Last week, in Asia, organized violence remained static while overall demonstrations decreased slightly. In South Asia, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) launched a major militant attack on security personnel in India’s Jammu & Kashmir, leading to nationwide demonstrations. In Southeast Asia, rubber bullets were fired at protesters in Myanmar opposed to the installation of the Bogyoke Aung San statue in Kayah state, while in southern Thailand, separatist violence led to five reported civilian deaths.

In Afghanistan last week, fighting continued between multiple armed groups and Afghan/NATO forces throughout the country. The heaviest concentration of clashes occurred in the provinces of Ghazni, Faryab, and Helmand. In the latter, an overnight operation by Afghan Special Forces in the Pozy area of Sangin district reportedly killed at least 25 Taliban militants, and four civilians – although the Taliban reported higher civilian fatalities. Elsewhere in another major clash, Taliban militants attacked a border security post in the Sru Sahan area of Shorabak district, Kandahar province, and reportedly killed at least nine Afghan soldiers while suffering 16 losses themselves. The Taliban reported that the base was captured and 23 soldiers were killed.

Meanwhile, scheduled talks between the Taliban and representatives from Pakistan – and possibly the US – were called off last week following protests by the Afghan government to the United Nations Security Council. Similar protests had earlier been made regarding recent Taliban/Afghan opposition talks in Moscow, which the government deemed a violation of their national sovereignty. The Afghan government has thus far been left out of several peace negotiations between the Taliban and representatives from other states, mostly due to the Taliban’s unwillingness to negotiate with the Afghan government on the pretext that they are a so-called “Western puppet” (RFERL, 17 February 2019).

In Pakistan, several attacks on security forces, members of political parties, and civilians were reported from across the country last week. Four security personnel were injured when a suicide bomber targeted a convoy in Balochistan province. Meanwhile, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, unidentified armed men opened fire on a police patrol, reportedly killing five policemen and injuring two civilians (Nation, 13 February 2019). In Sindh province, unidentified armed men reportedly shot dead two Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) workers in separate incidents on 14 February, while a Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) Union Councilor was fatally shot in an incident on 11 February. In North Waziristan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, a tribal leader was reportedly killed and a youth injured in two separate IED explosions.

In other developments, province-wide protests, rallies, and sit-ins were organized by nationalist parties including Jeay Sindh Tehreek (JST), Sindh United Party (SUP), and Jeay Sindh Qaumi Movement (JSQM) in Sindh, against the killing of JST’s Karachi chapter President Irshad Ahmed Ranjhani. Ranjhani was shot dead on 6 February when he allegedly attempted to rob Union Council (UC) chairman, Abdul Raheem Shah (Dawn, 11 February 2019).

In India, a major militant attack, firefights between militants and security forces, as well as several explosions resulted in one of the deadliest weeks in Jammu & Kashmir in recent decades. A Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) suicide bomber rammed a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy with an explosives-laden vehicle in Pulwama district, reportedly killing between 37 and 49 CRPF troopers. In addition, six militants and one soldier were reportedly killed during encounters between militants and security forces, with another soldier killed when an IED exploded near the Line of Control (LoC). A further two unexplained explosions reportedly left a civilian dead in Kupwara district and injured at least a dozen school children in Pulwama district.

The latest spate of violence sparked nationwide demonstrations condemning the attack. While demonstrations remained largely peaceful outside of Jammu & Kashmir, large-scale violent rioting was reported throughout Jammu division. Additionally, members of the Kashmiri community were attacked by mobs of people seeking revenge in several parts of the country, particularly in North India.

In other developments, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was not ratified by the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament) during its session on 13 February, the last session before the upcoming general elections (Indian Express, 18 February 2019). In Manipur, after several days of statewide protests, the demonstrations have been suspended by civil organizations.  Meanwhile, violent clashes erupted between the police and Samajwadi Party (SP) supporters all across Uttar Pradesh after the government prevented SP leader Akhilesh Yadav from taking a flight headed for a political rally in Allahabad.

In Bangladesh, student elections at Dhaka University dominated last week’s demonstrations as different student groups demanded the setting up of polling stations away from residential halls.

