Posts Tagged ‘Thailand’

Trump administration rejects Theresa May’s post-Brexit agriculture deal with EU — One of Theresa May’s key plans for a smooth Brexit

October 7, 2017

Proposal was key part of Prime Minister’s plans for a smooth Brexit

By Lydia Smith

The Independent

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The US has objected to a deal between the UK and EU to divide agricultural import quotas, one of Theresa May’s key plans for a smooth Brexit.

British and European negotiators had been working on an agreement to split tariff rate quotas, which would allow some agricultural produce to enter the EU from countries outside of the union.

A preliminary deal was drawn up between London and Brussels over how to split the EU’s existing tariff rate quotas (TRQs) – agreed under the World Trade Organisation – but it was rejected by the US, Canada, New Zealand, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Thailand in a co-signed letter.

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Brexit talks: European Parliament says sufficient progress not made

The news is setback for the Prime Minister, who presented the deal as a breakthrough for a successful Brexit, particularly as Donald Trump was a proponent of Britain exiting the EU.

The argument put forward for the deal by Britain and the EU is that the rest of the world will not be left “worse off” if the bloc’s quotas are reduced and Britain takes a share of them.

The letter from the objectors states they were not consulted and the deal would disrupt “the delicate balance of concessions and entitlements that is fundamental to the global trade architecture today.”

“We are aware of media reports suggesting the possibility of a bilateral agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union 27 countries about splitting TRQs based on historical averages,” the letter read.

“We would like to record that such an outcome would not be consistent with the principle of leaving other WTO members no worse off, nor fully honour the existing TRQ access commitments.

“Thus, we cannot accept such an agreement.”

New Zealand deputy trade secretary Vangelis Vitalis tweeted other states “have ideas” do not want to have a “solution” imposed on them.

“Sorry that key partners assume a deal they strike between them will suit RoW. Didn’t need to be this way,” he wrote.

The objectors said the deal  say it will indeed leave them “worse off” as a separate quota for Britain would mean exporters could not compensate for low British demand by selling to another EU country, which they currently can.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/brexit-agriculture-deal-uk-eu-donald-trump-us-reject-trade-quotas-plan-theresa-may-a7986221.html

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Trump to Host Thai Prime Minister on October 2: White House

September 29, 2017

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump will host Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha at the White House on Oct. 2, not Oct. 3 as previously announced, the White House said in a statement on Thursday.

(Reporting by Eric Beech)

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Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha with Xi Jinping. Xinhua photo

Ex-Thai Leader Sentenced in Absentia to 5 Years in Prison

September 27, 2017

BANGKOK — A Thai court on Wednesday sentenced ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in absentia to five years in prison for alleged negligence in a money-losing rice subsidy program.

Yingluck, who says the charges are politically motivated, is believed to have fled the country last month before the court session at which the verdict initially was to have been delivered.

Yingluck’s government was overthrown in a military coup in 2014. She and her supporters said she was innocent and was persecuted as part of an effort to dismantle the political machine of her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a telecommunications tycoon.

Thaksin was toppled from power by a 2006 military coup after being accused of abuse of power, corruption and disrespect for the country’s monarchy. He is living in self-imposed exile to avoid serving a prison term for what he calls a politically motivated 2008 conviction on a conflict of interest charge.

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Ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra

Yingluck, who inherited the leadership of Thaksin’s political machine and was elected prime minister in 2011, became a proxy target for his enemies as well.

The rice subsidy scheme was a flagship policy that helped Yingluck’s Pheu Thai Party win the 2011 general election. The government paid farmers about 50 percent above what they would have received on the world market, with the intention of driving up prices by warehousing the grain.

Prosecutors argued that Yingluck ignored warnings of corruption in the subsidy program and was guilty of dereliction of duty. Her critics describe the overriding motive of the program as political, an effort to buy the loyalty of rural voters with state funds.

Thaksin’s supporters, who delivered him unprecedented electoral victories, believe his only offense was challenging the power of the country’s traditional elite, led by monarchists and the military, and supported by the urban middle class.

They believe his popular appeal, earned by populist policies benefiting the less well-off rural majority, threatened the traditional ruling class’ privilege.

