Category Archives: SLIDER

Regional Roundup for Week of 8.4.2016

LEADERS

Malaysia’s Leader, Dogged by a Billion-Dollar Scandal, Proves UntouchableThe New York Times – The conspirators were confident. They planned to confront Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak, at a cabinet meeting and demand his resignation. Prosecutors had collected evidence that Mr. Najib had deposited millions of dollars of public money into his personal bank account.

Related: Malaysian democracy group plans 1MDB protest rally – Reuters Malaysian democracy group Bersih plans a protest rally to demand greater government accountability and action to tackle a multi-billion-dollar scandal at state fund 1MDB, an official of the group said on Wednesday.

Lamenting 1MDB – New Mandala The damage from Malaysia’s latest financial scandal runs deep. Here’s how it will impact politics in the long-term. /// Meredith Weiss lays out many of the problems associated with Malaysian politics and how 1MDB may signal a systemic crisis. Moving forward, Malaysia has many hurdles to overcome: namely, rejuvenating a stifled press and the need for UMNO to reform itself by finding younger politicians and moving forward with an investigation into 1MDB. With Prime Minister Najib Razak seemingly untouchable at this point, don’t expect much to change. Outside investigations may reveal more information, but as long as UMNO continues to win votes, don’t look for the 1MDB scandal to catalyze structural political change.

Stage one of Sesan dam to be complete next year, PM reveals – The Phnom Penh Post The first stage of the controversial lower Sesan II hydropower dam in Stung Treng province will be complete in October 2017, Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday during a visit to the construction site. /// Slowly but surely Lower Sesan II is being built. All is not well though as 180 families have refused to be relocated and government negotiations with the families don’t seem to be moving forward. Ensuring the dam is up and running on time, and that local communities are given adequate compensation while not infringing upon their human rights will be an enormous task for Cambodia. With several dams planned for the 3S tributaries, any problems with the Lower Sesan II may augur problems for the other dams.

             Related: Rough Waters of Lower Sesan II Dam – Mekong Eye  

Body Count Rises as Philippine President Wages War on Drugs – The New York Times Since Rodrigo Duterte became president of the Philippines just over a month ago, promising to get tough on crime by having the police and the military kill drug suspects, 420 people have been killed in the campaign, according to tallies of police reports by the local news media. 

            Related: The dark side of Duterte’s deadly but popular drug war – Reuters

 SOUTH CHINA SEA

Philippines complied with UNCLOS to win ArbitrationThe Manila Times The Philippines won in almost all its submissions against China in the South China Sea award by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNLOS) Arbitration Tribunal, including the main issues that compelled the Philippines to urgently file the arbitration complaint, namely: that China had prohibited Philippine fishermen from exercising their historic rights to fish in Scarborough Shoal, and that China had unlawfully interfered with Philippine petroleum exploration in the Reed Bank which is within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines.

Avoid China-claimed shoal, Philippines tells fishermen – Bangkok Post The Philippines told its fishermen Wednesday to steer clear of a fishing ground in the disputed South China Sea to avoid harassment from Chinese authorities.

Russia to Join China in Naval Exercise in Disputed South China Sea – The New York Times  – Russian naval forces plan to join Chinese forces for a joint exercise in the South China Sea, highlighting Moscow’s partnership with Beijing after a recent international legal ruling underlined rifts between China and Southeast Asian nations over rival claims across the sea.

Major Chinese state paper calls for a military strike on Australian ships that enter the South China Sea – Business Insider – China’s state-run Global Times has published an editorial attacking Australia for supporting the recent international ruling on China’s activities in the South China Sea and called for strikes on any Australian ships which might undertake “freedom-of-navigation” activities in the region.

It’s typhoon season in the South China Sea—and China’s fake islands could be washed away – Quartz – Typhoon Nida is barreling through the South China Sea, after dumping over 300 millimeters of rain on the Philippines over the weekend. As Hong Kong braces for landfall sometime tonight (Aug. 1), some controversial, much-less-populated landmasses may already be feeling the brunt of the storm. /// An interesting topic not often mentioned when talking about the South China Sea. How will artificial islands hold up under immense typhoons and the continuous pounding of waves? It’d be ironic for China to ignore UNCLOS verdict only to have their island building project stopped by the true law of the sea: nature.

South China Sea: Beijing vows to prosecute ‘trespassers’ – CNN China has sent a clear warning to foreigners who enter contested areas of the South China Sea — stay away or you’ll be prosecuted.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

China’s More Proactive Policy Could Hold the Key to Peace in Burma – The Irrawaddy So that they could attend the summit in the border town of Mai Ja Yang in Kachin State, the Chinese authorities allowed ethnic armed group leaders to travel freely through Chinese territory from the Muse border in northern Shan State—a marked departure from previous practice.

Cambodia asks China to double rice quota – The Phnom Penh Post Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak lobbied his visiting Chinese counterpart, Gao Hucheng, yesterday to consider doubling Cambodia’s annual rice export quota to China while also proposing a host of agricultural trade agreements.

Thai-Chinese rail build gets B179bn capBangkok Post The Transport Ministry has agreed to cap the cost of the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima high-speed train project at 179 billion baht after months of arguments with Beijing on the final figure.

Laos – China’s gateway to Southeast Asia – The Nation Boten, once a remote village on the China-Laos border, has gone from boom to bust within a few short years and is now preparing for another boom.

Singapore’s prime minister says America’s credibility on the line over TPP – Asian Corespondent – The outcome of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal has put America’s credibility on the line, Singapore’s prime minister said in a candid assessment of the pact.

Obama, Singapore leader push Pacific trade deal in state visit – Reuters President Barack Obama and Singapore’s prime minister on Tuesday made sales pitches for a Pacific Rim trade deal that both U.S. presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have derided and that has been stalled in Congress.

Asean expects China, Brexit to slow economic growth – Bangkok Post Economic growth in Asean countries was expected to dip to 4.5% in 2016 from 4.7% last year due to China’s slowdown and uncertainties related to Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, the member states said in a statement.

Group Warns of Rising ASEAN Land Grab Conflicts – VOA News An international human rights organization says Southeast Asia is facing increasing conflicts and violence over land grab activity. A “land grab” relates to taking land quickly, forcefully and often illegally.

Mekong mainland coalesces after Asean rift – Bangkok Post  Although it was established 49 years ago, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) as we know it has been around only since 1999 when Cambodia joined Southeast Asia’s premier regional organization as its 10th member state after Laos and Myanmar had entered two years earlier. Asean was originally set up on different rationales and for different purposes than what it has become today as a loosely structured grouping of a diplomatic community with ambitious regionalisation plans that require a central strategic role in Asia.

Beijing Banks on Fractured ASEAN – Al-Jazeera  At last week’s summit in Laos, Phnom Penh effectively blocked any reference to The Hague ruling. /// It’s déjà vu all over again as Cambodia blocked a unified ASEAN statement. That said, if a majority of ASEAN countries were on board and it only took one country to block a statement, can it really be that ASEAN is as fractured as it is made out to be? It’s clear several countries are against China’s territorial usurpation and that Beijing influenced Cambodia. While a statement from ASEAN would send a signal of unification, I would imagine behind the scenes that many countries are unified and will continue to counter Beijing’s influence.

CHINA

Hydropower Country Profile: China – Hydropower.com For the tenth consecutive year, China added more new installed hydropower capacity than the rest of the world combined, cementing the country’s leading role in global hydropower development.

Xinhua Insight: Foreign trade steams ahead in China’s southwest –  Xinhua Chongqing Municipality in southwest China has seen a boom in foreign trade in recent years, primarily due to the extensive expansion of its transport network.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

VN urged to reduce raw mineral exports as natural resources decline – Vietnam Net The industrial production value growth in the first six months of the year slowed largely because of a decline in the mining industry.

Fears over Mekong River’s future – Vietmaz.com Vu Trong Hong, chairman of the Vietnam Irrigation Association has warned about the dangers Vietnam could face when Laos build a new hydropower plant on the Mekong River.

Mekong water diversion projects threaten Vietnam – Vietnam Net With the support of Pan Nature (People & Nature Reconciliation), a team of experts have conducted a fact-finding trip to Cambodia and some provinces in the northeast of Thailand to learn more about the Mekong river diversion projects.

Damming menaces water security in Mekong Delta – Vietnam Net Nguyen Nhan Quang, an independent expert in river basin management, said at a workshop in Hanoi last week that the Mekong Delta suffered the worst drought in 100 years in the 2015-2016 dry season. Drought worsened saltwater intrusion, taking a heavy toll on agriculture and people in the country’s largest rice producing region.

Everbright to Build Vietnam’s First Waste to Energy Project – Waste Management World China Everbright International has been awarded a contract to develop Vietnam’s first waste to energy project, a 7.5 MW plant in Can Tho.

River of Change: Hydropower dams and the Mekong River’s uncertain future – VOA Cambodia – Irrevocably change is underway upriver and downriver – from China to the Mekong delta – as countries along the river’s length pursue hydroelectric dams as a path to power generation.

A Tale of Two shrimpers – how will the Mekong Delta adapt to Climate Change? – The World Bank  – Vietnam’s Mekong Delta is famous for its rice fields, shrimp ponds, embankments and canals. This fertile patchwork sustains the livelihoods of more than 17 million people. But climate change, water scarcity and pollution are fraying the fabric of economic life in the delta. New approaches to managing land and water in uncertain times are needed.

Active and Engaged: Indigenous Women Make Their Voices Heard with Cambodian Mining Company – Mekong Citizen – Women – especially indigenous women – are often the most vulnerable to the negative impacts of development projects. Socheat Penh from Mekong Partnership for the Environment shares the story of Sok Sreymom, an indigenous woman in Cambodia who is turning that vulnerability into active engagement with a mining company.

Report: Three Parallel Rivers plagued by unregulated mining – Go Kunming

One of Yunnan’s most famous natural landscapes is under threat from unsupervised mining, according to a new report. A study published by non-governmental environmental organization Greenpeace claims industrial activity in the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas is seriously damaging China’s most biodiverse region.

