The real sign of development and democracy is how a country respects, protects and promotes freedoms and human rights. The biggest challenge of our times is the increasing gap between the promises and performance of states and governments in relation to the protection of the freedoms and human rights of their people. This is most evident in many countries in Asia, with the shrinking of freedom and democratic spaces resulting in increasing attacks on human rights defenders.
In recent weeks, violent clashes in Kayin State have further disrupted Myanmar’s fragile peace process. Fighting between the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and the government-sponsored Border Guard Force (BGF) in Mae Tha Waw areas of Hlaingbwe township, and more recently near Kawkareik township, has displaced over a thousand people. Entire families have fled their homes and are left stranded with limited access to food and assistance, producing nothing short of a humanitarian crisis. Across the border in Thailand, nearly 60,000 people remain in refugee camps, having fled ongoing conflict over the past two decades.
On Oct. 10, police in the south-central province of Khanh Hoa arrested a popular blogger, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, 37, who writes under the pen name Mother Mushroom. She is co-founder of a network of independent bloggers who often find themselves in the crosshairs of a regime that strictly controls the news media and does not tolerate dissent. Radio Free Asia quoted the network as protesting that Ms. Quynh is an “activist who has advocated for human rights, improved living conditions for people, and sovereignty for many years.”
China has made a number of significant steps towards building a future of more sustainable energy.
President Xi Jinping has made good on his commitment to increase the supply of renewable energy at the climate change conference in Paris last year, a time when the toxic smog choking streets in Beijing and Shanghai was making global headlines. I wrote about this at the time in my column “China’s energy paradox”.
What is the biggest challenge in carrying out an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for a project in Việt Nam?
As we all know, an EIA is a scientific process that comes up with some projection of the environmental impacts that a project may cause to its surroundings. But currently, an EIA is expected to come up with assessments on areas that do not belong to its ‘original task’ like social impact assessments (SIA), health impact assessments (HIA) and risk assessments (RA).
Though the work demanded for a good EIA report is large, the capital resources allocated for EIAs in Việt Nam is very limited – between just 1-10 per cent of the average resources it receives in other countries. That’s the key reason why an EIA report in Việt Nam is not as comprehensive and independent as it should be.
Just as forests are more than only trees, rivers are more than water. The Mekong river carries massive loads of sediment and nutrients from upstream to downstream and across national borders, replenishing and enriching the land as it goes. This process is key to sustaining the ecological integrity of the river and surrounding landscapes, which in turn supports the economy.
However, a boom in sand mining and hydropower development on the Mekong is transforming the river’s sediment flows, with profound consequences for the region if left unchecked. For a prosperous, sustainable future for the region, all Mekong countries must come together now and adopt international standards for managing transboundary river resources.
My trip to Songkhla in the south of Thailand earlier this week was not a typical sightseeing jaunt, but it was certainly worthwhile.
My destination was not Muang district which is famous for its old-town quarters or Hat Yai, the well-known shopping district of the southern region, but a pristine beach in Thepa’s tambon Pak Bang which is the designated site for a controversial coal-fired power plant.
A global moratorium commencing in 2017 on new fossil-fuel power plants without carbon-capture technology is an option. It would have to be accompanied by grants and cheap international loans to help countries that cancel fossil-fuel power plants to rapidly develop energy efficiency, solar and wind.