Thailand’s tourism numbers continue to soar

September 27, 2017

Around Thailand September 25, 2017 17:51

By Phuket Gazette

Most Asian nations have seen their currencies strengthen against the US dollar and they are the main source for Thailand’s tourist arrivals.

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The tourists keep arriving, the numbers keep soaring. Assuming the numbers have to plateau at some stage, when will that be?

For the past 20 years, through floods, bombings, coups, political upheavals and a few unsolved, mystery murders, Thailand’s tourist arrival numbers just keep rising and rising, heading into unfamiliar territory. So many people have predicted doom and gloom – “the good days are over” – but still the tourists continue to flock to the Land of Smiles.

Once known to the world as the Land of a Thousand Smiles Thailand’s probably more accurately known these days as the Land of a Thousand 7/11s. If you were going to start a successful business in Phuket in 2017 you’d either open a convenience store or a rubber shop and do a deal with the tour buses. A story in ttrweekly.com has all the numbers….

China continues to dominate Thailand’s inbound tourist arrivals with August ending up with 3,133,411 visits, up 8.6% year-on-year. August was the fourth month, this year, that saw arrivals exceed 3 million, the second highest after January when visits reached 3,197,053.

Other peak travel months when visits exceeded 3 million were March and July.

So where did tourists come from in August?

• China, 982,212 +10.30%

• Malaysia, 277,606 +9.52%

• South Korea, 164,001 +16.52%

• Japan, 162,703 +5.03%

• Laos,158,377 +4.18%

• India, 116,376 +14.77%

• Hong Kong, 93,136 +8.88%

• Vietnam, 90,502 +9.17%

• Cambodia, 82,776 +20.84%

• Singapore, 81,366 + 21.2%.

Most Asian nations have seen their currencies strengthen against the US dollar and they are the main source for Thailand’s tourist arrivals. January to August revenue reached an estimated 1.19 trillion THB, an increase of 7.47% over the same period last year. Tourism earnings represent 12% of Thailand’s total GDP.

August figures, and those for the eight months so far, show China dominates Thailand’s travel supply chain. If there was ever a blip in that pattern it would drive the tourism industry to hit the panic button, as it did during last year’s crackdown on zero-dollar tours.

In 2016 Thailand registered 32.6 million visits. Based on the current performance tourism officials are confident visits will exceed 35 million by the end of the 2017.

Source by: https://www.phuketgazette.net/news/thailands-tourism-numbers-continue-soar

Roadside bomb kills four in Thailand’s troubled south: security official

September 22, 2017

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Military personnel and police officers search the area of a roadside bomb blast in the southern province of Pattani, Thailand, September 22, 2017. REUTERS/Surapan Boonthanom Reuters

BANGKOK (Reuters) – A roadside bomb planted by suspected Muslim insurgents killed four army rangers and wounded six, including a civilian, in southern Thailand on Friday, a security official said.

A decades old-separatist insurgency in predominantly Buddhist Thailand’s largely Muslim provinces of Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat has killed more than 6,500 people since 2004.

The bomb was planted under a road that was being built in Pattani, the security official said.

“The group that planted the bomb is using old techniques in order to create instability in the region. They planted the bomb under a road currently under construction,” said Pramote Prom-in, a spokesman for security forces in the region.

Friday’s blast followed roadside bombs last week that killed two soldiers and wounded more than 20 people in Yala.

There was no claim of responsibility for the blast, which is usually the case in Thailand’s deep south, where insurgents are fighting for secession.

Thailand’s three southernmost provinces were part of an independent Malay Muslim sultanate until they were annexed in 1909.

(Reporting by Suphanida Thakral, Surapan Boonthanom, and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Writing by Suphanida Thakral; Editing by Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Paul Tait)

President Trump Speaks About United Nations Reform at Day One of the General Assembly

September 18, 2017

United States President Donald Trump speaks at an event on UN reform, along with representatives from Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Slovakia, Thailand, United Kingdom, and Uruguay.

President Trump, Ambassador Haley take part in United Nations reform meeting

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

SOURCE: CNN

President Donald Trump is making his debut at the United Nations

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WASHINGTON — President Trump heads to the United Nations this week to meet with world leaders, and many of them are anxious — not just about global national security challenges, but about Trump himself.