Solar Revolution: French Aid Can Boost or Stifle Growth – The Cambodia Daily

If renewable energy—especially solar—is going to thrive in Cambodia, we need net metering. Without a net metering law or policy, solar will plod along. With it, solar will spread rapidly nationwide.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Focus: Philippines crime war packs decaying jails – The Manila Times Mario Dimaculangan shares a toilet with 130 other inmates in one of the Philippines’ most overcrowded jails, and conditions are getting worse as police wage an unprecedented war on crime.

Philippines’ Duterte says nation can survive without mining companies – Reuters Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday warned mining companies to strictly follow tighter environmental rules or shut down, saying the Southeast Asian nation could survive without a mining industry.

Vietnam: More than 200,000 people affected by Taiwanese Steel Plant Pollution – Asian Correspondent– The livelihoods of more than 200,000 people, including 41,000 fishermen, have been severely affected by the toxic pollution caused by a Taiwanese-owned steel complex, said the Vietnamese government.

New Malaysian security law gives PM sweeping powers, threatens human rights –Asian Correspondent- Amnesty International has warned that a Malaysian security law that comes into force Monday will give the government “unchecked and abusive powers”.

Related:New Malaysia security law debuts as PM fights critics  – Bangkok Post Tough new security legislation came into force in Malaysia on Monday, with critics saying the “draconian” law threatens democracy and could be used against opponents of the scandal-tainted prime minister.

Look who’s back: A sweeping cabinet reshuffle installs an unloved former generalThe Economist – Joko Widodo, Indonesia’s president, universally known as Jokowi, reshuffled his cabinet on July 27th for the second time since taking office in late 2014. Although observers had expected only minor fiddling, he made big changes.

Indonesia to sink scores of boats in fishing fight – Bangkok Post Indonesia will sink up to 71 impounded foreign boats this month on its Independence Day, a minister said Monday, ramping up a campaign to deter illegal fishing in its vast waters.

Indonesian seaweed farmers sue Thailand’s PTT over Australian oil spill – Reuters Indonesian seaweed farmers on Wednesday sued Thailand’s PTT Exploration and Production for potentially more than A$200 million ($152 million) to cover damages from Australia’s worst oil spill in 2009.

Charting Changes in Japanese FDIThe Phnom Penh Post Japan’s investment in Cambodia continues to grow and its investors are playing a leading role in developing and diversifying the Kingdom’s light industrial sector. The Post’s Hor Kimsay sat down with Yasuhara Hiroto, head of the Japan Desk at the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), to discuss what is drawing Japanese investors to Cambodia, and where they are directing their capital.

Army ‘image’ trumps the people’s truth – Bangkok Post Her uncle was beaten to death in an army camp and now she has been sued for revealing what happened. On Monday, Naritsarawan Kaewnopparat was arrested and charged for defamation and disseminating “false information”

Thailand: Military to sue former PM Yingluck over rice subsidy scheme losses – Asian Correspondent – Thailand’s former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will be taken to court over billions of dollars allegedly lost by her administration’s rice subsidy program, the military government said.

Embassy Warns Burmese in Thailand About Pre-Referendum Crackdown – The Irrawaddy – The Burmese embassy in Bangkok has sent warning notices to Burmese migrants in Thailand alerting them of a surge in raids and surprise checks by Thai police and the army on migrants’ workplaces and living quarters.

The Dark Secrets of Thailand’s Military – The Diplomat The Thai army has is once again mired in controversy after a series of young cadets were found dead while undergoing military training.

As vote looms, Thailand’s powerful army aims to preserve role – Reuters Thailand votes on Sunday for a new constitution that aims to subdue political parties and give the generals a permanent role in overseeing the country’s economic development, senior military officers say. /// Thailand’s military will try one more time to subdue political parties and make itself the preeminent institution in Thai politics. A “no” vote on the referendum would signal a blow to the military and leave General Prayut Chan-Ocha’s path to democracy in question (again!). Whatever the vote, the military likely has a contingency plan to stay in power as long as possible – because the only way to prevent the country from degenerating into parliamentary democracy that gives each citizen an equal vote, would be to stay in power. After all, Father Prayut knows best.

Suu Kyi tackles military land grabs in test of new Myanmar government – Reuters By the standards of her village in Myanmar’s swampy Ayeyarwady Delta, Than Shin was a prosperous woman. She had 20 acres of farmland on which her family grew rice. But her fortunes changed in 2000 when the military government informed her it was taking possession of her land.

Social Welfare Minister: Deforestation and Exploitation of Resources Contributed to Flooding – The Irrawaddy – As Burma once again experiences serious flooding, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement has invited civil society organizations (CSOs) to join the ministry’s relief and rescue efforts.

This week’s news digest was authored by Pete Telaroli.

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Report: Three Parallel Rivers plagued by unregulated mining

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Image: Greenpeace

One of Yunnan’s most famous natural landscapes is under threat from unsupervised mining, according to a new report. A study published by non-governmental environmental organization Greenpeace claims industrial activity in the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas is seriously damaging China’s most biodiverse region.

The report, issued July 27, contends that through both satellite and on-the-ground research, it is clear mining operations in northwest Yunnan are leading to deforestation, water pollution and habitat loss. Of particular concern, says Greenpeace, is the destruction of what are termed ‘intact forest landscapes’ (IFL) — tracts of “existing forests which show no signs of significant human activity [that] are able to maintain their native biodiversity”.

These green belts are extremely rare in China, comprising less than four percent of the country’s total forest cover. The most complete IFL’s sit clustered in high alpine regions in Sichuan, Tibet and Yunnan, and are known to harbor the vast majority of China’s endemic plant and animal species. However, this biodiversity — especially in Yunnan — is increasingly under threat.

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Image: Wikipedia

Greenpeace researchers found that “over the past 13 years, a total of 490,000 hectares of IFL in China have been lost”. More than half of the lost forest is in northwest Yunnan, where the upper reaches of the Salween, Mekong and Yangtze rivers flow side by side for 300 kilometers through spectacular mountain scenery. The area — which covers 1.7 million hectares — was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003.

Despite its protected status, the sprawling wilderness and surrounding buffer zones are home to widespread and unregulated mining. Over the course of their research, Greenpeace representatives found two-dozen illegal mines in a region containing half of China’s total fish and animal species, reporting:

In total we uncovered 24 mines operating in the IFL region, three of which were in the UNESCO site. It also seems likely that some of the mines never applied for the obligatory environmental impact assessment before they began operations, presumably because they knew it would be refused.

The environmental group ends its report with the demand that the “Yunnan government immediately halt all mining operations” in the region. And while stringent environmental enforcement is not particularly strong in the province, there is hope increased national supervision will help. Earlier this year Beijing announced mining and hydroelectric development would be suspended along the Nu river — the westernmost of the Three Parallel Rivers — in favor of tourism industry development. Perhaps this will serve as a model for the entire region.

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On the Rocks: China’s expected response to tribunal decision threatens to undo soft power gains

South_China_Sea

The Permanent Court of Arbitration is set to rule tomorrow on a case brought by the Philippine government over China’s attempts to claim almost the entire South China Sea as sovereign territory. Beijing has boycotted the tribunal and betting the odds are that the verdict will not be in China’s favor.

Whatever happens tomorrow at the tribunal, Chinese state media is going to claim victory. But within the walls of Zhongnanhai, there ought to be some soul searching. This assumes of course that anyone who works in Zhongnanhai still has something approaching a soul.

Should the tribunal rules against the PRC — as it is expected to — and if the Chinese government chooses to use the tribunal’s ruling to, for example, wipe the ass of the nearest stray dog — as they will almost certainly want to do — the repercussions will ripple far past the rocks and reefs of the South China Sea.

Internationally, China has worked hard over the previous two decades to present itself as a good global citizen. As the US and their allies engaging in what many around the world see as reckless military adventurism, China positioned itself as a semi-sane alternative to the failed — and sometimes disastrous — policies of the West.

Choosing to ignore the tribunal’s ruling jeopardizes this concerted effort at image building. China can point all it wants to the way the US especially routinely ignores these sorts of hearings and decisions, but if the Chinese government is serious about being the voice of reason in a world gone mad they have to better than the US. Caesar’s wife must be above reproach. “You did it first” isn’t going to fly.

The second issue is domestic. Chinese media routinely demonizes the United States and the West for their actions around the world. Implicit in this coverage is the idea that most of the world — those countries who don’t burn summer palaces and invade Middle Eastern nations for sport — see China as the good guy in world affairs.

The Chinese government wants to present every issue as China (and by extension, the rest of the world) versus the West. It’s the US and their allies who are the odd ones out in the world. In some ways, that might be true. But it doesn’t mean that China’s neighbors see China as any less of the threat.

In the case of the South China Sea, Beijing is opposed by countries, like the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam, who ought, by virtue of geography and a shared history as victims of colonialism, have common cause with China.

One reason the Chinese government has been so insistent on the US being the real impetus behind the decision to take the South China Sea case before the tribunal is that it helps soften an awkward truth: China isn’t as beloved around the world — and particularly in asia — as the Chinese state media wants people to believe.

Talking with folks in Beijing, there is the persistent belief that the Philippines and the other countries opposed to China’s territorial grab in the South China Sea are being hoodwinked into becoming the pawns of the usual suspects: The United States and Japan.

The Chinese government has made the South China Sea a core strategic interest. But one wonders if Chinese leaders have thought through the downfield implications of digging in on this issues. Maybe they have and have decided that they are fresh out of fucks to give about what Vietnam thinks of them.

The callous cynic in me might suggest that while China’s actions in the South China Sea represent a challenge to America’s leadership and strategic position in the Western Pacific, Beijing’s refusal to accept the tribunal’s decision could be seen as an opportunity to undermine some of the gains China has made in global public opinion over the past two decades.

