The number of reported organized violence events decreased while demonstrations remained static across the South and Southeast Asian regions last week compared to previous weeks. In South Asia, militants and Afghan/NATO forces continued to clash in Afghanistan, people took to the streets to protest against the death of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) leader Arman Loni in Pakistan, and anti-government demonstrations were held in India and Nepal. In Southeast Asia, the eve of the second plebiscite for the Bangsamoro Organic Law was marked by explosions in three towns across Lanao del Norte province in the Philippines while in Myanmar thousands protested against the Myitsone Dam in Kachin state.
In Afghanistan last week, fighting continued between multiple armed groups and Afghan/NATO forces throughout the country, although to a lesser degree than in previous weeks. The heaviest concentration of clashes occurred in the provinces of Nangarhar and Helmand. In the former, Afghan military and NATO airstrikes targeted Islamic State (IS) militants in several central districts of the province.
Meanwhile, Taliban fighters targeted a military base in Kunduz city on 4 February, reportedly killing 26 Afghan soldiers and police. This attack occurred as peace talks were underway in Moscow between Taliban representatives and Afghan opposition members. These talks were the first of their kind in years, and have caused alarm within the current Ghani administration – which the Taliban have thus far refused to negotiate with. By the end of the two-day talks, a broad plan to end the war was allegedly charted. This plan included the withdrawal of American forces – something which earlier American-Taliban talks in Doha had reinforced – and demanded a Taliban commitment to the rights of citizens (NY Times, 6 February 2019).
In Pakistan, three suspected Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants were killed by security forces in South Waziristan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Several incidents of remote violence also were reported from the province, reportedly leaving one child and three security personnel injured.
The death of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) leader Arman Loni led to demonstrations in several parts of the country. Loni was allegedly killed during a police crackdown on a sit-in protest against militant attacks on security forces in Loralai on 2 February (The Express Tribune, 8 February 2019). In Balochistan, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) – backed by the Awami National Party (ANP), Balochistan National Party (BNP) and Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) – called for a province-wide general strike. PTM organized demonstrations in Islamabad and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Around 25 PTM workers, including rights activist Gulalai Ismail, were arrested during a protest outside the National Press Club in Islamabad. Reports suggest that she along with six other members were released a day later (Dawn, 6 February 2019).
In other developments, members of the Hindu community in Sindh held province-wide protests against an arson attack on a Hindu temple in Khumb town and political, religious, and civil society organizations held nationwide rallies on 5 February, to express solidarity and support to the struggle of the Kashmiri people on the occasion of “Kashmir Solidarity Day”.
In the contested Kashmir region, only limited cross-border violence was reported between Indian and Pakistani security forces, leading to no fatalities to be reported last week.
In India, low levels of militant activity were reported from Jammu & Kashmir state. One Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander was reportedly killed during clashes with security forces in Pulwama district. In the meantime, ongoing clashes with Maoist rebels in Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-affected districts of Sukam and Bijapur reportedly left ten rebels and a civilian dead.
The number of reported demonstrations remains high in India. The visit of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to northeastern states on 8 February further fuelled the ongoing protest movement against the Bharatiya Janata Party government and the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the region (for more on this, see this past ACLED infographic). Locals in Andhra Pradesh, too, took to the streets to protest against Modi’s visit to the state on 10 February. In Bihar, Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RSLP) called for a bandh (general strike) and led several marches to protest against alleged police violence during a clash with its party members in Patna on 2 February. In addition, across southern India, Congress members led demonstrations condemning the recent affront to Mahatma Gandhi’s memory. Several people, including right-wing nationalist activists, were filmed shooting at a Mahatma Gandhi effigy on the anniversary of his death on 30 January (Indian Express, 4 February 2019).
In another development, the political rivalry between Prime Minister Modi’s BJP and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) further escalated last week. On 3 February, a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) team tried to arrest a top police officer in connection with a chit-fund scam at his residence in Kolkata city. Trinamool Congress President Mamata Banerjee, alleging a coup attempt by the Modi-led central government, ordered the local police to temporarily detain the CBI team and launched a series of protests in several places of West Bengal.
