In Southeast Asia, last week’s key developments include: an attack on a World Health Organization vehicle carrying samples to be tested for the coronavirus amid the ongoing conflict in Myanmar; increased fighting between state forces and communist rebels in the Philippines; and coronavirus related disorder across the region.
In Myanmar, fighting between the military and the United League of Arakan/Arakan Army (ULA/AA) was particularly heavy in Minbya township in Rakhine state last week. As well, several civilian casualties were reported amid the ongoing clashes. Notably, a vehicle of the World Health Organization carrying samples to be tested for the coronavirus was attacked, killing the driver of the vehicle. The military and the ULA/AA traded blame for the attack (Frontier Myanmar, 27 April 2020).
Meanwhile, the previous week, in the Sagaing region, the Shanni Nationalities Army (SNA), comprised of ethnic Shanni, clashed twice with the military in Homalin township. Formed in early 2016, the SNA has only previously clashed with the military twice, the last time being in 2017. The clashes follow a trip made by the State Counsellor, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, to the Sagaing region earlier in the year during which ethnic Naga leaders requested that Homalin and Hkamti townships be recognized as part of the Naga Self-Administered Zone. The government appeared receptive to the proposal. This led to criticism from ethnic Shanni leaders who view the area as historically and culturally their own (Irrawaddy, 17 February 2020).
No separatist violence was reported in Thailand as the de facto ceasefire declared by the Barisan Revolusi Nasional Melayu Patani (BRN) continues to hold.
In the Philippines, there was an uptick in clashes between state forces and the New People’s Army (NPA). The government’s unilateral ceasefire recently expired while the NPA has extended their own unilateral ceasefire until the end of April. In a speech last week, President Duterte threatened to declare martial law as a result of the ongoing conflict (CNN Philippines, 27 April 2020). Many of the clashes between state forces and the NPA have taken place as state forces were aiding in coronavirus relief efforts.
The coronavirus pandemic continues to lead to disorder across the region. In the Philippines, a man was shot dead by the police apparently for violating quarantine measures. In Indonesia, a mob beat to death a man who had tried to remind them to adhere to social distancing practices. Also, in Indonesia, there was a prison riot in West Papua as prisoners demanded to be released so as to avoid catching the virus. Further, demonstrations were reported at two medical equipment factories in the Bago region of Myanmar as workers called for the factories to close to prevent the spread of the virus. Lastly, in Thailand, students at Chiang Mai University demonstrated, calling for reduced tuition amid the economic hardship brought about by the pandemic.
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