Overall, political violence decreased slightly while the number of reported demonstration remained static in the South and Southeast Asian regions last week. The key developments of the last week were ongoing fighting between both Taliban and Islamic State (IS) militants and security forces in Afghanistan, a surge in cross-border violence between India and Pakistan, as well as a high number of reported fatalities arising from the West Papua National Liberation Army’s actions in Indonesia.
In Afghanistan last week, fighting continued across 23 provinces between both Taliban and Islamic State (IS) militants and Afghan security forces and their allies. In Nangarhar, military operations continued in an attempt to force IS out of their last major stronghold, while in Helmand and Ghazni provinces, a strong Taliban presence led to an increase in the number of battles. Back in August of this year, the Taliban launched a major offensive to take Ghazni, and it appears that they are still determined to achieve this goal.
Meanwhile, at least 20 civilians were reportedly killed during three separate NATO and/or Afghan military operations in the provinces of Paktia and Paktika. One of those killed was an employee of the Hajj and Religious Affairs Department, who was hit by a US drone strike on the outskirts of the Paktika provincial capital, Sharan. One source claimed that he suspects ties to an unnamed insurgent group.
In Pakistan, two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) exploded in Karachi city last week, reportedly leaving six people injured. No one claimed responsibility for the attacks. Violence was also reported from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where a former Taliban commander was killed in a targeted attack in Banu district. The victim surrendered to security forces in 2009 and was part of a local dispute resolution mechanism (Tribal News Network, December 8, 2018). Meanwhile, the number of demonstrations remained static with both lawyers of Punjab province demanding a Lahore High Court (LHC), as well as traders affected by an anti-encroachment operation in Karachi city demanding immediate compensation among other relief efforts, continuing their ongoing agitations. In addition, last week, farmers took to the streets in Lahore demanding that the government ensure a timely start to the sugarcane crushing season, which they allege has been delayed by mill owners, as well as higher prices for sugarcane and other produce.
In the contested Kashmir region, following several quiet weeks, last week marked a surge in cross-border violence between Indian and Pakistani state forces. Injuries were reported from both sides and two Indian soldiers were reportedly killed in the clashes.
In India, the number of reported organized violence events as well as the number of reported fatalities decreased in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Two militants were allegedly killed during clashes with state forces. Meanwhile, the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) led a programme of protests across the Kashmir valley, in recognition of “Human Rights Week” and against alleged human rights abuses by the Indian state.
In Chhattisgarh state, Maoist rebels remained active almost two weeks following the State Assembly elections (for more on this, see this past ACLED infographic). Last week, two rebels were reportedly killed in clashes with security forces while rebels allegedly killed a civilian and three rebels who had surrendered, accusing them of being police informants. Militant violence was also reported from northeast India – including in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Nagaland – where members of several rebel groups clashed with state forces and launched attacks on civilians.
Meanwhile, elections were held in several states in India, including State Assembly Elections in Telangana and Rajasthan and panchayat (village government) elections in Assam. Voting in all states remained largely peaceful despite reports of some incidents of minor clashes, attacks on political activists, as well as protests over voting irregularities. Pre-election violence was reported from Tripura; there, opposition parties accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of using violence to prevent them from filing their candidates nominations for the upcoming urban local body elections, which is scheduled for 22 December (Tripura Infoway, 3 December 2018).
The overall number of demonstrations in India decreased slightly last week compared to the previous week. On 6 December, the anniversary of the destruction of the Babri Mosque during rioting in 1992, Hindu and Muslim groups – both sides supported by various political parties – staged protests over the longstanding Ayodhya dispute. Both communities demand the construction of a religious site – a Hindu temple and a mosque, respectively – on a plot of disputed land in Ayodhya city in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
In Bangladesh, the number of reported demonstrations increased last week. Aspiring candidates who were not nominated by their political parties to run in the upcoming General Election scheduled for 30 December took to the streets across Bangladesh, often turning violent and resorting to vandalism.