In Bangladesh, garment factory workers continued their ongoing protest in Dhaka city demanding outstanding arrears and other work benefits. In addition, rival factions of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), the student wing of the ruling Awami League, clashed several times last week over the issue of establishing supremacy on the university campuses in Chittagong and Dhaka cities.
In Nepal, the main opposition party, the Nepali Congress (NC), staged protest rallies and demonstrations across the country against the government’s alleged inability to control corruption, rising incidents of rape and crime in the country, and bad governance.
In Sri Lanka on the celebration of Independence Day on 4 February, Tamils in the North of the island nation staged a black flag protest to demonstrate the prolonged Tamil struggle arising from the continuous occupation of Tamil lands by the army, the political detention of prisoners, and government failure to resolve the killings and disappearances of Tamils during the civil war (Tamil Guardian, 4 February 2019). Meanwhile, tea estate workers continued their protests in Nuwara Eliya of the Central Province to demand an increase in wages or an additional work allowance.
In Myanmar, the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army (AA) continue to clash with battles occurring last week in Paletwa, Chin state and Rathedaung, Rakhine state. Despite the recently declared four-month unilateral ceasefire, reports have emerged that the military has been expanding in northern and southern Shan state as well as in Kayah state (Shan Herald Agency for News, 7 February 2019).
In Loikaw, Kayah state, many Karenni youth set up a protest camp in front of the National League for Democracy (NLD) offices to protest against the installation of the Bogyoke Aung San statue in the state. Police intervened to dismantle the protest camp and arrest many of the protesters. As well, in Myitkyina, Kachin state, several thousand people gathered to protest against the construction of the Myitsone Dam. The protests come as the NLD government is considering whether to allow China to continue construction on the dam which had been halted during the previous administration (Frontier Myanmar, 8 February 2019).
Explosives were set off in three towns across Lanao del Norte province in the Philippines on the eve of the second phase of the plebiscite for the Bangsamoro Organic Law. The plebiscite was held in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato to decide whether or not the two provinces would join the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). While North Cotabato voted to join, Lanao del Norte did not (Rappler, 7 February 2019). Meanwhile, last week, clashes occurred between the Philippine military and the Abu Sayyaf Group in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
Two separatist attacks occurred in Narathiwat in Thailand last week. In one attack, a civilian bystander was killed. Meanwhile, in Bangkok, many students and pro-democracy activists protested, calling for the resignation of the Prime Minister who came to power after the military coup in 2014. The protests come as a Thai princess was disqualified from running for Prime Minister in the upcoming March elections by her brother, the new king. In attempting to run as a candidate for the Thai Raksa Chart Party, the princess broke with the long tradition of the monarchy remaining outside of politics (CNN, 11 February 2019). As well, after applying for asylum in Bangkok, a Vietnamese blogger for Radio Free Asia went missing.
At the Double Six monument in Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia, around 100 people protested the state’s efforts to give rights to the Bugis and Javanese as natives of Sabah, arguing that the Bugis and Javanese are not native to the region. The listing of native groups to the region has caused tension in Sabah given the property ownership rights that come with being considered native to Sabah (Free Malaysia Today, 9 February 2019).
In Cambodia, a protest was held in front of the Russian embassy in Phnom Penh calling for the release of Rath Rott Mony. Mony, president of the Cambodian Construction Workers Trade Union Federation (CCTUF), has been held in detention since he was deported from Thailand back to Cambodia last year and arrested for his work on a documentary produced by Russia Today which examines sex trafficking in Cambodia (Radio Free Asia, 12 December 2018).
In Indonesia, protesters demonstrated in front of the embassy of India on Kashmir Solidarity Day. A national holiday in Pakistan, the day is intended to show support for those in India administered Kashmir who aim to separate from India.
No political violence or protest events were recorded from Vietnam or Laos last week.
© 2019 Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED). All rights reserved.
12 February 2019