September 26, 2014

Call on Laotian people to save our Land, Very Soon Mekong dam will destroying the region’s lifeblood

Help Us Save the Mekong River!

Our River feeds Millions

 

The Mekong River is under threat. The governments of Cambodia, Laos and Thailand are considering plans to build 11 big hydropower dams on the river's mainstream

Mekong Dams: Opposition Grows to Laos’ Mega Dams

Key Issues:
Xayaburi, Don Sahong, and Lower Mekong Mainstream Dams

A renewed push to build hydropower dams on the lower Mekong mainstream is threatening the river’s ecosystems, aquatic resources and the fishery-dependent livelihoods of millions of people.

แม่น้ำโขง

แม่น้ำโขง – สายน้ำที่ยาวที่สุดในอุษาคเนย์ และยาวเป็นอันดับสิบของโลก จากต้นกำเนิดบริเวณเทือกเขาหิมาลัย แม่น้ำโขงไหลผ่านถึง 6 ประเทศ จากที่ราบสูงทิเบต ผ่านภาคตะวันตกเฉียงใต้ทางมณฑลยูนนาน ประเทศจีน ไหลสู่ พม่า ลาว ไทย กัมพูชา ก่อนจะออกสู่ทะเลจีนใต้ที่ดินดอนสามเหลี่ยมปากแม่น้ำประเทศเวียดนาม รวมความยาวทั้งสิ้น 4,909 กิโลเมตร

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.terraper.org/mainpage/key_issues_detail_en.php?kid=8&langs=en

The international community should not let the Lao government get away with such a blatant violation of international law. We are calling on donor governments and the governments of Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia to take a firm stand against Laos. 

More information from http://www.internationalrivers.org/
“The international community should not let the Lao government get away with such a blatant violation of international law,” said Ms. Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia Program Director for International Rivers. “We are calling on donor governments and the governments of Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia to take a firm stand against Laos. The Xayaburi Dam is the first of a cascade of devastating mainstream dams that will severely undermine the region’s development efforts. The food security and jobs of millions of people in the region are now on the line.”
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Xayaburi Construction’s Photo

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.bangkokpost.com/multimedia/photo/257475/laos-river-life/embed

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/236558/activists-call-to-scrap-lao-dam-project

Activists are unhappy with Laos’ pledge to study the environmental effects of the controversial Xayaburi hydro dam.  Click for more

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.nationmultimedia.com/opinion/laos-evades-responsibility-with-dam-construction-30193861.html

Ame Trandem, Pianporn Deetes
November 8, 2012 1:00 am

In clear defiance of its neighbours and a regional agreement, the Lao government announced that it would hold a groundbreaking ceremony at the Xayaburi Dam site on the Mekong River on Wednesday, November 7. Viraphonh Viravong, Laos’ deputy minister of energy and mining, said “It has been assessed, it has been discussed the last two years. We have addressed most of the concerns.
After the ceremony, the project developers are expected to begin construction on the cofferdam, which diverts the river while the permanent dam wall is built. The cofferdam is expected to be completed by May 2013.

The international community should not let the Lao government get away with such a blatant violation of international law. We are calling on donor governments and the governments of Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia to take a firm stand against Laos.

The Xayaburi Dam is the first of a cascade of devastating mainstream dams that will severely undermine the region’s development efforts. The food security and jobs of millions of people in the region are now on the line.

Construction activities at the dam site began in late 2010. In April 2011 the Cambodian and Vietnamese governments asked the Lao government for further studies on the project’s trans-boundary effects. In December 2011 the four governments of the Mekong River Commission met and agreed to conduct further studies on the effects of the Xayaburi Dam and 10 other proposed mainstream dams. To date, no regional agreement has been made to build the Xayaburi Dam despite the 1995 Mekong Agreement’s requirement that the governments of Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos cooperate and seek joint agreement on mainstream projects.

Laos said it would cooperate with neighbouring countries, but this was never genuine. Instead, the project always continued on schedule and was never actually delayed. None of Vietnam and Cambodia’s environmental and social concerns have been taken seriously. Laos has never even collected basic information about the ways that people depend on the river, so how can it say that there will be no impacts?

