Overall levels of political violence in South and Southeast Asia dropped in the beginning of August, increasing again in the week of 27 August. Similarly, the overall number of riots and protests significantly spiked in the second half of August, particularly in India and Pakistan.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban displayed their strength on two fronts throughout the month. In the province of Jowzjan – one of the Islamic State’s (IS) only bastions in the North – over 200 IS militants surrendered to state forces in early August following weeks of clashes with local Taliban groups. Additionally, the 25 August killing of the Afghan IS faction leader, Abu Sayed Orakzai, by US airstrike further raises the question of whether these blows will signal a decline in IS’ presence in Afghanistan. Still, in August, the group carried out two major suicide attacks targeting Shiite localities in Gardez and Kabul city, reportedly leading to 69 deaths.

In the East, the Taliban led a relatively successful offensive to take Ghazni city and its surrounding rural districts. On 10 August, Taliban forces began a multi-thronged assault on the provincial headquarters, taking control of it for several days. The fighting reportedly led to several hundred deaths, with civilians among them. During the following week, the districts of Khugiani, Khwaja Umari, Ajristan, and Dih Yak reportedly fell to the Taliban as well, with heavy clashes between the Taliban and Afghan/NATO forces continuing into September.[1]

In Pakistan, the Baloch Liberation Army claimed a suicide car bombing on 11 August which targeted a bus carrying Chinese mining workers in the Dalbandin area. Six people, including three Chinese individuals, were reportedly injured, while only the bomber was killed. As of 11 August and intensifying towards the end of the month, activists took to the streets across Pakistan to protest a cartoon contest by Dutch politician Geert Wilders soliciting drawings of the Prophet Muhammad (The Independent, 13 June 2018).

In India, several incidents of political violence were reported in the month of August. On 6 August, in  Sukma district of Chhattisgarh, Indian security forces shot and reportedly killed 15 Maoists during a raid. On 15 August, three priests were reportedly killed and their bodies mutilated in Uttar Pradesh’s Auraiya district, leading to violent unrest in the area. In the last week of August, violent clashes between political parties were reported from the state of West Bengal over the formation of local municipal bodies (panchayats) (for more on this, see this past ACLED piece). The fresh wave of violence in the state erupted following the Supreme Court’s confirmation of more than 20,000 uncontested victories during the May polls (The Telegraph, 28 August 2018). The last week of August was also marked by an increase in violence in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Both government forces and militants targeted the families of their opponents through arson attacks, kidnappings and arrests, culminating in an exchange of hostages for prisoners on 31 August.

High levels of riots and protests were also reported from India. The release of the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam led to widespread protests in Assam and the neighbouring state of West Bengal. The citizenship register intends to identify Indians living in Assam or with parental linkages to the state as of 24 March 1971, a day before Bangladesh declared independence. The move could lead to more than 4 million Assam residents – mostly Bengali-speaking minorities – to being declared illegal immigrants (New York Times, 30 July 2018).

In Manipur, sit-in-protests were held by locals in several areas against the possible extension of Article 371(A) from Nagaland to Manipur, as a result of the Naga peace talks. The constitutional article provides for a special status for Naga people, limiting the state government’s right to interfere in Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur (The Telegraph, 11 August 2018).

Throughout August, the people of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) demonstrated both for and against the Supreme Court’s hearing of petitions calling for the repeal of Article 35-A, which allows the J&K assembly to define permanent residency in the state.

In Bangladesh, students staged a multi-day protest demonstration across the country during the end of July and the first week of August demanding road safety. The protests were triggered by the accidental deaths of two students who were killed by a bus. Members of the ruling Awami League launched a number of attacks on protesting students and journalists covering the protest movement (The BBC, 04 August 2018).

In Nepal, security agencies recovered and defused several suspicious objects and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) found in various cities around the country. The objects were planted during a bandh (general strike) called by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), led by Netra Bikram Chand, as a protest against the arrest of its party cadre (The Kathmandu Post, 14 August 2018). In Nepal’s Kanchanpur district, locals staged protests at the end of July demanding justice for the rape and murder of 13-year old Nirmala Panta. The situation escalated on 21 August when the police made a wrongful arrest of a mentally-ill person allegedly responsible for the incident. One person was reportedly killed and several others injured in the subsequent violent demonstrations.

In Myanmar, August was the one-year anniversary of the military’s deadly crackdown on the Rohingya population in Rakhine state. A fact-finding mission assembled by the UN Human Rights Council found that the Myanmar military had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Rakhine, Kachin, and Shan states (UN Human Rights Council, 27 August 2018). The Myanmar military continued to deny its culpability, particularly in regard to the charge of genocide in Rakhine state (The Myanmar Times, 30 August 2018).

In Kachin and northern Shan state, throughout August, the Myanmar military clashed with several ethnic armed organizations (EAOs). The EAOs of the Northern Alliance fought both separately and together against the Myanmar military. In Namtu township, Shan state, clashes continued between the Shan State Army-South and the joint forces of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and Shan State Army-North. In the last week of August, the Karen National Liberation Army, a signatory to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, and the Myanmar military clashed in Hpapun, Kayin state.

In the Philippines, the driver of a stopped van detonated a bomb at a security checkpoint in Lamitan town on 31 July, killing a reported 11 people, including several members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (The Associated Press, 31 July 2018). Throughout the month, state forces engaged in ongoing battles with Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters as well as with the New People’s Army. Drug related killings also continued, resulting in a number of reported fatalities.

In Indonesia, the anniversary of the 1962 New York Agreement on 15 August led to protests in Surabaya and Ternate in demand of sovereignty for Papua. Armed Papua separatists attacked and reportedly killed two army officers during a mission to distribute food to Papuan children. At the end of August, in West Java, three Jamaah Ansharut Daulah militants shot two policemen who were on patrol, reportedly killing one policeman and seriously injuring the other.

In Vietnam, there were a number of cases of police violence in August, leading to the reported deaths of two civilians. These cases involved the beating of activists as well as those in police custody.

In Thailand, political violence attributed to southern Muslim separatists increased across Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces in August (Asia Times, 29 August 2018). In the last week of August, a village defence volunteer and a woman, as well as a former assistant to a subdistrict headman, were all reportedly shot dead; a stray bullet believed to have come from suspected separatists reportedly killed a 14-year-old boy as well.

[1] The founder of the Haqqani Network was reported to have died on 4 September. Coverage of this notable event and details will be covered in next week’s data release. As such, any impacts of the event on conflict patterns will be explored in next week’s regional overview piece.

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Regional Overview – Asia
3 September 2018
Daniela Pollmann
Daniela Pollmann
Daniela Pollmann is the Asia Research Manager at ACLED. In this role she oversees the coding of political violence and protests in South and Southeast Asian countries. Ms Pollmann holds a MA in Conflict, Security and Development from the University of Sussex with focus on peace processes. She has previous work experience in the social sector in Uganda and India where her work focused on women empowerment, child protection and anti-human trafficking. She is currently stationed in New Delhi, India.
Elliott Bynum
Elliott Bynum
Elliott Bynum is an Asia Research Manager with ACLED. She manages the coding of political violence and protest events in Southeast Asia. She is a Ph.D. candidate in International Relations at American University.
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