IN THE NEWS: 'Why the Mekong matters'

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IN THE NEWS:

By Sam Geall [The Third Pole, 1 November 2018]

The countries of the Mekong should build a “community of shared future”, said China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in December last year. The Lancang-Mekong Cooperative Framework (LMC) is “practical and highly effective”, he said. “We do not go after a high-profile ‘talk shop’, but a down-to-earth ‘bulldozer’”.

China has managed to cement its influence over the transboundary river in recent years, in a move that has important implications for the riverine environment and the people that rely on its resources. Its primary vehicle, or “bulldozer”, the LMC, will drive dam and development projects, special economic zones and trade.

It also illustrates China’s changing approaches to Southeast Asia – the central topic addressed recently in a policy forum The Third Pole and chinadialogue co-organised with the Centre for Social Development Studies (CSDS) and the Faculty of Political Science at Chulalongkorn University, in Bangkok.

Read more at this link here

UPCOMING PUBLIC SEMINAR: "Understanding the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Framework and China’s role in the Mekong Region" [Bangkok, 3 September 2018]

09.00 - 17.00, Monday, 3rd September at Alumni Meeting Room, 12th Floor, Kasem Utthayanin Building (อาคารเกษม อุทยานิน), Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand

Co-organized by chinadialogue, The Third Pole, Earth Journalism Network, and the Centre for Social Development Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok

The Mekong region is facing a period of rapid change shaped by a significant shift over the past decade in its relationship with China. New pathways of regional integration and intergovernmental cooperation have emerged, including through the Belt and Road Initiative and the Lancang Mekong Cooperation Framework. Associated with these shifts have been deepening trade between China and the Mekong Region, and growing flows of investment from China into a range of projects including large dams, railways, and industrial projects. Whilst these trends reflect a geo-economic shift, longstanding challenges on environmental sustainability, social equity, government-investor accountability to the public and public participation remain. Inevitably it seems, China, as a powerful country, will play a key role in shaping the future path of the Mekong Region.

This public forum will bring together experts and journalists from China and lower Mekong countries to discuss the geopolitical implications of Chinese investment and regional initiatives in the Mekong Region. It will address the Belt and Road Initiative; the challenges and opportunities in transboundary water governance under the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Framework, together with other emerging cooperation issues; and debate by regional journalists about the trends, challenges and successes for Southeast Asia’s media on reporting on China’s role in the Mekong Region.

 

Program and List of Panelists:

08.15 - 09.00  Registration

09.00 - 09.15  Welcome remarks by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ake Tangsupvattana, Dean of Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

09.15 - 10.45  Session 1: The Belt and Road Initiative:  Geopolitical implications for Asia

Moderator: Asst. Prof. Dr. Carl Middleton, Center for Social Development Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

  • 'Geopolitics and Geoeconomics of the Belt and Road Initiative' by Dr. Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Institute of Security and International Studies (ISIS), Chulalongkorn University

  • 'The Belt and Road Initiative: A Perspective from China' by Mr. Li Hong,Permanent Mission of the People's Republic of China to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (UNESCAP)

  • 'What does the Belt and Road Initiative mean for US-Thailand relations?' by Benjamin Zawacki, Independent Analyst

  • 'Debt Diplomacy?: The experience of Sri Lanka' by Amantha Perera, Journalist

10.45 - 11.15  Coffee break

11.15 - 12.45  Session 2: Transboundary Water Cooperation – Progress and Challenges

Moderator: Dr. Ukrist Pathmanand, Mekong Research Center, Institute of Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University  

12.45 - 13.30  Lunch

13.30 - 14.45  Session 3: Rise of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Framework: Emerging cooperation issues

Moderator: Kamol Sukin, China Dialogue

14.45 - 15.15  Coffee Break

15.15 - 16.45  Session 4: Reporting on the Mekong and China’s role: Trends, challenges and successes for Southeast Asia’s media

Moderator: Sim Kok Eng Amy, Earth Journalism Network

16.45 - 17.00  Closing Reflections

  • Dr. Sam Geall, China Dialogue

  • Professor Surichai Wun’gaeo, Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, Chulalongkorn University

 

*This event will be broadcasted on Facebook Live: www.facebook.com/CSDSChula/

 

To register for this forum, please e-mail us your name, organisation, and position to  Anisa Widyasari (CSDS) at communications.csds@gmail.com. The seat is limited and registration will be accepted on first come first served basis.