While the still-new president hopes to use his first appearance before the U.N. General Assembly to rally other countries against North Korea’s nuclear threats, some world leaders are still reeling from their last interactions with the somewhat testy Trump at global summits earlier this year.

Administration officials said Trump will arrive in New York with multiple missions, including trying to convince other countries to help the U.S. pressure North Korea into giving up nuclear weapons. He plans to criticize the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran and address the economic meltdown in Venezuela and the ongoing civil war in Syria.

Read more:

Trump mocks Kim Jong Un and Hillary Clinton in Sunday tweetstorm

Ahead of U.N. meetings, Trump aides call for more pressure on North Korea

Nikki Haley, Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, puts it simply: The president “slaps the right people, he hugs the right people, and he comes out with the U.S. being very strong in the end.”

Trump will also pursue what his aides call “U.N, reform,” another way of calling on members to pay for United Nations projects.

U.N. members, meanwhile, will be be watching the president’s tone, some foreign policy analysts said, given Trump’s aggressive performances at this year’s NATO meeting, Group of Seven and Group of 20 summits.

There, Trump “came off as boorish and money-grubbing, and often unresponsive to the concerns of partner nations,” said Stewart Patrick, senior fellow with the Council of Foreign Relations.

“At the U.N,” Patrick said, “Trump can win by surpassing expectations about what he is going to say.”

Richard Gowan, a United Nations expert with with the European Council on Foreign Relations, said Trump “performed poorly” at previous international meetings, and diplomats are concerned about a rerun.

“The swirl of minor leaders and frazzled diplomats around U.N. headquarters can be quite disconcerting, even for relatively calm leaders,” Gowan said. “Trump may become irritable.”

The U.N. activity comes in the shadow of Trump’s previous international meetings, and the flaps that ensued, including:

• The Article 5 affair: At his first global summit, a May meeting of NATO members in Brussels, Trump annoyed some allies by declining to specifically endorse the organization’s mutual defense commitment, known as Article 5. The tepid remarks on the treaty prompted German Chancellor Angela Merkel to suggest that Europe could no longer count on the United States for defense — even as Trump called for them to spend more money on their own defense. Only after returning to Washington did Trump reaffirm the alliance’s commitment to treat an attack on one ally as an attack on all.

• The shove seen ’round the world: Also at NATO, Trump set the social media world ablaze when he appeared to shove Montenegro Prime Minister Dusko Markovic out of the way in a team photo op. Markovic said that incident was “inoffensive” and no big deal, noting that Trump was assigned to be at the front of the picture anyway.

• The Sicilian golf cart: Tensions followed Trump from Brussels to the Italian island of Sicily, where Trump clashed with leaders of the Group of Seven nations over trade and climate change policy. The body language between Trump and other leaders also drew stares; at one point other G-7 members took a walking tour of the ancient mountain village of Taormina; Trump followed behind in a golf cart.

• The Putin parlay: Delegates to the Group of 20 nations summit in Hamburg, Germany, looked on wide-eyed as Trump spent hours talking with Russian President Vladimir Putin. A formal meeting set for 30 minutes ran for more than two hours and the pair also spoke at length at a G-20 dinner. All this came as a U.S. special counsel is investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with Trump associates.

But Trump’s aides say the president was pleased with his earlier summit meetings. Trump is proud of commitments by NATO members to spend more on their national defense, as one example. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump has developed good relations with world leaders “so they can focus on big problems like North Korea.”

Yet Trump’s behavior at the U.N. will be highly scrutinized, especially given how he has also criticized the body over the past year.

During the presidential transition in December, the recently elected Trump criticized a U.N. vote condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In a tweet, Trump said the world body has become “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!”

In another post, he said, “as to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th,” but did not elaborate.

Some potential flash points may be avoided, at least this time.

At least two key world leaders won’t be at the U.N. this year: China’s President Xi Jinping, whom Trump is lobbying especially hard to pressure North Korea, and Putin, who is also involved in disputes over North Korea and Syria, whose relationship with Trump is especially controversial.

Merkel, who has clashed with Trump over trade and refugee policy, is also not expected to attend, as she is locked in a re-election campaign.

Trump’s trip to New York City opens Monday when he and more than 120 world leaders attend a meeting on United Nations reform.

