Last week, organised violence remained static while demonstration events decreased slightly across the South and Southeast Asian regions. In South Asia, fighting between security forces and militants continued in Afghanistan and Pakistan, while the militant attack in Pulwama on 14 February continued to dominate organised violence and demonstrations in India and the Kashmir region. In Southeast Asia, heavy fighting was reported between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army, resulting in the death of a young woman caught in the crossfire.
In Afghanistan last week, fighting continued between multiple armed groups and Afghan/NATO forces throughout the country. The heaviest concentration of clashes occurred in Kandahar province, where Afghan military forces conducted several operations against Taliban militants across the northern areas. The Afghan Defense Minister and NATO Forces Commander recently toured the province in anticipation of such operations (ANI, 2 February 2019). Clashes occurred mostly in districts known to be contested such as Naish, Maywand, and Ghorak. In addition, the Taliban claimed to have captured the district centre of Maruf on 22 February after surrounding it, although other sources have yet to confirm. Fighting in Kandahar appears to be rising as of late, with the highest number of conflict events since May 2017 being reported last month.
Meanwhile, another round of peace talks will occur this week between a U.S. representative and the Taliban’s deputy leader Abdul Ghani Baradar in Doha, Qatar (Al Jazeera, 25 February 2019). This will be the first time Baradar will be involved in such negotiations; he was recently released after being held in Pakistan following his arrest in 2010 during a joint intelligence raid. The release was a result of earlier negotiations between the Taliban and American diplomats (NY Times, 25 October 2018).
In Pakistan, attacks on security forces and members of political parties were reported from across the country last week. In Balochistan province, four Frontier Corps personnel were reportedly killed when unidentified armed men opened fire at a security check post while Balochistan Levies personnel were injured when their motorcycle hit a landmine. In Punjab province, unidentified armed men opened fire at a police check post reportedly killing one police constable and injuring four other police personnel and one civilian. In Sindh province, unidentified armed men reportedly shot dead a local leader of Pak Sarzameen Party (PKP) and Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, three security personnel were reportedly injured when a remote-controlled explosion targeted a vehicle of security officials on a routine patrolling mission and seven civilians were injured when a grenade exploded.
In other developments, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) arrested the Speaker of the Sindh Assembly and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Agha Siraj Durrani from Islamabad city allegedly on corruption charges, resulting in province-wide demonstrations organized by PPP (Dawn, 23 February 2019).
The militant attack on security forces in Jammu & Kashmir’s (J&K) Pulwama district on 14 February continued to affect political violence in the region. In the disputed region of Kashmir, heavy firing was reported between Indian and Pakistani security forces for five consecutive days along the Line of Control (LoC). Cross-border violence reportedly resulted in injuries to a Pakistani civilian.
In India, three Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militants, five servicemen, and a civilian were reportedly killed during a Cordon and Search Operation (CASO) in J&K’s Pulwama district. The slain militants included a JeM commander and the suspected mastermind behind the Pulwama attack (The Times of India, 19 February 2019). A further two JeM militants were killed in Baramulla district. Anti-Pakistan demonstrations continued in Jammu division in response to the Pulwama attack. Significant protest activity was also reported in Kashmir division against attacks on Kashmiris in other parts of India in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack.
In India, political parties, religious groups, and other organizations continued to take to the streets to condemn the Pulwama attack. A rising number of accounts of mob violence directed towards members of the Kashmiri community and others who posted pro-Pakistan or pro-Kashmiri comments on social media were reported from across the country last week. In one such incident, a Pakistani inmate and member of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) was killed by fellow inmates during a clash in Jaipur Central Jail.
In other developments, one person was killed and several injured after the police opened fire on rioting demonstrators in Itanagar city during a 48-hour bandh (general strike). Indigenous groups called for the bandh in protest against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led state government’s move to grant Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) to six non-tribal communities in Arunachal Pradesh. Opponents of the proposal allege that it will compromise the rights and interests of indigenous groups in the state (Indian Express, 25 February 2019). In Kerala, the Youth Congress organized a flash hartal (general strike) demanding justice for two Youth Congress workers allegedly killed by Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) workers on 17 February. The hartal severely affected daily life in the state as basic facilities such as transportation, education, and trade were disrupted (Deccan Chronicle, 19 February 2019).