 
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IN THE NEWS: "One By One Big Hydropower Dams Disrupt Mekong River’s Free Flow"

By Keith Schneider [Circle of Blue, 2 August 2017]

In unfolding global energy revolution, expensive and ecologically risky dams may not be right choice to generate more electricity...

“The energy revolution is evolving around the world,” said Carl Middleton, an assistant professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, and a scholar on Mekong River development. “This region is resisting the shift, though, because of the economics of building big new projects. But it seems inevitable that the shift will happen here. It raises questions about continuing to build so many big dams.”...

Read more at: http://www.circleofblue.org/2017/world/one-one-big-hydropower-dams-disrupt-mekong-rivers-free-flow/

UPCOMING INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE SESSION: "Thailand’s Overseas Investment in Southeast Asia and Transnational (In)Justice" [16 July 2017]

Session organized at the 13th International Conference on Thai Studies
"Globalized Thailand?" Connectivity, Conflict, and Conundrums of Thai Studies
 

15:15-16:45, 16th July 2017, Chiang Mai International Exhibition and Convention Center

Session convened by the Center for Social Development Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

Thailand’s companies have become major investors in neighboring countries, including in agribusiness, hydropower, mining and various forms of industry. Thailand’s companies are backed by government policy, and typically financed by Thai commercial banks as well as, sometimes, Thailand’s Export Import Bank (Thai Exim). Thailand’s regional investment has furthermore been facilitated by various regional economic integration programs, including the Asian Development Bank’s Greater Mekong Subregion Program and more recently the ASEAN Economic Community. As one of the major economies of mainland Southeast Asia, Thailand has sought to positioned itself as central to economic regionalization. Given that Thailand itself is embedded within a wider global network of production, its companies’ investment in neighboring countries’ resource extraction and commodity production can also tied to a wider global political economy.

Whilst it seems that investment, commodities, goods and natural resources flow readily across borders, the same cannot be said of access to justice. In this panel, empirical case studies will be presented of Thailand’s cross-border investments that have in the process resulted in environmental and social harms, and in some cases violated human rights. The panel explores the various processes and arenas that have emerged as communities and civil society have sought redress and access to justice. These arenas have included in the national courts of the project host country, but also through various formal and informal cross-border processes that link to Thailand, including via Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission (TNHRC), and in one example a case ruled upon by Thailand’s administrative court. Meanwhile, a report of the TNHRC on the Dawei Special Economic Zone in Myanmar led to a Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs recommendation in March 2016 that the government should set up a mechanism for the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights for Thai companies investing overseas. Thus, a wider array of international norms is also brought into play, reflecting the legal pluralism that nowadays governs cross-border investments. This also brings into focus a question of the extra-territorial obligations of Thailand with regard to the investment of Thai companies.

This panel will critically evaluate Thailand’s investment role in the region through the lens of transnational social and environmental justice. Through empirical case studies on agribusiness, hydropower and special economic zones, the political economy of these investments will be explored in order to understand the production of injustice and human rights violations.  The papers will ask: what are the roles, opportunities and challenges for public interest law, national/ regional human rights institutions, other transnational soft law mechanisms, and civil society to protect and promote human rights on Thailand’s investments?

  • Paper 1:  Accountability Beyond the State: Extra territorial obligations in the case of the Koh Kong Sugar Industry Concession, Cambodia by Michelle D’cruz
  • Paper 2: Redressing transboundary environmental injustice at the Dawei Special Economic Zone and Roadlink Project by Naruemon Thabchumpon
  • Paper 3: Arenas of Water Justice on Transboundary Rivers: Human Rights and Hydropower Dams on the Salween and Mekong Rivers by Carl Middleton

Discussant: Walden Bello.

Chair: Daniel King

Abstracts can be downloaded here (see page 7; session 53). Conference details are available here.