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ASEAN in disarray over Chinese claims

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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ASEAN in disarray over Chinese claims | The Thaiger

BANGKOK: China’s territorial claims to the South China Sea are expected to be dealt a blow today as the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague (PCA) is scheduled to announce its decision on seven issues advanced by the Philippines against the People’s Republic.

The PCA, one of the world’s oldest and most widely-respected bodies for resolving international disputes, is likely to rule that China’s campaign of island building and its claims over areas of the sea contradicts international maritime accords.

China currently lays claim to some 2 million square kilometers of maritime space through a post-World War II plan known as the ‘nine-dash-line’. Only one of the seven submissions made by the Philippines, an ASEAN member, directly address the legality of Chinese claims. If the PCA found in favor of the Philippines in the other six submissions, it would undermine the legality of Chinese actions in the region.
To that effect, the People’s Republic has refused to take part in the PCA’s deliberations and has actively called into question the legitimacy of the body itself.

The Chinese government has also launched a national media campaign at home, in what appears to be an attempt to solidify government support ahead of international repudiation.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University, says that the dispute between China and the Philippines is straining relations between ASEAN members, particularly between the more maritime-dependent Philippines and Vietnam and smaller ASEAN states located in China’s back yard.

“In fact, China is drumming up its own international support ahead of the PCA’s imminent decision, including a side agreement with Brunei, Cambodia and Laos that the international ruling will not impinge on ASEAN-China relations,” Mr Thitinan wrote in an op-ed piece in the Straits Times last month .

Should the PCA rule in favor of the Philippines, Mr Thitinan thinks it likely that those side agreements would undermine the unification of ASEAN by driving a wedge between the Philippines and Vietnam on the one hand, and Brunei, Cambodia and Laos on the other.

“The Manila-Beijing contest over the South China Sea has emerged as the most daunting and existential threat to all that ASEAN has achieved as the central linchpin of regionalism in Asia,” he wrote.

The stakes are high, both for China, which is expected to ignore the ruling if the Court finds in favor of the Philippines, and for ASEAN members, as Chinese influence erodes the economic organization’s political cooperation.

More than half the tonnage of the world’s global trade passes through the South China Sea annually, making it the second most used sea lane in the world.

The expected Chinese disregard for the PCA’s rulings and its undermining of ASEAN political unity also threatens claims by Vietnam and other member states to disputed off shore oil fields. The US Department of Energy Information estimates that there are oil reserves of around 11 billion barrels and natural gas of about 266 trillion cubic feet beneath the South China Sea bed.

The PCA has no means of enforcing whatever decision it delivers today. That means that should the Philippines wish to enforce its territorial claims against those advanced by China, it would find itself very much outgunned by the Chinese navy. This may shed some light as to the United States’ decision to dispatch two carrier-groups to Philippine waters over the last couple weeks.

With additional reporting by Wes Martin of the Phuket Gazette.

— Pornpimol Kanchanalak / The Nation

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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ASEAN

Human hair trade exploits ASEAN women

Greeley Pulitzer

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Human hair trade exploits ASEAN women | The Thaiger

Hair extensions have become an essential part of the multi-billion-dollar hair industry, with estimated annual sales of 250 million to over 1 billion USD. Based on a 2018 Research and Markets report, the global hair, wigs and extension market is expected to surpass 10 billion USD by 2023.

Raw human hair has significant commercial value: it’s a coveted commodity to be processed into hair extensions and wigs. According to a report by the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC), the global value for human hair exports in 2017 was 126 million USD. Asia exported 72.4 million USD, accounting for 58 percent of the global trade.

In India, the Tirupati Balaji temple earns 10 percent of its income through auctioning hair donated by devotees, raking in a profit of 25 million to 40 million USD annually.

There are three categories for collected hair: Remy, non-Remy and virgin hair. Remy is usually obtained from temple donations and is of the highest grade. Non-Remy hair is a lower grade, collected from individuals, and is typically broken or short. Virgin hairhas never been chemically treated.

