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May 25, 2020

COVID-19 threatens endangered wildlife - Scientific American Blog
Today, for many rural people across far-flung parts of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand, COVID-19 is less a crisis of public health than economic survival. The financial impacts of the pandemic have been tsunami-like, rapidly reaching even the remotest parts of the interlinked markets of these lower Mekong countries. Faced with a lack of income and no safety net, people in these situations have little to turn to but poaching, illegal fishing, logging and clearing forest.
MP warns Australian-backed mining in Myanmar’s far north may spark protest - Irrawaddy
Upper House lawmaker J Yaw Wu said in Parliament that local people are concerned about the possible confiscation of land, losing their natural resources and losing their livelihoods in areas that have been cultivated for generations due to the project with claims on land twice the size of Singapore.
Denmark, Vietnam talk offshore wind expansion - Offshore Engineer
The Danish Energy Agency has said that preliminary findings presented at a webinar last week emphasize that Vietnam has a technical potential of 160 GW. In comparison, there were approximately 29 GW offshore wind installed globally by the end of 2019. Denmark currently has 1.7 GW. (See also: Vietnam has potential for 160 GW of offshore wind energy - Reve)
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Vietnam and Mekong peers pay economic price despite low virus tolls - Nikkei Asian Review
Promising ASEAN quartet likely to fortify and diversify after pandemic cuts growth. Ultimately, the result may be a conscious effort by governments in the region to restructure their economies.

Did China turn off the Lower Mekong? Why data matters for cooperation (opinion) - SEA Globe
Recent reports claim definitive proof that the 2019/20 Mekong drought was caused by China – they do not according to researchers at AMPERES. Will the controversial analysis further polarise stakeholders, or could the crisis shift regional cooperation into more productive spaces? (See also: US Study insists China's dams to blame for Mekong drought - Khaosod English)


Threats against Cambodian forest defenders escalate amid  COVID-19 (opinion) - Global Witness
It takes particularly cynical government officials to use the world’s focus on tackling COVID-19 to accelerate illegal logging of protected forests; simultaneously lining the pockets of business elites, attacking environmental activists, and sabotaging its own ability to fight the climate emergency. Yet this is exactly what some in Cambodia appear to be doing.

Wildlife poaching continues in spite of COVID-19 - Cambodian
“Our Wildlife Alliance rangers on ground are witnessing more poachers coming into the forest with guns and snares... the number of Facebook wildlife-selling cases has also considerably increased, with the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team conducting nearly 30 crackdowns on illegal sales of wildlife parts and wildlife meat, ” said Suwanna Gauntlett, CEO and Founder of Wildlife Alliance. (See also: Wildlife poaching remains a concern - Khmer Times)

Reporters Without Borders asks the authorities to release a Cambodian journalist  - Cambodianess
Sok Oudom regularly reported on longstanding land disputes between local farming communities and powerful district officials, according to a statement issued by the human-rights group LICADHO. 

Ecotourism collapse threatens Cambodia’s wildlife - TTG Asia
The rangers’ equipment, food and wages are provided in entirety by the Thailand-based Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF) and CTC – both dependent on tourism for their income, which has been reduced to zero due to the Covid-19 shutdown.

Ten Ibis nests found in Ratanakkiri - Phnom Penh Post
While six of the nests have successfully fledged 12 young. That number disappointed bird conservationists as it represented a decrease over the last five years, according to Birdlife International Cambodia Programme.


Little Laos teeters towards big debt crisis - Asia Times
Fitch Ratings says Laos' finances are 'inadequate' to meet its foreign debt payments owed largely to China. And as with the high-speed railroad project with China — and Chinese loans and investment in all sectors of the economy — any future development will be more or less directed by Chinese interests. That means questions will rise about the country’s economic and political independence from Beijing.

Lao citizens charged high rates for poor amidst virus shutdown - RFA
“Laos has been called the ‘battery of ASEAN', and we have so many dams,” one homeowner said, also speaking on condition of anonymity. “But electricity is more expensive here than it is in the countries that we sell power to.”


