Pompeo Says Chinese Companies Follow Predatory Practices in Mekong Region

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday said China’s state-owned companies engage in predatory business practices in the Mekong River region and the Chinese Communist Party is responsible for much of the boom in trafficking of persons, drugs and wildlife there. The new U.S.-Mekong Partnership launched Friday will help combat these transnational crimes and will strengthen water security for partner countries where China’s manipulation of the river has exacerbated a drought, he said. The U.S. is “concerned about infrastructure-linked debt and the predatory and opaque business practices of Beijing’s state-owned actors, such as China Communications Construction Co. (CCCC),” Pompeo said in a statement. Last month, a senior State Department official also named CCCC when he said upstream damming pursued by Beijing in the Mekong River has been done in “a completely nontransparent and non-consultative way.” “And there is a – actually a specific CCCC angle to the Mekong environmental concern story given CCCC’s role in would-be Chinese plans to blast and dredge the Mekong River, which could have potentially catastrophic effects on the downstream communities, the scores of millions of people whose livelihoods rely on the Mekong,” the official who was not named said during a special briefing. On Monday, Pompeo also said companies and groups associated with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are linked to human and narcotics trafficking in the Mekong region. His statement did not provide evidence to support the allegation. “Concerning also is the boom in trafficking of persons, drugs and wildlife, much of which emanates from organizations, companies and special economic zones linked to the CCP.” Pompeo also said the CCP is withholding Mekong water, adding downstream countries must hold it accountable by asking it to share water data through the Mekong River Commission. “The CCP’s unilateral decisions to withhold water upstream have exacerbated an historic drought,” he said. “We encourage countries of the Mekong region to hold the CCP accountable to its pledge to share its water data.  That data should be public.  It should be released year-round.  It should include water and water-related data, as well as land use, and dam construction and operation data.” U.S. pledges $154 million to Mekong region Countries of the Mekong – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam – “deserve good partners,” Pompeo said. The U.S. has pledged a total of $156.4 million for a host of initiatives under the U.S.-Mekong Partnership. These include $52 million to support COVID-19 recovery, $55 million to counter transnational crime, $33 million to develop energy markets under Asia EDGE (Enhancing Development and Growth through Energy), $6.6 million to improving energy infrastructure and markets in the Mekong region, and $2 million to counter trafficking in persons. These initiatives were announced Friday at the first U.S.-Mekong Partnership Ministerial Meeting held to launch the partnership. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen E. Biegun was the U.S. representative at the virtual meeting. “The United States is committed to supporting the resilience and autonomy of countries in the Mekong region and will work with all partners who share our principled, transparent approach,” State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement after the meeting. Pompeo said on Monday that the U.S. will also work closely “with partners like Japan, Australia, South Korea, India, and other good friends of the Mekong.” The partnership’s launch Friday coincided with last week’s series of meetings at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) ministerial summit. Pompeo on Friday reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to Southeast Asia and ASEAN and accused China of “aggression” in the South China Sea. “We stand with our ASEAN partners as we insist on the rule of law and respect for sovereignty in the South China Sea, where Beijing has pursued aggressive campaigns of coercion and environmental devastation,” Pompeo said in a statement released during the summit. On Monday, Pompeo said the U.S.-Mekong Partnership “is an integral part of our Indo-Pacific vision and our strategic partnership with ASEAN.” Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

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Bangladesh Protests Movement of Myanmar Troops Near its Border

Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry has summoned Myanmar’s ambassador to protest unusual troop movements near its southeastern borders, where refugee camps house close to 1 million Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar, authorities said Monday. Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and foreign ministry officials said authorities in the region had noted unusual numbers of Myanmar security forces since early Friday, at several points near the border, including in civilian ships. “Large ships can be seen in Myanmar waters. Law enforcers are on high alert in this island,” Nur Ahmed, chairman of St. Martin’s Union Council, told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service, by telephone. St. Martin’s island in the Bay of Bengal is a top tourist attraction in the Cox’s Bazar region. The unusual troop movements without any prior notice have caused Bangladesh border guards to go on alert. “We have confirmed that there was suspicious movement and presence of Myanmar troops in their area,” Lt Col. Ali Haider Azad Ahmed, commander of the BGB unit in Cox’s Bazar, told BenarNews. “So we have intensified all activities including patrolling. Everyone has been kept on alert at the border. If anything happens, including new infiltrations, it will be prevented,” he said. A Bangladesh foreign ministry official, meanwhile, reached out to his Myanmar counterpart. “We called in the Myanmar envoy and expressed our concerns. He was asked to convey our message to the appropriate authorities,” Md Delwar Hossain, director-general of the Myanmar cell at Bangladesh’s foreign ministry, told BenarNews. Increased traffic at the border A Rohingya camp leader in Teknaf district – the southernmost tip of Bangladesh, which lies across the Naf River from Myanmar’s Rakhine state – told BenarNews that camp residents noticed Myanmar troops setting up seven or eight tents. “There has been an increase in traffic at the border for two days. It could not be confirmed whether they were police or army members, but the residents of the Rohingya camp are afraid of this,” Mohammad Nur, a camp leader, told BenarNews, In southeastern Bangladesh, refugee camps house about 1 million Rohingya, including more than 740,000 who fled from Myanmar’s Rakhine state amid a brutal military crackdown that began on Aug. 25, 2017, in the wake of attacks by Rohingya insurgents on police outposts that killed 9. Shahriar Alam, Bangladesh’s state minister for foreign affairs, told the BBC on Monday that Myanmar officials had not informed their Bangladesh counterparts about the troop mobilizations, despite an agreement to do so. “[T]he Myanmar army has increased the number of troops in several places near the border with Bangladesh using civilian boats,” he told the British media. “Whatever happens in these cases, there is a rule for neighboring states to notify the other side if they take action against any internal insurgency. “But they did it without informing us. That’s why we informed the embassy here.” A professor at Jahangirnagar University in Dhaka said the troop movements could be part of an effort to keep Rohingya out of Myanmar. “Myanmar has been trying to totally eradicate the Rohingya from Rakhine state from the beginning. The new army deployment may be a part of that effort,” Dr. Tareque Shamsur Rehman told BenarNews. “They are adamant they will not take back the Rohingya despite directives of the International Court of Justice and the pressure from the United Nations. They will continue to do so, as long as the Western world does not impose economic sanctions on Myanmar,” he said. Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

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Two Myanmar Editors in Hiding Over Interview With Banned Arakan Army

Continue Reading Two Myanmar Editors in Hiding Over Interview With Banned Arakan Army