On October 22, Vietnam’s minister of natural resources and environment met the Lao prime minister and requested that all construction on the Xayaburi Dam be stopped until necessary studies to assess the effects of Mekong mainstream dams were first carried out.

Laos continues to deny that the dam will have trans boundary impacts and is applying the recommended mitigation measures made by Finnish consulting company Poyry and French company Compagnie Nationale du Rhone, despite the fact that the project has never carried out a trans-boundary impact assessment. The Cambodian government, Vietnamese government, and scientists throughout the Mekong region have disagreed with the work of these companies.

Laos is playing roulette with the Mekong River, offering unproven solutions and opening up the Mekong as a testing ground for new technologies. When the Mekong River Commission stays quiet and tolerates one country risking the sustainability of the Mekong River and all future trans-boundary cooperation, something is seriously wrong.

As Thai companies serve as the project’s developers and financers, and the Thai government will purchase the bulk of the Xayaburi Dam’s electricity, Thailand has the responsibility to call for a stop to construction immediately and cancel its power purchase agreement until there is regional agreement to build the dam. This move by Laos sets a dangerous precedent for the future of the Mekong region. If Laos is allowed to proceed unhindered, then in the future all member governments will proceed unilaterally on projects on the Mekong River. The Mekong Agreement will become yet another useless piece of paper.

Unless the Mekong dam crisis is tackled immediately, the future of the region is in great danger. With the Asian and European heads of states gathered in Vientiane, Laos for the Asem Summit, it’s time that the international community takes a strong stand and makes it clear that such actions by Laos will not be tolerated.

Ame Trandem is Southeast Asia programme director, International Rivers. Pianporn Deetes is Thailand campaign coordinator, International Rivers.

http://www.internationalrivers.org/resources/laos-evades-responsibility-and-plows-ahead-with-xayaburi-dam-7714

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Credits: International Rivers

March 22, 2015

Elections won’t solve Thailand’s problems with the US alliance

Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific

Elections won’t solve Thailand’s problems with the US alliance

20 March 2015

Author:Phuong Nguyen,CSIS, Washington
Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2015/03/20/elections-wont-solve-thailands-problems-with-the-us-alliance/Thailand’s General Prayuth Chan-ocha announced in February that Thailand will hold elections to restore democracy in early 2016. Despite their many efforts to make the case for the military takeover, Prayuth has realised that the military and its supporters will not get off easy with long-time ally the US.

 Thai students display placards as they demonstrate in front of the military court in Bangkok on 16 March 2015. (Photo: AAP)There was speculation earlier that the military was prepared, or at least would have preferred, to stay in power when Thailand’s revered and ailing King Bhumibol Adulyadej passes away. But the junta is now working to prepare for the next election with caveats. The junta is putting in place safeguards that will give it an unprecedented commanding power over an incoming government and brakes on the functions of political parties, democratic institutions and the press.

Military officers seemingly want to be invited to sit in key positions in the next government. The junta has tasked a commission with rewriting the constitution. The latest version suggests the prime minister may be appointed rather than elected in the event of a political crisis and all members of the upper house of parliament may also be unelected.

There is also a real concern about the checks and balances in the next government that comes into power. Authorities continue to suppress the Red Shirts, who have been loyal supporters of Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra, two former prime ministers who were deposed in 2006 and early 2014, respectively. Political activities are currently banned, programming of political content is tightly controlled and the press was warned not to criticise the government. And the junta has not shown any intent to lift martial law even during elections.

The military coup that ousted Thaksin in 2006 threw Washington off balance. Many in the US had been optimistic about democratic advances in Thailand since 1997 and the outlook of the US–Thai alliance. Washington called the coup unjustified and suspended military aid.

But in a diplomatic cable then US envoy to Thailand expressed his support for the coup makers. The US reinstated military aid two months after the December 2007 elections, judging that Thailand had restored a democratically elected government. Yet before long the traditional power brokers found a way to sack the then prime minister as well as his successor and dissolve their party for electoral fraud.

