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NEWS DIGEST #230

July 9, 2019

People’s network takes on China over Mekong - The Nation
A network of Thai riverside communities and environmentalists spent the weekend having a hot debate with the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok about China's uses snd asserted abuses of the Mekong River. (See also: People's Network response to Chinese Embassy public statements about China's impacts on the Mekong River

Mangroves and shoreline erosion in the Mekong River delta, Viet Nam - Science Direct
Large tracts of the delta shoreline are eroding due to inadequate mud supply, causing even wide mangrove belts to retreat, illustrating the need for mangrove protection initiatives to consider sustained sediment supply as a key parameter.
Dawei economic zone reimagined as export hub to India - Nikkei Asian Review
In an attempt to kick-start the stalled project as China expands its economic influence in the region, Japan, Myanmar and Thailand are developing a new plan for the Dawei SEZ project that prioritizes building logistics and port facilities for shipping and light industry for exports to India.
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MEKONG DEVELOPMENT

Villagers in Laos and Thailand suffer as China opens the floodgates on Mekong River dams - RFA
The recent opening of floodgates caused water levels in the Mekong to increase as much as 3.7 meters in some places, the largest in 37 years. (See also: Thailand sits idly by as China churns up the Mekong - Bangkok Post)

The Mekong in US Asia strategy: opportunities and challenges - The Diplomat
The subregion is arguably where freedom and openness are under the greatest challenge.

UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) rankings for the Mekong Region - Thailand Business News
Published by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and Bertelsmann Stiftung Foundation, the survey ranks Thailand 19th, Vietnam 54th, Myanmar 110th, Laos 111th and Cambodia 112th.

Thailand encourages South Korean investment in Mekong subregion development projects - The Nation
Mekong-ROK is a cooperation scheme comprising South Korea and the Mekong basin states to forge cooperation on economic development. 

CAMBODIA

Gov’t to reduce reliance on hydro - Phnom Penh Post
Cambodia will expand its solar energy investment by 12 percent by the end of next year and increase it up to 20 percent over the next three years. (See also: Solar energy to be prioritised to ease power cuts - Khmer Times)

Two groups of Cambodian villagers protest over land disputes - RFA
Villagers embroiled in two separate land disputes in Cambodia’s Koh Kong province protested Monday, demanding solutions for their respective cases, one against a home-grown tycoon, the other against a Chinese developer. (See also: Police, land protesters clash - Phnom Penh Post; Bunong families petition PM - Phnom Penh Post)

LAOS

Laos highway projects to boost Asean travel - Bangkok Post
Travelling across Asean is likely to get easier thanks to the Lao government’s plan to build an expressway and three motorways covering more than 1,700 kilometres which will link the country with China and Vietnam.

Lao government begins plan to inspect 55 dams one year after PNPC disaster - RFA
“So far, we’ve discovered that some small dams are not up to standards. They don’t have the [necessary] consultants and insurance [in place],” said an official of the Ministry of Energy and Mines.

Lao government contests findings of UN poverty report - ASEAN Today
Laos' economic model has failed to create enough jobs and primarily benefited the upper class and elites while adding to the government’s ever-larger debt. 

New Chinese banana plantation near Lao Capital defies ban - RFA
This new plantation is the latest sign that the business of cultivating bananas in Laos for the Chinese market – widely discredited because of the impact of the excessive use of chemicals on the environment and health – is alive and kicking. One worker is quitting as the risk of using excessive pesticides and herbicides isn’t worth the 60,000 kip (about US$7) she earns for day’s work.

Nation needs to seize opportunities offered by Laos-China railway - Vientiane Times
The government has acknowledged that it needs to be well prepared to provide transit services in an effort to benefit from the Laos-China railway. (See also: Lao gov't to get prepared to benefit from China-Laos railway - Global Times)

MYANMAR

Myanmar's strategic coastline lures big Asian economies - Nikkei Asian Review
China, Japan and India are aggressively backing new port projects in Myanmar, seeking to gain a foothold on the coastline of the geographically prized nation.