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Filed under China, FEATURES, SLIDER, South China Seas, USA

Yuxi begins experiment as one of China’s ‘Sponge Cities’

Yuxi

The city of Yuxi in central Yunnan province. Image: Sina

The city of Yuxi (玉溪) in central Yunnan is one of several municipalities across China to implement a green infrastructure pilot program meant to alleviate urban flooding while also curbing future water shortages. The so-called “Sponge Cities” (海绵城市) initiative is a three-year undertaking studying how urban areas can most effectively be redesigned and retrofitted to capture and effectively reuse rainwater.

Yuxi was chosen in 2015 alongside much larger cities including Chongqing, Xiamen and Tianjin. A multidisciplinary panel formed by China’s ministries of Finance, Housing and Water Resources carried out the the selection process. Committee members stressed the need for variety in their choices of participating cities, choosing Yuxi because it features a unique set of circumstances. The prefectural level city of 2.4 million sits at a relatively high elevation — 1,600 meters above sea level — and over the past several years has built a series of urban reservoirs meant to stave off drought.

By merit of its selection, Yuxi stands to receive an estimated 1.2 billion yuan (US$180 million) inSponge City funding over the next three years. The money will be put toward the construction of what the Chinese press is fond of calling “a more ecological civilization”.

Such strategies acknowledge the need to make municipal areas far more adaptive in the face of climate change. In the words of Yu Kongjian, dean of Peking University’s College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, “The rate of flooding is a national scandal. We have poured more than enough concrete. It’s time to invest in a new type of green infrastructure.” What that means specifically covers a huge range of endeavors.

In Yuxi and other pilot program cities, updating rainwater collection systems, and in some cases rebuilding them entirely, will play an enormous and costly role. Much of the water captured during rainstorms will then be funneled toward newly built or existing parks and wetlands. These areas are planned to serve the dual purpose of providing residents with more green space options during dry seasons, while serving as collection points during the summer monsoon months. The parks and wetlands will feature plants that can withstand sporadic flooding, as well as the ability to help filter impurities out of rainwater runoff.

At their most ideal, Sponge Cities can be thought of as a closed system, capturing nearly all rainwater and utilizing it in some manner. In certain instances — such as with the construction of permeable roads and sidewalks — this may simply include mild filtering before runoff soaks into the ground and replenish groundwater supplies. However, the collected water can also be channeled to underground cisterns, used to irrigate rooftop and vertical green spaces, or supplement nearby agriculture areas.

Over the next four years, according to Yuxi mayor Rao Nanhu, urban planners expect to equip 30 percent of the city with drainage upgrades and gray water systems, as well as build new and adaptable green spaces. This percentage is expected to grow to 80 percent by the end of 2030. In 2015, when the Sponge City initiative began to gain national momentum, Qiu Baoxing, former vice-minister of housing and urban-rural development told The GuardianA sponge city follows the philosophy of innovation — that a city can solve [its own] water problems instead of creating them. In the long run, sponge cities will reduce carbon emissions and help fight climate change.

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Filed under China, SLIDER, Sustainability and Resource Management, water, Yunnan Province

Regional Roundup for Week of 6.30.16

It’s about time to head up to the poop deck to keep watch for the ruling on the Philippines case against China over the South China Seas. If this summer isn’t hot enough already, the temperature is about to increase by about 9 dashes.

Leaders

U.S promotes Thailand out of tier 3 – Bangkok Post The Foreign Ministry says Thailand has worked tirelessly over the past year to improve its human trafficking situation and stands by its efforts even if the country doesn’t budge from its low ranking in the US State Department’s upcoming report. /// An important ruling for Thailand as it has been working hard to get itself off the list. Moving from tier three to tier two will enable Thailand to join the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) just as the same move enabled Malaysia to join last year. General Prayut Chan-Ocha has signaled his willingness to join TPP, so it appears Thailand may be positioning itself to join when the second round of accession opens up. That said, there is still plenty of work to be done in the fishing industry and with other migrant labor communities, so the U.S. would be wise to monitor Thailand closely to ensure that the work it has done wasn’t all for naught.

US to downgrade Burma in annual Human Trafficking ReportThe Irrawaddy The United States has decided to place Burma on its global list of worst offenders in human trafficking, officials said; a move aimed at prodding the country’s new democratically elected government and its still-powerful military to do more to curb the use of child soldiers and forced labor. /// As Thailand goes up, Burma goes down. While the U.S. wants to curb the use of child soldiers and forced labor, this may also be a case where the U.S. is using the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report as a political tool. The U.S. can use the tier three status either as a stick or a carrot in encouraging economic, social, and legal reforms in Burma. The use of existing sanctions can encourage the military elements of the government to reform, or act as a deterrent against future bad behavior. This is most likely one reason why Aung San Suu Kyii has not asked for sanctions to be lifted.

Thailand must end trafficking of all migrant workers – New Mandala Slavery in the seafood industry is just one part of a broader problem. And here’s how it can be addressed.

China slams South China Sea case as court set to rule – Reuters An international court said on Wednesday it would deliver a hotly anticipated ruling in the Philippines’ case against China over the South China Sea on July 12, drawing an immediate rebuke from Beijing, which rejects the tribunal’s jurisdiction. /// Surprise! Well, not really. This has been the expected response from China as the decision draws near. While China has repeatedly disregarded the Hague’s jurisdiction on the case, it’s still unclear how it would act if the court rules against it. If it continues its island building and militarization of the Sea after the ruling, how the U.S. and ASEAN countries react will be critical to maintaining peace and positive relations in the region.

 

SOUTH CHINA SEA

After the South China Sea Arbitration – The Diplomat Where do we go after the panel has spoken?

Vietnam’s ‘Soft diplomacy’ in the South China Sea – The Diplomat Ly Son Island is a living museum documenting Vietnam’s claims to the Paracels and Spratlys.

China’s Curious South China Sea Negotiation Policy – The Diplomat What would China expect to achieve with bilateral negotiations on maritime disputes?

The South China Sea Moment of Truth Is Almost Here – The National Interest The Philippines’ law fare strategy in the South China Sea disputes is inching closer to a moment of truth

 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Seven Indonesian Sailors Kidnapped in the Sulu Sea – Bangkok Post Seven Indonesian sailors have been kidnapped at sea in the southern Philippines, the government in Jakarta said on Friday, the latest in a spree of abductions by armed gangs in the strife-torn region.

Related: Indonesian Government asks Philippines to Guard Barges in its Regional Waters – Jakarta Post

Government Prohibits Indonesia Vessels from Sailing to Philippines – Jakarta Post

In wake of repeat kidnappings, Indonesia, Philippines boost defense cooperationThe Jakarta Post Indonesia and the Philippines have agreed to boost defense cooperation in the wake of another hostage-taking incident, with seven Indonesian crewmen abducted by armed militants in the waters off the southern Philippines.

Cambodia and Laos to boost trade, open more checkpointsThe Bangkok Post Laos has asked Cambodia to increase trade and investment in its northern neighbor as bilateral trade between the two countries is small and has plenty of room to expand.

ASEAN to Form Ecotourism Clusters – Jakarta Post Tourism chiefs of the 10 ASEAN member countries have approved a declaration manifesting their common desire to boost tourism growth and align regional ecotourism destinations during a roundtable in Champasak, Laos on Wednesday as part of the first-ever ASEAN Ecotourism Forum.

ASEAN can’t afford hollow regional Tensions – The New Mandala Southeast Asian states need to maintain unity or risk irrelevance in the face of growing tensions and rivalry in the South China Sea.

The ASEAN experiment – The New Mandala Nicholas Farrelly and Kishore Mahbubani on the organisation’s past, present and future.

What Brexit means for ASEAN – The New Mandala The split between the UK and EU will have economic, political and psychological repercussions for Southeast Asia.

SUSTAINABILTY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Egat reaffirms coal-fired power plants – The Bangkok Post The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand has confirmed it will complete six new coal-fired power plants by 2025 and boost its share of the power supply market to 50% from 37%. /// EGAT continues its strategy to make Thailand less reliant on natural gas, but increasing its reliance on cheap coal could prove to backfire as civil society organizations push back against coal plants as they have in Krabi. The military government has said it will not use section 44 of the constitution to override environmental impact assessments or community rights, so how it deals with possible opposition to the plants will be something to watch.

Thailand’s nuclear plans inch forward with new bill – Nikkei Asian Review  Advocates of nuclear energy in Thailand, like their counterparts around the world, were given pause when a massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan five years ago triggered a series of meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant — the worst such accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

Petroleum Bills Sail through First Reading – The Nation The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) yesterday passed the amended drafts of two controversial petroleum bills by an overwhelming majority in the first reading.

LPG import to stop next month – The Bangkok Post The Energy Business Department has reaffirmed Thailand will stop importing liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) from next month for the first time in eight years because of sufficient domestic supply and falling demand, says Witoon Kulcharoenwirat, the department’s director-general.

Murdered while Defending Thailand’s Environment – NYT Bangkok-based photographer Luke Doggleby showcases his work highlighting the danger of working as an environmentalist in Thailand. The exhibition uses photos of 37 people who have lost their lives protecting Thailand’s environment.

Dam displaced villagers protest Chinese firmThe Cambodia Daily Nearly 100 villagers protested at the site of the under-construction Stung Treng 2 irrigation dam in Od­dar Meanchey province on Thursday, demanding replacement plots for the farmland they lost to the project.

Koh Kong Fisherman Struggle in the Shadow of Sand Dredgers – The Phnom Penh Post Phen Sophany cuts the motor as the boat nears the centre of a mangrove-lined estuary in Koh Kong province, near the isolated fishing village of Koh Sralav. “This is where the island used to be,” the 38-year-old member of environmental activist group Mother Nature says, the village visible in the distance.