The instability in the years that followed did not do any good for the US–Thai relationship. When Yingluck swept to power in the July 2011 elections, officials in Washington and Bangkok thought they at last had a chance to think about ways to reinvigorate the longstanding alliance in the context of the US rebalance to Asia. But that was short-lived. Yingluck’s government headed down the road of its predecessors in the second half of 2013 and early 2014.

Washington will calibrate its response to the next planned election very carefully. The last decade shows that as long as Thais do not have faith in their country’s leaders and institutions, Thailand will remain in crisis mode. As much as Washington recognises that its alliance with Thailand has been adrift, it has become more clear-eyed about the depth of Thailand’s internal issues. Regardless of whether Prayuth will allow elections to go ahead or what the initial outcomes might be, the US is unlikely to risk its reputation by jumping back in prematurely.

US officials have said time and again their country is on the side of the rule of law and democracy in Thailand. The US is relatively confident that the kingdom will ultimately be headed in that direction. But the next election, if it does happen, is likely to take Thailand in the opposite direction. With the looming royal succession, the royalists in business, the military and the traditional Thai elite will jockey for power and position.

Until Thailand comes out of this chaos, Bangkok can expect Washington to pay lip service to the importance of the US–Thai alliance while simultaneously scaling back on key pillars of cooperation between the two countries.

The Thai military considers Thailand’s security alliance with the US one of its most valuable — if not irreplaceable — assets. The junta is fully aware of the further damages it could cause to the alliance. But Prayuth and those close to him perceive now as a critical time in Thailand’s history in which order should be maintained. And this has come to trump everything else. The stakes are extremely high this time. Even Thaksin has kept silent since the 2014 coup.

It could be years into a post-Bhumibol era until Thailand regains equilibrium, if at all. In the meantime the US–Thai alliance will continue to deteriorate further. Washington has made the conscious decision to sit on the margins and affirm its desire to be on the right side of Thai history. But the next election will not decide that history and won’t fix the ills in US–Thai relations.

Phuong Nguyen is a Research Associate at the Sumitro Chair for Southeast Asia Studies, Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC.

March 22, 2015

The two faces of Thai authoritarianism

The two faces of Thai authoritarianism

29 September 2014

Author:ThitinanPongsudhirakAuthor:Phuong Nguyen,CSIS, Washington
Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2014/09/29/the-two-faces-of-thai-authoritarianism/Thai politics has completed a dramatic turn from electoral authoritarianism under deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra in 2001–2006 to a virtual military government under General Prayuth Chan-ocha. These two sides of the authoritarian coin, electoral and military, represent Thailand’s painful learning curve. The most daunting challenge for the country is not to choose one or the other but to create a hybrid that combines electoral sources of legitimacy for democratic rule and some measure of moral authority and integrity often lacked by elected officials.

A decade ago, Thaksin was practically unchallenged in Thailand. He had earlier squeaked through an assets concealment trial on a narrow and questionable vote after nearly winning a majority in the January 2001 election. A consummate politician and former police officer, Thaksin benefited from extensive networks in business and the bureaucracy, including the police and army.

In politics, his Thai Rak Thai party became a juggernaut. It devised a popular policy platform, featuring affordable universal healthcare, debt relief and microcredit schemes. It won over most of the rural electorate and even the majority of Bangkok. Absorbing smaller parties, Thai Rak Thai virtually monopolised party politics in view of a weak opposition.

Thaksin penetrated and controlled supposedly independent agencies aimed at promoting accountability, particularly the Constitutional Court, the Election Commission and the Anti-Corruption Commission. His confidants and loyalists steered these agencies. His cousin became the army’s Commander-in-Chief. His police cohorts were fast-tracked to senior positions, including his brother-in-law, who became national police chief. Similarly, Thaksin’s business allies and associated partners secured plum concessions and choice government procurement projects.

After his landslide victory in February 2005, Thaksin became the first prime minister to be re-elected and to preside over a government composed only of one party. But his virtual monopoly on Thai politics and accompanying hubris inevitably got the better of him. Making a lucrative business out of politics led to his demise in the September 2006 military coup. Thaksin’s rule was democratic on paper but authoritarian in practice.

