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NEWS DIGEST #225

June 4, 2019

The jade mining crisis - Frontier Myanmar
Weak laws and the Myanmar government’s failure to regulate jade mining companies contributed to the deaths of 54 miners after one of more than 20 tailings dams at the Hpakant mine collapsed in April, further illustrating that the environmental and social costs pleaguing Myanmar's jade mining industry have worsened under the National League for Democracy government. (See also: Illegal jade trade still thriving despite mining suspension - Myanmar Times)

China polluting Vietnam's border rivers, warns military general - VN Express
China's developmental activities have resulted in consequences such as toxic waste and wastewater being dumped in rivers and streams which then flow into Vietnam.
Suffering unseen in Thailand: the dark truth behind wildlife tourism - National Geographic
Captive wild animal encounters are hugely popular, thanks partly to social media, but many creatures lead dismal lives. 
 
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MEKONG DEVELOPMENT

Int'l road transport launched in Greater Mekong Subregion - Xinhua
With the new permission, goods can be directly transported to Laos and Thailand, with clearance time drastically shortened.

Mekong Tourism Forum held in southwest China - Xinhua
Over 45.3 million trips were made between China and GMS countries in 2018, up by 7.6 percent year on year. 

CAMBODIA

Activists worrried about impact of climate change on farmers - Phnom Penh Post
Activists stressed at a workshop Sunday that the situation is getting worse and will adversely affect the well-being, livelihood and seasonal farming of citizens. (See also: Activists urge more action on climate change - Khmer Times; IPCC workshop warns about worst climate change effects - Phnom Penh Post)

Youth to hold story-telling event on 'Wonders of the Mekong' - VOA

The group, Young Eco Ambassadors, is organizing a full-day event on June 15 with government officials, civil society groups, international NGOs, local communities and the public to call for better protection of the Mekong. (See also: Cambodian youth discuss Lancang-Mekong Cooperation - Khmer Times)

‘Plight’ of Tonle Sap Vietnamese raised by Vietnam government - Phnom Penh Post
Regarding the resettlement of some 1,800 ethnic Vietnamese families living on the Tonle Sap Lake, a Vietnamese official asked the Cambodian side to pay attention to ensuring the lives, interests and assets of relocated people.

Cambodia’s development vision for a progressive, inclusive, and sustainable society - Khmer Times
The government has initiated an ambitious development plan to transform Cambodia to be an upper-middle-income country by 2030 and high-income country by 2050. It has been clear that individual citizens of Cambodia are to receive equitable share of social protection in a social safety net program.

Cambodia PM dismisses fears of Chinese debt trap - Euronews
Western countries hoping to see improvements in Cambodia's human rights violations and other problems have little leverage when China can be counted on to help in the event of Western aid cuts. (See also: Hun Sen’s Cambodia could be in trouble - ASEAN Post)

ADB to provide nearly US$1 billion loan to Cambodia - AKP
ADB is planning to provide Cambodia nearly US$1 billion as loan to help achieve status as an upper-middle income country in 2030 and high-income country in 2050.

LAOS

Lao authorities allow Chinese firm to plant on land promised to dam collapse survivors - RFA
A Chinese-backed firm is growing bananas on land promised by the government of Laos as compensation to survivors of a 2018 dam collapse that that has been described as the country’s worst flooding in decade. (See also: Survivors of Lao dam collapse want to grow rice, not bananas on compensatory land - RFA)

Lao dam collapse due to use of soil: water experts - RFA
Laos would not disclose the findings of independent experts “because they are in the process of negotiating with the South Korean government about what information should or should not be released to the public.” (See also: Xepian-Xe Namnoy saddle dam collapse Is not force majeure, says a report - Lao News Agency; Laos blames SK E&C for dam collapse - Korean Times)

Laos, China sign deal on northern provinces business development - Phnom Penh Post
The initiative intends to facilitate the private sectors of Laos and China to focus on developing industry in various parts of the northern provinces to take advantage of the Laos-China railway and the new expressway. 

Lao PDR’s green growth reforms get US$40 million boost with credit from World Bank - World Bank
The operation supports a suite of policy reforms seeking to mainstream green growth principles across sectors: making infrastructure more resilient to mounting climate risks, managing pollution that harms human health and productivity, and improving management of water resources, forests and protected areas. 

China-Laos expressway framework agreement inked - Xinhua
The under-construction Vientiane to Vang Vieng expressway stretches 109 km, and will cost around US$1.3 billion.

MYANMAR

China bids to bring Yangon into a modern age - Asia Times
The lack of transparency and the Chinese company’s dubious reputation in the region has stirred controversy around the US$1.5 project that, if completed, will dramatically and immutably change Yangon’s old-world look and feel.

MPs to visit tissue-culture banana farms in Kachin  - Myanmar Times
Chinese firms are growing hundreds of thousands of acres of tissue-culture bananas in Waingmaw, Bhamaw and Momauk townships. The farms use excessive amounts of fertiliser and pesticides, which have damaged the environment.