After that, Trump meets separately with French President Emmanuel Macron and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. One of their topics: Iran and the nuclear agreement reached by President Obama and U.S. allies in 2015.

The Trump administration has re-certified the Iran agreement, but Trump himself continues to claim that Tehran is violating “the spirit” of the agreement in which the Iranians give up the means to make nuclear weapons in exchange for reduction of sanctions by the U.S. and its allies.

On Monday evening, Trump will host a working dinner with Latin American leaders, with Venezuela’s problems as the main topic. As the chaos in Venezuela, including a government crackdown on civil liberties, threatens to spill over into neighboring countries, Trump has even spoken of “a military option.”

The president’s major speech to the general assembly comes Tuesday morning.

Over the course of U.N. week, Trump will also host a diplomatic reception have lunches with African leaders and U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres. He also has roster of bilateral meetings with leaders of Slovakia, Qatar, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, the United Kingdom, Egypt, Turkey, Afghanistan and Ukraine. He is also expected to meet with the president of South Korea.

Trump and aides said he represents an “America First” foreign policy, claiming that other countries have taken advantage of the United States with bad trade deals and agreements that force Americans a disproportionate share of the costs.

Other countries have accused Trump of abandoning U.S. leadership. The president’s trip to the U.S. could present what Patrick, from the Council on Foreign Relations, called “a juxtaposition of America First with folks who are dedicated to international cooperation.”

Richard Fontaine, president of the Washington-based Center For a New American Security think tank, said the United Nations is a “world forum,” and other members are asking “what kind of picture is the president going to paint on what he wants to see the United States do in that world forum?”

One big thing other countries want to know, Fontaine said, is: “How much does he value allies?”

Gowan, who teaches at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, also noted that the president is notoriously difficult to predict.

“To be honest,” he said, “nobody is really sure what Trump is going to do at the U.N.”

 https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/09/17/trump-treks-united-nations-meet-world-leaders-anxious-what-hell-say/669467001/

ASEAN Makes Free Trade Deal With Hong Kong

September 9, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Ministers gather at the ASEAN meeting in Manila, where it was announced the group is to sign a free-trade agreement with Hong Kong in November

MANILA (AFP) – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is to sign a free-trade agreement with Hong Kong in November, a Philippine government official said Saturday, following three years of talks.The Chinese special administrative region began free-trade negotiations with ASEAN in 2014, four years after the 10-nation economic bloc signed a similar trade deal with China in 2010.

Hong Kong also completed negotiations on an investment pact with ASEAN, said Philippine Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo.

“This would… send a positive signal for the international community of ASEAN’s resolute commitment to free trade and open markets,” Rodolfo told reporters.

He gave no details of the two agreements, which dealt with lowering import duties and cutting barriers to investment.

The agreement was reached as ASEAN economic ministers held a dialogue in Manila Saturday with Hong Kong government officials.

ASEAN, an economic bloc with a combined population of more than 600 million, is Hong Kong’s second-largest trading partner after mainland China, according to the territory’s Trade and Industry Department website.

Hong Kong also acts as an important entrepot for trade between mainland China and ASEAN, an economic grouping made up of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

It has remained a separate customs entity from mainland China since the city’s 1997 handover by Britain.

ASEAN members have established a free-trade area among themselves aiming to slash tariffs on most goods to zero and minimise non-tariff barriers. They have also signed free-trade deals with key trading partners such as Japan and China.

Rodolfo said the Hong Kong deals are to be signed in November, when the Philippines hosts an ASEAN summit.

ASEAN also has free-trade deals with India, Australia and New Zealand, and South Korea.

Related:

Southeast Asian economies get a lift from China. Later, they may get the bill

September 8, 2017

By Marius Zaharia

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Southeast Asia appears to be on a roll.

The Philippines is boasting the second-fastest growing economy in Asia, Malaysia has posted its best growth figures in more than two years and Thailand in more than four.

The growth is being fuelled by China, whose expanding economic presence is propping up fundamental weaknesses around Southeast Asia. It also underlines China’s dominance in a region that will be under increasing pressure to follow Beijing’s lead.

Even as the rest of the world feels the pinch of Beijing’s clampdown on outbound capital, China is ploughing money into Southeast Asia – much of it into infrastructure projects related to President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road initiative.

