BMW to Make China-Only Models | NYT — The carmaker plans to double the number of models produced in China, for a total of six, and increase capacity in the country, its biggest market.

Note to Cadres: Hands Off the Black Audi and Chauffeur | NYT — As part of its drive against corruption and waste, the Chinese Communist Party said it would stop allowing dedicated official vehicles for all but the highest-ranking government staff.

Chinese Company Wins Court Case Against Obama | Diplomat — The case sets an important precedent for Chinese companies interested in investing in the United States.

Report: China ‘hungry for drones’ | GoKunming — The United States’ extensive use of drones may capture headlines around the world, but many other countries are aggressively looking to develop their own, domestic forms of the technology. China is no exception, encouraging and increasingly funding small start-up companies in an attempt to foster innovation, China Daily is reporting.

Education in China | ChinaFile — This week on Sinica, Kaiser Kuo and David Moser are joined by Jiang Xueqin, deputy principal of Tsinghua Fuzhong Affiliated High School and author of Creative China, for a discussion of the education system in China.

Soccer on the Silk Road | ChinaFile — As the World Cup draws to a close, we present a photo essay by Chinese photographer Zhang Xinmin exploring the game of soccer along the Silk Road in Xinjiang, where it has a special place in Uighur education and culture. China’s forays into international soccer competition have been disappointing, at best. But, as Zhang explains below, a new generation of Uighur players traces its passion for the sport to forebears.

The 2008 Milk Scandal Revisited | Asia Unbound — Six years ago today, sixteen infants in China’s Gansu Province were diagnosed with kidney stones. All of them had been fed milk powder that was later found to have been adulterated with a toxic industrial compound called melamine. Four months later, an estimated 300,000 babies in China were sick from the contaminated milk, and the kidney damage led to six fatalities. The Sanlu Group, one of the largest dairy producers in China, was identified as the chief culprit. But as the scandal unfolded, more Chinese dairy firms became implicated.

Chinese farmers quit fields to build giant Transformers models | Guardian — The success of the new Transformers film in China has been staggering, becoming the country’s highest-grossing film ever in a matter of days. And with that success comes a thriving cottage industry: a group of farmers who have exchanged ploughs for welding equipment in order to build gigantic models of the robots from the film./Weird headline of the week./

REGION

Kerry Assures China That the U.S. Can Have Many Allies in Asia | NYT — The secretary of state sought to highlight commonalities between China and the United States after the Chinese dismissed assertions that hackers had infiltrated federal computer systems.

Vietnam’s Overdue Alliance With America | NYT — Ho Chi Minh always wanted a close relationship with Uncle Sam.

Despite oil rig removal, China and Vietnam row still simmers | Guardian — Withdrawal of rig welcomed by Hanoi and Washington, but observers still fear escalation of conflict over South China Sea./See ExSE analysis of cooling of trade relationship between China and Vietnam  stemming from SCS dispute./

Thailand’s pledge to repatriate 100,000 Burmese refugees sparks concern | Guardian — Thailand’s military government is to deport 100,000 refugees who have been living in camps along the border with Burma (Myanmar) for more than two decades, a move rights groups say would create chaos at a tense time for both countries.

Bit by bit | SEA Globe — Southeast Asia sprints toward economic unification with the highly anticipated Asean Economic Community (AEC) next year, there is little in the way of monetary policy that binds its respective member countries together. However, entrepreneurs posit that in lieu of a single legal tender, there is a new system that could make cross-border exchanges cheaper and easier than ever – digital currency.

Pakistan and China: A Precarious Friendship? | Diplomat — In contrast to the public posturing, the relationship on the ground is more complex and multilayered.

China’s Role in the Middle East | Diplomat — Dr. John Calabrese on what’s at stake for China in Iraq and Beijing’s strategy for Middle East engagement.

China-Africa relations hurt by bad Chinese behaviour, says ambassador | Guardian — China’s foreign ministry has condemned the behaviour of some Chinese citizens in Africa following its ambassador to Tanzania giving an uncommonly frank newspaper interview in which he decried the “bad habits” of his compatriots.

CAMBODIA

Cambodia’s politics: The vision thing | Economist — A YEAR after a general election which the opposition said was stolen, the stand-off continues. On July 15th protests turned violent when demonstrators against the government of Cambodia’s strongman, Hun Sen, attacked security forces. Three leaders from the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) were arrested and denied bail. They face charges of insurrection.

Will Adidas garment workers share in its World Cup profit? | Guardian — With Adidas set to make 2bn from football related sales, the Cambodian garment workers behind its merchandise are still fighting for a fair wage.

Roll out the red carpet | SEA Globe — Southeast Asia’s rapid economic development has generated a wealthy elite with an appetite for high-end luxury products. These hungry consumers exist even in Cambodia – one of the world’s poorest countries. “Why Cambodia? We had this inherent demand that already existed here for Rolls-Royce and it got to a scale where it was so big that we had to act,” said Paul Harris, Asia-Pacific regional manager for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. “Otherwise, we would have dissatisfied our clients,” he added./The base model retail price starts at $450,000, including taxes./

INDONESIA

Indonesia’s election: The quick count and the long | Economist — On July 9th, for just the third time in the country’s history, voters directly chose their president, in the world’s largest single-day election. […] In the end, however, nothing is certain until the election commission releases the official results. The process could stretch out even beyond July 22nd, if the election is challenged the court has until August 22nd to announce its ruling.

MYANMAR/BURMA

Daily Report: A Tech Scene Develops in Myanmar, Using the Cellphone Grid | NYT — Limited telephone and Internet infrastructure, and decreasing smartphone costs, mean most of Myanmar’s 60 million people will experience the Internet first through cellphones.

Mandalay’s Chinese Muslims Chilled by Riots | NYT — The historical tolerance shown by bygone Buddhist rulers is unraveling in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second largest city, as antipathy between Buddhists and Muslims continues to spread.

Myanmar Court Sentences Journalists to Prison and Hard Labor | NYT — Burmese journalists said the jail terms in connection with an article about possible chemical weapons production were a blow to recently won freedoms.

THAILAND

Thailand: Celebrated Elephant Killed | NYT — Poachers have killed and sawed the tusks off a 50-year-old elephant that performed in Thai royal processions and was featured in Oliver Stone’s 2004 movie “Alexander.”

VIETNAM

Strategic Trust, an Oil Rig and Vietnam’s Dilemma | Diplomat — Vietnam is forced to decide between territorial integrity and its relationship with China.

World Cup Postcard From Hanoi | NYT — In Hanoi, a government-imposed midnight curfew made it difficult to find a place to catch the day’s action as it began to unfold in Brazil, where it is 10 hours earlier. But the curfew could not deter die-hard fans, and bettors.

Here is da news: how rappers hope to switch on Vietnam’s young generation | Guardian — Despite government suspicions, a Hanoi-based hip-hop band is taking a novel approach to broadcasting current affairs bulletins.

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