Asia News In Brief

18:14' 04-04-2017
A crackdown against opposition politicians and activists in Cambodia is part of a wider authoritarian “disease” infecting the region, Southeast Asian politicians have warned.


    Political crackdown part of a “disease”

    A crackdown against opposition politicians and activists in Cambodia is part of a wider authoritarian “disease” infecting the region, Southeast Asian politicians have warned.

    Cambodia has been ruled by Premier Hun Sen for more than 30 years. His reign has brought stability and growth but been criticised as corrupt and autocratic, with little opposition. In 2013 opposition parties united to win 55 seats in parliament, the first significant move against Hun Sen.

    Ahead of next year's polls, Hun Sen has moved to undermine opposition power. Steps taken include jailing or bringing court proceedings against opposition parliamentarians, legislation making it easier to dissolve opposition parties, physical attacks on lawmakers by the security forces, and the detention of rights workers.

    Charles Santiago, a lawmaker in Malaysia, said these attacks were part of “a new disease sweeping across Southeast Asia”. He noted similar events in Malaysia and the Philippines. Former Thai lawmaker Kraisak Choonhaven said his own country had seen a similar descent into autocracy since the military’s 2014 coup.

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    Philippines farm produce to be imported

    China and the Philippines reached agreements in March under which Chinese companies vow to buy US$1.7 billion worth of fruit and other agricultural products from the Philippines.

    According to Chinese Ambassador to the Philippine Zhao Jianhua, the agreements are an effort to balance the trade between the two countries. Statistics show that bilateral trade has reached US$100 million during the last five months.

    Mr Zhao added that signing the deals was a result of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's state visit to China in October last year.

    The agreements will be the first of many as China also wants to import more non-food goods such as chemicals and related products.


    China’s response to THAAD draws complaints

    South Korea has complained about Chinese retaliation against South Korean companies over the deployment of a US anti-missile defence system. Trade Minister Joo Hyung-hwan told parliament, “We have notified the WTO that China may be in violation of some trade agreements.”

    South Korea and the US say the sole purpose of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system is to guard against missile launches from North Korea, but China says that its powerful radar could penetrate into Chinese territory. Beijing also says THAAD will do nothing to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula.

    China is South Korea’s largest trading partner. The dispute has resulted in a decline in Chinese tourists in South Korea’s shopping districts. Chinese authorities have also closed nearly two dozen retail stores of South Korea’s Lotte Group. China denies that THAAD is the reason.

    The South Korean government has offered cheap loans and extended deadlines on existing debt to help affected businesses.


    Laos seeks to improve transport infrastructure

    Lao government is preparing to attract investment for developing and improving transport infrastructure through the Public Private Partnership mechanism, said Lao Deputy Prime Minister Somdy Douangdy.

    Speaking at the Intergovernmental Tenth Regional Environmentally Sustainable Transport Forum in Asia in Vientiane on March 14, he said that, due to limited funds, the country faces many challenges meeting the rapidly increasing demand in this sector.

    The Deputy PM added that landlocked Laos is the least developed, and continues to face many challenges and impediments in the development of infrastructure and quality human resources among developing countries.

    Bambang Susantono, Vice President of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), said the bank will provide US$1.7 trillion for infrastructure development, and US$600 million for transportation in Asia and the Pacific.


    Australia’s raw prawn ban draws criticism

    The Vietnamese Government has slammed Australia for “causing severe damage” to its prawn farmers and exporters, and asked the Australian Government to reconsider its ban on uncooked prawn imports.

    Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce announced a six-month delay in importing raw prawns in January, after an outbreak of white spot disease in Queensland.

    Vietnam’s Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Quoc Khanh said the ban had hurt the country’s aquaculture industry, which exports about US$55 million worth of uncooked prawns to Australia. A number of Vietnamese exporters are facing the risk of going bankrupt.

    “In our view, the ban is not in line with common practice and the spirit of maintaining and improving the existing good trade relationship between Vietnam and Australia, Mr. Khanh said. “It was issued by the Australian Government without giving adequate time for Vietnamese prawn exporters to take needed actions to prevent such large economic losses.”

    Australian authorities are still investigating how white spot disease spread to Australia, which its prawn farmers have blamed it on Asian imports.

    Bikini Airlines Creating First Female Billionaire

    Vietnamese buisnesswoman Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao is about to be the very first Vietnamese female billionaire. Her brilliant idea is to staff privately-owned airline VietJet with attractive women clad in bikinis.

    Ms Nguyen owns 95% of VietJet, which will go public in the next three months, and likely make her at least $1.37 billion richer. Because of the bikini-clad stewardesses, VietJet grabbed more than 30% of the industry’s market share, and is still rising. In time it might even rise up against the national carrier, Vietnam Airlines.

    VietJet has been popular because of its very young flight attendants who wear bikinis for their inaugural flights to beach locations and are also featured on calendars wearing the same costumes.

    Phung Nguyen and Span Hanna

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