Last week in Asia, the overall number of demonstrations declined significantly; reported fatalities declined as well. In South Asia, the week was marked by protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 in Northeast India while three Islamic State militants were reportedly killed in Counter Terrorism Department operations in Pakistan. In Southeast Asia, there was an increase in protests around election delays in Thailand, while two Buddhist monks were reportedly killed by suspected separatists in the south of the country.

In Afghanistan last week, fighting continued between multiple armed groups and Afghan/NATO forces throughout the country. While the Taliban remains the most prevalent Afghan insurgency by far, Islamic State (IS) militants continue to have a significant presence in Nangarhar province, and in Kunar province to a lesser degree. Last week there were a number of Afghan and NATO operations against IS in those provinces. In Dara i Pech district of Kunar, IS militants reportedly killed a Taliban fighter with an IED last week. Earlier in the month, IS and Taliban militants clashed on at least two occasions in the same district, with IS reporting small territorial gains.

Meanwhile, there was a surge in Afghan operations in Balkh province last week against both Taliban and unidentified militants. Similar to previous weeks, the provinces of Faryab, Ghazni, Helmand, and Kandahar remained the most active. On 14 January, a major Taliban assault on a foreign compound in Kabul reportedly left four people dead, and at least 90 wounded. The attack began with an SVBIED (suicide vehicle borne improvised explosive device) explosion, after which four Taliban fighters allegedly entered the compound. Among the casualties were both Afghan security forces and civilians; two of the slain were reported to be American and Indian nationals (VOA, 16 January 2019).

In Pakistan, there was a significant increase in the number of reported events and fatalities compared to previous weeks in January. Last week, the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) launched several operations against militants across the country. In Punjab province, the CTD reportedly killed two Islamic State (IS) militants during a raid in Faisalabad city. In a second incident, the CTD reportedly killed one IS militant during an encounter in Sahiwal city. During a raid in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, four suspected Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan militants were reportedly fatally shot in an exchange of gunfire with security forces. Additionally, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, armed attacks by unidentified groups resulted in the reported fatal shooting of a peace committee leader, while a local Awami National Party (ANP) leader sustained critical injuries in a separate armed attack.

In other developments, Pakistani forces arrested a former Taliban minister in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, reportedly to pressure the militant group to engage in peace talks with the representatives of the Government of Afghanistan. He was released the following day (Daily Times, 16 January 2019).

Along the Line of Control, in the contested Kashmir region, 13 incidents of cross-border clashes between Indian and Pakistani forces resulted in the reported deaths of one Indian soldier, five Pakistani soldiers, and the destruction of several Pakistani bunkers.

In India, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militants launched five grenade attacks on Indian police forces throughout Jammu & Kashmir, resulting in reported injuries to three policemen and one civilian. Elsewhere in India, clashes were reported between Maoist rebels and security forces in Jharkhand, resulting in the reported death of a Maoist commander. In Chhattisgarh, 3 Maoists were arrested, and a Maoist camp was neutralized following clashes with security forces. In addition, two civilians accused of being police informants were reportedly shot dead by Maoist rebels in Bihar.

Significant protest activity continued throughout India last week. There was no let-up in protests reported across the northeastern states against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016. The bill, which has been approved by India’s lower house of parliament, would grant residency and citizenship rights to non-Muslim immigrants. Opponents of the bill mainly criticize that legitimizing undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh will threaten indigenous communities (Al Jazeera, 8 January 2019). In Jharkhand, many protest events were reported on 10 January, when hundreds of doctors staged demonstrations across the state, demanding the implementation of the Medical Protection Act; the act aims to protect health workers from violence by the family members of patients.

In Bangladesh, reports of political violence appear to be waning following the 30 December landslide election victory of the Awami League (AL). Last week, two incidents of violence were reported against political actors. In Chittagong, a pro-Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti activist was reportedly shot dead by an unidentified group, while the bullet riddled body of an AL activist was recovered by police in Khulna. Elsewhere, along the Indo-Bangladesh border in Rangpur, two fatal attacks on Bangladeshi civilians by Indian Border Security Forces were reported.

Similar to the previous week, protests and violent demonstrations by workers of ready-made garment (RMG) factories seeking higher wages continued across Dhaka last week. Police reportedly used water cannons and charged batons at rioters who had blocked highways.

