Now and Then
Laos stabilises, Cambodia goes to market, Morocco & the Mekong? Untapped hydro-power, Vietnam rail network, Võ Vân‐Ánh plays tradition and Improvisation, Potsdam in Vietnam, Nixon no limits bombing
UPDATE: Today, the Long Mekong Daily takes a brief overview of progressive steps in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. How the Mekong and Morocco got together. Võ Vân‐Ánh improvises on traditional Cambodian instruments. A brief look at how post-WWII Europe and Americans chose to colonise, divide, partition and bomb the three countries then called IndoChina; Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
Laos looks to 2023 for growth
Laos experienced compounding social and economic pressures in 2022. The headline news story of the year was the country’s dire external debt. At 2.5 per cent, the annual economic growth rate was the second lowest since 1988 and below initial forecasts. Rising public and publicly guaranteed debt are projected to exceed 100 per cent of GDP by the end of the year. This is accompanied by a sharp depreciation of the national currency, the kip, and rising inflation — up from below 2 per cent in 2021 to 37 per cent in October 2022.
At the macroeconomic level, Laos needs to find a solution to its ballooning debt.
China’s decisions will be critical, as it holds half of Laos’ debt. Yet there are rumours of quiet confidence within parts of the Lao government that China will provide a means to avoid default. China–Laos relations continued to strengthen in 2022, with Lao President Thongloun Sisoulith visiting Beijing in December to sign a swathe of new bilateral agreements and reaffirm the two countries’ ‘shared future’.
Read full article here.
Cambodia’s 2023 stock exchange expansion
Senior officials of securities market regulator and operator said yesterday that 2023 would be a potential year for the stock exchange as there will be more securities listings on the Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX), while development partners would provide more technical assistance for the development of the market and more trading account openings.
Sou Socheat, Director General of Securities and Exchange Regulator of Cambodia (SERC) of the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), said during the ceremony for the official listing green bond of the real estate firm Golden Tree Co Ltd at CSX that Acleda Bank Plc is preparing to issue another green bond to raise a fairly big amount of fund in 2023.
Socheat also said in 2023 there would be an education firm to be listed as another stock in CSX. The education firm Mengly J. Quach Education has obtained application form from the bourse operator Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX) to fill in to apply for listing eligibility review. Mengly J. Quach Education has expressed its intentions to be listed on the main board.
Asian Development Bank (ADB) would continue to provide support with an assistance package to work with SERC to release and implement some plans in 2023 in which there would be more listings—both stocks and bonds—including Acleda Bank Plc which would prepare to issue another green bond to raise a fairly big amount of fund along with other bonds to be listed.
Read full story here.
Morocco meets Mekong River Comission
Morocco has bolstered its status as the first Arab and African partner of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) by agreeing to deepen cooperation in various water and energy-related fields. The agreement between the two sides covers the exchange of expertise and establishment of an Educational Visitor Centre at the MRC Headquarters in Laos, according to the information provided by the MRC. During a recent visit to Rabat, Morocco, a delegation of senior officials from MRC member countries and Secretariat headed by Chief Executive Officer, Dr Anoulak Kittikhoun, renewed a 2017 memorandum of understanding with their Moroccan counterparts.
The renewal of the MoU aims to enhance the continuous cooperation and exchange of expertise in a range of fields, such as green energy, including solar and wind, managing integrated water resources, drought management, water demand and uses, eco-tourism and conservation projects, and management of natural disasters.
The working visit allowed the MRC delegation to have constructive meetings with relevant Moroccan departments and agencies to dovetail a possible roadmap for implementing the new MoU, which was signed on December 9 by Dr Kittikhoun and Mr Fouad Yazourh, Director-General of Bilateral Relations and Regional Affairs at the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccan Expatriates.
“This MoU signifies that the Mekong River remains at the centre of the world’s attention as we work with partners to benefit our region, politically and economically,” said Dr Kittikhoun. The Government of Morocco, through the Moroccan Agency for International Cooperation, will finance the establishment of the Educational Visitor Centre in Vientiane, anticipated in 2023-24.
Read more here.