Yet Thaksin’s legacy is already strong. His subsequent proxy governments in 2008 and 2011–2014, under his sister Yingluck Shinawatra, were politically paralysed by anti-Thaksin street protests. When Yingluck looked poised to complete her term, Thaksin’s Pheu Thai party came up with a blanket amnesty bill that upended her government, assisted by the independent agencies that had turned against Thaksin in the 2006 coup. The putsch on 22 May 2014 was merely the knock-out blow on an ineffectual administration that was not allowed to govern.

Now the pendulum has swung to the other, authoritarian end. General Prayuth now heads a regime with no democratic pretences, ruling with absolute power. His is a military government both on paper and in practice. The tone of the 22 May coup clearly signalled that the military would dominate politics, epitomised by the general himself becoming prime minister.

Prayuth’s allies under the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) have now taken key portfolios relating to the Thai economy and society, foreign affairs and internal security. The structure of power under the NCPO is clear.

Two months after seizing power, the NCPO rolled out an interim constitution and appointed a National Legislative Assembly (NLA). Today the NLA is filled not with business cronies and spouses of politicians but with military classmates and siblings, who in turn chose Prayuth as prime minister. The caretaker prime minister then selected his cabinet, more than one third of which is military. The National Reform Council (NRC) will soon be formed, leading to a constitution-drafting committee, which will be nominated by the NRC, NLA, cabinet and NCPO.

Like a politburo, the NCPO is thus the nexus of this interim governing structure, comprising the NLA, cabinet, and NRC. This monopoly of power is reminiscent of the Thaksin juggernaut a decade ago. It was a parliamentary dictatorship then as it is now. But the fundamental difference is that the current authoritarian period completely bypassed the electorate.

Prayuth enjoys the same immense personal popularity as Thaksin did. His no-nonsense state of the nation speeches have been to the point and delivered in appealing tones. The NCPO’s anti-corruption campaign is popular and would certainly score more points if it dared to aim at higher-up corruption schemes and concessions, not just low-hanging fruits like extortion rackets that run motorcycle taxis and the state lottery.

Prayuth and the NCPO also benefit from the fact that public expectations started from a low base. After six months of anti-government street protests and policy paralysis, the coup was a relief. Everyone had to make do with the coup because there was no initial alternative in the face of continuing martial law. But reality will start to bite as the military-dominated government starts its day-to-day work. The next 14 months of the NCPO’s timetable to return to democratic rule may be long and hard.

The military-backed government faces a tall order dealing with the grievances and expectations of a neglected electorate. Those who spoke out against the political monster that the Thaksin regime eventually became must now be wary of the potential for the military-backed government setting on a similar path. Unaccountable power with absolute authority and direct rule is inadvisable in Thailand. Past experiences in the 1960s, early 1970s and 1991–1992 have shown that such governments eventually end in tears.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak teaches International Political Economy and is Director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.

A version of this article was earlier published here in The Straits Times.

March 22, 2015

Behind Thailand’s coup is a fight over the king and his successor. But it’s hush-hush.

Behind Thailand’s coup is a fight over the king and his successor. But it’s hush-hush.

June 7, 2014

Author:Phuong Nguyen,CSIS, Washington

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/behind-thailands-coup-is-a-fight-over-the-king-and-his-successor-but-its-hush-hush/2014/06/05/d0cac579-374c-4671-b418-b8dda46c76ed_story.html


Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej takes pictures during the royal ploughing ceremony in Bangkok. The king has semi-divine status after almost seven decades on the throne. (PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s hard in Thailand to have a meaningful discussion about the country’s most meaningful institution: the monarchy. Laws ban any criticism of the king. Salacious palace intrigue is off-limits. So is any exploration of what may be the ailing king’s final major decision: his succession.

But it’s the uncertainty over that power hand off that forms the silent backdrop to Thailand’s intensifying political instability.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej has semi-divine status after almost seven decades on the throne, but his son, the crown prince, is far less revered. Many scholars outside Thailand say the political tug of war in Bangkok is really a competition to hold power when the king passes away, a moment when Thailand could have at least a partial power vacuum.