Potential conflict with farmers over 7,000 acre "new city" project - BNI 
Speaker of Arakan State parliament U San Kyaw Hla told officials last month that Arakan State is in a strategic location in regard to geopolitics, both eastern and western countries are interested in the undertaking but they need to cooperate with local people and give priority to the interests of local residents when it comes to decision making.

Bagan named UNESCO World Heritage Site - Myanmar Times
The recognition by the UN’s cultural body will serve to boost demand from both Western and Asian markets, the tourism industry says. But meeting conservation pledges and effective local governance will be critical for the area’s future.

Phakant jade mining temporarily put on hold - Eleven Myanmar
A decade of large scale mining has left the region and its people utterly scarred due to environmental degradation and mining disasters. (See also: Local people opposed to feasibility study conducted by Myanmar Yang Tse Copper Limited: Chin ethnic affairs minister - Eleven Myanmar)

How solar micro-grids are powering Myanmar’s villages - Energy Insider
In the near future, decentralised wind power generation might also be possible. This might even allow the development of a micro solar-wind hybrid power plant, which would cut costs from expensive battery storage.

Discussion held on China-Myanmar Sustainable Development Cooperation - Global New Light Myanmar
The three part discussion on bilateral sustainable development and cooperation was jointly organized by Myanmar Affairs Study Group at the Information and Public Relations Department of Ministry of Information, and Yunnan University Myanmar Studies Institute with five experts from Yunnan University and 13 experts from Myanmar side.

Myanmar villagers get 14 months hard labor for 2018 protest over Chinese Cement Plant - RFA
"it was a one-sided decision," said one of the villagers. "They seized our lands and they also destroyed all the crops on the farm.” 

THAILAND

When a city of canals floods, what happens to waterway shantytowns? - Christian Science Monitor
Residents are dismayed as condos and office towers are thrown up with little regard for the environment, their waste dumped directly into what were once pristine waters.  

Govt revives old plan to irrigate Isan - Bangkok Post
The megaproject envisions a series of dams with 15 sluices, 47 kilometers of  irrigation canals and pumping stations to be set up along the Mekong to "feed" local rivers to support 30,000 families tilling 300,000 rai (48,000 hectares) of farmland. 

Plastic not so fantastic - Bangkok Post
The Thai Retailers Association wants the new government to issue laws to compel retailers to cease giving plastic bags to customers as in other countries. (See also: Green movement to tackle mountain of plastic waste in Thailand - The Nation; Thai PM vows single-use plastic ban - Bangkok Post)

Grisada plots immediate paraquat ban - Bangkok Post
Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Grisada Boonrach has expressed his desire to leave a legacy before leaving office by imposing an immediate ban on three toxic farm chemicals, namely paraquat, glyphosate and chlorpyrifos.

National park where activist disappeared left off UNESCO list - Khaosod
The bid to give Kaeng Krachan National Park UNESCO world heritage status failed because legal measures to protect ethnic communities living in the forest came into effect after a mandated deadline. In 2012, wildlife officials torched over 90 homes of Karen villagers in Kaeng Krachan to drive them from the forest. (See also: Kaeng Krachan falls short in Unesco bid
 - Bangkok Post)


Thailand plans 'Trans-Asean' bullet train linking China, Laos and even Singapore - Today
Under the state's plan to make Thailand the logistics hub of Asean, officials have agreed that high-speed trains will be at the heart of the country's much-needed new infrastructure system. It will be the first time that Thailand will have such a modern transport network, which will cover 3,193 kilometres at a cost of about 2.07 trillion baht (US$88 billion).

VIETNAM

Dangerous weedkiller still used despite ban - Vietnam News
The government is allowing a company in the Mekong Delta province of Long An to export and continue using 208 tonnes of packed herbicide products containing Paraquat in Vietnam.

Water plant built in Ben Tre -- Nhan Dan
Work started on July 6 on a factory that is set to supply clean water to more than 100,000 residents in the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre.
The Mekong Eye's weekly News Digest curates news, commentary and resources on development, its environmental and social impacts, and the context affecting the Mekong region. We reach nearly 6000 key development professionals, government officials, business leaders and journalists. Submit stories, press releases, resources or feedback to: editor@mekongeye.com
 
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