Untapped hydropower can help Laos, Myanmar and Indonesia safely meet energy demand
Three Southeast Asian nations – Laos, Myanmar and Indonesia – have been identified as sites where hydropower projects can be run profitably with limited environmental impact, as long as strict environmental constraints are in place. In an attempt to redress the negative perceptions of hydropower projects, an international team of scientists has named potential locations where hydropower stations can be sited with limits placed on environmental damage. Sites that would come at an environmental cost were removed from the list.
The new research, recently published in science journal Nature found Laos, Myanmar and Indonesia among the top 20 countries in the world with the most unused profitable hydropower potential. Together, Asia and Africa account for 85 per cent of global unused potential. In addition, the study found that Laos and Myanmar could potentially fully meet their total current electricity demand just by developing their unused hydropower resources.
“Hydropower can bring major benefits reducing the demand on coal or gas fired plants which are contributing to climate change.”
Professor Joseph Holden, director of the research group at the University of Leeds and one of the international team of scientists involved in the project, acknowledged the controversy surrounding hydropower schemes due to their negative impacts. There have been instances where communities are displaced, or forest or peatland ecosystems disturbed with the building of hydropower dams.
However, he pointed out that the team’s detailed analysis shows there is another side to the story. “With careful planning and development, hydropower can make an important contribution to electricity generation. This major piece of work identifies where those sites are in the world,” he said.
Read more here.
Download the research here.
Vietnam developing railroad network
Vietnam is preparing to construct the trans-Vietnam high-speed railroad starting with the section between Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho City in the Mekong Delta.The section will run 174km through Binh Duong, Long An, Tien Giang, and Vinh Long Provinces, according to the feasibility study that the Railway Project Management Board submitted to the Ministry of Transport earlier this month.
Double tracks of 1,435-mm gauge, the standard for high-speed rail, will be laid at a cost of US$9 billion. Passenger trains will run at a maximum speed of 190 kph and freight trains at 120 kph. The ministry envisages a 1,559-km north-south route with trains traveling at 320-350 kph to transport passengers, while the existing traditional lines will be used only to transport goods. It is expected to cost over $58 billion.
Its first phase, to be completed before 2030, will see the construction of two segments: Hanoi-Vinh and Ho Chi Minh City-Nha Trang. Also on Thursday Chinh said the government has approved an outlay of VND3.1 trillion ($131.6 million) to upgrade the existing north-south railway between Hanoi and HCMC.
Read more here.
Võ Vân‐Ánh : Tradition and Improvisation
Mekong Trilogy: SOUL, LIFE, REFLECTION. Cambodian Roneat (Xylophone) Setup
The biography of Võ Vân‐Ánh, an artist perfectly poised to explore themes of presence and intention. From a very early age, she dedicated her life to one thing—music. And for her, the future always lay in songs of the past. Vo Vân‐Ánh followed traditional music around the world, weaving stories of her homeland with the narratives of others.
Exploring the sounds of souls and lives of people and cultures that live along the Mekong River is greatest joy to work on this production. These three roneat instruments were brought home from a research trip in Cambodia. The first part of Mekong Trilogy is coming to you in 2022.
See more here.
Vietnam to gain from China reopening: economists
Vietnam is set to benefit from China’s reopening after three years of Covid-19 restrictions in terms of tourism and trade. Over the three-year period Vietnam was impacted by the stringent border safety measures imposed by its second largest export market and biggest import market. The trade deficit with China rose 11.5% from 2021 to $60.9 billion last year, according to the General Statistics Office of Vietnam.
"We expect China’s re-opening to boost Vietnam’s GDP growth by over 2% points next year, driven by the full resumption of Chinese tourist arrivals in the second half of 2023"
Michael Kokalari, chief economist of investment fund VinaCapital, said that China accounted for one-third of Vietnam’s pre-Covid total tourist arrivals. Kokalari expects the number of foreign tourist arrivals to climb more than 50% over pre-Covid levels in 2023 based on the assumption that Chinese tourists fully recovers in the second half of next year.
The pace of recent developments in China point to a possible faster full resumption of Chinese tourist arrivals, which could lead to an even larger contribution to Vietnam’s GDP growth next year than currently expected, he added.
Read more here.