In Southeast Asia, long hair is esteemed as a mark of beauty with deep religious and social meaning, especially in Buddhist countries. While most brands opt to acquire hair from India where it’s donated for religious reasons, in Southeast Asia, traders target impoverished areas to buy hair from desperately poor people whose poverty makes them easy prey. Hair extensions in the US can cost 500 to 2000 USD, but the owner of the hair usually receives only a fraction of that. For example, Nguyen Thi Thuy of Vietnam says the highest she has ever been offered for her hair is 70,000 Vietnamese dong, or 3 USD. Pheng Sreyvy from Cambodia fared slightly better at 15 USD for her locks.

According to the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, women don’t know how to bargain over the price of hair. “They decided to sell their hair because they are poor, and they don’t know where to sell their hair for international market price,” a spokeswoman said.

The high value of human hair has made hair-theft muggings a recurrent problem in some countries, and some companies have resorted to chemical processing or a mixture of human and goat hair.

Increased awareness of exploitation has prompted many companies to collect hair from more transparent and ethical sources. While the human hair trade has provided many communities with income and opportunities, practices that exploit and deprive women of opportunities continue.

SOURCE: theaseanpost.com

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Crime

Thai women in Japan drug bust

Greeley Pulitzer

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Thai women in Japan drug bust | The Thaiger

Japanese Police and Customs Officials at Fukuoka Airport reported the arrest of seven Thai women who smuggled in drugs weighing more than a kilogram into Japan. The women separated the drugs into tiny bags and hid them in random places on their bodies.

The women purchased tour tickets and tried to blend in as Thai tourists. When caught with the evidence, they admitted smuggling the drugs for foreigners living in Japan, alleging that they received orders from tourists to bring in the drugs.

Another recent arrest Thai women smuggling cocaine has prompted Japanese officials to consider tightening entry requirements for Thai tourists to protect against drug smuggling.

SOURCE: thairesidents.com

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World

The stakes are high, the deliberations continue – Parliamentary Brexit vote

The Thaiger

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The stakes are high, the deliberations continue – Parliamentary Brexit vote | The Thaiger

Call it Super Saturday, call it Deal or No Deal, call it the most important day in recent UK history. Today (Saturday) the UK House of Commons will gather on a Saturday, the first time for decades. Golf games have been postponed, polo sticks will have to gather dust and the cleaner’s been told to come back on Sunday.

Earlier this week, British PM Boris Johnson did the near impossible and secured a new Brexit deal from the EU. The EU shocked everyone by throwing out the controversial Irish border backstop and replacing it with an alternative plan, after months of saying that Theresa May’s deal could not be changed. Moreover, the EU leaders seem happy with the deal and have been waxing lyrical about the scruffy British PM they all dreaded negotiating with.

But it’s not going to be easy. Some PMs have already tabled amendments that could make Johnson’s run of success fall short of a finish line. Opposition MPs will put forward proposals to scrap Brexit or schedule a second referendum.

So how is the crucial, and historic vote, going to roll?

It’s far too close to call. PM Johnson doesn’t have a majority in Parliament and his Northern Irish allies, the DUP, who he needed to pass legislation, have already said that they won’t back the new plan. Meanwhile, his opposition MPs are lining up to criticise the deal. And there’s serious concern that the arch-Brexiteers in his own Conservative party will vote against the deal too.

Bottomline, if MPs don’t vote for this deal then they can’t be certain that Brexit will be delayed, despite the fact that Johnson is legally obliged to request a Brexit extension if no deal has been agreed by 11 pm on Saturday night. Last month, opposition MPs passed legislation that binds the British to this commitment. Mr. Johnson says he will comply with the law but reminds his opponents that this decision relies on the EU still having to unanimously agree to it.

But, if the deal passes, the UK finally leaves the EU. Johnson would probably hope to capitalise on his success and call for a general election soon after. His poll ratings are good at the moment, and you’d think they would improve after delivering Brexit.

If the deal goes down, Johnson requests the extension and it’s approved, then we get into the nasty election where both sides will tear each other apart, adding more to a polarised community that may take decades to recover from this folly.

And if the EU refuses an extension, then all hell breaks loose.

Has it all been worth it?

Anyway, bring on Super Saturday as the deliberations continue.

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