Last week, in South and Southeast Asia, the overall number of political violence and protest events decreased. There were also positive steps towards an end to the government crisis in Sri Lanka. However, the week was marked by deadly violence in India’s Jammu & Kashmir, large-scale inter-party violence in Bangladesh, and ongoing fighting between the military and the Arakan Army in Myanmar.
In Afghanistan last week, heavy clashes between armed groups and Afghan forces and their NATO allies continued throughout the country, particularly in the provinces of Urozgan, Helmand, and Nangarhar. In the latter, Afghan military forces intensified their effort to eliminate Islamic State militants from their last major provincial stronghold.
Meanwhile, Taliban militants have allegedly taken control of Shib Koh district in Farah province according to local sources, after Afghan forces fled due to poor numbers and supplies. In October of 2017, Taliban militants briefly captured the district headquarters before state reinforcements arrived. Shib Koh is close to Khak-e Safid district, which is considered a “Taliban stronghold”, and is now the fourth district of Farah to fall under some form of Taliban control – the others being Bala Buluk and Gulistan (Long War Journal, 2018).
In Pakistan, an increasing number of fatalities were reported last week. In Balochistan province, militants launched a deadly attack on a Frontier Corps (FC) convoy in Kech district close to the Pakistan-Iran border. Six FC personnel and four militants reportedly died in the attack with another 14 FC personnel left injured.
Elsewhere in the country, transporters across towns and cities of Sindh province went on strike in protest against the stoppage of gas supply to compressed natural gas (CNG) stations in the province. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), led by provincial ministers and members of the Sindh Assembly, joined the protest against the Federal Government for suspension of the gas supply to the province. Meanwhile, lawyers across the province of Punjab – with the exception of Faisalabad and Sargodha districts – called off their month-long protest and boycott of court proceedings in demand for the establishment of a Lahore High Court (LHC).
In India, the Joint Resistance Leadership’s (JRL) protest programme against alleged human rights abuses continued in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, amid several deadly clashes involving militants and state forces. Last week’s clashes reportedly left six militants, four policemen, and one soldier dead. A further seven fatalities were recorded when state forces fired on rioters at the scene of an armed clash with militants in Pulwama district.
Four incidents of Maoist violence were recorded last week, including two attacks on civilians in Jharkhand and Maharashtra, respectively, as well as a clash with security forces and an attack on Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) forces with an improvised explosive device (IED) in Chhattisgarh. Meanwhile, in West Bengal, one Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and four Trinamool Congress Party (TMC) activists were killed in a recent spate of political rivalry in the state.
In Assam, inter-party clashes and incidents of ballot papers snatching were reported from several districts during the second phase of the panchayat (village council) elections on 9 December as well as during re-polling and counting of votes on subsequent days. Pre-election violence also continued in Tripura with opposition parties accusing the BJP of widespread episodes of violence against their supporters. The local elections were postponed from 22 December to 27 December.
In Bangladesh, the campaigning season for the 30 December general election was kicked off last week, resulting in an immediate eruption of large-scale political violence across the country. Several people were reportedly killed and hundreds more injured as stick-wielding mobs attacked candidates of rival political parties during election campaigning events. The vast majority of the recorded events involved supporters of the two major political parties, the Awami League (AL) and the Bangladesh National Party (BNP); candidates and election offices of the Jatiya Oikya Prokriya (JOP) were also targeted several times last week (for more on Bangladesh’s violent bipartisanism, see this past ACLED piece).
In Nepal, the rape and murder of a teenager, Nirmala Pant, continues to capture the national attention. People across the country continued to protest over the authorities’ failure to prosecute the perpetrator(s) while at the same time trying to frame innocent people for the crime.
In Sri Lanka, last week, there was a decrease in the number of demonstrations following the previous week’s spike in the number of reported events. The plantation strike in demand for higher wages was called off by the Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC) on 11 December without any tangible solutions, which prompted further protests in tea estate areas. Meanwhile, an end to the country’s political crisis seems to be in sight as the Supreme Court overruled President Maithripala Sirisena’s order to dissolve parliament on 13 December as unconstitutional (The Diplomat, 14 December 2018). In a second development, the contested Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was appointed by the President to replace ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, stepped down on 15 December (for more on this, see this past ACLED infographic).
Last week, in Myanmar, there were several clashes between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army (AA) around Buthidaung and Ponnagyun townships in Rakhine state. Since late November, clashes between the military and AA have been ongoing (for more on this, see this recent ACLED piece). Fighting between the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South (RCSS/SSA-S) and both the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army-North (SSPP/SSA-N) and the Palaung State Liberation Front/Ta’ang National Liberation Army (PSLF/TNLA) also occurred earlier in the week.
There were a number of protests across the county last week in Myanmar as well. In the Ayeyarwady region, a demonstration led by the Myanmar War Veterans’ Association in support of the military was held in Hinthada. Labour protests were held in both Yangon and Mandalay regions. The protest camp of workers from the Tharabar hotel was dismantled after a two-month long protest calling for the reinstatement of fired workers; protesters who joined a subsequent march to Nay Pyi Taw were stopped by police.
In Monywa, farmers protested the Chinese-owned Wanbao company, calling for an end to the pollution from the Letpadaung copper mine which has destroyed their farmlands. Recently, the Wanbao company indicated it planned to seek permission to expand its mining operations in the area (Asia Times, 5 December 2018). The mining project around Letpadaung has been a key site of demonstrations in the past by villagers whose livelihoods have been affected by the project.
In the Philippines, three Abu Sayyaf rebels and a marine were reportedly killed during a battle in Mindanao. There were a reported 12 fatalities from police raids on drug suspects last week with most raids occurring in Laguna province in the Calabarzon region. On 10 December, Human Rights Day, protesters in Manila demonstrated against the Duterte administration; many called for the Duterte administration to be held accountable for the ongoing War on Drugs (Rappler, 10 December 2018).
In Thailand, in Narathiwat province, suspected separatists and Thai army rangers briefly exchanged gunfire. There were also two protests last week. Demonstrators in Nakhon Sawan province demonstrated against the construction of a garbage processing plant. Around 500 demonstrators blocked an intersection in Nong Bua district with tires and farm tractors; seven demonstrators were arrested.
Protests in Cambodia last week occurred in Phnom Penh and Pursat province. Two protests took place in Phnom Penh. In one, hundreds of pharmaceutical agents from BHIP Global Cambodia protested in front Hun Sen’s residence, asking for his assistance in resolving a dispute with the company’s management team. In another protest, more than 1,000 workers of a footwear factory demonstrated after failed severance pay negotiations. In Pursat province, around 200 villagers blocked a road after authorities confiscated rice tractors loaded with luxury timber.
In Indonesia, details regarding the killing of several construction workers by the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) in Papua in early December continue to emerge. While employed by a state-owned construction company, the workers, whom the TPNPB viewed as military spies, were rounded up and killed. Such infrastructure projects in Papua have often led to tension and violence in the region; still, the president subsequently announced that the construction project will continue with the military taking over (Radio New Zealand, 14 December 2018).
Meanwhile, in Jakarta, family members of the victims of the Lion Air flight that crashed in October held a peaceful protest at the Merdeka Palace, calling for the president to provide more assistance in the victims’ evacuation process.
No political violence or protest events were reported last week in Vietnam or Laos.
18 December 2018