Asian Insider, Oct 30: Rising seas, Thai King fires more officials, Hong Kong braces for Halloween havoc

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents.

Hi,

In today’s bulletin: A new report revises the impact of rising sea levels upwards considerably; neither the US President nor Vice-President will attend the year-end summits in Asia for the first time in years; the Thai King sacks more officials; Hong Kong’s mask ban runs up against Halloween; and more.

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THE UNDERESTIMATED THREAT OF RISING SEAS

At a time when there is already a tremendous amount of bad news about the state of the environment, a new report is claiming that some of the absolutely dire warnings we have been given have not been dire enough. A new paper published this week in the journal Nature Communications says the standard way of estimating the effects of sea-level rise have been far too optimistic. The paper says rising seas could now affect three times more people by 2050 - wiping out cities like Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh and Shanghai.

See also: The Straits Times’ award-winning report on the environment: Climate of Change

US DOWNGRADES PARTICIPATION IN YEAR-END SUMMITS

Commerce secretary Wilbur Ross will be the most senior US official attending back-to-back summits in Bangkok next week - marking what will be the poorest showing by the US at the year-end summits in years. While President Barack Obama attended all but one US-Asean or East Asia Summit during his tenure, President Donald Trump has attended only the one in the Philippines during his first year in office. The no-show will raise questions about US commitment to the Indo-Pacific and the administration’s ability to multi-task while it faces mounting pressures at home.

See also: The way out of trade war is obvious but not simple, says veteran trade observer Merle Hinrich

THAI KING SACKS MORE OFFICIALS

In what is starting to bear the appearance of the Thai palace cleaning house, another group of officials were sacked - bringing the number of officials removed this month to nearly a dozen. On Tuesday, two bedroom guards were sacked for committing adultery and two lieutenants in the King’s Guard were dismissed for being lax in their duties. Six officials were fired last week and the Royal Noble Consort was striped of all her titles. The palace has not linked any of the dismissals to each other.

See also: Fall of a royal consort: How Thailand's new king has shown his assertive reign

HALLOWEEN HAVOC IN HONG KONG

Halloween isn’t typically that big a deal in this part of the world but Hong Kong protesters intend to capitalise on a holiday featuring costumes to further push their point about banned face masks. Thousands of protesters wearing banned face masks plan to combine with party-goers in their Halloween finest at the party district of Lan Kwai Fong tomorrow. Halloween masks have not been banned.

What you need to know about Hong Kong today:

China 'supports' barring of activist Joshua Wong from Hong Kong election

Novel ways to protest: Concerts, shopping days, paper crane folding

SINGAPORE’S SOLAR SOLUTION

Singapore, a tropical country that gets long sunny days year round, is pledging to do more to harness the power of the sun. By 2030, the country wants its to increase its solar capacity seven-fold. The sharp jump still leaves solar as only a bit part contributor to the grid though, as it would then still only meet about 4 per cent of the country’s energy needs. To achieve this aim, the government wants to maximise solar panel deployment - sticking them on rooftops, reservoirs offshore sea space and even on vertical surfaces of buildings.

See also: Tengeh Reservoir to house one of world's largest floating solar panel systems

IN OTHER NEWS

Face recognition: Beijing will use facial recognition tools to speed up security checks in the city's overcrowded metro, using a "credit system" to sort passengers into different channels, state-run media reported on Wednesday (Oct 30).

Another UK election: Britain will hold its first December election in almost a century after Prime Minister Boris Johnson won approval from Parliament on Tuesday (Oct 29) for an early ballot aimed at breaking the Brexit deadlock.

Shark attack: Tourism operators want aerial shark patrols to be introduced in Australia's Whitsunday Islands as they try to stem falling visitor numbers following a spate of attacks along the Great Barrier Reef.

China FDI: China will eliminate all restrictions on foreign investments not included in its self-styled "negative lists", a vice-commerce minister said on Tuesday (Oct 29), and also will "neither explicitly nor implicitly" force foreign investors and companies to transfer technologies.

That’s it for today, thanks for reading and see you tomorrow.

Jeremy