Solar’s Future looks a bit Brighter – The Phnom Penh Post For a country drenched in sunshine, Cambodia has made remarkably little effort to harness the abundant energy of the sun. The Post’s Kali Kotoski sat down with Jim Gramberg, CEO of Solar Partner Asia, to discuss what is holding back solar energy initiatives, and recent baby steps toward private sector involvement.

The Myitsone Dam: China’s three optionsFrontier Myanmar As China steps up the pressure for a resumption of work on the controversial Myitsone dam, Myanmar is told it faces three options over the project’s future.

Indonesia faces environmental time bomb after coal bust – Reuters  Thousands of mines are closing in Indonesia’s tropical coal belt as prices languish and seams run dry. But almost none of the companies have paid their share of billions of dollars owed to repair the badly scarred landscape they have left behind.

Vietnam drought leaves one million in urgent need of food aid – EU – Thomson Reuters Foundation An El Niño-induced drought in Vietnam has left 1 million people in urgent need of food assistance and 2 million people lacking access to drinking water, Europe’s humanitarian aid agency said.

Chinese giant paper plant claims not a threat to Mekong River – Vietnam Express In response to concerns about the possible environmental damage a $1.2 billion paper plant could do to the Mekong River, Chinese investors say they will use a high-tech treatment system to purify waste water from the plant.

Mekong Delta loses $210 million to drought and salinity – Talk Vietnam Vietnam’s Mekong Delta has suffered losses worth more than VND4.7 trillion ($210 million) due to the severe and prolonged drought and saltwater intrusion during dry season, Malaysian National News Agency Bernama cited the Southwest Region Steering Committee as saying.

Mekong Delta should learn from Weaknesses to grow Further – Talk Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has asked Mekong Delta localities to be aware of the region’s weaknesses, carry out appropriate measures to address difficulties and pursue sustainable agricultural restructuring to ensure locals’ stable livelihoods.

Laos Speeds up Hydropower Plant on Mekong River despite Concerns – Thanh Nien News

Construction work on the Don Sahong Dam in Laos is progressing at a rapid pace, amid urgent questions about its impacts on the food security and livelihoods of those near the site as well as up and downstream the Mekong River.

Damming the Nam Tha in Northern Laos – The Diplomat This photographic essay by Scott Ezell showcases dam construction on the Nam Tha River in Northern Laos. The photo essay starts with the Nam Tha as he experienced it in 2014, then switches to the way he encountered it in 2016.

Related: A companion piece from New Mandala (from Nov 24, 2015): The Silenced River

South China Sea reefs ‘decimated’ as giant clams harvested in bulk – Reuters Ornaments made from the shells of endangered giant clams, renowned in China for having auspicious powers and the luster of ivory, have become coveted luxuries, a trend which has wreaked havoc on the ecosystem of the South China Sea.

 

CHINA

Chinese Firm floats proposal for rail link to capital’s portThe Phnom Penh Post A Chinese state railway construction contractor has approached the [Cambodian] government with a bid to conduct a feasibility study on connecting the capital’s river port to the Kingdom’s sole operating railway line, a state official said yesterday.

China-Led Development Bank Starts with $509 Million in Loans for 4 Projects – NY Times A new Chinese-led international development bank announced its first four loans on Saturday, pledging to lend $509 million for projects to spread electric power in rural Bangladesh, upgrade living conditions in slums in Indonesia, and improve roads in Pakistan and Tajikistan.

China’s Xi urges caution over U.S. missile deployment in South Korea – Reuters Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday urged South Korea to pay attention to China’s concerns about the deployment of the U.S. THAAD missile defense system to the country and “cautiously” address the plan.

China dam water release captured by drone – The Straits times A photographer used a drone to capture spectacular images of cascades of water gushing from a dam in central China, an annual event attracting thousands of tourists.

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Thai PM Supports Delayed Burmese Refugee Return – The Irrawaddy Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-Ocha announced ahead of his meeting with Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu-Kyi that Thailand is open to repatriation of the roughly 100,000 Burmese refugees in Thailand, but that Myanmar must be given more time to prepare for their arrival.

Related: PM Proposes Joint Working Group to Study Repatriation – The Nation

Related: Nearly 200 Burmese refugees to be repatriated from Thailand – The Irrawaddy The Burmese government plans to repatriate 196 Burmese nationals displaced by conflict from refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border, according to Burma’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  The two countries agreed to cooperate on refugee returns during the visit of Burma’s State Counselor/Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi to Thailand last week.

Thailand defeated in UNSC bid – The Bangkok Post Kazakhstan easily defeated Thailand’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, with just 55 countries backing Thailand against 138 for Kazakhstan.

Ethnic Strife Flares again in Myanmar as Buddhists ransack Mosque – The Nation Violence erupted in the village of Thuye Thai Mein in Bago province as 200 Buddhists attacked Muslims and a mosque. The violence was triggered by an argument between a Muslim man and Buddhist woman about a school being constructed in the village. Around 70 Muslims sought refuge in a police station overnight and others have fled the area.

Related – Burma: Officials hesitate to take action after Buddhist-Muslim dispute, fearing further violence – Asian Correspondent It has almost been a week since an angry, 200-strong mob in a Burmese village assaulted a Muslim man, ransacked his home, and destroyed the village mosque and Muslim cemetery, and yet police have yet to launch an investigation into the matter.

Observers Urge Govt To Create New Export Markets, Boost Trade VolumeThe Irrawaddy A recent World Bank report says that trade growth in Burma could reduce poverty and boost prosperity, but local observers say in order for that to happen the government must implement economic policies that increase export markets.

Malaysia PM sacks party deputy, still considering cabinet reshuffle – Reuters

Prime Minister Najib Razak sacked his former deputy from the United Malay National Organization (UMNO), along with Mukhriz Mahatir, the son of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. /// Prime Minister Najib Razak continues his consolidation of power after promising election results for the dominant Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition in Sarawak , Kuala Kangsar, and Sungai Besar. Having dismissed himself of any wrong doing in the 1MDB corruption case, Prime Minister Razak has set himself up with an eventual confrontation with his former mentor, Mahathir Mohamad, who has left the United Malay National Organization (UMNO) and the BN coalition.

Related: Malaysia PM reshuffles cabinet in anticipation of snap election – Bangkok Post

Malaysia: Top opposition leader Lim Guan Eng charged with graft – Asian Correspondent A prominent Malaysian opposition leader and critic of Prime Minister Najib Razak was charged by authorities for corruption on Thursday.          

Malaysian ex-PM claims former party ‘bought votes’ in recent polls – Asian Correspondent Malaysian ex-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has accused his former party United Malays National Organization (UMNO) of vote-buying after it won two by-elections in landslide victories earlier this month.

Duterte in, Aquino out – The Manila Times President-elect Rodrigo Duterte will formally assume office today [June 29] to start his six-year term as the country’s 16th President. /// Often (wrongfully) compared to Donald Trump, President Rodrigo Duterte’s first days in office will be closely watched to see if his actions match his rhetoric. I, for one, don’t see this as likely because Duterte will run into the same problem that other popularly elected presidents like Obama and Jokowi have run into: institutions. While he does hold a majority in parliament, Duterte will still have to work with the land-holding elite who he has been openly hostile to. Given that, it’s unlikely that Duterte will be able to unilaterally solve problems like the South China Sea, in which he once stated that he would “ride on a jet ski” to take on China himself.

As Duterte takes over in Philippines, police killings stir fear – Reuters Two things catch the eye in the office of Joselito Esquivel, a police colonel enforcing a national crackdown on drugs in the Philippines’ most crime-ridden district: a pair of boxing gloves in a display cabinet and an M4 assault rifle lying beside him.

Incoming Cabinet and other incoming senior government officials – The Manila Times President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed 23 cabinet secretaries and 18 other officials to key government bureaus and agencies.

 China, Japan to impact Philippine Exports – The Manila Times Slowing growth in China and continuing tepid growth in Japan will continue to provide headwinds against the Philippines’ trade position, but the impact on the overall current account will be limited, Fitch-owned BMI Research said.

This week’s news digest was authored by Peter Telaroli. Welcome to Stimson Pete!

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Kunming’s Twin Expos, Bigger, More Important Than Ever

kunming expo grounds

Kunming’s expo grounds; photo: Sina

In a mark of the spring city’s growing importance, both on the domestic and international stage, 5,000 businesses and nearly as many officials from eighty-nine countries converged on Kunming. This is, of course, in reference to the fourth annual China-South Asia Expo (CSAEXPO) and twenty-fourth Kunming Import and Export Commodities Fair (KIEF), which concluded with much fanfare, as well as some highly negative press, this past weekend.

The twin exhibitions are held jointly each year with the express purpose of promoting Yunnan and China-based companies. While the expos advance provincial businesses and inject capital into the local economy, they also serve to broaden China’s economic soft-power sphere, particularly in those countries sharing the same geographic neighborhood. These nations not only include major trade partners India, Thailand and Vietnam, but also smaller ones such as the Maldives, Nepal and Pakistan.

In years past, the paired events have been enormously successful. Last year, 785 billion yuan (US$127 billion) was generated in newly signed contracts, and some 740,000 people attended. The 2016 version saw increases over last year, although by expo standards, they were modest. The total value of all new contracts signed — which includes non-binding memoranda of understanding — hit 861 billion yuan (US$132 billion). Over the course of the week-long event, some 800,000 people took part, with vendors conducting combined on-site sales of 338 million yuan (US$51.9 million).

Many high-ranking officials attended the convention, among them the vice president of Nepal and the deputy prime ministers of Cambodia and Vietnam. Yunnan Party Secretary Li Jiheng ( 李纪恒) specifically welcomed the diplomatic entourage from Vietnam, which was named the ‘country of honor‘ at KIEF.

Trade between Vietnam and China has been on the upswing despite sometimes faltering bilateral relations. Along the countries’ shared border, improved shipping and logistics capabilities — a focus of Yunnan’s current five-year development plan — have been upgraded to the point that an estimated 87 percent of all trade is scanned and inspected electronically, shortening once laborious customs routines.