Chinese tourists are also flocking to beaches, temples and shopping malls around the region. And trade is surging.

Exports to China from Indonesia and Malaysia grew more than 40 percent in the first half of the year; from Thailand and Singapore it was almost 30 percent, and more than 20 percent from the Philippines, according to Reuters calculations.

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Malaysia — China’s Forest City development is the biggest by a Chinese property developer

China has been investing heavily in infrastructure and property in the region and buying commodities such as rice, palm oil, rubber and coal. It is also buying electronic components and equipment from countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.

Going the other way is everything from cheap T-shirts to high-end telecommunications systems.

Welcome as all this economic activity is to the region, it could also present political problems, as countries confront China over issues such as its claims in the South China Sea, as both Vietnam and the Philippines have found.

And it raises the risk that China could apply economic pressure to get its way.

“The large rise in ASEAN’s exports to China have increased potential vulnerabilities to geopolitical risks,” said Rajiv Biswas, Asia Pacific chief economist for IHS Markit.

SOUTH KOREA‘S EXPERIENCE

For a glimpse of how that feels, Southeast Asian countries could look at South Korea’s experience.

The deployment in South Korea of a U.S. anti-missile defence system that China opposed resulted in a sharp decline in Chinese tourists. South Korean companies doing business in China, like Lotte Group and Hyundai have also been hit in the diplomatic fallout.

“The South Korea example is a highlight of how the geopolitical vulnerability to China can increase as the bilateral economic relationship expands,” Biswas said.

The Philippines found itself subject to a Chinese ban on its fruit in 2012 after challenging China’s maritime claims. The ban was only lifted last year as President Rodrigo Duterte adopted a friendlier stance towards Beijing.

“Any sector that you have with a big exposure – tourism inbound like Thailand, bananas outbound like the Philippines, coal from Indonesia – is vulnerable,” said Dane Chamorro, senior partner and head of South East Asia at Control Risks, a global risk consultancy. “You can imagine how that would be pretty easy for China to stop or hinder.”

Leaders of Malaysia’s ruling party last year voiced concerns after Prime Minister Najib Razak secured deals worth $34 billion on a trip to Beijing, saying it opened the door for a more direct Chinese influence on Malaysia’s affairs, besides saddling the country with billions of dollars in debt.

A planned $5.5 billion rail link through Thailand to southern China also hit resistance, with Thai critics targeting what they said were Beijing’s excessive demands and unfavourable financing. However, Thailand’s cabinet in July approved construction of the first phase of the project.

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Chinese tourists pose for photos as they visit Thailand

CHECKS AND BALANCES

There has also been popular opposition to such deals around the region, raising the stakes for leaders.

In Myanmar, a $10 billion Chinese oil pipeline linked to the Belt and Road project sparked angry protests in May. Three years ago, the deployment of a Chinese oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea triggered anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam.

“The next level from here is you can see more social outcry,” said Sanchita Basu Das, lead researcher for economic affairs at the ASEAN Studies Center at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.

“These are the checks and balances for some of these countries, especially those where leaders are elected for a specific number of years,” she said. “China will be mindful of that as well.”

GROWING DEPENDENCE The growing economic dependence on China is another concern for countries in the region with underlying vulnerabilities.

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Singapore’s skyline is seen June 17, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/Files

Consumption growth has been lagging in countries like Indonesia and Philippines, which are dependent on domestic demand, even as they posted growth figures of 5 percent and 6.5 percent in the second quarter. And investment from sources other than China is slowing, as are portfolio inflows.

Indonesia, which has been lagging its regional peers, cut interest rates last month.

In Thailand, where the economy grew 3.7 percent in the second quarter, the baht THB= has been surging in recent months, putting pressure on exporters, while the Philippine peso PHP= has been weakening on concerns over the country’s shrinking current account surplus.

If there was a downturn in China, it could have serious ripple effects in export-reliant countries like Thailand and Malaysia. Malaysia grew 5.8 percent in April-June.

“Southeast Asian countries are becoming more dependent on China,” said Jean-Charles Sambor, deputy head of EM fixed income, BNP Paribas Asset Management. An event like a sharp slowdown in China could have “a very significant spillover,” he said, citing exports, financing and investment.

