STRATFOR Asia-Pacific situation reports

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Japan: Gov’t seeks greater SDF role
The Japanese government is revising the Self-Defense Forces Law to allow personnel to respond to what Tokyo calls minor incidents, Yomiuri Shimbun reported Feb. 5. Under the revision, the Self-Defense Forces would have an expanded use of weapons and would be given additional tasks such as territorial defense. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing to normalize Japan’s military.

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Thailand: Central Bank warns of economic risk
The Bank of Thailand on Feb. 5 warned of significantly increased risks to the country’s economic growth as instability persisted after Feb. 2 elections, Reuters reported. Officials on the bank’s monetary policy committee warned of the effect of a prolonged crisis, which threatens to undermine Thailand’s regional economic leadership role.

Vietnam: Rice exports to china could increase
Vietnam could benefit from China’s decision to cancel a deal to buy 1.2 million tons of rice from Thailand, an industry source said, Saigon Times reported Feb. 7. Vietnam missed its rice export target of 7 million to 7.2 million tons of rice in in 2013. China could, however, seek a new deal to purchase Thai rice at lowered prices. The cancellation of the deal has drawn the ire of Thai farmers, who demand payments promised by Bangkok.

China: Additional troops deployed to Tibet
China has increased its military presence in Kardze County, one of the most restive areas in Tibet, as the Tibetan New Year approaches, Phayul reported Feb. 6, citing Radio Free Asia. A large contingent of paramilitary troops has arrived, and the troops are guarding the government office in the county and patrolling the streets. China is prioritizing security as it looks to develop its Western regions, and Tibet links China to Southeast Asia.

Thailand: Rice farmers plan to shut roads
Rice farmers plan to step up anti-government protests on Feb. 6 by blocking main roads across Thailand, The Nation reported Feb. 5. Farmers said they will join protests in Bangkok, possibly seeking to close the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Finance to demand payments they say they are owed. The announcement follows China’s declaration that it would cancel the purchase of 1.2 million tons of rice from Thailand.

China: Shenzhen hikes minimum wage
China’s Shenzhen municipality increased its minimum wage to 1,808 yuan per month ($298 per month) starting in February, a 13 percent year-over-year increase, Singtao Daily reported Feb. 4, citing Shenzhen’s Human Resources Bureau. Twenty-seven provinces have raised the minimum wage in the past year as China pursues a shift to a consumption-based economy.

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