Vietnam Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung (left) meets with Yunnan Party Secretary Li Jiheng

Vietnam Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung (left) meets with Yunnan Party Secretary Li Jiheng Photo: Dangcongsan

South Asian nations also maintained a strong presence at the expos, with India taking the lead. Small independent businesses from the subcontinent exhibited a wide range of products including handicrafts, handlooms and carpets, while representatives from larger Indian businesses such as Tata and Infosys were also in attendance. Countries from further afield were also represented. Shylar Bredewold, who attended on the final day to do some shopping and network for his business Centreal International Investments, shared the following impressions:

I felt the Expo was a living, thriving example of the ballet of chaos endemic to China and to Kunming in particular. There was a relentless flow of people in absolutely all directions, some more friendly than others. Among the pieces I enjoyed most were the lovely Persian rugs from Afghanistan and Iran, Afghan lapis jewelry, and some embroidered wall hangings from Nepal. As was expected and owing to the nature of my business, I had relatively few meaningful interactions which might prove useful to further my own professional interests, [but] would I go again? Most certainly.

India was not the only South Asian country to make a splash, as Pakistan used more exhibition stalls than any other country. In a statement regarding the expos, Pakistan’s minister of commerce emphasized his country’s eagerness to do business with China. As with Indian representatives, the minister voiced his support for China’s Belt and Road initiative and the long-term prospects of the BCIM trade corridor, while also stressing the need for economic reciprocity.

Huge business deals and southwest China’s slow-growing importance on the international stage notwithstanding, CSAEXPO and KIEF did contain some drama this year. A high-profile meeting held by the foreign ministers of China and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states made international headlines when a joint statement regarding the South China Sea was retracted just three hours after being issued to the press. The situation took some of the expected shine off the otherwise well-organized and executed expos, and somewhat perfectly revealed both the positive and negative aspects of Yunnan’s current growing pains.

kunming expo 3

Image: V4

 

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Regional Roundup for Week of 6.24.16

LEADERS

Indonesia, Defying Beijing, Seizes Fishing Boat in South China Sea – NYT The boat and its crew were taken Friday after warships fired warning shots at Chinese vessels suspected of illegal fishing, an Indonesian official said. //This is the newest episode of the illegal fishing saga in South China Sea. This is a multi-country problem where Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and China accuse each other of violating exclusive economic zones in order to fish. China maintains a position that despite international laws, ‘traditional fishing grounds’ should remain open for all.

Related: Indonesia confirms it shoat at ‘criminal’ Chinese fishing boats near its Natuna islands – Quartz

Related: Indonesian navy fires on Chinese fishing boat, injuring one, Beijing claims – The Guardian 

Related: A Third 2016 Natuna Stand-Off Highlights Growing Indonesia-China Tensions 

Revealed: The Truth Behind ASEAN’s Retracted Kunming Statement -The Diplomat New details on the June 14 meeting between ASEAN and China shed light on the imbroglio surrounding ASEAN’s statement. // This story brings very important news about what really happened in the ASEAN-China dialogue. It seems the statement issued was originally agreed to by all members. However, China did not agree to it (obviously!). Malaysia, frustrated by Chinese interference, released the statement to media anyway. Later the statement had to be rescinded.

The ASEAN-China Special Meeting Mystery: Bureaucratic Snafu or Chinese Heavy-Handedness? – The Diplomat Was ASEAN consensus undermined or is there a more mundane bureaucratic explanation for the confusion surrounding the statement?

Not a Repeat but and Echo: ASEAN’s Retracted Statement and the Specter of the 2012 Joint Communique Failure – East by Southeast The emergence of numerous reports that consensus on the statement was withdrawn after-the-fact due to China pressuring Laos appears to many observers a repeat of ASEAN’s failure in 2012 to reach consensus on a joint statement during the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia.

REGIONAL RELATIONS 

After the South China Sea Ruling – The Diplomat The long-awaited Tribunal’s merits ruling will come soon. What happens then?

Suu Kyi, Thai govt to sign new migrant deal – The Bangkok Post Burma’s Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi and the Labour Ministry plan to solve the issue of illegal Burmese migrant workers by slashing their mandatory “work break” period from three years to 30 days.

Related: Suu Kyi’s Trip to Refugee Camp in Thailand Scrapped

The Lady and a Junta, Thai-Style – The Irrawaddy The visit this week by Nobel Peace Prize laureate and democracy icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will certainly brighten the spirits of the sombre Thai people and could also lift the profile of the Thai junta and Myanmar’s top leader. // important visit as it is expected Suu Kyi and the Thai government will discuss about a host of important issues including hydropower dams in the Salween river. Environmentalists have already urged Suu Kyi to take a stance against dams on Salween because of their perceived environmental risk.

Statement on the Visit of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to Thailand – June 2016 International Rivers General civil society members and environmental activists express concern about infrastructural projects including hydropower projects on the Slaween River.

Related: Suu Kyi urged not to back Salween dams –DVB Multimedia

US, Thailand Conclude Annual Military Exercise – The Diplomat CARAT Thailand 2016 ran from June 16 to 23.

Why Asean must worry about the Mekong Delta – The Nation Grouping is not giving enough attention to water resource security

Mekong countries share land governance experience – The Jakarta Post Increasing security of land rights and transparency of land governance would contribute to government accountability, reduce costs for businesses and strengthen the climate for responsible investment in the Mekong region, a regional land forum in Hanoi was told Tuesday.

China tackles the issues of Greater Mekong Subregion –The Nation (Opinion) This year, many of those present will have heard for the first time of a new multinational agreement driven by China that will play an increasingly important role – namely the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation or LMC (Lancang is China’s name for Mekong). In many ways the LMC is a smaller version of Asean But with just six countries involved and China at the helm, it is expected that results will come more quickly. //LMC brings hope for hydro-diplomacy at the multilateral level in the Mekong region. China has built a cascade of dams in upper Mekong region which controls significant amount of water flow in the downstream region. It is important for all lower Mekong countries to discuss the issue with China and find a way to act collaboratively on this.   

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT 

Special economic zone taps into solar power – Phnom Penh Post News Phnom Penh SEZ launched its Clean Energy Initiative yesterday, inaugurating two new solar power systems to supply electricity for water pumps on the 357-hectare industrial park. The initiative, carried out in partnership with Singapore-based Cleantech Solar Corp, is aimed at decreasing CO2 emissions and reducing energy costs.

China to generate a quarter of electricity from wind power by 2030 – The Guardian  Report says figures could rise to nearly one-third with power sector reforms, making it the world wind energy leader by a large margin.

Renewable energy must be boosted five-fold by 2025: Jokowi – The Jakarta Post President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has underlined the importance of clean energy development and energy conservation in the nation’s roadmap of energy development up to 2050. 

CHINA

Chinese Fishermen: The New Global Pirates? – The Diplomat It’s not just the South China Sea — Chinese fishing vessels have been accused of illegal activities all over the world.

China on Indonesia’s Detention of Boat –NYTimes A Chinese spokeswoman accused Indonesia of breaking international law by holding the crew of a Chinese fishing boat that was operating in the South China Sea.

China’s ‘Historic Rights’ in the South China Sea: Made in America? – The Diplomat The current understanding of “historic rights” in the South China Sea in China can be traced back to a U.S. diplomat.

A Chinese River’s Uncertain Fate – NYTimes Environmentalists have defended the Nu, in Yunnan Province, for more than a decade, battling state hydropower firms intent on building dams.

China’s Ambitious New ‘Silk Road’ Trade Route Takes Shape in Africa – Chinafile Four years and hundreds of billions of dollars later, China’s ambitious global trading strategy known as the “New Maritime Silk Road,” or “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR), is now coming to life, particularly in parts of East Africa where major infrastructure and defense projects are being built.

China’s plan to cut meat consumption by 50% cheered by climate campaigners – The Guardian New dietary guidelines could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1bn tonnes by 2030, and could lessen country’s problems with obesity and diabetes.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Presidential Spokesman Hits Back Against UN Criticism Over Rohingya – The Irrawaddy Magazine Zaw Htay, Spolesman for the President’s office of Myanmar says the UN and international community should focus on ongoing reforms inside Myanmar rather than human rights abuses by the former government. The comment came after UN criticized Myanmar’s handling of religious and ethnic minorities, especially the Muslim Rohingyas.

Related: Arakanese and Rohingya Criticize New Govt Term for Muslims 

EU Says Burma Needs “Space” to Deal with Rights Abuses – The Irrawaddy The European Union said on Wednesday that Burma needed “space” to deal with human rights abuses in its restive northwest, adding it would respect the call by country leader Aung San Suu Kyi to avoid the term “Rohingya” to describe persecuted Muslims there.

War of lexicon in Arakan State – DVB Multimedia Group The Arakan National Party (ANP) has condemned the Burmese government’s suggestion that the ethnic Rohingya be referred to as the “Muslim community in Arakan State”.

Related: UN Rapporteur Avoids Contentious Terms with Arakan Chief Minister – The Irrawaddy

Jokowi to visit Natuna to uphold RI’s sovereignty – The Jakarta Post President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo will visit Natuna, Riau Islands province, on Thursday to demonstrate Indonesia’s sovereignty over the waters in the outer part of the archipelago. // This visit, combined with the incident of Indonesia seizing Chinese fishing vessels mean Indonesia is very serious about establishing an authority over disputed waters in South China Sea. It will be interesting to see how China reacts to this in the coming days. 

PDF REPORT Analysis on ADB Investments in the Greater Mekong – NGO Forum on ADB ADB funded projects have failed to take into consideration the vulnerable livelihoods of the poorer communities in the Greater Mekong Sub-region.

Don Sahong Dam Construction Creates Uncertainty Over Future of Regional Fisheries and Food Security – International Rivers General Construction work on Don Sahong Dam has started blocking crucial fish migration channels and raising questions about food security and livelihoods of people living on the up and downstream of the river.

