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Asean Affairs  6 January 2011

Chinese presence in the Greater Mekong Sub-region

By  David Swartzentruber

AseanAffairs     6 January 2011

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As 2011 starts its worthwhile to take a look at two countries, Laos and Cambodia, and their economies that are often under-reported. Right now the main word in both of these countries is China.

The People’s Republic of China is the largest investor in Laos with a total investment of US$ 2,687 million in 397 investment projects. China replaced Thailand as the largest Laos investor in mid-2010 while Vietnam is third, local media report.

Mr. Achong Laomao, Lao Deputy Director of the Investment Promotion Department, Ministry of Planning and Investment, has asked Chinese investors who attended the Laos-China Business Forum held in Vientiane in December to support and cooperate with Laos to build infrastructure, especially highway construction from the north to the south, railway, hydropower, power grid and agricultural production.

Chinese investment is a main factor in boosting economic growth in Laos and generates significant income for the Lao government. In addition, the Chinese investment has contributed to local development and created a number of jobs for Lao people. The Chinese investment projects are mostly in the mining sector.
In Cambodia, a proposed development on a lake is drawing backlash from the community of 4,000 Cambodians who presently live there.
About 200 residents of the Boeung  Kak community called for talks with Inner Mongolia Erdos Hung Jun Investment Co, a firm that Chinese-language news reports as a joint venture partner in the Boeung Kak lake development, along with Cambodian companies linked to a ruling party senator.
The residents want the Chinese company to negotiate with residents for compensation for their displacement.
Meanwhile, proposals to build 11 dams on the lower Mekong River continue to move forward that would displace a significant number or residents along the Mekong’s shores.
This year is expected to be an active year as events unfold along the Mekong.

Paul A. Ebeling, Jnr

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This year in Thailand-what next?

04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More

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