Last week in the East Asia Pacific region, violence continued throughout Myanmar, including heavy fighting, deadly airstrikes, and attacks on civilians and protesters. In Japan, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot dead at a political campaign event in Nara. In Papua New Guinea, polling for the general election began on 4 July amid demonstrations and a fatal attack. In the Philippines, fighting between the New People’s Army (NPA) and state forces intensified. In Indonesia, students demonstrated against the government’s plan to revise the criminal code. In South Korea, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) staged a large-scale rally to urge the government to improve working conditions, while Korean police officers protested against the creation of a new police bureau. In Australia, solidarity demonstrations condemning the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade increased in several cities.
In Myanmar last week, fighting broke out between the military and a combined force of the Karenni National Progressive Party/Karenni Army (KNPP/KA), Karenni Nationalities Defense Force (KNDF), and local defense forces in southern Shan state. On 4 July, the combined force attempted to occupy two military outposts in Pekon township, though the military responded with artillery and sent reinforcements during the attack (Myanmar Now, 6 July 2022). Both sides suffered heavy losses. In Loikaw township of Kayah state, the same combined force attacked a military outpost near Law Pi Ta village, leading to military airstrikes occurring in the area on 6 July (Democratic Voice of Burma, 8 July 2022). Violence in Kayah state is both common and highly volatile; it is considered an area of ‘extreme risk’ by ACLED’s Volatility and Risk Predictability Index.
Elsewhere, in Kayin state, the military conducted airstrikes with two jets on a United League of Arakan/Arakan Army (ULA/AA) base, killing six ULA/AA members and wounding several others (Narinjara News, 5 July 2022). The base is located in a Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army (KNU/KNLA) Brigade 5 area in Hpapun district. While the ULA/AA mainly operates in Rakhine and southern Chin states, some members are stationed in its allies’ territories in Kachin, northern Shan, and Kayin states. The ULA/AA claims they will take action after an investigation into whether they were targeted intentionally (Myanmar Now, 5 July 2022). ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker first warned of increased violence to come in Kayin state in the past month.
In eastern Bago region, the KNU/KNLA Brigade 3 attacked and occupied five military strategic bases simultaneously in Kyaukkyi township on 2 July. Following the attack, the military launched airstrikes on Kyaung Pyar village, where one of the military bases is located, killing four civilians (Irrawaddy, 5 July 2022). These trends contribute to the 155% increase in violence in Bago-East in the past month relative to the past year flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Threat Tracker. The Subnational Tracker first warned of increased violence to come in Bago-East in the past month.
In Sagaing region, two Indian nationals were shot dead in Tamu town, a border town, by the pro-military militia Pyu Saw Htee on 5 July, causing tension along the Myanmar-India border (Irrawaddy, 6 July 2022). Locals from Moreh, a neighboring border town on the Indian side of the border and main trading channel, gathered to demand the bodies be returned and compensation paid. A police border outpost in Tamu township was subsequently torched (Irrawaddy, 7 July 2022). Following the incident, Moreh authorities banned gatherings of more than five people and closed the border for a few days (Myanmar Now, 11 July 2022).
Meanwhile, anti-coup protests were reported in Kachin state, and in Yangon, Mandalay, Sagaing, and Tanintharyi regions, marking the 60th anniversary of the 7 July 1962 crackdown on student protesters by the previous military regime. In Mandalay, political prisoners in Obo prison marked the anniversary by singing songs and reading poems in tribute to the fallen students, leading to some being beaten and put in solitary confinement (Myanmar Now, 11 July 2022). In Yangon, the military car-rammed peaceful protesters marking the anniversary in Hlaing township, injuring one (Myanmar Now, 8 July 2022). Five protesters were also arrested.
In Japan, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe died after being shot with a homemade gun during an election campaign speech in Nara on 8 July. The attack took place before the House of Councilors election on 10 July; the incident is a rare event of gun violence as shootings and gun ownership are both extremely low in the country (CNN, 9 July 2022). The perpetrator, who was arrested at the scene, is a former member of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Forces and believed that Abe was linked to a religious group he blamed for causing personal financial loss (Asahi Shimbun, 8 July 2022). Abe was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister and considered very influential in Japanese politics (CNN, 9 July 2022).
In Papua New Guinea, violence and unrest marked the start of the election process that began on 4 July. Three men were shot dead after supporters of a candidate fired on a crowd at a polling station in Yambaraka, Hela province, over the handling of three ballot boxes (The National, 7 July 2022). On 6 July, supporters of candidates blocked roads and attempted to hijack a convoy of vehicles carrying ballot boxes in Wabag, Enga province, demanding that voting be postponed due to alleged mishandling of the ballot boxes. Local polling was postponed for two days as a result (Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary, 7 July 2022). Another demonstration was triggered relating to polling station access, as voters claim they were being turned away at polling sites across the country (The National, 7 July 2022; FBC News, 6 July 2022).
Last week in the Philippines, fighting between government forces and the communist NPA resulted in several fatalities. On 6 July, four NPA militants were killed during clashes in Barangay Santol, Binalbagan town, Western Visayas (Sunstar, 7 July 2022). Meanwhile, on 5 July, seven government soldiers were wounded by NPA-planted anti-personnel mines in Barangay Magsaysay, Mapanas town, Eastern Visayas. As a result, a firefight occurred between the two sides. The military condemns the NPA’s use of landmines as contrary to international law, while the NPA asserts that its landmines are command-detonated and therefore excluded from the 1997 Ottawa Treaty’s ban (Manila Bulletin, 5 July 2022; Philippine Daily Inquirer, 5 July 2022). This violence contributed to the 31% increase in violence in the Philippines in the past month relative to the past year flagged by ACLED’s Conflict Change Map, which first warned of increased violence to come in the country in the past month.
In Indonesia, student groups demonstrated across the country last week against the government’s plan to revise the criminal code. They demand the latest draft be released, call for greater transparency, and voice concern that the code’s amendments would undermine democracy (Tribunnews, 6 July 2022). On 6 July, the government submitted a draft to parliament (Jakarta Post, 6 July 2022). Although the draft has not been publicized yet, the media has reported that some of the amendments may include six months’ imprisonment for protesting without a permit and the death penalty for treason (Vice, 7 July 2022; Sindo News, 7 July 2022). In 2019, nationwide demonstrations against the draft prompted the president to postpone its passage into law (HRW, 7 July 2022).
In South Korea, nearly 50,000 KCTU members took to the streets on 2 July to urge the government to improve workers’ rights and working conditions. The demonstration marks the first large-scale rally organized by the KCTU since the new presidential term began in May (YNA, 2 July 2022). Meanwhile, police officers affiliated with the Police Agency Public Officials’ Council and the Korean National Police Veterans Association held nationwide protests throughout the week. They oppose the government’s plan to create a police bureau within the Ministry of the Interior and Safety (MOIS), claiming it would interfere with the political neutrality of the police. On 25 June, the MOIS officially announced its plan to strengthen its oversight of the National Police Agency (Korea JoongAng Daily, 27 June 2022). If established, the new bureau would mark the return of direct MOIS control of the police after 31 years.
Last week in Australia, thousands of people continued to demonstrate in solidarity in at least seven cities, condemning the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision on abortion (Australian Broadcasting Corporation News, 2 July 2022). In Melbourne, up to 10,000 ‘pro-choice’ demonstrators in support of abortion access were countered by a smaller group of ‘pro-life’ Christian demonstrators (Sky News, 2 July 2022).
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