In Nepal, a shootout between police officers and two armed assailants associated with the Azad faction of Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha, in Lumbini, resulted in the reported death of a suspect on the police’s ‘most wanted list’. There was a slight decrease in the overall number of protest events in Nepal compared to the week prior. Last week, political parties and civil society groups participated in protests in various parts of the country demanding the government to honor the Medical Education Bill signed with the Senior Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. Govinda KC, in July 2018. Dr. KC has been staging his sixteenth hunger strike to pressurize the government into reforming the medical education sector in Nepal.

In Sri Lanka, police discovered one of the largest stockpiles of explosives and detonators since 2009, in Puttalam. Preliminary reports suggest that the weapons are believed to be owned by a radical Muslim group (The Island, 19 January 2019).

There was a significant increase in demonstrations in Thailand last week as protesters took to the streets across the country to call for an end to election delays. Protests took place in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Ubon Ratchathani, Phayao, Nakhom Pathom, Maha Sarakham, and Khon Kean. The general election, which had been scheduled for 24 February, looks likely to be delayed by at least a month (CNN, 20 January 2019).

As well, violence in southern Thailand has been on the rise as separatists view the military regime as unwilling to engage in negotiations that would result in compromises (Al Jazeera, 21 January 2019). In particular, the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) is seen as acting in retaliation for the killing of one of its leaders recently. On 18 January, in Narathiwat, suspected separatists reportedly shot and killed two Buddhist monks, a common target of separatists. Earlier in the week, in Yala, suspected separatists reportedly killed two Thai Nation Power Party MP candidates.

In Myanmar, clashes continued between the Myanmar military and Arakan Army (AA) in northern Rakhine and southern Chin state. There were also clashes reported in Hpapun district in Kayin state between the Myanmar military and Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army (KNU/KNLA). The military has been involved in a road construction project in the region which the KNU/KNLA views as an attempt to militarize the area. Fighting also continued between two Shan ethnic armed groups: the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South (RCSS/SSA-S) and the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army-North (SSPP/SSA-N).

Drug related violence continues in the Philippines. 15 people were reportedly killed in drug-related police raids last week. There was additional political violence when two village chairmen and a former city prosecutor were reportedly killed by unidentified assailants. Fighting between the military and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) took place in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which is starting a plebiscite this week to vote on the Bangsamoro Organic Law. If passed, the law would grant more autonomy to the region in an attempt to ensure greater peace (The Guardian, 21 January 2019).

Demonstrations in Cambodia last week again centered around labor and land issues. In Phnom Penh, garment workers from Long Victory International protested for two days after hearing rumors that the factory would close. In Svay Rieng province, 2,000 workers from King Maker Footwear Co protested for four days calling for half their salary to be paid after they were suspended for a month due to a lack of orders. In Kampong Speu province, 80 people demonstrated demanding a solution to a land dispute with HLH Company and Ly Yong Phat Sugar Company. Further, in Phnom Penh, over 400 people protested over a land dispute with Memot Rubber Plantation Company in Kratie province.

In Malaysia, in Sarawak, a protest in support of Sarawak rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 was held. The Malaysia Agreement 1963, or MA63, refers to the agreement between Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak in 1963 which created the Federation of Malaysia. Many in Sabah and Sarawak, both now part of East Malaysia, want equal status with the rest of the country in accordance with the agreement (The Straits Times, 31 May 2018).

Residents living around the Soc Son Waste Treatment Complex in Hanoi in Vietnam barricaded the entrance and blocked roads leading to the complex in a demonstration against the environmental impact of the waste treatment complex.

In Indonesia, in Jakarta, a protest was held in front of the Elections Supervisory Agency office against corruption in the coal industry. As well, street vendors clashed with municipal police after being asked to clear out of a public street.

No political violence or protest events were recorded for Laos last week.

© 2019 Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED). All rights reserved.

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Regional Overview – Asia
22 January 2019
Danyal Kamal
Danyal Kamal
Danyal Kamal is an Asia Researcher with ACLED. He received a B.A. in General Management from Michigan State University, with a specialization in International Business. Mr. Kamal has research experience in the fields of minority rights, misgovernance and radicalization, tax policy and enterprise development, and public policy. Mr. Kamal is currently based out of Islamabad, Pakistan, and is fluent in English and Urdu.
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.
Tom Hart
Tom Hart
Tom Hart is the Global Research Coordinator with ACLED, and a part-time brewer and genealogist. He received his BA in International History from Carleton University in Ottawa, where he focused on colonial relationships, intercultural interaction, and geocultural perspectives. Tom is currently based out of Ottawa, Canada, and is fluent in English and French.
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