Last week in the East Asia Pacific region, military shelling targeting civilians continued across several states and regions in Myanmar, while fighting between the military and the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army-North (SSPP/SSA-N) reignited in Shan state. In Papua New Guinea, violence involving communal groups displaced over 400 women and children in Eastern Highlands province. In the Philippines, armed clashes between the communist New People’s Army (NPA) and state forces continued, while a Manila court ruled against the government’s attempt to officially designate the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NPA as ‘terrorist’ organizations. Meanwhile, protests against the current and former Marcos family rule were held in major cities across the country. In Indonesia, the separatist West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) claimed to have opened fire at a group of government officials visiting a school, while ethnic Papuans took to the streets to show support for the Papua governor, who has been accused of corruption. In South Korea, protesters took the streets, urging the government to devise measures against gender-based violence in response to a murder of a woman in a Seoul subway station.
In Myanmar, military shelling targeting civilians caused fatalities and injuries in multiple regions and states last week, including Kachin, Kayah, and Rakhine states, as well as Magway, Sagaing, and eastern Bago regions. In Kachin state, a nine-year-old student was killed by military shelling in Shwegu township (Myanmar Now, 26 September 2022). The student’s death follows the deaths of several school children during a military airstrike in Sagaing region the week prior.
Meanwhile, fighting reignited last week between the military and the SSPP/SSA-N in Shan state. Fighting broke out in Mongmit township on 17 September, leaving three military soldiers dead (Shwe Phee Myay News Agency, 18 September 2022). Further fighting was reported on 20 and 23 September, as the military sent reinforcements. The fighting comes as the SSPP/SSA-N recently attended a meeting of the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee, a political alliance of seven ethnic armed groups led by the United Wa State Party/United Wa State Army, the largest ethnic armed group in Myanmar (Irrawaddy, 21 September 2022). ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker warned of increased violence in northern Shan state during the preceding four weeks.
In Papua New Guinea, violence between two groups of villagers in Nagamiufa, Eastern Highlands province, forced over 400 women and children to flee their homes (Post Courier, 23 September 2022). This violence contributed to the 100% increase in violent events in Papua New Guinea over the past week relative to the weekly average for the preceding month, as flagged by ACLED’s Conflict Change Map.
In the Philippines, fighting between communist rebels and government forces continued last week, with clashes reported in Calabarzon, Bicol, and Eastern Visayas. The ongoing fighting comes as a Manila court ruled that the state cannot designate the CPP and the NPA as ‘terrorist’ groups, dismissing a 2018 Department of Justice (DOJ) case that had sought the ‘terrorist’ designation. In the decision, the court noted that the groups engaged in “rebellion” rather than ‘terrorism,’ and that the use of violence was a “means” rather than a purpose (Rappler, 22 September 2022). The court warned against the dangers of red-tagging, the practice of labeling groups and/or individuals critical of the government as ‘communists.’ The DOJ vowed to appeal the ruling, while the communist groups welcomed it (Bulatlat, 23 September 2022). The CPP, together with its armed wing, the NPA, and its political wing, the National Democratic Front, has been carrying out a decades-long political and armed struggle against the government.
Meanwhile, demonstrations were held across major cities to mark the 50th anniversary of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’s declaration of Martial Law in 1972. The protesters condemned the atrocities committed by the Marcos regime and decried the economic hardships caused by Marcos’s rule. The demonstrators also condemned the late dictator’s son, current President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos, Jr., for his role in perpetuating his father’s legacy (Rappler, 22 September 2022).
In Indonesia, the TPNPB claimed to have opened fire at a group of government officials in Kisor village, West Papua province. The delegation, which included the Maybrat regent, was reportedly visiting a school in the village (Suara Papua, 17 September 2022). However, the authorities have denied that the attack took place (West Papua Daily, 18 September 2022). If the incident proves true, this incident marks one of the few times the rebels have directly attacked locally-elected officials, suggesting a potential widening of targets. The rebels have previously mainly targeted civilians who are non-ethnically Papuan civilians and those they accuse of having ties to the central government in Jakarta.
Meanwhile, in Papua province, thousands of ethnic Papuans gathered to show support for Papua Governor Lukas Enembe in Jayapura city last week, who was recently named by the Corruption Eradication Commission as a suspect in a corruption case. Police arrested 14 students at the demonstration, claiming that they were found carrying sharp weapons and alcoholic beverages (Kompas, 21 September 2022). Some Papuan activists claim that the corruption allegation is meant to distract attention from the killing of four ethnic Papuans by military personnel in late August (Asia Pacific Report, 24 September 2022).
In South Korea, the stalking-murder of a woman by her male coworker at Sindang Station in Seoul on 14 September gave rise to numerous demonstrations last week. Feminist groups took to the streets, criticizing authorities for failing to provide adequate legislation to protect the victim from her alleged stalker. On 22 September, about 500 protesters gathered in front of the Bosingak Pavilion and urged authorities to devise measures against sexual violence against women and other gender-based crimes (Hankyoreh, 22 September 2022). Youth groups and labor activists also held demonstrations, calling for a safer workplace. Amid the public outrage, authorities held an emergency meeting and agreed to strengthen the legal protection of stalking victims and develop a more swift response system (YNA, 22 September 2022).
Note: This dashboard automatically updates to cover the latest four weeks of data released by ACLED. Use the date filters to view data for the one-week period covered by this Regional Overview.