Last week in the East Asia Pacific region, an anti-junta group set off bombs at Insein prison in Myanmar’s Yangon region. The Myanmar military beheaded a teacher participating in the civil disobedience movement (CDM) in Magway region, while fighting broke out between the Myanmar military and resistance groups in Kayin state. North Korea continued to fire artillery shells near its border with South Korea. In the Philippines, the communist New People’s Army (NPA) killed a barangay councilor last week amid an overall decrease in activity compared to the week prior. In South Korea, nationwide rallies were held denouncing a company’s poor working conditions after a workplace death. Lastly, in New Zealand, farmers protested against the government’s agricultural emissions pricing proposal.
In Myanmar, in Yangon region, an autonomous anti-junta group, the Special Task Agency of Burma, reportedly claimed responsibility for explosions at Insein prison on 19 October (Reuters, 20 October 2022). Two parcel bombs exploded, one at the entrance of the prison and another at the parcel delivery reception area. Following the explosions, state personnel opened fire from the prison watchtower, with an eyewitness claiming some people were hit by the gunfire (Myanmar Now, 19 October 2022). Eight people were reportedly killed during either the explosions or the subsequent shooting, including the mother of a student activist detained in Insein prison (Irrawaddy, 19 October 2022). Eighteen people were also injured (Radio Free Asia, 19 October 2022).
Insein prison holds a large number of anti-junta political prisoners. Torture is common in the prison; earlier in the month, political prisoners had named several prison officials involved in torturing political detainees (Irrawaddy, 17 October 2022). The Special Task Agency of Burma claimed the bombs targeted the head of the prison and other prison officials (Reuters, 20 October 2022). The National Unity Government (NUG) released a statement after the blasts announcing it was investigating the deaths of civilians in the event and would censure and condemn any group that harms civilians (Mizzima, 21 October 2022).
Meanwhile, the Myanmar military continued to target civilians last week. In Magway region, the military and the military-backed Pyu Saw Htee militia abducted a teacher on 17 October who had been participating in the CDM and working at a NUG-aligned school in Pauk township (Democratic Voice of Burma, 17 October 2021). They tortured and beheaded the teacher in Taung Myint village, before impaling his head on a school gate and leaving his body at the school’s entrance (Myanmar Now, 21 October 2022).
In Kayin state, a combined force of ethnic Karen armed groups and the People’s Defense Force (PDF) attacked the Myanmar military and police in the key border town of Kawkareik on 21 October, inflicting several military and police casualties (Myanmar Now, 24 October 2022). The Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army, Karen National Defence Organization, Kaw Thoo Lei Army, and PDF launched a coordinated attack against the township administration office, district police offices, and a military battalion compound. The combined forces also seized a police detention center, releasing all detainees, including political detainees (Myanmar Now, 21 October 2022). The military responded with multiple airstrikes and artillery, reportedly killing three civilians and injuring 17 others (Radio Free Asia, 21 October 2022). Violence in Kayin state is both common and highly volatile; it is considered an area of ‘extreme risk’ by ACLED’s Volatility and Risk Predictability Index.
North Korea continued to fire artillery shells into the sea last week for a second consecutive week. On 18 October, North Korea fired about 250 artillery shells off the country’s east and west coasts, and about 100 artillery shells off its west coast a day later. The artillery shells fell inside a maritime buffer zone surrounding the Northern Limit Line. The latest round of artillery fire came after South Korea began annual military drills on 17 October (AP, 19 October 2022).
In the Philippines, overall political violence involving the NPA, including fighting between the NPA and government forces, decreased last week compared to the week prior. Notwithstanding the overall decrease, the NPA killed a barangay councilor in Vallehermoso town, Negros Oriental, claiming the councilor was an intelligence asset for the military (Manila Bulletin, 19 October 2022). This is the fifth recorded killing of a barangay official by the NPA this year. Elsewhere, one NPA fighter was reportedly killed during a firefight between the NPA and the military in Gingoog city on 20 October. ACLED’s Conflict Change Map previously warned of increased violence in the Philippines during the past month.
Meanwhile, an assailant allegedly involved in the contract killing of prominent radio broadcaster Percival Mabasa (also known as Percy Lapid) on 3 October surrendered to police on 18 October. While the motive for the killing of Mabasa, a high-profile critic of the Duterte and Marcos administrations, remains unclear, the assailant claimed that the order for the killing came from within New Bilibid Prison (Rappler, 19 October 2022). Mabasa was the second radio broadcaster to be killed since President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos, Jr. assumed office in June this year.
In South Korea, a series of rallies took place nationwide against the SPC Group food company last week, following the recent workplace death of a factory worker. Protesters denounced the company’s handling of the accident and urged the company to improve labor practices and poor working conditions to prevent recurring industrial accidents.
Lastly, in New Zealand, farmers took to the streets in tractors in at least 10 cities across the country, demanding the government abandon its agricultural emissions pricing proposal. Farmers and supporters claimed the proposed tax would increase the cost of agriculture activities and lead to a loss of food production. An environmental group held a counter-protest in support of the plan in Auckland.
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.