“It’s like a musical chairs game,” said Ernest Bower, an expert on Southeast Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “When the music stops — when the king dies — whoever has power gets to organize the next steps.”

For most of the 20th century, the Thai king was a guarantor of relative political stability — a unifying force amid coups, constitutional changes and bloodshed. When needed, he could call dueling faction leaders before him and chastise them. The bloodshed would stop.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower welcomes Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit to Washington in 1960. (AP)

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Queen Sirikit, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn and Princess Ubolratana sit on the steps of Chitralada Palace in 1955. (AP)

This time around, though, the king appears too frail to play such a role and has not been seen publicly since a May 22 coup. The military takeover — endorsed near the end of May by the palace — came after seven months of street protests against the Thai government, which was led at the time by prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, a member of Thailand’s most divisive political family. Yingluck’s party — which has the critical backing of her older brother Thaksin Shinawatra — remains popular in the rural north but is loathed by elites in Bangkok. Those elites often describe themselves as royalists.

Thaksin-supported candidates have prevailed in every national election since 2001, but in almost every case those leaders have been ousted in dubious judicial rulings or military coups that have the support of the wealthy Bangkok establishment. Those who oppose Thaksin say he has allowed rampant corruption and consolidated power among his family and friends. The most vicious charge of all is that Thaksin so covets power, he poses a threat to the monarchy.

Some experts say that the military could seek to hold power until the king’s death. Thailand’s new military ruler, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, has a reputation as a staunch monarchist and has warned that violations of the lèse-majesté law — a broad rule that bans anything offensive against the monarchy — will be heard in military, rather than criminal, courts.

A working king

Thais pay homage to the king in ways both big and small. His face is on every coin and banknote. Massive golden-framed portraits hang in front of office buildings, in restaurants and along highways, portraying different periods in his life. Before viewing movies, Thais stand for a royal anthem. The king is described rarely by name: “His Majesty,” Thais say. The best-selling book in Thai history is a lighthearted biography written by the king about his favorite dog.

Born in Boston, where his father was studying medicine, King Bhumibol inherited the throne at age 19 after the mysterious death of his older brother. He arrived in Thailand at a time when the monarchy’s power appeared in decline. The king managed to reverse this with what Thais viewed as a lifetime of selfless acts. He visited far-flung rural areas wearing common clothes, a camera slung around his neck. He bankrolled thousands of royal projects, many that aimed to help villages improve their agriculture and irrigation. Famously, he was never seen smiling; he projected leadership as a somber task.

“I would say he is a working king,” said Sakarindr Bhumiratana, who has been involved for three decades with royal development projects. “Each night on television you’d hear of him being somewhere in Thailand — somewhere far away, somewhere in great need. He was there, looking to help people.”

With his health in decline, King Bhumibol has retreated to the coastal Klaikangwon Palace, whose name means “far from worries.” His condition is treated as a state secret, as is the palace role in politics. Technically, the king is a political bystander, able only to approve or veto decisions made by the parliament. In rare public cases where the king has intervened, Thais have almost always come to view his moves as selfless, the sagacious decision of somebody duty-bound to his people.

The king has almost never allowed himself to be seen in public with generals and politicians, who were seen as far less virtuous and whose power was fleeting by comparison.

Thaksin’s rise and fall

Thaksin rose to prominence in Thailand as the king transitioned into a less public role. Elected as prime minister in 2001, Thaksin was the first Thai politician to seek to curry favor with the countryside, providing low-cost health care and debt forgiveness to a previously disenfranchised group of voters. The result: A multi-billionaire telecom tycoon became the voice of the masses.

Thaksin was deposed in a 2006 military coup and lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai, graft charges awaiting him back home. In recent years, Thaksin has been portrayed by many in Bangkok as a puppet master, controlling his political party — and most recently, his sister.

Thaksin has long proclaimed his adoration of the king. Opponents see it differently. A 2010 U.S. diplomatic cable, released by WikiLeaks, described one monarchy loyalist as saying that the “King’s health and mood remained poor ‘primarily because of Thaksin’ and the challenge Thaksin posed to the stability of the country.”