For the moment, the Chinese economy remains strong and it appears that Southeast Asia is weathering a crackdown by Beijing on overseas acquisitions.

Data from China’s Ministry of Commerce shows outbound direct investment globally nearly halved in the first half of the year. But data from the American Enterprise Institute shows Chinese investments and construction contracts of $13.46 billion in the period, almost unchanged from a year earlier.

The initial stages of a rail line on Malaysia’s east coast, in which China Communications Construction Company has already invested $2 billion, according to the data, is one of the most high-profile investments.

Other investments, many of which are tied to the Belt and Road initiative, include energy projects in Laos, Cambodia and Philippines, another large railway investment in Indonesia and real estate purchases across the region.

This week, Thailand signed contracts worth 5.2 billion baht ($157 million) with Chinese state enterprises for a high-speed rail project with China.

“Notwithstanding the recent introduction of restrictions on outbound investment, Chinese investment in Southeast Asia is likely to remain strong over the coming years,” said Stephen Smith, lead partner at Deloitte Access Economics.

“Chinese authorities appear to remain strongly committed to investment in projects tied to the Belt and Road Initiative.”

Graphic – Southeast Asia’s export growth in key markets: tmsnrt.rs/2g7DKWN

Additional reporting by Joseph Sipalan in Kuala Lumpur; Editing by Philip McClellan

See also:

11 PROJECTS THAT SHOW CHINA’S INFLUENCE OVER MALAYSIA – AND COULD INFLUENCE ITS ELECTION

http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/2105440/11-projects-show-chinas-influence-over-malaysia-and-could

Control of Information Shifts Up a Gear in Run-Up to Cambodia Election — Media under pressure in Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar and Vietnam

September 8, 2017

PHNOM PENH — Critics of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen have grown used to following upstart news service Fresh News to find out what the government’s next target might be.

From treason accusations against detained opposition leader Kem Sokha to the tax demand against the now-shuttered Cambodia Daily to allegations against the recently expelled U.S. National Democratic Institute, it was on Fresh News first.

Its rise, just as pressure is growing on more critical media, reflects a shift in control of information in the run-up to next year’s general election at the same time as a crackdown on Hun Sen’s opponents.

“If any news needs to be reported, I may contact the prime minister or the prime minister may contact me,” 37-year-old Fresh News chief executive Lim Chea Vutha told Reuters.

Lim rejected accusations it publishes unsubstantiated reports to serve the government’s interest and said it was just ambitious to break news the same as any major news agency.

Cambodia has long had one of Southeast Asia’s most open media environments, but journalists with publications critical of the government say work is becoming tougher than during any period of Hun Sen’s more than three-decade rule.

“This means an imbalance of information,” said Pa Nguon Teang, head of the partly EU-funded Voice of Democracy radio station, banned from broadcasting to its estimated 7.7 million listeners last month and now trying to publish via Facebook.

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Eighteen other radio stations were ordered off air while channels were also forbidden from rebroadcasting the U.S.-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.

The Cambodia Daily newspaper, whose editor described it as “a burr in Hun Sen’s side” since it was started 24 years ago, was forced to close by a crippling $6.3 million tax bill – news of which first appeared on Fresh News.

The three-year-old publication also published the video that formed the basis for arresting opposition leader Kem Sokha for treason charges his lawyers dismiss as nonsense.

“It’s not fresh news, it’s not even fake news, it’s bad news – bad news for the future of Cambodia,” said Mu Sochua, a deputy of Kem Sokha in his Cambodia National Rescue Party.

Cambodia is not the only Southeast Asian country where the media is under pressure, with journalists and bloggers in Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar and Vietnam facing everything from verbal threats to arrest to violence.

Hun Sen has said his attitude to media he does not like is no different to that of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has branded some liberal U.S. news organizations “fake news” and has refused to take questions from their reporters.

“CHILDREN”

For Hun Sen, a 65-year-old former Khmer Rouge soldier, critical media are “like children challenging their father”, said Huy Vannak, president of the partly state-funded Union of Journalist Federations of Cambodia.

“They only mock his good faith to the nation. That’s why he’s not tolerant,” he said.

Praised openly by Hun Sen, Fresh News now has more than 100 employees. At the company’s ninth-floor offices near a busy Phnom Penh junction, signs tell journalists “the first enemy of success is laziness”.

