In Southeast Asia, key developments last week included: increased battles in Myanmar; ongoing separatist violence targeting civilians in Thailand; continued drug-related violence in the Philippines; and labor protests in Indonesia and Myanmar.
Clashes in Myanmar between the military and the United League of Arakan/Arakan Army (ULA/AA) increased significantly last week in Rakhine state. Clashes were reported in Ann, Buthidaung, Kyauktaw, Minbya, and Rathedaung townships in Rakhine state as well as in Paletwa township in southern Chin state. Shelling from the conflict continues to cause civilian casualties. On 3 February, in Kyauktaw township, a young mother was killed by shelling in the area (Irrawaddy, 4 February 2020).
Separatist violence targeting civilians in Thailand occurred last week in Pattani and Narathiwat provinces, resulting in three reported fatalities. The Thai government has recently initiated a dialogue with the main separatist group in the country in an effort to resolve the ongoing violence in the deep south; it remains to be seen whether the new approach will lead to a decline in violence in the region (Human Rights Watch, 7 February 2020).
In the Philippines, drug-related violence continued with a number of civilians killed in police raids. The violence was particularly concentrated in the Central Luzon and Calabarzon regions, which ACLED has found to be the regions with the highest numbers of drug-related attacks in the past year. The violence comes as the Philippines announced its decision on 11 February to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States after the US denied a visa to the former chief of the Philippine police who oversaw the “war on drugs” (NPR, 11 February 2020).
Meanwhile, as clashes between Philippine state forces and the New People’s Army (NPA) continue, many organizations continue to find themselves “red-tagged,” falsely accused of associations with the communist rebels. Last week, the arrests of members of Bayan and Karapatan, both organizations that have been “red-tagged”, sparked protests in Baguio and Quezon City.
Protests over land issues were reported in Thailand and Cambodia while labor protests were reported in Indonesia and Myanmar last week. In Indonesia, protest events over the omnibus bill seen as anti-labor have declined, though two such protests were reported in West Java. In Myanmar, large-scale protests by factory workers were held in Hlaingthayar township.
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