Slight Increase in Dolphin Numbers –Khmer Times Cambodia’s freshwater Mekong dolphin population has increased by four, adding a quartet of calves in the first five months of 2016 while also seeing a drop in the mortality rate compared with last year. This was encouraging news for environmentalists in a region where increased dam construction has raised concerns over the dwindling numbers of dolphins.

Villagers condemn logging and mining –Eleven Myanmar A press conference was held in Yangon, on June 16 exposing illegal mining and logging operations along the Chindwin River in Kachin State and Sagaing Region. The event, organised by the Red Shan Youth group and Kuki Women’s Centre, they said illegal activities had destroyed around 60 per cent of the forests along the river. Researchers claimed that more than 250,000 acres in Kaniare was being used for illegal and legal gold mining.

Bob Kerrey and the ‘American Tragedy’ of Vietnam: Op-ED – NYT EVEN today, Americans argue over the Vietnam War: what was done, what mistakes were made, and what were the lasting effects on American power. This sad history returns because of Bob Kerrey’s appointment as chairman of the American-sponsored Fulbright University Vietnam, the country’s first private university.

Myanmar to export 515 billion cubic feet of natural gas this fiscal year –Eleven Myanmar The Yadana, Yetagon, Zawtika and Shwe gas projects are expected to collectively produce 515 billion cubic feet of natural gas for export and 160.6 billion cubic feet for local use in the 2016-2017 fiscal year, according to the second five-year National Development Plan (from 2016-2017 to 2020-2021).

YUNNAN

Kunming’s twin expos bigger, more important than ever – GoKunming In a mark of the spring city’s growing importance, both on the domestic and international stage, 5,000 businesses and nearly as many officials from eighty-nine countries converged on Kunmingon the occasion of  fourth annual China-South Asia Expo (CSAEXPO) and twenty-fourth Kunming Import and Export Commodities Fair (KIEF).

Big thanks to Ash Chowdhury for compiling this week’s digest and providing analysis!

 

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Not a Repeat, but an Echo: ASEAN’s Retracted Statement and the Specter of the 2012 Joint Communique Failure

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and ASEAN foreign ministers at special foreign ministers' meeting in Kunming / AFP PHOTO

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and ASEAN foreign ministers at the special China-ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting in Kunming / AFP PHOTO

The South China Sea was anticipated to be one major topic of discussion during the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Kunming on June 14, but the outcome—the retraction of an ASEAN statement only three hours after being sent to the media—has made divisions over the South China Sea the only talking point emerging from the meeting on broader ASEAN-China bilateral relations. The statement was stronger than most previous commentary from ASEAN, including specific references to land reclamation and an implied reference to the Philippines’ ongoing legal case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The statement also notably confirmed that the issue is relevant to ASEAN-China bilateral relations, countering the long-time stance of China that South China Sea disputes are a bilateral issue between claimants. Since the retraction, there have been a plethora of contradictory statements and no revised statement has been released.

While divisions over the South China Sea are not new to ASEAN, the lack of a coordinated response raises serious questions about ASEAN’s ability to effectively respond as tensions over the South China Sea continue to rise. The emergence of numerous reports that consensus on the statement was withdrawn after-the-fact due to China pressuring Laos appears to many observers a repeat of ASEAN’s failure in 2012 to reach consensus on a joint statement during the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia.

Cambodia’s failure to cajole consensus from the group in 2012 was also due to disagreement over how to handle the South China Sea disputes, the first time that such a thing happened in ASEAN’s then 45-year history. The failure was blamed squarely on Cambodia’s for allowing its close relationship with China to challenge ASEAN centrality and interfere with ASEAN policy decisions. The question moving forward is whether this will be a repeat of 2012’s failed joint communique or whether Laos as ASEAN Chair for 2016 will be able to successfully coordinate a joint statement from this year’s ASEAN Summit.

The differences in China and ASEAN’s characterizations of the meeting are stark. Where China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi noted in his public remarks that “this [the South China Sea dispute] isn’t an issue between China and ASEAN” and emphasized that there had been few disagreements, the ASEAN statement was clear that “[ASEAN] also cannot ignore what is happening in the South China Sea as it is an important issue in the relations and cooperation between ASEAN and China.” Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who co-chaired the meeting in Kunming, failed to appear alongside Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a planned press release in Kunming and instead echoed the retracted statement’s language in a separate press release in Singapore. On June 16, spokespeople for Indonesia and Vietnam stated that there had been consensus over the contents, though Indonesia noted that the statement was intended to be a media guidance statement rather than an official joint statement. The Philippines seconded that there had been consensus among ASEAN foreign ministers when their meeting ended and that Malaysia’s release of the statement had not been in error.

Like Cambodia and Myanmar, Laos is a least-developed country and is considered one of the region’s most vulnerable to Chinese pressures over the South China Sea given its non-claimant status and relative economic dependence on Chinese investment, trade, and loans. And unlike Myanmar, Laos has not recently received an influx of economic assistance from other countries that provide it with development alternatives if China’s assistance were taken away due to political disagreements.

At first glance, it seems that China has “won” by once again disrupting a unified ASEAN statement on the South China Sea. Prashanth Parameswaran’s excellent Diplomat piece on the fiasco correctly questions this conclusion, pointing out that the statement’s release and the following media frenzy show that China successfully blocked an official statement but failed to establish its preferred narrative framework for debate on the issue. Blocking a unified ASEAN statement is not as ideal for China as preventing ASEAN from forming a consensus in the first place, but it may be good enough to prevent action on the issue for the rest of Laos’ ASEAN Chairmanship.

After all, China’s activities in the South China Sea are only partly about changing the short-term narrative; the more central goal is to slowly alter the status-quo in China’s favor. This is visible in China’s establishment of military bases on created islands and regular presence of its Coast Guard vessels in the region, which change the on-the-ground calculus and make it increasingly hard for other claimants to push back against Chinese intrusions.

This episode has shown us two things: first, that China’s aggressive behavior has in fact pushed countries in the region that previously preferred to stay away from conflict, such as Singapore and Indonesia, to take a stronger stance against disruptive behavior and in favor of international law. Second, that China is still fully capable and willing to use its role as a regional financier, trading partner, and neighboring behemoth to ensure that the ASEAN bloc cannot effectively act against its interests even in the face of growing regional discomfort over China’s behavior.

The most important question moving forward is not which side has “won” or “lost” in this round of discussion over the South China Sea, but what will happen during the latter half of Laos’ ASEAN Chairmanship in 2016.

Prior to this incident, indications were that Laos would follow the steps of Malaysia (Chair in 2015) and Myanmar (Chair in 2014) in balancing between meeting Chinese pressures to avoid the issue and meeting pressures inside ASEAN from other claimant states to address it. Laos Prime Minister Thammavong indicated to US Secretary John Kerry in January 2016 that he sought a unified ASEAN stance and would seek to counter Chinese militarization and assertiveness on the South China Sea issues.

Earlier ASEAN statements expressed concerns over recent developments on the South China Sea issues without being overly specific. The outcome of the US-ASEAN Sunnylands Summit—while failing to specify concerns over China’s activities—hinted at China’s role by highlighting the principle of ASEAN centrality and the need for countries to respect diplomatic processes in the peaceful resolution of maritime disputes. China’s announcement in April 2016 that it had reached consensus with Laos, Cambodia, and Brunei, while criticized due to Laos’ role as ASEAN Chair, was ultimately not a great departure from Laos’ previous statements on the issue.

Laos has many motivations to balance between ASEAN and China: for one, Laos’ recent leadership transition led to the ouster of leaders viewed as particularly pro-China, likely linked to numerous investment deals with China that are now recognized as having few benefits for the country as a whole. The installation of Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong, who is considered to be relatively pro-Vietnam, opens the door to a foreign policy that will better balance China’s influence. Second, there is significant pressure from other ASEAN claimants to avoid giving China’s position too much deference. Cambodia’s failure in 2012 reinforced outside views of the organization as a talk-shop unable to stand up to pressure from China and raised serious questions about the region’s real commitment to ASEAN Centrality.

Despite being (by most measures) less developed than Laos and having only recently emerged from being a regional pariah, Myanmar was fairly successful at maintaining the balance during in its 2015 Chairmanship. For Lao elites’ who are seeking to graduate beyond the label of a least-developed country and who are eager to avoid being viewed as less capable than their neighbors, Myanmar’s success poses an additional motivation for Laos to avoid a similar failure.

Based on the ire poured on Cambodia after its 2012 failure to get a joint communique, it is likely that the emerging debate over the retracted media guidance statement will only add to the pressure on Laos to ensure that there is a joint communique from the ASEAN Summit later this year. By flexing its muscles to force a retraction after the Special Meeting and raising the specter of its influence over individual ASEAN states, China may well have primed other ASEAN members to spend more time and diplomatic capital fighting for the inclusion of something similar in the ASEAN joint statement later this year.

The recent statement fiasco raises questions about how effectively Laos can stand up to pressure from China, but the leadership transition means that greater engagement from Vietnam and other ASEAN countries on controversial issues ahead of time may be welcome. China may have attained its goal to dissuade a joint ASEAN statement critical of China’s behavior emerging from a meeting hosted on its own ground, but in doing so it may have reminded ASEAN countries of their need to stick together in the face of powerful neighbors and made it harder to win future battles on the subject.

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China’s Impressive Clean Energy Progress Confronted by Emerging Challenges

Severe pollution levels in China are complemented by the rapidly growing presence of renewable energy infrastructure

Severe pollution levels in China are complemented by the rapidly growing presence of renewable energy infrastructure

The energy landscape in China is evolving rapidly. Dire environmental conditions throughout the country are complemented by the growing presence of renewable and efficient energy systems. This trend offers the vivid juxtaposition of a nation desperate to overcome its troubling present development stage through forward-thinking sustainable planning. The world’s second largest economy has also earned the status of the world’s worst polluter. Facing surmounting challenges, China seeks to revise its environmental trajectory, determined to smoothly and successfully transition from an overdependence on fossil fuels—particularly coal—to an embrace of clean energy.

