Cambodia, Thailand to set up special economic border zone; Shan ethnic group in second round of peace talk with Myanmar; China, Philippines impose fishing ban in South China Sea; Indonesia turns down Russian ‘black box’ request; Crashed Russian jet was a
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  • According to reports, the Thai-Cambodian Joint Trade Committee (JTC), on May 20, 2012, agreed to set up special economic border zones, aiming to increase trade volume by 30% annually. The Thai commerce minister agreed to assign the permanent secretary for commerce and the director general of the department of trade negotiations to speed up the task, which will also bolster trade along the border. The special economic zones could be initiated in Surin, Si Sa Ket, Ubon Ratchathani and Buriram. It is believed that such cooperation could be later expanded for other neighbouring countries. 1

    In another development, according to reports, ethnic Shan rebels have agreed in a second round of talks that there will be no more fighting between the guerrillas and government troops. It is the latest reported agreement between Thein Sein government and various ethnic rebels. Shan State Army leader Yawd Serk discussed enforcing a December ceasefire and eradicating drugs in eastern Myanmar. Myanmar President Thein Sein's government has reached ceasefires with several ethnic rebel groups, but fierce fighting continues with the Kachin minority in the country's north. 2

    Reports noted that the Philippines and China will both impose fishing bans in the South China Sea where the two countries have been involved in a tense territorial standoff. China had already announced its annual ban, which it says is aimed at curbing over-fishing, and includes the waters around the disputed Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal. On May 14, 2012, the Philippines refused to recognize China's measure, which runs from May 16 to August 1, 2012, as it encompasses waters it considers as its own. However, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said President Benigno Aquino welcomed the chance to replenish fish stocks and that the Philippines would issue its own ban. The standoff at the disputed shoal began when China blocked an attempt by the Philippines on April 8 to arrest Chinese fishermen who were allegedly taking government-protected marine species from the area. The two nations have since stationed non-military vessels at the shoal in an effort to assert their sovereignty over the area. 3

    In other developments, the Indonesian government, on May 14, 2012, turned down a request to send the Sukhoi's black box recorder to Russia, stating that Indonesian investigators will determine the cause of the plane's deadly May 9 crash. Russian officials have requested that the black box, once it is found, be sent to Russia so local investigators could analyze the recorder's data. More than 70 Russian experts flew into Jakarta to help with clean up efforts and with Indonesia's investigation into the accident. The Russian-made Sukhoi Superjet 100 crashed into a slope of Mount Salak, in West Java, during an exhibition flight showing the new passenger plane to potential Indonesian buyers. At least 45 people on board — mostly Indonesian airline representatives and reporters — lost their lives in the crash. 4

    It has been reported that the Russian Superjet plane that crashed in Indonesia killing all on board was a replacement for another plane that had carried out the first part of a promotional tour. The SSJ-100 Superjet - the first new passenger plane produced by Russia since the collapse of the USSR - was making an exhibition flight in Indonesia on a promotional tour to drum up business. But the plane which crashed was not the same aircraft which carried out the first part of the promotional tour in Kazakhstan and Pakistan, said the spokesman for Sukhoi Civil Aircraft during a media interview. The Moskovskiy Komsomolets and Kommersant newspapers earlier reported that the plane had been replaced in the middle of the exhibition tour. 5