What is the future of energy for Myanmar’s rural population? - Eco Business
With hydropower facing increasing objection from society, how will the former hermit nation power its people for a more sustainable future?

Myanmar is confiscating land that people depend on - Trust
British and Australian courts long justified the denial of land titles to aboriginal Australians. It’s an old trick, but it’s not supposed to be played against millions of poor people in 2019.

Call made to publicize the Myitsone Dam contract - Eleven Myanmar
The National Network for the Total Shutdown of Myitsone Dam Project yesterday called on the government to transparently publicize the Myitsone Dam contract within one month and to officially allow copying the contract.

Heatwave kills dozens of endangered star tortoises found only Myanmar - Myanmar Times
Dozens of Burmese star tortoises, an endangered species found only in Myanmar, have died at a sanctuary in Magwe Region due to the extreme heat of the past few weeks, a conservation official said.

THAILAND

Campaign launched to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from rice farming - Thailand Buisness
The project will reach out to 100,000 rice farming households in Thailand in shifting from conventional to low-emission farming, including adapting advanced farming practices and developing respective incentive schemes such as financial support. 

Boats in the “Venice of the East” riding an electric wave - UN Environment
UN Environment and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition announced they will be supporting Thailand’s Pollution Control Department to assess the impact of canal transport on air pollution in Bangkok.

Just how many hazardous chemicals are going through Laem Chabang port? - The Thaiger
The containers involved in a massive explosion and fire last week were reportedly loaded with “dolls and toys” and there were "no chemical substances present.” Later it was declared that the dolls and toys were actually calcium hypochlorite, a flammable and potentially dangerous chemical. (Se also: Environmentalists decry ‘small’ fine for undeclared chemicals - The Nation)

Thailand still sealed in plastic - The Nation
Greenpeace was pleased to hear the two retail giants were taking stronger measures, but warned that it’s still not enough to meet the national goal of abandoning expanded polyethylene food packaging completely by 2022.

Relief for forest dwellers - The Nation
Only communities that have traditionally lived in forested land will be allowed to participate in such projects, adding that people driving into the forest on pickups will not be eligible. (See also: New forestry law has harsher penalties for encroachers and illegal loggers - Thai PBS)

Thai Cabinet gives nod to 3-airport, high-speed rail contract - Bangkok Post
Local residents to be affected by the US$7 billion, 127km, high-speed train development project called for the government to disclose details of the joint venture contract and give locals a say in the project.

VIETNAM

Using geospatial technology and earth observations to monitor and forecast drought in Vietnam - Agrilinks
Droughts are slow-onset disasters that trigger significant environmental impacts, including loss in agricultural productivity across the globe. The Lower Mekong region is no exception. Recently, Vietnam has been contending with droughts and resulting damages, especially in 2015 when it suffered heavy losses, especially in rice crop yields.

Assessing the climate resilience and transformation potential of the Mekong River Delta - CGIAR
The agriculture sector at the Mekong River Delta in Vietnam must transform to enhance its adaptation capacity against climate change impacts.

Better water resources management can address water security challenges in Vietnam - Modern Diplomacy
A newly-completed study by the World Bank, “Towards a Safe, Clean, and Resilient Water System”, discusses in-depth how Vietnam can manage its water resources in a sustainable way. (See also: Vietnam looks towards a safe clean and resilient water system - Vietnam News)

Mekong Delta farmers suffer rice crop failure, low price - Saigon News
Due to severe weather and extreme heat, harvests resulted in merely 450-550 kilogram per 1,000 square meters, a drop of nearly 200 kilogram per 1,000 square meters compared to the same rice crop last year.

Expert questions sustainability of Vietnam’s export-led growth model - Hanoi Times
The overall exports pattern of Vietnam portrays its similarities with export-led growth model of Mexico, which has turned itself into export production platforms for foreign multinationals, rather than developing its own indigenous industrial capacity.

Ca Mau fortification of sea dyke on west coast remains work in progress - Vietnam News
There is a 94km sea dyke designed to protect the coast during storm seasons. But in recent years the increasing occurrence of strong tides and waves has been causing more and more landslides, leading to loss of land and sometimes even protective forests.

Rising pollution a major concern for Vietnam's parents - Vietnam News
The number of cases of respiratory infections in children has grown from 2-3 percent to 10 percent. 

REGIONAL CONTEXT

Your bowl of rice is hurting the climate too - Bloomberg
The Bangkok-based, corporate-sponsored, Sustainable Rice Project is working with thousands of farmers in countries like India, Nigeria, Thailand and Vietnam to give them a score based on climate change and sustainability guidelines. 

Southeast Asia doesn't want to be the world's dumping ground. Here's how some countries are pushing back - Time
The global trash trade has reached a turning point; wealthier nations have long shipped their plastic waste to the developing world to be processed, but in recent months, some nations in Southeast Asia have begun sending the exports — much of it contaminated plastic and trash that is unrecyclable — back to where it came from.
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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