Last week in Nepal, activists once again took to the streets across the country to demand justice in the high-profile rape and murder case of Nirmala Panta. Since the teenage girl was killed in July 2018, continuous demonstrations have been held, including an ongoing sit-in protest by the victim’s parents in Kanchanpur.
In Sri Lanka, an increasing number of demonstrations over various concerns were reported across the country last week. In support of the plantation strike carried out by the Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC) this week, tea estate workers staged protests in various areas in Central province calling for an increase of their wages. In the Northern province, numerous protests were held over last week’s execution-style killing of two policemen by suspected former members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Meanwhile, in Colombo city, protests calling for an end to the political crisis continued (for more on this, see this past ACLED infographic).
Last week, in Indonesia, the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) kidnapped 25 workers from PT Istaka Kaya, a state-owned construction company. The TPNPB reportedly killed 19 of the workers while 6 escaped. The next day, while pursuing the escaped workers, the TPNPB and the Indonesian military clashed, reportedly leaving one Indonesian soldier dead and another injured. These killings come a week after demonstrations were held across Indonesia commemorating the founding of West Papua in 1961.
They also coincided with a 100,000 strong protest in Jakarta by demonstrators carrying Islamic flags, marking the anniversary of the “212 demonstrations” that resulted in the fall of Jakarta’s Christian governor in 2016. Prabowo Subianto, a presidential candidate who supported the 2016 demonstrations, spoke at last week’s protest. In the lead up to next year’s elections in April, there has been a notable increase in appeals to identity politics across the country (AFP, 2 December 2018).
In Myanmar, the sentencing of three Kachin youth activists for their involvement in an anti-war protest earlier in the year caused local and international condemnation and led to a small protest in Myitkyina outside the courtroom where the activists were sentenced (The Irrawaddy, 7 December 2018). Demonstrations were also reported in Mandalay last week. Student protesters demanding the government provide better security demonstrated on the campus of Yadanarpone University in Mandalay. As well, workers across twenty factories in the industrial zone in Mandalay demonstrated, calling for the government to better address labour concerns.
Clashes between the Myanmar military and the Palaung State Liberation Front/Ta’ang National Liberation Army (PSLF/TNLA) occurred in northern Shan state. Three members of a People’s Militia Force were also shot and killed by unidentified assailants near Muse in Shan state. In Kachin state, in Hpakant township, the Kachin Independence Organization/Kachin Independence Army (KIO/KIA) and the Myanmar military clashed. As well, in Rakhine state, the Arakan Army (AA) and Myanmar military clashed many times over the last week. Clashes between the AA and Myanmar military have been on the rise over the past two months.
Violence targeting elected officials and electoral candidates continued in the Philippines. A former village captain was reportedly killed in La Union province. In Zamboanga del Sur province, a village chairman and town councilor were reportedly shot and killed in separate incidents. Gunmen shot and wounded a candidate for town councilor in Parang town. As well, in Baguio city, an Imam who had denounced extremism was reportedly killed (Inquirer, 6 December 2018).
Separatist violence in southern Thailand declined sharply last week with no incidents recorded. In Chiang Rai, a drug trafficker was reportedly shot and killed after engaging police and military in a firefight. This marks an increase in recent weeks in the number of drug traffickers that have been killed in northern Thailand. Situated in the “Golden Triangle” region, Chiang Rai is a hub for drug trafficking in the region which fuels the economies of many armed groups across the border in Myanmar (Channel NewsAsia, 7 December 2018).
In Vietnam, in Ayun Pa town, the vice chairwoman of the People’s Council in Doan Ket ward was reportedly shot and killed by a military officer who then shot and injured himself. The police in Cambodia arrested and deported 232 Chinese nationals for online scams; the arrests took place across Takeo province. No political violence or protest events were recorded for Laos last week.
11 December 2018