Thursday, July 27, 2017
Get Adobe Flash player

Thai military ready to aid Philippines

Posted by pakin On July - 26 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

The Royal Thai Army (RTA) is ready to send troops to the restive city of Marawi to provide humanitarian aid if the Philippines seeks help from Thailand.

Lt Gen Chatchai Patranavik, chief of the RTA’s Counter Terrorist Operations Centre, says if requested, Thai troops could be deployed to Marawi to provide humanitarian aid for residents affected by the conflict against local militants claiming links to the Islamic State (IS) group.

The relief would be provided under the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) programme. He stressed they would not engage in any combat.

At present, only military advisers from Australia and the United States are deployed in and around Marawi.

“We [Thailand] would have to position ourselves carefully in this operation. Otherwise, we could invite trouble for ourselves. However, if the Philippines seeks help from us, we have to be ready. It is just preparation,” an army source said.

Lt Gen Chatchai was speaking during the 7th Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus Experts’ Working Group on Counter-Terrorism, held in Bangkok.

The meeting, co-chaired by the Thai and Chinese Defence ministries, aimed to discuss anti-terrorist measures. More than 100 representatives from Asean member countries attended the meeting.

Speaking about the IS issue, Lt Gen Chatchai said there have been no reports of IS activities in the country. He admitted individuals connected to IS had earlier entered the country but have since left.

 

KHON PI LONG, Chiang Rai — China’s plan to blast open more of the Mekong River for bigger cargo ships could founder on a remote outcrop of half-submerged rocks that Thai protesters have vowed to protect against Beijing’s economic expansion in Southeast Asia.

Dynamiting the Pi Long rapids and other sections of the Mekong between Thailand and Laos will harm the environment and bring trade advantages only to China, the protesters say.

“This will be the death of the Mekong,” said Niwat Roykaew, chairman of the Rak Chiang Khong Conservation Group, which is campaigning against the project. “You’ll never be able to revive it.”

Mr Niwat said blasting the Mekong will destroy fish breeding grounds, disrupt migrating birds and cause increased water flow that will erode riverside farmland.

Such opposition reflects a wider challenge to China’s ambitious “One Belt, One Road” project to build a modern-day Silk Road through Asia to Europe.

Second Harbour Consultants, a subsidiary of state-owned behemoth China Communications Construction Corp (CCCC) said it was surveying the Mekong for a report that China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand would use to decide whether blasting should go ahead.

It added that it was not tasked with the blasting, which would need to go to tender.

The company said in an email it had held meetings with local people “to communicate, build confidence and clear doubts”.

China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Clearing the Mekong for bigger ships is not officially a part of One Belt, One Road, a project announced in 2013. China blasted sections of the river in Laos several years earlier.

But some Chinese engineers involved in the survey speak of it as a part of the broader plan, and it is consistent with Beijing’s Silk Road objectives.

Even in its Southeast Asian backyard, where it has sympathetic governments and ancient historical ties, China sometimes struggles to convince ordinary people that One Belt One Road will benefit them.

Thailand, Laos and Myanmar have approved the survey work, which is funded by China, but further studies and approvals are needed before blasting.

Keeping a low profile

The Mekong River originates in the Tibetan plateau and cascades through China and five Southeast Asian countries.

China has built a series of dams along its stretch of the river that Thai campaigners say has impacted the water flow and made the regional giant hard to trust.

Chinese flags now flutter from company speedboats, while CCCC Second Harbour has met with Thai protesters three times since December in a bid to avert opposition to their work.

A unit of the conglomerate faced violent protests in January in Sri Lanka, where people objected to plans for an industrial zone in the south.

Chinese engineers on the Mekong said they were worried that Thai protesters would board the rickety cargo ship where they slept, prompting them to moor it on the Lao side of the Mekong each night.

“We are afraid for our team’s safety,” one engineer told Reuters, declining to be named because he wasn’t authorised to speak to the media.

“We keep a low profile here,” he added. “We want to do this project well and benefit Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, China, these four countries. This is not just for China.”

China wants to remove rocks and sandbanks to allow ships of up to 500 tonnes to sail from its landlocked province of Yunnan to the sleepy Laotian town of Luang Prabang.

That would expedite the shipping of Chinese freight deep into northern Laos, said Paul Chambers, an expert in international relations at Thailand’s Naresuan University.

“Luang Prabang may seem sleepy, but northern Laos … represents a hub of Chinese influence,” he said.

 

Obama’s pivot to Asia is dead. Despite the Trump administration’s confrontation with North Korea dominating headlines for the past several weeks, in the back channels of a major regional summit, diplomats all whispered the same thing, the pivot was over.

f anything, Trump’s obsession with North Korea and the administration needing a win on foreign policy matters means that he has softened his stance towards China, a nation he once accused of unfair trade practices and currency manipulation.

