Last week in the East Asia Pacific region, the Myanmar military executed four political prisoners, including a former National League for Democracy (NLD) parliamentarian, for their involvement in anti-coup resistance activities, prompting retaliation from anti-coup groups. Meanwhile, pro-military supporters organized a rally in support of the executions and attacked the families of the deceased. In the Philippines, a former mayor and two others were killed in Quezon City in a vigilante-style attack for alleged involvement in the regional drug trade. Meanwhile, anti-government protests were reported across the country to coincide with President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos, Jr.’s first State of the Nation Address on 25 July. In Papua New Guinea, election violence expanded to the capital during the fourth week of the national election. In Indonesia, ethnic Papuans took to the streets to oppose legislation on the creation of new provinces in Papua following President Joko Widodo’s signing of the laws. In Malaysia, people protested against the rising cost of living for the second consecutive week. In South Korea, police officers, civic groups, and the main opposition party protested against the creation of a new police bureau.
In Myanmar, the military executed four political prisoners on 23 July, including U Phyo Zeya Thaw, a pioneering rapper and former NLD MP, and U Kyaw Min Yu (better known as Ko Jimmy), a veteran pro-democracy activist and student leader during the 1988 uprising (Myanmar Now, 25 July 2022). They had been charged with breaking the Counter-Terrorism Law and tried at a closed military tribunal for their involvement in anti-coup resistance activities. Their families were not informed in advance of the execution and the military refused to return the bodies (Irrawaddy, 25 July 2022). While the domestic and international communities have strongly condemned the executions, the military has not ruled out executing other political prisoners sentenced to death since the coup (Myanmar Now, 29 July 2022).
Demonstrations were reported in response to the executions in Sagaing and Yangon regions. After prisoners in Insein prison in Yangon held a protest on 25 July, prison guards beat the protesters and put them in separate cells (Myanmar Now, 25 July 2022). Similar protests were also reported in Pyay prison in western Bago region and in Obo prison in Mandalay region.
Meanwhile, pro-military mobs targeted family members of the deceased prisoners. On 27 July, mobs transported in trucks pelted stones at the house of the mother of U Phyo Zeya Thaw in Kyauktada township and at the home of the parents of Ko Jimmy in Insein township. Pro-military supporters, led by a Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) member, also held a rally in Kyauktada township in support of the military executions, at which the military and police provided security (Irrawaddy, 29 July 2022).
In retaliation for the executions, local resistance groups carried out attacks against military and police positions (Irrawaddy, 29 July 2022). In Mandalay, the Anonymous Force Mandalay attacked the military with bombs in Amarapura township. In Yangon, the Yangon Ghost Ranger Force opened fire at the gate of Insein prison (Myanmar Now, 26 July 2022), while the Peacock Fighter group attacked two police stations with bombs in Thaketa township (Irrawaddy, 29 July 2022). In Chin state, the Chinland Defense Force attacked military and police positions in Kanpetlet, Hakha, and Rihkhawdar towns in retaliation against the executions, inflicting military casualties (Myanmar Now, 28 July 2022). Violence in Chin state is both common and highly volatile; it is considered an area of ‘extreme risk’ by ACLED’s Volatility and Risk Predictability Index.
Meanwhile, the military continued to carry out arrests, assaults, and killings of civilians last week. In Sagaing region, the military raided Yae Mein (South) village of Salingyi township and abducted more than 20 locals for use as human shields on 25 July; the abductees were later released. When the military left the village, locals discovered seven dead bodies with gunshot wounds in the area (Myanmar Now, 28 July 2022). In Yangon region, the military forced people at the local market in Hlaing township, where young people had organized a protest against the executions of political prisoners, to kneel or lie down on the ground before beating them. They also destroyed local shops, looted items, and arrested two pedestrians (Myanmar Now, 29 July 2022).
Last week in the Philippines, former Lamitan City Mayor Rose Furigay and two others were shot dead at a university in Quezon city in a vigilante-style attack. The assailant was an outspoken critic of the former mayor following her closing of his clinic in Lamitan City (Rappler, 25 July 2022). In the aftermath of the clinic closing, the assailant began to accuse Furigay of involvement in the local drug trade — for which he has been facing multiple libel charges. Using accusations of involvement in the drug trade against opponents and to justify their targeting is common in the Philippines, mirroring rhetoric employed by former President Rodrigo Duterte as a part of his drug war (for more, see ACLED’s The Drug War Rages on in the Philippines). ACLED’s Conflict Change Map first warned of increased violence to come in the Philippines in the past month.
Meanwhile, President Marcos gave his first State of the Nation Address on 25 July, which was met with multiple protests across the country. Demonstrators demand that Marcos uphold human rights and address the increasing prices of fuel and goods.
In Papua New Guinea, election violence expanded to the capital during the fourth week of the national elections last week, leading to the deployment of troops and the extension of the vote-counting process. On 24 July, supporters of election candidates beat two civilians using the blunt side of knives outside an election counting center in Port Moresby, leaving the victims with serious injuries. The attack was triggered by a counting dispute between rival factions during the vote counting process (ABC News, 27 July 2022). In response to the escalation of violence, the government deployed 100 soldiers to the capital on 25 July to boost security for an indefinite period (Post Courier, 27 July 2022). Meanwhile, the government has extended the vote counting period from the previously mandated end date of 29 July to 5 August, in response to attacks on ballot boxes and counting centers, and other serious security issues (PNG Today, 29 July 2022). ACLED’s Conflict Change Map first warned of increased violence to come in Papua New Guinea in the past month.
In Indonesia, ethnic Papuans continued to demonstrate last week against the revised Papua Special Autonomy Law and the creation of new administrative provinces in Papua, demanding a referendum on Papuan independence. The renewed protests came as President Widodo signed three laws on 25 July, legally finalizing the creation of the three new provinces in Papua. According to the laws, new governors need to be appointed within six months from the signing of the law by Widodo, with further regulations to be implemented within the next two years (Tempo, 29 July 2022).
In Malaysia, people took to the streets to protest against the economic crisis in the country last week for the second consecutive week. Following a protest in Kuala Lumpur, police announced that the organizers of the rally would be summoned for their failure to notify the authorities about the protest 10 days prior (Malay Mail, 23 July 2022).
In South Korea, protests were held throughout last week in opposition to 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 26 July, dozens of opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) lawmakers held a protest rally in front of the presidential office, accusing the government of attempting to seize complete control of the police (YNA, 26 July 2022). The rally came a day after MOIS Minister Lee Sang-min strongly denounced a gathering of senior police officers opposing the police bureau plan, comparing the collective action to a “coup” by disobedient officers (Hankyoreh, 26 July 2022). Despite the intensifying backlash, the enforcement decree enabling the creation of the new bureau was passed in a cabinet meeting on 26 July, allowing the MOIS more direct control over the police from 2 August (Korea JoongAng Daily, 26 July 2022).
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