Facebook is one of the main channels for Fresh News to publish and has also been embraced by Hun Sen since the opposition almost won the 2013 election, partly with the help of their social media strategy.

While declining to give company financial details, Lim said he received no money from the government. A government spokesman said there was no funding for Fresh News or anyone publishing on social media beyond official accounts.

Lim said he was supported only by advertising. Flipping through his mobile phone, he showed ads for everything from Range Rover to Coca-Cola to local businesses thriving in an economy growing at around 7 percent a year.

But business and government are entwined in Cambodia and the leadership and its family members control many of Cambodia’s biggest enterprises – including media businesses.

Hun Sen’s oldest daughter, Hun Mana, chairs Kampuchea Thmey Daily and Bayon TV and Radio among at least a dozen other firms. Senate president and the deputy leader of the ruling Cambodia People’s Party, Say Chhum, owns Rasmei Kampuchea, Cambodia’s most popular newspaper.

According to a 2015 study, media organizations with politically affiliated owners accounted for 41 percent of print readership and 63 percent of television viewership. Of those owners, eight out of 10 were close to the ruling party.

Businesses won’t give advertising to media seen as pro-opposition because it won’t help them, said Huy Vannak.

“The government doesn’t need to sponsor you when your content is positive. Business will come to you,” he said.

Despite international awards for its reporting, the Cambodia Daily was not a big commercial success. By the end, it said it was barely breaking even and had no hope of paying a tax bill it disputed before the Sept. 4 deadline set by government.

The paper appeared to get limited sympathy from Lim.

“It’s the right of the government to shut it down,” he said. “As we reported, it’s a legal matter.”

(Editing by Nick Macfie)

Xi urges BRICS grouping to push for more ‘just’ international order

September 5, 2017

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China’s President Xi Jinping speaks arrives for a press conference at the BRICS Summit in Xiamen, Fujian province, China, Tuesday. Sept. 5, 2017. Pool-AP

XIAMEN, China (Reuters) – Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday urged BRICS nations to deepen coordination on global matters, and push for a more “just” world order, by boosting representation for emerging and developing countries in international bodies.

Reiterating that emerging and developing markets have been the primary engine of global growth, Xi called for a bigger role for BRICS in speeding economic governance reforms and promoting trade, especially as rising risks veil a global recovery.

“BRICS countries should push for a more just and reasonable international order,” Xi told a summit of the grouping, which includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

“We should work together to address global challenges.”

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A plenary session of the BRICS Summit is held in Xiamen, Fujian province, China Monday, Sept. 4, 2017. Pool-AP

In his closing remarks, Xi urged the grouping to battle for more “representation power” for emerging and developing countries, which some analysts say are often under-represented in global institutions such as the World Bank, by comparison with the dominance of the United States and Western Europe.

The summit in the southeastern city of Xiamen has given host China its latest chance to position itself as a bulwark of globalization in the face of U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda.

Xi appeared to rebuke the United States’s resistance to international pacts – including the Paris climate accord – in a separate speech earlier on Tuesday to leaders of BRICS and other developing countries.

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during a press conference at the BRICS Summit in Xiamen, Fujian province, China September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Fred Dufour/Pool

“Multilateral trade negotiations make progress only with great difficulty and the implementation of the Paris Agreement has met with resistance,” Xi said.

“Some countries have become more inward-looking, and their desire to participate in global development cooperation has decreased.”

In talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Trump has sought improved terms for the United States, under threat of leaving the pact, and has said he will withdraw his country from the Paris climate accord.

Xi gave $500 million for a South-South cooperation fund to help other developing countries tackle famine, refugees, climate change and public health challenges, besides an earlier $80-million summit pledge to support BRICS cooperation.

Egypt, Guinea, Tajikistan, Thailand and Mexico joined the three-day summit as observer nations, and Xi called for a “BRICS Plus” plan to potentially expand the bloc, although no new member has been formally announced.

Xi lauded smooth progress in the grouping’s cooperation in areas such as anti-terrorism and internet security.

“Leaders from the BRICS countries are determined to work toward another ‘golden decade’,” he added.

Reporting by Michael Martina and Yawen Chen; Writing by Elias Glenn; Editing by Eric Meijer and Clarence Fernandez