Over the past month in the East Asia Pacific region, fighting in Myanmar intensified between the Myanmar military and the United League of Arakan/Arakan Army (ULA/AA) in Chin and Rakhine states, while the military continued arrests and attacks on civilians. Meanwhile, clashes broke out between two resistance groups in Sagaing region, while local resistance groups attacked civilians in Magway and Mandalay regions due to their suspected connections to the military. In the Philippines, state forces continued to clash with communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels. In Papua New Guinea, further post-election violence was reported, despite an overall decrease in such violence. In Indonesia, members of the military tortured and killed four ethnic Papuan civilians. Meanwhile, the government’s decision to increase fuel prices triggered demonstrations across the country. The Deep South of Thailand experienced an escalation of violence as Malay Muslim separatists carried out multiple attacks. In China, the government launched a new crackdown targeting Protestant churches that have failed to align with the state.
In Myanmar, fighting broke out between the military and the ULA/AA in Chin and Rakhine states over the past month. In Chin state, the ULA/AA and the military engaged in intense fighting in Paletwa township beginning on 20 August, as both sides attempted to gain control of the area. On 26 August, the military and police abandoned a base located on a strategic road connecting northern Rakhine and southern Chin states after the ULA/AA cut off their resupply lines (Narinjara News, 26 August 2022).
In Rakhine state, the ULA/AA ambushed a military column traveling from Kyauktaw town to Mrauk-U township between Let Kar and Auk Thar Kan villages on 28 August, reportedly inflicting 17 military fatalities (Myanmar Now, 31 August 2022). The military fired artillery from six different positions on the battlefield and killed three civilians, including a four-year-old, and injured seven others in nearby Kin Seik village (Myanmar Now, 29 August 2022). On the same day, the ULA/AA attacked a military camp at the 40-mile post along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border. The group seized the camp on 31 August, reportedly leading to 19 military fatalities (Narinjara News, 1 September 2022). The military responded with heavy artillery and airstrikes during and after the clash in an attempt to retake the camp. The military reportedly violated Bangladesh’s airspace during the engagement, prompting Bangladesh to place its border guards on high alert and deploy troops to the border area (Myanmar Now, 5 September 2022). These trends contribute to the 476% increase in weekly violent events in Rakhine state in the past month relative to the weekly average for the preceding year flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Threat Tracker. The Subnational Tracker also warned of increased violence in Rakhine state during the preceding four weeks.
Elsewhere, in Sagaing region, two resistance groups clashed on 31 August in Wetlet township. The Shwebo District PDF Battalion 2 raided a Bo Tiger PDF security checkpoint, claiming to have received complaints that the Bo Tiger PDF was extorting travelers. Both groups claimed that the other side attacked first, and both sides suffered casualties during the clash (Myanmar Now, 31 August 2022).
Meanwhile, the military continued to carry out attacks and arrests targeting civilians over the past month. In Yangon region, the military arrested Vicky Bowman, the former British ambassador to Myanmar, and her Burmese husband, prominent artist U Htein Lin, on 24 August. The two were charged with violating immigration laws (Irrawaddy, 25 August 2022). During a raid on Kyunhla township in Sagaing region on 25 August, the military opened fire at Tei Pin Seik villagers from helicopters and killed nine villagers, including a six-year-old child (Myanmar Now, 31 August 2022). Meanwhile, the military raped at least seven women in Kani township in Sagaing region in late August (Irrawaddy, 6 September 2022).
Civilians were also attacked by local resistance groups in Magway and Mandalay regions during the past month due to their suspected connections to the military. In Saw township, the Yaw Defense Force shot and killed a family of five, including a 13-year-old girl and their guest, on 21 August, claiming some family members were part of the military-backed Pyu Saw Htee militia. The group also looted cars, motorbikes, and gold belonging to the victims. Locals claim that the victims were not military informants or Pyu Saw Htee (Irrawaddy, 24 August 2022). In Mandalay region, Tiger Force Mandalay shot and killed a married couple, mistaking the husband for a police major (Myanmar Now, 24 August 2022).