Trump has been effusive in his praise of his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in recent weeks, calling him a strong leader and someone that he got along with very well.

What it means for regional players attending a conference like the ASEAN summit is that China can freely flex its muscles and assert its influence over individual members.

Nowhere was this more apparent than in the Chairman’s statement on Saturday which recapped the 3-day summit.

Despite four of the ten members having serious issues with Beijing over the South China Sea, the statement released was, as an Indonesian senior diplomat bluntly put, “soft.”

As the US pulls away from the region and with a growing recognition by Trump that he would have to cede some influence to coerce China to his aid on the Korean peninsula, individual ASEAN members were more vulnerable than ever to China’s bidding.

Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar, countries with no stake in the South China Sea, have already courted Beijing for investment and arms with the understanding that it would need to vote Beijing’s way on certain matters.

The Philippines, as host of the summit, softened its stance considerably on China and did not press for confrontation with the superpower in any of the closed-door meetings despite having won an arbitration hearing at the United Nations which invalidated Chinese claims to the South China Sea.

The softer stance reflected President Rodrigo Duterte’s previous statements that he was willing to negotiate with China and his recognition of Beijing’s influence and deep pockets.

While the chairman’s statement did mention the South China Sea the timorous set of generalities may as well not have been published at all.

The leaders of ASEAN are due to meet in again in Manilla in November of this year. As per tradition, the second ASEAN summit of the year will also play host to the East Asia Summit.

With both Trump and Xi (and Putin) due to arrive for the talks, it will be interesting to see how much ground Trump gives in order to advance his own foreign policy agenda. Until then, the United States pivot to Asia is effectively dead.

Snow envelops northern region of Vietnam

Posted by pakin On January - 25 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

LAO CAI – Many northern provinces have been experiencing bitter cold, while snow has been falling heavily in many areas across the northern mountainous region due to a strong cold spell that has enveloped almost half of the country since Saturday.

Snow blanketed Sa Pa in the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai yesterday and temperatures plunged to minus 5 degrees C on Saturday night, the lowest temperature in years. The temperature at Sa Pa was measured at 0 degrees C yesterday morning.

Local elderly people said this is the biggest snowfall they have seen in many years.

Freezing temperatures were also reported in other areas, such as minus 0.4 degrees C in Tam Dao(Phu Tho Province), minus 0.2 degrees C in Dong Van (Ha Giang Province) and minus 4 degrees C in Mau Son Mountain (Lang Son Province).

Sections of the national road 4D from O Quy Ho Pass (Sa Pa District) to Tam Duong District (Lai Chau Province) have been blanketed with snow and a centimetre of ice, posing danger to traffic.

Snow was also seen in higher-altitude areas, including Khau Pha Pass in Mu Cang Chai district, Suoi Giang Commune in Van Chan and Hat Luu and Tram Tau communes in Tram Tau District.

In Ha Noi, the highest temperature yesterday was forecast at 7 to 10 degrees C. Snow has also been seen in Ba Vi District, which is about 50km from Ha Noi.

The cold spell has expanded as far south as the central localities, bringing rain to most areas along the central coast.

Snowy peaks

Snowfall began after the temperature plummeted overnight, with thick ice and frost appearing on Phja Oac peak in the northern mountainous province of Cao Bang.

The temperature was recorded at negative 7 degrees Celsius on Saturday morning on the wintry white mountain peak.

The rare appearance of snow attracted some tourists who came to see the winter frost, but it also negatively impacted the locals’ activities.

According to Chairman of the Thanh Cong commune’s People’s Committee Ban Van Son, severe frost has damaging consequences to agricultural production, and it also poses health risks.

Authorities have urged locals to take several measures to cope with the cold weather.

Mong ethnic minority families in Sa Pa have taken measures to protect their cattle and crops from damage caused by the cold snap.

The cold front moving from the northern region may also reduce temperatures in HCM City and neighbouring provinces to as low as 17-18 degrees Celsius this weekend and early next week.

The ongoing cold snap has also triggered strong sea gusts, posing serious hazards to boats.

The Tonkin Gulf and sea off central and southern provinces and the entire East Sea, including the waters around Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) and Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelagoes, have witnessed rough seas and fierce winds.

The cold snap, expected to last until Wednesday, has also greatly affected localities in the central region, causing temperatures to drop to 10.4 and 12.4 degrees Celsius in Vinh City, the heart of Nghe An Province, and Ha Tinh Province, respectively.

TAG CLOUD