In Southeast Asia, key developments last week include: the dissolution of the Future Forward Party in Thailand; protests in Myanmar over the ongoing internet shutdown in Rakhine state; a clash between state forces and Papuan rebels in Indonesia; ongoing battles between state forces and communist rebels in the Philippines; and a protest calling for the dissolution of the parliament in Malaysia.
In Thailand, the Future Forward Party, which has been critical of the military’s dominance in Thai politics, was dissolved by order of the Constitutional Court (New York Times, 21 February 2020). The leaders of the party, including the founder, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, were banned from participating in politics for ten years. The move to dissolve the party is seen as a bid by the military to suppress political opposition in the country.
Fighting in Myanmar between the military and the United League of Arakan/Arakan Army (ULA/AA) continued in northern Rakhine state and southern Chin state last week. Notably, a clash was reported further south in Rakhine state, in Ramree township. This marks the first such clash between the two groups recorded in the township (Development Media Group, 24 February 2020). Battles in the state are intensifying as the government recently expanded its internet shutdown across the region. Three protests led by students calling for an end to the internet shutdown were reported in Sittwe, Kyaukphyu and Toungup townships in Rakhine state.
In Indonesia, a clash between state forces and the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) was reported in the Papua region. The clash comes as the government is set to review its program of special funding for development projects in the region. The focus on development of the region has not ameliorated the long-standing grievances of Papuans who continue to call for independence from Indonesia (The Jakarta Post, 22 February 2020).
Clashes between the communist New People’s Army (NPA) and state forces in the Philippines continued last week. A former chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and commander of the NPA was arrested as well. The Philippine government has likewise been expanding its “End Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC)” task forces aimed at preventing the NPA from expanding its areas of operation (Philippines News Agency, 24 February 2020)
Finally, a protest calling for parliament to be dissolved was held in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. The protest came before the resignation of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on 24 February. He was subsequently appointed interim Prime Minister by the constitutional monarch (New York Times, 24 February 2020). It remains to be seen whether Mahathir will form a new coalition to replace the Pakatan Harapan government.
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