Whatever the case, Thaksin has carefully tried to cultivate a good relationship with Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn — something that could play to his advantage after the succession. Thaksin opponents have for years expressed concerns about his intentions, saying he wants to become Thailand’s first president, with more executive power than he had as prime minister.

“He wants total control,” said Kasit Piromya, a former Thai foreign minister and ambassador to the United States. “He wants to put the royal family in a golden cage.”

Thaksin has defended himself against all such charges, saying they are politically motivated, and has filed a series of defamation suits against those who have criticized him, including Kasit.

In Thailand, discussing Thaksin’s feelings about the monarchy is fair game, a topic not protected by lèse-majesté. But blogs and foreign accounts that detail Thaksin’s relationship with the prince are blocked. No tabloids serve up delicious gossip about the monarchy’s inner workings. Even academic work about the monarchy is severely limited.

Over the years,theenforcementoflèse-majesté law has waxed and waned. But recent governments have aggressively pursued cases, warning that even “liking” material considered offensive on Facebook could lead to charges. As a result of the restrictions, the Thai monarchy remains a “black hole,”said PavinChachavalpongpun, an associate professor at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University.“You are not supposed to talk about anything,”Pavin said. “Well, anything but glorification.”

4 things to know about Thailand’s military coup(0:51)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/posttv/c/embed/e0597344-e2a5-11e3-9442-54189bf1a809?e=1&

After months of violence, Thailand’s military went from declaring martial law to seizing control of the government. Here are the facts to know. (Casey Capachi/The Washington Post)
Chico Harlan covers personal economics as part of The Post’s financial team.

 

March 19, 2015

This Laos Resort Serves Rich Tourists Tiger Meat and Fresh-Killed Bear Cubs

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This Laos Resort Serves Rich Tourists Tiger Meat and Fresh-Killed Bear Cubs

By Hilary Pollack

March 19, 2015 / 3:00 pm

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  https://munchies.vice.com/articles/this-laos-resort-serves-rich-tourists-tiger-meat-and-fresh-killed-bear-cubs

No matter where you go on Earth, the rich are subject to all kinds of buyable privileges that seem outlandish to the common person. It could be something as simple as paying $450 for a bottle of Smirnoff that would otherwise retail for less than a tenth of that price while trying to live large in a nightclub, or as lavish as hopping on a caviar-stocked private jet to an island resort.

But in Laos, the wealthy have other decadent means of blowing their cash—and an investigative report has revealed that they’re extravagant in very controversial ways.

According to a new report from the Environmental Investigation Agency, numerous ritzy resorts in the Southeast Asian country have been capitalizing off the sale of exotic meats and specialty food items. We’re not talking Wagyu beef here, either; this is a veritable smorgasbord of endangered species and other illegal game, from tiger bone wine to pangolins to bear paws.

The epicenter of these specialty attractions is in Laos’ Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone, which the EIA has dubbed “Sin City” and “a lawless playground.” The tourist area is run by Hong Kong’s Kings Romans Group (which has an insane 99-year lease) and is primarily patronized by the wealthy Chinese. And according to company records, though the area is replete with expensive restaurants and a massive casino, the primary business of the Kings Romans Group (KRG) is the raising of livestock “other than dairy and poultry.”

There are gift shops with names such as Golden Triangle Treasure Hall and Fantasy Garret displaying tiger skins, stuffed tigers, ivory tusks, rhino horn shavings (which are sometimes snorted or added to beverages), and leopard skins, as well as restaurants advertising “sauté tiger meat,” pangolin, and snake dishes. When pressed, vendors told EIA investigators that their suppliers were local tiger farms, or even admitted that they were illegally trafficked in from other neighboring countries—knowing that there would be few or no repercussions.

According to the EIA’s report, “The blatant illegal wildlife trade by Chinese companies in this part of Laos should be a national embarrassment, and yet it appears to enjoy high-level political support from the Laos Government, blocking any potential law enforcement.”

Perhaps the most egregious business in the block is a restaurant called God of Fortune, which specializes in yewei—a Chinese term for exotic meat that translates to “wild flavor.” There, undercover investigators observed the sale of bear paw, turtle, Tokay gecko, and snake; jars upon jars of (purported) tiger bone wine; and visible cages containing live pythons and bear cubs, which the staff said could be killed and served upon request.

