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Suu Kyi attending ASEAN Summit amid regional storm over Rohingya

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Suu Kyi attending ASEAN Summit amid regional storm over Rohingya | The Thaiger
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PHOTO: ASEAN members will be piling pressure on Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi over the regional Rohingya crisis.

Myanmar ‘State Counsellor’ Aung San Suu Kyi is heading to Bangkok to attend this weekend’s 34th Summit of the ASEAN. It’s believed the Rohingya refugee crisis will be a hot topic for discussion at the Summit.

Myanmar’s state-run media report that Suu Kyi was invited by Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, who is hosting the two-day event as chair of ASEAN for this year.

Meanwhile ASEAN’s muslim-majority countries are planning a ‘firm tone’ in their in-Summit discussions when it begins on June 23. The firm tone is a departure from ASEAN’s usual mild attitude toward Myanmar, based on the group’s principle of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs. Other ASEAN members say they have lost patience with Myanmar over the slow progress on serious human rights violations, which have been condemned by UN investigators as “genocide”.

Muslim-majority nations in the region such as Indonesia and Malaysia are believed to be driving the criticism against Myanmar.

Suu Kyi has been under fire internationally over her down-beat response to the plight of the Rohingya. Among the ASEAN membership, Malaysia has been particularly critical of her failure to tackle the problem. Her response, so far, has been to side with Myanmar’s military or no response at all.

Suu Kyi says that she has already met with diplomats from member ASEAN nations – Laos, The Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, and the ASEAN secretary-general Lim Jock Hoi. The Secretary General led an assessment team on a visit to Rakhine late last year.

An estimated 750,000 Rohingya fled the Rhakine state in Myanmar over the border into neighbouring Bangladesh since August 2017 amid well-documented allegations of atrocities committed by Myanmar’s military. The purge attracted broad support from the Buddhist-majority Burmese people.

Myanmar’s ‘puppet’ President Win Myint has also been invited to the Summit.

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Economy

Vietnam’s booming manufacturing sector reduced to a trickle as world pandemic kills demand

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Vietnam’s booming manufacturing sector reduced to a trickle as world pandemic kills demand | The Thaiger

Vietnamese finance officials are downgrading expectations for a recovery of the south east Asian nation’s economy in 2021. The normally fast-growing gross domestic product in 2020 has stalled due to a huge drop in local and global demand, and the absence of international tourism. The booming economy, growing at an average of 6% per year since 2012, will struggle to reach a growth rate of 2% this year.

Fuelled by manufactured exports, the Vietnam economy has dropped back to a trickle. The Asian Development Bank estimates that this year’s GDP growth could be as low as 1.8%. The Vietnamese factories, that usually crank out shoes, garments, furniture and cheap electronics, are seeing dropping demand as the world’s consumer confidence drops dramatically.

Stay-at-home rules in Europe and America are keeping are keeping people away from retail stores. And despite the acceleration of online retail, many of the consumers are emerging from the Covid Spring and Summer with vastly reduced spending power.

The headaches of 2020 are also challenging Vietnam to maintain its reputation as south east Asia’s manufacturing hotspot. Rising costs and xenophobic foreign policy have put China ‘on the nose’ with some governments, complicating factory work in China, whilst other south east Asian countries lack infrastructure and are incurring higher wage costs.

One Vietnamese factory operated by Taiwan-based Pou Chen Group, which produces footwear for top international brands, has laid off 150 workers earlier this year. There are hundreds more examples of the impact of falling demand in the bustling Vietnamese manufacturing economy.

Vietnam’s border closure is also preventing investors from making trips, setting up meetings and pushing projects forward. Those projects in turn create jobs, fostering Vietnam’s growing middle class. Tourism has also been badly affected by the restrictions on travel. “International tourism is dead,” says Jack Nguyen, a partner at Mazars in Ho Chi Minh City.

“Inbound tourism usually makes up 6% of the economy.”

“Things will only pick up only when the borders are open and there’s no quarantine requirements. Who knows when that’s going to be.”

A mid-year COVID-19 outbreak in the coastal resort city Danang followed by the start of the school year has reduced domestic travel, analysts say. Some of the country’s hotels are up for sale as a result.

“Recovery could take 4 years.”

The Vietnamese Ministry of Planning and Investment is now warning that global post-pandemic recovery could take as long as 4 years, perhaps more.

Not that foreign investors in the country are pulling out. Indeed, many are tainge a long-term view that Vietnam’s underlying strengths will outlive Covid-19. Vietnam reports just 1,069 coronavirus cases overall.

SOURCE: VOA News

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Thailand

Thai Health Minister accepts chairman role with WHO Regional Committee

Maya Taylor

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Thai Health Minister accepts chairman role with WHO Regional Committee | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai PBS World

Thailand’s Health Minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, has been appointed chair of the World Health Organisation’s Regional Committee for Southeast Asia. The colourful and controversial minister made the announcement at a press conference yesterday afternoon. He says 14 countries put his name forward for the role, which has a fixed term of 1 year, partly due to Thailand’s success in controlling the Covid-19 virus.

The committee is due to hold its first meeting today, where members are expected to discuss the Covid-19 situation in Southeast Asia and share tips and best practice ideas. Anutin says Southeast Asian nations are focused on the resumption of travel between their countries, adding that improving the Covid-19 situation across the region is critical in order to facilitate this.

Anutin is generally well-liked by the Thai public, although the same cannot be said for the country’s foreign population, many of whom were riled by what they saw as xenophobic comments made by him in the early weeks of the Covid outbreak, describing some foreigners as “dirty farang” for not accepting free masks as they were being handed out at a PR event at Siam BTS station in Bangkok in May this year.

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

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Business

Thailand planning land and rail passageway, bypassing congested Strait of Malacca

Maya Taylor

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Thailand planning land and rail passageway, bypassing congested Strait of Malacca | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Shutterstock / The Jakarta Post

Thailand hopes to shorten shipping time by bypassing the busy Strait of Malacca with a 100 kilometre highway and railway passageway. Discussions are underway to construct 2 deep seaports on both sides of the country’s southern coast, which would be linked via rail and highway.

The latest proposal replaces the Kra Canal plan, which was talked about for decades. That plan would have seen a canal crossing the skinniest point of the country, through the Isthmus of Kra just south of Phuket and Krabi, chopping around 1,200 kilometres off the shipping journey. However, it has now been dropped on environmental grounds.

The new project is expected to reduce shipping time by 2 days by bypassing the Strait of Malacca, which runs along Peninsular Malaysia’s south-west coast, before curving east past Singapore. The passageway is notoriously congested, as well as being susceptible to piracy. According to a report in the South China Morning Post, incidents of piracy increased from 8 in 2018 to 30 last year.

Thailand planning land and rail passageway, bypassing congested Strait of Malacca | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Encyclopedia of Earth

Currently, around a quarter of globally traded goods use the Strait of Malacca, with Thailand’s Transport Minister, Saksiam Chidchob, saying an alternative route is now a necessity.

“The Strait has become quite congested. Using an alternative route through Thailand would cut shipping time by more than 2 days, which is very valuable for businesses.”

The alternative route would see a 100 kilometre highway and rail passageway linking 2 seaports on either side of Thailand’s southern coast. It’s understood the government has set 75 million baht aside for a study into the building of the seaports, along with a further 90 million baht to look into the feasibility of highway and rail connections between the two.

If the project went ahead it would be a major blow to Singapore which has built its fortune on being the south east Asian shipping and trading hub at the turning point at the bottom of the Mallaca Strait.

SOURCE: South China Morning Post

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