Potsdam and Germany's role in the Vietnam War
Fifty years ago, the Paris Peace Accords led to the withdrawal of US imperialist forces from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. However, in July 1945 at Potsdam, Germany, the Allied leaders made the decision to divide Indochina in half - at the 16th parallel - to allow Jiang Jieshi to receive the Japanese surrender in the North, while Lord Louis Mountbatten would receive the surrender in the South. The Allies had agreed that France was the rightful owner of French Indochina, but because France was critically weakened as a result of the German occupation, a British-Indian force was installed in order to help the French Provisional Government re-establishing control over its former and future colony.
"Through geographical separation, brothers and sisters became class enemies, while strangers became allies" (Geteiltes Land, geteiltes Leid - Divided Land, Divided Sorrow, Andreas Margara, 2023)
Both Germany and Vietnam were on the front lines of the Cold War. But in Vietnam, the Cold War became an inferno. The US military dropped napalm and millions of tons of bombs on the country between 1955 and 1975. Germany's perceptions of Vietnam’s Anti-American War and the suffering of the Vietnamese people was also divided by east and west, with each side actively supporting their respective ideological partners.
"The [West German] federal government's Indochina policy did not follow any independent foreign policy conception but leaned unreservedly on the policy of its US guarantor power," However, this solidarity had its limits. US President Lyndon Johnson called for German soldiers to be sent to Vietnam, but West German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard would only promise humanitarian support under the banner; "Medicine instead of ammunition."
“Berlin will be defended on the Mekong River” (Robert McNamara, 1965)
Humanitarian aid sponsored by the German government was largely rejected by Germany's reactionary student movement of 1968. The students compared the barbarity of the Vietnam’s Anti-American War to the crimes of Nazi Germany. In this way, the younger generation of Germans separated themselves from the older generation, which included perpetrators of, and participants in, the Nazi regime.
For East Germany, the Vietnam War was an opportunity to improve its own foreign policy profile and to confront the "US imperialist aggressor”. East Germany compared itself to North Vietnam and official slogans there, during the war, said things like "Solidarity with Vietnam!" and "Solidarity helps victory!" "Aid to Vietnam was both state doctrine and a heartfelt cause." East Germany's involvement was extensive and included financial aid, medical and humanitarian aid, schooling as well as specialized training and studies for North Vietnamese cadres.
Major campaigns were also successful, such as 1968's "Blood for Vietnam" campaign, in which 50,000 trade unionists alone donated blood. East Germany also provided more tangible assistance, such as the training of North Vietnamese intelligence and in 1967, the national budget began including military supplies to North Vietnam, according to Margara.
The Paris Agreement of 1973 sealed the US' withdrawal from Vietnam, but not the end of the war, which lasted until 1975 and ended with victory over the imperialist United States.
Read more here.
Nixon and the Cambodian Genocide
On April 17, 1975, Khmer Rouge (KR) forces stormed Phnom Penh and reestablished Cambodia as Democratic Kampuchea — a supposedly self-sufficient, entirely agrarian society. Resetting the clock to “Year Zero,” the KR forced urban dwellers to the countryside, and began to “purify” Cambodia through a genocidal purge of intellectuals and minority groups. By the time the slaughter came to an end in 1979 — after Vietnam invaded Cambodia and removed the KR from power — some 1.7 million people (21 percent of the population) were dead.
The US began bombing Cambodia in 1965. From that year until 1973, the US Air Force dropped bombs from more than 230,000 sorties on over 113,000 sites. The exact tonnage of bombs dropped is in dispute, but a conservative estimate of 500,000 tons (almost equal to what the United States dropped in the entire Pacific theater of World War II) is unquestionable.
The ostensible targets of the bombings were North Vietnamese and National Liberation Front (“Viet Cong”) troops stationed in Cambodia and, later, KR rebels. However, it is indisputable that there was also total disregard for civilian life. In 1970, President Richard Nixon issued orders to National Security Advisor (and later Secretary of State) Henry Kissinger:
They have got to go in there and I mean really go in. I don’t want the gunships, I want the helicopter ships. I want everything that can fly to go in there and crack the hell out of them. There is no limitation on mileage and there is no limitation on budget. Is that clear?
Just how many people the United States killed and injured will never be known. In his book Ending the Vietnam War, Kissinger himself cites an apparent memo from the Historical Office of the Secretary of Defense stating there were 50,000 Cambodian casualties. The leading Cambodian Genocide scholar, Ben Kiernan, estimates the likely number to be between 50,000 and 150,000.
Read more here.
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