A nearby “zoo” is populated with dozens of bears and tigers—making it no secret that its “attractions” will eventually turn into meals for the hungry tourists.

The EIA points out that tigers, with a wild population of only a few thousand, are “perilously close” to extinction, and the bear trade in Laos has been on the rise in the past few years due to increased demand for bear bile—valued for medicinal applications in China, Korea, Laos, and other nearby countries. Current laws permit the trade of second- or further generation bears that were bred in captivity, but the “lawlessness” of the GT SEZ creates an environment that fosters illegal breeding, trading, and capture of animals.

The EIA and other conservation and animal welfare groups stress that these types of businesses and tourist zones send a confusing message to consumers, implying that the consumption of these animals is legal and acceptable.

Laos has been under pressure for years to tighten its restrictions on illegal wildlife trade and put an end to its inhumane bear bile farms, which have only been a growing problem due to rampant smuggling of the specialty product overseas. But with the money pouring in from tourists in areas such as the GT SEZ, it’s hard to clean up the trade without ruffling feathers.

As Jeremy Hance of  The Guardian points out, “As China—and much of East Asia—has experienced a runaway economic boom, snorting powdered rhino horn, displaying tiger skins, or purchasing ivory has become a way to flex one’s power and wealth.”

These bear cubs, tigers, and other animals will only make their way out of Laos’s Sin City if the demand for them diminishes—and when the cash stops flowing.

March 19, 2015

Tiger meat, bear paws openly available in Laos: NGO

Tiger meat, bear paws openly available in Laos: NGO

March 19th, 2015 in Biology / Ecology

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://phys.org/news/2015-03-tiger-meat-paws-openly-laos.html

A resort complex in northwest Laos targeting Chinese visitors has become a "lawless playground" for the trade in illeg

A resort complex in northwest Laos targeting Chinese visitors has become a “lawless playground” for the trade in illegal wildlife ranging from tiger meat to bear paws, an advocacy group says

A resort complex in northwest Laos targeting Chinese visitors has become a “lawless playground” for the trade in illegal wildlife ranging from tiger meat to bear paws, an advocacy group says

A resort complex in northwest Laos targeting Chinese visitors has become a “lawless playground” for the trade in illegal wildlife ranging from tiger meat to bear paws, an advocacy group said Thursday.

Customers “can openly buy endangered species products” in the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone on the border between Laos, Myanmar and Thailand in Laos’ Bokeo province, according to a report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

The London-based group, together with the non-governmental group Education for Nature Vietnam, also documented restaurants offering “sauté tiger meat”, bear paws and pangolins on their menus.

Laos is becoming a growing hub for the trade in with foreign tourists, particularly from neighbouring China, driving the demand for illegal products, according to environmental groups.

Many Chinese believe rare animal meat and body parts contain aphrodisiac or medicinal qualities.

The EIA report called on Laos to immediately set up a task force to tackle the trade and seize all illegal products in the Special Economic Zone.

“China also needs to understand and accept that its legal domestic trade in the skins of captive-bred tigers is doing nothing but driving consumer demand,” said Debbie Banks of the EIA in a statement.

According to the report the Laos zone “appears more like an extension of China”—running on Beijing time, employing mostly Chinese workers and displaying signs in Chinese characters.

Tiger under pressure

Graphic on the world’s remaining wild tigers

Similar temples of excess have sprung up in Myanmar where some border towns—often outside of central government control—have become open markets renowned for selling rare animals, sex and gambling trips to Chinese visitors.

China’s seemingly insatiable appetite for rare animal meat and parts has also led to a thriving smuggling scene across much of Southeast Asia.

Authorities in Vietnam and Thailand routinely uncover large hauls of endangered animals heading north in what conservationists say is likely just a fraction of the species smuggled into China.

© 2015 AFP

“Tiger meat, bear paws openly available in Laos: NGO.” March 19th, 2015. http://phys.org/news/2015-03-tiger-meat-paws-openly-laos.html

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