In Southeast Asia, key developments last week include: ongoing civilian fatalities amid fighting in Myanmar, separatist violence in Indonesia and Thailand, decreased anti-drug operations in the Philippines, and demonstrations in Indonesia and Thailand arising from coronavirus-related concerns.
As the conflict between the United League of Arakan/Arakan Army (ULA/AA) and the military continues in Myanmar, week after week, there are reports of civilian deaths. In Paletwa township in Chin state, nine civilians were killed on 15 March after the military used fighter jets to fire on two villages. The military likewise continued to shell villages along the Kaladan river. In Ponnagyun township in Rakhine state, a woman was killed by the shelling. Civilians were also impacted by fighting that broke out between the Palaung State Liberation Front/Ta’ang National Liberation Army (PSLF/TNLA) and the military-backed Pan Say people’s militia. Two civilians died in the crossfire as the two groups fought in Namhkan township in Shan state.
Meanwhile, separatist violence was reported in Indonesia and Thailand. A deadly clash in Indonesia between state forces and the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) led to four reported fatalities. Clashes between suspected separatists and state forces increased last week in Thailand, resulting in five reported fatalities. Separatists likewise attacked the Southern Border Provinces Administration Center in Yala province during a government meeting concerning the coronavirus. The separatist violence in Thailand comes despite recent efforts by the government to hold talks with the main separatist group, the Barisan Revolusi Nasional Melayu Patani (BRN) (The Diplomat, 24 March 2020).
In the Philippines, despite the announcement by the Philippine government of a unilateral ceasefire with the New People’s Army (NPA) due to the coronavirus, clashes between state forces and the NPA were reported last week. The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) announced that it was suspending its anti-drug operations as Metro Manila began an “enhanced community quarantine” (GMA News, 17 March 2020). Notably, only two drug suspect fatalities were reported last week in encounters with anti-drug vigilantes; no police drug raids were recorded.
Finally, several countries in the region implemented measures to lock down areas affected by coronavirus. A few demonstrations were reported in Indonesia and Thailand over dissatisfaction with government policies regarding the coronavirus as well as over economic hardships being faced by businesses unable to operate during this time. While pro-democracy demonstrations in Thailand and protests over the omnibus bill in Indonesia continued, they have declined in recent weeks.
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