In Bangladesh, infighting between different factions of the ruling Awami League (AL), mostly over the issue of establishing local supremacy, continued last week.
In Nepal, the Netra Bikram Chand-led party, Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) claimed responsibility for an explosion at the Ncell company’s headquarter in Lalitpur district. The party also orchestrated a series of arson attacks on other mobile towers of the privately owned mobile network operator. In the meantime, activists, including political leaders, took to the streets and protested the efforts of the ruling Nepal Communist Party’s youth wing to pressure an artist to remove his satirical song criticising the government from YouTube. Supporters of the artist allege that this is the latest attempt of the government trying to limit the freedom of expression and speech of its citizens (Indian Express, 25 February 2019).
In Sri Lanka, Tamils staged a protest in support of their continued struggle demanding the release of their land from Sri Lankan army occupation. In addition, people took to the streets in several parts of Puttalam district to protest against a new garbage disposal site which is being constructed in Aruwakkaalu.
In Myanmar, fighting between the Myanmar military and Arakan Army (AA) continued last week, notably in Mrauk-U and Rathedaung townships in Rakhine state. In Mrauk-U township, a young woman was reportedly killed while fleeing the fighting. In Shan state, fighting between 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) likewise continued. A number of labour protests also occurred last week. As well, demonstrations calling for a change to the 2008 constitution were held in several places, including in Hmawbi, Monywa, and Kalay. As the NLD pushes for changes to the constitution in the parliament, such demonstrations in support are likely to continue.
Separatist violence in southern Thailand continued across Yala, Pattani, and Songkhla provinces. In Songkhla, a Thai ranger was shot dead in his home by suspected separatists. While riding home, a couple was shot by suspected separatists in Yala, resulting in one reported fatality. Meanwhile, in Pattani, suspected separatists fired on a Buddhist temple, though no one was injured. The attack was similar to last month’s attack on a Buddhist temple in Narathiwat which left two monks dead. Buddhist monks have been the targets of suspected separatists in Thailand as they are seen as linked to the state.
Police drug raids led to a reported 21 fatalities across the Philippines last week. Three village chairmen were reportedly shot, resulting in two fatalities. As well, two town councilors were reportedly shot and killed by unidentified assailants. The killings come as the Philippines prepares for elections in May this year.
As the general elections in Indonesia approach, an explosion occurred near a debate being held between President Joko Widodo and challenger Prabowo Subianto. There have also been a number of arson attacks in recent weeks intended to cause disorder before the elections. As well, on 21 February, thousands of people joined a 212 Munajat prayer event for the upcoming elections. The influence of the 212 movement has pushed Widodo to make decisions more appealing to conservative Muslims in his bid to win re-election (East Asia Forum, 29 November 2018).
In Malaysia, in Sarawak, members of two indigenous groups, the Berawan and Penan, staged a demonstration against the clearing of forests near Mulu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. In anticipation of building roads for a palm oil plantation, a plantation company had been clearing the forests against the will of the local people (The Star, 19 February 2019). Many indigenous groups in Malaysia have been subject to various forms of abuse while trying to protect their lands (Amnesty International, 29 November 2018).
In Cambodia, likewise, the preservation of land, the Prey Lang forest, led Buddhist monks to briefly detain a group of loggers over concerns about ongoing illegal logging causing deforestation. Buddhist monks in Cambodia have taken the lead in efforts to try to prevent deforestation by wrapping trees in traditional monk robes with the belief that it will prevent loggers from cutting down the trees (Radio Free Asia, 21 February 2019).
In Vietnam, there was a small protest which police dispersed arising from a disagreement over the rules of a traditional Lunar New Year game in Phu Tho province.
No political violence or protest events were recorded for Laos last week.
© 2019 Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED). All rights reserved.
26 February 2019