Last week, protests supporting the National Unity Government (NUG) ambassador to the UN, U Kyaw Moe Tun, were reported in Sagaing, Mandalay, and Magway regions, as well as in Kachin state. Activists have appealed to the UN to recognize U Kyaw Moe Tun as the true representative of Myanmar at the 77th United Nations General Assembly in September 2022 and to deny the credentials of the representative proposed by the Myanmar military (Al Jazeera, 13 September 2022). U Kyaw Moe Tun was dismissed by the military for denouncing the military coup and seeking to represent the NUG at the UN (Irrawaddy, 28 February 2021).
In the Philippines, communist NPA rebels and the military engaged in firefights in Visayas, Bicol, Central Luzon, Caraga, Cordillera, Northern Mindanao, and Calabarzon during the past month. ACLED’s Subnational Threat Tracker warned of increased violence in Calabarzon, Central Visayas, and Western Visayas during the preceding four weeks.
Notably, the two highest-ranking leaders of the communist insurgency were reportedly killed when their boat exploded during a waterborne armed encounter with the military off the coast of Catbalogan City, Samar, Eastern Visayas, on 22 August. The two leaders, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) chairman Benito Tiamzon and CPP secretary-general Wilma Tiamzon, had been in hiding for years (Manila Bulletin, 22 August 2022). Despite media reports on the Tiamzons’ deaths, neither the military nor representatives of the communist insurgency have confirmed or denied the claims (Manila Bulletin, 22 August 2022). Elsewhere, two top NPA leaders — the son and wife of the late prominent NPA leader Jorge Madlos (alias Ka Oris) (Manila Bulletin, 5 September 2022) — were killed by the military on 3 September in Impasug-Ong, Bukidnon, Northern Mindanao. Ka Oris was killed in an encounter with the military in 2021. While the military said that the two rebels died in a firefight, the CPP asserted that they were abducted by the military and later killed, claiming that the military’s actions violated international laws of war (Davao Today, 6 September 2022).
While Papua New Guinea has witnessed a decrease in post-election violence since mid-August, a brawl started by supporters of a candidate in Jiwaka province resulted in the killing of a clan leader and the displacement of around 700 people (The National, 18 August 2022). Meanwhile, a surge of violent attacks committed by Het Wara gang members was reported in Madang province. Gang members raped 10 primary school girls in Bambu and killed eight villagers in Gwarawon.
In Indonesia, serving military officers and local accomplices killed and mutilated four ethnic Papuans on 22 August during an apparent robbery in Mimika Baru district, Mimika regency, Papua province. Reports suggest that the perpetrators lured the victims by offering to sell them guns before taking their money and burning the victims’ cars. The victims included a suspected West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) sympathizer and a village head (Suara Papua, 2 September 2022). Although police suggested that one of the victims was associated with the rebel group, the family of the victim denies the claim (Jubi, 30 August 2022).
Meanwhile, demonstrations were held across the country following the Indonesian government’s decision to raise fuel prices. President Joko Widodo announced a 30% increase in subsidized fuel prices on 3 September (Kompas, 3 September 2022), prompting thousands of people, mostly students and laborers, to take to the streets (Tribunnews, 6 September 2022; The Diplomat, 9 September 2022). Although the majority of demonstrations were peaceful, students burned tires in dozens of places, while police fired tear gas and water cannons on several occasions.
The Deep South of Thailand experienced an escalation of violence, driven by a series of bomb attacks during the past month. Malay Muslim Separatists belonging to Barisan Revolusi Nasional Melayu Patani detonated 17 bombs in convenient stores across Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat provinces on 16 August. The group claim that the attacks were a symbolic action against state-backed capitalism, which they claim has been detrimental to local economies (Isranews Agency, 17 August 2022).
In China, the police arrested dozens of churchgoers and closed two churches in Shaanxi and Jilin provinces as part of a crackdown on Protestant churches that have refused to join the state-controlled Three-Self Church (Radio Free Asia, 22 August 2022). Some commentators have linked the closures to President Xi Jinping’s call for action against ‘non-Sinicized’ and ‘illegal’ religious groups in December 2021 (Bitter Winter, 24 August 2022).
Note: This dashboard automatically updates to cover the latest four weeks of data released by ACLED.