Ambitious energy production and carbon reduction targetsoutlined in the recently released 13th Five-Year Plan indicate China’s serious desire to achieve a practical path to sustainability. With these goals in mind, the PRC government seeks to incorporate energy efficient technologies and investments into forthcoming urban development—an effort to withstand a slowing economy through innovative and sustainable systems that provide power for the masses at a reduced cost.

Beijing’s evolving reform of the Chinese economy intends for energy demands to sharply decline over the coming 20 years. This includes a concerted effort to significantly reduce dependence on coal—curtailing coal consumption to 0.2 percent annually during that period, following two decades of 12 percent annual demand growth. These plans vary by locality, as Eastern Chinese economic zones such as Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei (JingJinJi), Yangtze River Delta, and Pearl River Delta target major cuts, while lesser-developed regions in Central and Western China seek to control demand and accommodate gradual urban growth.

China’s NDRC and NEA recently announced the government has postponed construction of new coal-fired plants, while halting approval for new plants

China’s NDRC and NEA recently announced the government has postponed construction of new coal-fired plants, while halting approval for new plants

The government has demonstrated its commitment to these goals, as the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and National Energy Administration (NEA) announced recently that China has halted plans for new coal-fired plants and postponed the construction of about 200 planned generatorsthroughout the country—forgoing roughly 105 gigawatts of environmentally unfriendly power production. This type of trend, though increasingly common in the US as a result of the Obama Administration Clean Power Program, is very new for China. The measures would suggest that Beijing has begun to take more thoughtful action around addressing the country’s egregious environmental situation—degradation that has had far-reaching global climate implications.

Meanwhile, China’s surging emphasis on clean energy offers accelerated natural gas production and imports, and will increase hydropower capacity by 60 million kilowatts. Nuclear power plants are under construction up and down China’s coasts, which will provide 30 million kilowatts in total capacity. China’s total wind power generation is expected to triple to 495 gigawatts of installed power capacity by 2030, compared to only 149 gigawatts in 2015. Already the world leader in solar capacity production, China added 15 gigawatts of new photovoltaic capacity in 2015.

China has also risen as a world leader in new energy vehicles, accounting for 40 percent of global sales in 2015

China has also risen as a world leader in new energy vehicles, accounting for 40 percent of global sales in 2015

Renewables, however, are only part of China’s growing efforts to incorporate efficient technologies into the broader national energy landscape. China has recently established itself as a world leader in new energy vehicles, as 2015 electric car sales reached 330,000—40 percent of the global total. Sales figures for the first quarter of 2016 are already double that of the year before, suggesting a continued surge in this trend. Seeking to reach five million electric vehicles by 2020, China’s local brands have invested nearly $6 billion over the past five years. During this period, manufacturers will strive to improve car battery durability and affordability, while increasing the number of charging stations, in a push to make new energy vehicles more accessible and desirable to the masses.

In addition to new electric vehicles, China is making strides in a variety of other clean energy technologies. A recent United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) report noted that China had built 10.5 billion square meters of energy saving buildings in urban areas through 2014. Last year, China began to require that at least 50 percent of new real estate projects comply with energy efficiency standards. Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, and Chongqing and other east coast provinces are promoting newly introduced green building standards, which focus on lighting, air conditioning, water heating, and other appliances—part of China’s broader eco-cities initiative.

China has shown strong interest in CCS technology development, as it tackles its vast pollution problems

China has shown strong interest in CCS technology development, as it tackles its vast pollution problems

Preparing for a 70 percent rate of urbanization by 2030, which will add 350 million people to the nationwide urban population, China outlined a wide range of infrastructure upgrades to public utilities, smart grids, smart transport, smart water supplies, smart land administration, and smart logistics in the 13th Five-Year Plan. This includes smart city-focused investments that exceed the $260 billion offered for these initiatives by the 12th Five-Year Plan. The Chinese smart grid market is expected to grow at a rate of 20 percent between now and 2020, the result of significant government investment. This includes plans announced in 2015 for $31 billion-worth of smart grid infrastructure in Xinjiang.

China has also shown leadership with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, which acquires carbon dioxide emissions from sources such as fossil fuel power plants and other large industrial plants, and stores this carbon underground. In many cases, these carbon dioxide emissions can be converted and then used to enhance production of oil and natural gas. With a wide range of projects underway, China has risen to number two in the world for CCS technologies. Many believe that China will be the location for the major CCS projects of the future.

China’s impressive efforts to assimilate renewables and other cutting edge efficient technologies into its broader energy expansion plans has demonstrated the ability for economically developing countries to play a prominent role in the global movement to combat climate change. Yet, while these trends are important and should be duly recognized, China’s prospects for accomplishing its lofty energy objectives depend on a number of uncertain factors—including potential obstacles.

Excess coal production in China, enabled by industrial overcapacity, has caused grid system operators to curtail renewables in order to satisfy coal generation quotas

Excess coal production in China, enabled by industrial overcapacity, has caused grid system operators to curtail renewables in order to satisfy coal generation quotas

Though China has risen to become the preeminent world leader in renewable energy investment—having committed $110.5 billion during 2015—limitations to energy infrastructure throughout the country are preventing proper integration of these systems into the larger national grid. Industrial overcapacity challenges continue to favor state-owned factories, as China’s official annual planning process is designed to ensure a minimum number of operating hours throughout the year for coal-fired generators. Seeking to meet this quota, system operators at grid companies most often curtail renewables to offset these coal-fired generation figures. Because generators are paid only when providing energy to the grid—guaranteed through a set price per kWh—there is no capacity payment for these generators. Making up more than 60 percent of total installed capacity and represented by longstanding influencers, the coal industry is resistant to concerted efforts to reform the current operating hour quota system.

These grid inefficiencies are disproportionately impacting the renewable energy sector—exemplified by a 15 percent curtailment in wind energy during 2015. Present challenges toward properly integrating wind, solar, and other renewables into the greater energy grid are illustrating the growing need for more effective energy storage mechanisms and technologies that ensure stronger short- and long-term efficiency.

Despite world-leading renewable investment and installed capacity figures, grid inefficiencies are allowing a large portion of China’s wind and other renewable energy generation to go to waste

Despite world-leading renewable investment and installed capacity figures, grid inefficiencies are allowing a large portion of China’s wind and other renewable energy generation to go to waste

Proving to be a major barrier to seamless grid integration for renewables following years of aggressive expansion, overcapacity has left the Chinese energy sector in more than $16 billion of outstanding debt—with $4.4 billion of those bonds due from renewable companies. This record debt is plaguing China’s largest renewable energy producers, with four companies defaulting on $1.8 billion worth of bonds—including top solar panel producer, Yingli Green Energy Holding Co., which missed payments on more than $268 million of notes. These financial trends are highly concerning, as solar- and wind-power generating plants throughout the country are noticeably lagging behind production of equipment—a potentially destabilizing trend as the Xi Jinping Administration strives to uphold its commitments toward reducing never-ending nationwide pollution problems.

Yet, while these limitations pose fundamental challenges for China in its long-term efforts to realize its energy efficient goals, they remain a technical obstacle within what is proving to be an encouraging stage in the country’s clean energy revolution. China’s impressive investments in renewables are influencing other developing countries to push strongly for similar clean energy development, while simultaneously pressuring leading developed countries—such as the US—to expedite domestic transitions to energy efficient economies. The International Energy Agency (IEA) announced earlier this month its decision to select a Chinese official as a special advisor to the IEA head. This is the first time a Chinese official has filled the role, underscoring growing cooperation between the leading energy agency and the world’s number one polluter and energy consumer.

China’s ability to overcome inefficiencies by successfully integrating renewables into the larger national grid could serve as a blueprint for a globally integrated sustainable energy grid

China’s ability to overcome inefficiencies by successfully integrating renewables into the larger national grid could serve as a blueprint for a globally integrated sustainable energy grid

China’s growing leadership around energy efficient technology and policy, coupled with its perpetuating environmental troubles and grid infrastructure inefficiencies, demonstrate the complex and dichotomous identity of this 21stcentury global giant. Though record-breaking investments in renewable energy and concurrent efforts to curb carbon output through coal factory closings offer a glimpse of China’s great desire to surmount its environmental struggles, a bureaucratic stranglehold over state-owned energy companies enables industrial overcapacity to offset much of the nation’s progress in clean energy.

China’s prospects for accomplishing its clean energy and climate change prevention goals will greatly depend on its ability to overcome internal political and infrastructural inconsistencies. However, should the country prevail in its energy goals—transforming successful local energy systems into a blueprint for a comprehensive integrated national grid—China will usher in an innovative future for global energy. The successful integration of renewables could offer a new foundation of technologies and standards for a globally integrated grid—enabling humanity to move one step closer toward achieving a healthier future for the planet.

This article was originally posted here on David Solomon’s China Rising blog and is reposted with permission from the author.

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Regional Roundup for Week of 6.9.16

LEADERS

The Heat: China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue Review – CCTV America Known as S&ED, this year’s meeting, held in Beijing, comes at a time of tension over such issues as the South China Sea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and economic uncertainty.

China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue: Time to Move Beyond the South China Sea? – The Diplomat The South China Sea tensions have become the Rorschach Test for China-U.S. relations.

Over-Politicized ‘Overcapacity’ at US-China Dialogue – The Diplomat China’s overcapacity has replaced currency manipulation as the latest excuse for U.S. protectionism.

Excess capacity in Chinese economy distorting world markets, says Jack Lew – The Guardian US Treasury secretary hopes that talks between US and Chinese officials on industry capacity would be as fruitful as those on currency policy. China’s excess industrial capacity will have a “corrosive” impact on its future growth and efficiency unless it is reduced, US Treasury secretary Jack Lew said on Sunday, adding that it was also causing distortions in global markets.