In Tanintharyi, an indigenous alternative to Big Conservation - Frontier Myanmar
“Our lands are threatened both by expanding agribusiness and mining projects on one side, and national parks and conservation on the other,” said Saw San Ngwe, a community leader and director of the Myeik-based Southern Youth Development Organization. “Our communities have been conserving this area for generations; it’s time for their efforts and initiatives to be recognised and supported.” (See also: Tanawthari Landscape of Life (report) - Conservation Alliance Tanawthari)

Over 5,000 tonnes of illegal timber seized in Sagaing Region - Global New Light of Myanmar
"Although we expected that the illegal timber extraction would decline because other businesses were also suspended in this period. However, the illegal timber extraction does not decline,” said an official from the Forest Department in Sagaing Region. (See also: Bago Region sees timber smuggling amid night-time curfew - Eleven Myanmar)

Turning off the tap, while tapping into inclusive institutions - CGIAR
In Myanmar, limited groundwater resources must be used wisely to safeguard the livelihoods of thousands during the climate crisis. (See also: Game of Unknowns: Beyond the win-win, towards inclusive development - CGIAR)

Xi hopeful on Belt and Road projects in Myanmar during COVID-19 - Irrawaddy
During a call last Wednesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Myanmar President U Win Myint discussed how to speed up cooperation on Belt and Road Initiative projects.

Myanmar government rejects motion to shutter polluting Chinese-owned coal plant - RFA
Myanmar’s government last week rejected a Shan state member of parliament’s proposal to shutter a Chinese-owned coal-fired power plant residents of his region say has exceeded land use specifications, severely polluted the local environment, and jeopardized their health and livelihoods.

Myanmar launches 1 GW solar tender - PV Magazine 
The country’s Ministry of Electricity and Energy is seeking proposals for 30 large-scale solar plants. The selected developers will be awarded 20-year power purchase agreements. (See also: Myanmar’s hasty solar tender draws criticism from investors - Myanmar Times;  What’s stopping Myanmar from modernizing its electricity sector? - Irrawaddy)


Seawall projects set to face stricter environmental checks to battle erosion - Bangkok Post
The National Marine and Coastal Resource Management Committee has approved a policy that requires developers of seawall projects to follow stricter environmental guidelines to get development permission.

Farmers reject chemical ban - Bangkok Post
A group of farmers last week vowed to renew a bid to obtain a court injunction to suspend a ban on paraquat and chlorpyrifos, due to take effect on June 1, claiming the ban will hurt productivity and adversely affect crop farming.

Thailand to build desalination plant to serve industrial production - Vietnam+
The Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand (IEAT) is planning to invest in a water desalination plant to supply the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) in response to ongoing and future droughts.


PM calls for urgent action on drought, saltwater intrusion - Vietnam News
Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc has asked authorities in the central region to take action to deal with the prolonged heat wave, drought and saltwater intrusion in the region. (See also: Mekong Delta province faces severe water shortage - Vietnam+)

Natural disasters cause loss of US$139 million in five months - Vietnam News
Saline intrusion on some rivers in the Mekong Delta has exceeded the historic 2015-2016 dry season which caused damage of VNĐ15 trillion (US$646 million).

Ecosystem off Chàm Islands recovers after COVID-19 -Vietnam News
The islands often receive 5 tonnes of waste each day, which mostly was in-organic waste from tourists, not including waste water and fresh water consumption as well as seafood and forestry products.

Solutions sought to turn Can Tho into centre of Mekong Delta region - Vietnam+
Participants at a recent conference analysed and assessed potential and advantages of Can Tho city as well as achievements made by the municipal authorities over the last 15 years. They proposed solutions, mechanisms and policies to remove bottlenecks, thus promoting rapid and sustainable development in the locality in the time to come.

Vietnam ranks low in clean energy adoption - Vietnam+
In Southeast Asia, Vietnam ranked lower than Singapore (13th), Malaysia (38th), Brunei (49th), Thailand (53rd), and the Philippines (57th).


Tigers threatened by a vast network of planned roads across Asia - Mongabay
Tiger habitats are under threat from nearly 24,000 kilometers (15,000 miles) of new roads to be built by 2050. The explosion of new roads is driven in part by global development strategies such as China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Road construction contributes to three major threats to tigers: degradation of habitat, prey depletion, and poaching. Tigers are endangered, with fewer than 4,000 individuals still remaining in the wild.

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