In Nepal, last week, the government has come under severe criticism by national and international media for proposing a new law that would introduce harsh punishments for posting or propagating anti-government content on social networking sites. Opponents of the law state that the government is trying to curtail the freedom of expression guaranteed by the constitution (Business Standard, 15 February 2019).

In Sri Lanka, teachers under the Ceylon Teacher Services Union launched an island-wide protest campaign on 15 February against the verdict of the Kurunegala High Court sentencing a school teacher to two years of imprisonment on charges of assaulting a student in 2011 (News First, 15 February 2019).

In Myanmar, as clashes continued between the Myanmar military and Arakan Army (AA) in Rakhine state, fighting between two Shan armed groups, the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South (RCSS/SSA-S) and Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army-North (SSPP/SSA-N), occurred in Kyaukme, Shan state.

Meanwhile, on Union Day (12 February), a day commemorating the 1947 Panglong Agreement negotiated between independence leader Bogyoke Aung San and several ethnic groups, protesters in Kayah state were met with rubber bullets as they continued to demonstrate against the installation of the Bogyoke Aung San statue in Loikaw by the National League for Democracy (NLD) government. A protest in solidarity with the Karenni youth demonstrating in Loikaw was likewise held in downtown Yangon. Protesters view the installation of the Bogyoke Aung San statue in ethnic minority states as an affront to the idea of equal rights for all ethnic groups in Myanmar as Bogyoke Aung San was from the majority Burman group (Radio Free Asia, 12 February 2019). The installation of his statue when similar statues of ethnic minority leaders are not supported (The Irrawaddy, 5 February 2018) has exacerbated tensions between ethnic minorities and the government and military.

Rival protests also were held last week in Myanmar concerning the 2008 constitution with several protests held by those supportive of the NLD’s bid to change the constitution and one opposing rally held by nationalists in favor of limited changes to the constitution. The NLD recently attempted to start the process of amending the constitution in parliament, a move met with resistance by the military (Frontier Myanmar, 18 February 2019).

Separatist violence continued last week across Pattani, Narathiwat, and Yala provinces in southern Thailand. Five civilians reportedly were killed by suspected separatists. As well, a battle between suspected separatists and security forces reportedly left two separatists dead. A bomb targeting Thai rangers went off in Narathiwat without injuring anyone. With Mara Patani, an umbrella group of separatist groups, waiting until after the general elections in March to determine whether it will continue its participation in the peace process (Geopolitical Monitor, 15 February 2019), separatist violence looks likely to continue in the south.

In the Philippines, clashes between the Philippine military and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) led to five reported fatalities. As well, a battle between the Philippine military and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) led to three reported deaths. Across the country, drug-violence persisted with 12 reported fatalities from police raids across the Calabarzon and Central Luzon regions. With the arrest of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa last week on cyber libel charges (Rappler, 18 February 2019), politically-motivated harassment of the media threatens independent reporting critical of the Duterte administration on a range of issues, especially the ongoing drug violence in the country.

In Indonesia, a Papuan man was shot by police who alleged he was a thief. Police violence against Papuans also made the news recently when police used a snake to torture a man in police custody (Reuters, 11 February 2019). Meanwhile, Valentine’s Day (14 February) led to two protests by groups of Muslim youth who demonstrated against the day, claiming it promotes Western decadence in contrast to the modesty of Islam.

There were likewise protests concerning morality in Malaysia last week when several Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) youth in Penang protested against a play for its supposed obscene content. Another demonstration in Penang led to the arrest of two Malaysian United Indigenous Party (BERSATU) youth who were protesting in solidarity with people evicted from their homes.

In Cambodia, in Phnom Penh, over 100 former garment workers from the W&D factory protested, calling for their reinstatement after they were sacked for inciting a strike. Workers from W&D factory have staged several protests over the past two months.

As well, in Ha Tinh Province in Vietnam, dozens of households set up a protest camp outside the Phu Ha Waste Treatment Plant to demonstrate against the pollution caused by the plant.

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
19 February 2019
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.
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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