Related: EU to investigate Chinese steel subsidies blamed for dumping – The Guardian 

U.S. and China Offer Competing Views on Disputed Sea – NYT The diverging positions by American and Chinese officials indicated that annual talks had done little to bridge differences.

 Related: Reading From the ‘Script’ on the South China Sea Issue – The Diplomat

Related: Kerry on Concerns With China – NYT 

Diverting the Mekong River into Thailand: The Khong-Loei-Chi-Mun project – Mekong Commons The Royal Irrigation Department of Thailand has recently reinvigorated plans to divert water from the Mekong River’s mainstream into the Loei River in Northeastern Thailand. But there are serious concerns form local residents, environmental activists and neighboring countries.

Myitsone Dam Resumption Would Prove Suu Kyi’s Downfall – The Irrawaddy If the NLD government decides to resume the Myitsone Dam, the Burmese people will demand that they leave office. China needs to be cognizant of this. \\This is a very delicate situation for Aung San Suu Kyi. She has enjoyed comfortable relations with Beijing in recent times and does not want to lose that. However, Myitsone Dam symbolizes environmental irresponsibility and stands against local people’s demand. It will be interesting to see how Suu Kyi tackles this.

Chinese ambassador’s Kachin visit sparks Myitsone protests – DVB Multimedia Group A visit to the Kachin State capital by China’s ambassador was met on Saturday morning with protests by activists and environmentalists opposed to the stalled Myitsone mega-dam project.

Related: Protest surrounds Chinese envoy’s hotel in Kachin state –Asia News Network 

Related: Chinese envoy pushes for Myitsone dam –Eleven Myanmar

REGIONAL RELATIONS                    

Vietnam, Cambodia beef up defense ties – The Jakarta Post Vietnam and Cambodia have agreed to fully and effectively actualize protocols on defense cooperation in order to enhance mutual understanding and trust, ensure a peaceful and stable environment for their economic development and foil plots to weaken their relations. 

Japan, Myanmar Eye Stronger Defense Ties – The Diplomat Two sides discuss defense relations during Gen Nakatani’s visit to the Southeast Asian state.

Is Myanmar Using Armed Chinese Drones For Counterinsurgency? The Diplomat Myanmar’s air force is using armed drones against rebels in the country’s north. // This news signals deep ties beyond economic cooperation between the two countries. At a time when Myanmar is facing considerable pressure from China to give a go-ahead to Chinese funded Myitsone Dam such news does not bode well for environmentalists and local people who want the dam project to be postponed. If Myanmar is to be dependent on China on multiple sectors including military then it is unlikely the NLD government will be able to go against the wish of the Chinese State Council.

Setting the Record Straight on US-India South China Sea Patrols – The Diplomat Was Washington simply being overzealous by proposing joint South China Sea patrols with India or is there more to the story?

China asks the Philippines to quit UN arbitration, talk – The Hindu China’s claims of almost all of SCS and asserts that it has held the area from ancient times. The claims are contested by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Related: As South China Sea Verdict Nears, Washington Must Stand with Manila – The Diplomat

Laos, Vietnam to further enhance special ties – The Jakarta Post Laos and Vietnam will jointly organize various activities to mark the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries next year.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Indonesia’s largest coal plant will be built despite protests, minister says – Eco-business Indonesia will go ahead with construction of what is set to be its largest coal-fired power plant in Batang, Central Java next year, a senior government official has said, downplaying opposition from environmental groups and the local community.

Vietnam company seeks to replace gasoline taxis with 10,000 electric vehicles taxis –Thanhnien News Ho Huy Investment Company has said its taxis will, over a 10-year period, reduce emissions by 940,000 tons and save more than 406 million liters of gasoline worth US$134 million.

 Malaysia’s Trive and China firm form solar products tie-up – The Star Online Trive Property Group Bhd has established a joint-venture (JV) company with China-based Fortunate Solar Technology Ltd to tap into solar business with a total investment of RM60mil.

CHINA

China becomes world’s biggest development lender – The Third Pole Two Chinese banks now provide as much international development finance as the next six biggest multilateral lenders combined – but are greatly exposed to political, social and environmental risks, new research says. //Chinese banks have made energy investments in troubled states like Venezuela, Pakistan, Ethopia, Sudan, etc. This means the huge amount of debt has a good chance of not being repaid. 

Related: China Pushes Back Against U.S. Complaints of Industrial Overcapacity – NYT

Chinese Company Suning Buys Majority Stake in Inter Milan – NYT  Retail giant Suning has bought a majority stake in Inter Milan, marking the latest entry into the European soccer market by cash-rich Chinese firms. // Chinese nationals have been investing in overseas assets for some time now. Initially developing countries, especially African countries, were investment destinations for China but now a lot of investment goes to Europe and US as well. Inter Milan, a big club with a lot of history behind itself was bought for US$394 million.

Chinese fighter makes ‘unsafe’ intercept of US plane over East China Sea – The Guardian Second high-speed encounter within weeks takes place as Washington warns Beijing against setting up air defence zone over disputed Asia-Pacific waters // This incident indicates that despite the tough position demonstrated by US in the Strategic and Economic Dialogue and UN arbitration panel’s ruling China remains bullish over its territorial claim.

Related: U.S. Accuses Chinese Jet of Flying Too Close to American Plane – NYT 

Uncertain Future for China’s Market Status Bid – ChinaFile It’s been 15 years since China joined the World Trade Organization, and yet China is still waiting for the WTO to grant it market economy status. During this period, some Chinese businesses have expanded overseas while others have been accused of flouting international anti-dumping rules.

South China Sea: ‘We have no fear of trouble,’ Chinese admiral warns – The Guardian China has rebuffed US pressure to curb its activity in the South China Sea on Sunday, restating its sovereignty over most of the disputed territory and saying it “has no fear of trouble”. On the last day of Asia’s biggest security summit in Singapore, Admiral Sun Jianguo said China will not be bullied, including over a pending international court ruling over its claims on the vital trade route.

Related: South China Sea: US warns Beijing against building ‘great wall of self-isolation’ – The Guardian 

 A First: Chinese Naval Vessel Enters Senkaku Contiguous Zone in East China Sea – The Diplomat Previously, China had only sent its coast guard into Japan’s territorial sea and contiguous zone. //It was expected that China will soften its stance on South China Sea dispute facing growing pressure from US and the international community. However, this news shows China has no intention to that. We can take this as a show of strength from the ruling party in China.  

Related: Japan Summons Chinese Envoy After Naval Ship Nears Disputed Islands – NYT

Related: Japan protests after Chinese warship sails near disputed islands – The Nation 

Prosecutors Paint Picture of Murder and Deception at Chinese Coal Mines – NYT Dozens have been accused of involvement in the deaths of 17 people whose bodies were used to fabricate mine accidents and extract compensation.

A Harvard Scholar on the Enduring Lessons of Chinese Philosophy – NYT Michael Puett, whose course on Chinese philosophy is one of Harvard University’s most popular offerings, explains why “embracing ourselves for who we are” may not be the path to the good life.

SOUTHEAST  ASIA

Mekong dam projects ‘could destroy livelihoods, ecology’ – The Nation Environmental groups warn areas might be totally devastated in next 10 years

Why ASEAN must pay more attention to the Mekong Delta – The Jakarta Post The Great Mekong River is at its lowest level in a century. It needs urgent collective efforts by the regional partners.

Kerrey’s Vietnam Dilemma – NYT Former Senator Bob Kerrey should not quit his role at the new Fulbright University Vietnam, despite an outcry over his war record.//This conundrum is hurtful to USA when it is trying to improve its ties with Vietnam. The news of Senator Kerrey being appointed as Chair of a new university in Vietnam reopened old wounds as the Senator is accused of killing civilians and children during Vietnam war. 

US, Cambodia Militaries Kick off Pacific Angel 2016 – The Diplomat This year’s iteration of PACANGEL Cambodia will last until June 18.

Revisiting the Ties That Bind Singapore and Suu Kyi – The Irrawaddy Myanmar and Singapore have a shared history of colonial occupation and a long relationship as Southeast Asian neighbors. As relations between Myanmar and Western nations continue to thaw and some bilateral ties are forged for the first time, Singapore and Myanmar are merely entering a new phase in their sometimes complicated but nonetheless enduring relationship.

Migrant rights groups call for action ahead of Suu Kyi’s trip to Thailand – DVB Multimedia Group Migrant rights groups are calling for Burma and Thailand to form an agreement that will ensure the process for Burmese migrants renewing documents is not strenuous, timely and expensive.

2 more Chinese lighthouses in Spratlys – The Jakarta Post China is building two new lighthouses on artificial islands in the disputed Spratly chain, state media reported, continuing with facility installation to bolster its territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Minister’s Environment Day Claims In DoubtThe Cambodia Daily Environment Minister Say Sam Al on Sunday declared an end to large-scale logging in eastern Cambodia, though NGOs disagreed. In mid-January, the government set up a special task force to root out illicit timber stocks across the east and ordered an immediate halt to all wood exports to Vietnam.

Malaysian businessmen urged to invest in Cambodia –Khmer Times The President of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC has urged Malaysian investors and businessmen to invest in and do business with Cambodia.

Myanmar should tap dams for electricity: Yangon chief minister –The Nation Dams can provide an affordable means for electricity production and water storage, Yangon region Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein said at an event to inform the public about the state of electricity distribution at the Yangon Electricity Supply Corporation headquarters.

Russian nuclear agency bullish on Asean outlook –The Nation ROSATOM, Russia’s state nuclear-energy agency, is bullish on the outlook of its business in Southeast Asia after the speedy development of a project in Vietnam and a range of agreements with every country in the region except Singapore, the Philippines and Brunei.

France has agreed to extend its support for development projects in Laos –Lao National Television (broadcasted news) France has agreed to extend its support for development projects to be implemented in Laos over the next three years, with the main focus on agriculture. Two financial agreements valued at 1.5 million euros were reached on Thursday

Ash Chowdhury compiled and provided analysis for this week’s news.

 

 

 

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