Posted: 8 September 2023
Afghanistan: NRF activity increases as the second anniversary of Taliban takeover is marked
As the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan marked its second anniversary in August, anti-Taliban groups, including the National Resistance Front (NRF), escalated their armed attacks against the Taliban. Much of this increase was driven by an outbreak of clashes between the NRF and the Taliban in Badakhshan province, an opposition stronghold in the northeast of the country. The ACLED Conflict Alert System (CAST) forecasts ongoing activity in the region in the coming month, predicting an 86% increase in events in Badakhshan for September relative to the 12-month average. Overall, across Afghanistan, the number of clashes between the NRF and the Taliban in August was twice that recorded in July. The NRF has sought to target provinces surrounding Panjshir,1Chris Massaro, ‘2 years after US withdrawal Afghanistan resistance group yearns for Western help as they take on Taliban,’ Fox News, 29 August 2023 recently claiming to have established bases in remote areas of the Hindu Kush.2Jeff Schogol, ‘What is happening inside the Afghan resistance?,’ Task & Purpose, 17 August 2023 Meanwhile, the Taliban continued to arrest and mistreat residents of Panjshir, and in Baghlan province, the Taliban displaced families accused of supporting the NRF.3Hasht-E Subh, ‘Taliban Force 15 Families to Displace in Baghlan Province: Allegations of Collaboration with NRF Trigger Coerced Exodus,’ 26 August 2023 Since the fall of Kabul, civilians in areas of anti-Taliban resistance have been targeted by the Taliban (for more, see ACLED’s report: Two Years Of Repression: Mapping Taliban Violence Targeting Civilians in Afghanistan).
Indonesia: Increased separatist violence in Papua
August saw increased separatist violence in Papua as Indonesia marked its Independence Day on 17 August. The West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) engaged in at least 11 armed clashes with Indonesian security forces in Papua – double the number of clashes recorded in July. The TPNPB also burned several government buildings and public facilities, including the General Election Commission regional hub. Both separatists and state forces also engaged in civilian targeting during the month. ACLED records more political violence in Papua thus far in 2023 than was recorded in all of 2022. The violence comes ahead of elections planned for next February (for more, see ACLED’s report: Papuan Independence and Political Disorder in Indonesia).
Myanmar: Spike in PSLF/TNLA activity in northern Shan state
Fighting between the Palaung State Liberation Front/Ta’ang National Liberation Army (PSLF/TNLA) and military and allied militia forces escalated in August in northern Shan state. Clashes between the two sides more than doubled in August compared to the previous month. Fighting was concentrated in Muse township near the Myanmar-China border,4Hein Htoo Zan, ‘TNLA Reports Heavy Fighting Near Myanmar-China Border,’ The Irrawaddy, 28 August 2023 where clashes began after the military and allied militia forces advanced into PSLF/TNLA territory on 2 August.5Nway Myint, ‘Junta Troops Suffer Significant Losses in Confrontation with TNLA,’ The Irrawaddy, 4 August 2023 Fighting continued throughout August, with the most recent incidents occurring near Sei Lant village towards the end of the month. During these clashes, the military conducted heavy shelling and resorted to airstrikes, resulting in civilian casualties and the displacement of hundreds of residents.6Zaw Win Hlaing, ‘Civilians Suffer Casualties Amidst Conflict in Northern Shan,’ VOA, 30 August 2023 The PSLF/TNLA had initially avoided direct confrontation with the military following the 2021 coup, though it provided some support for anti-coup resistance forces.7International Crisis Group, ‘Treading a Rocky Path: The Ta’ang Army Expands in Myanmar’s Shan State,’ 4 September 2023 However, fighting resumed in July as a result of the military’s offensive operations following failed peace talks held in June.8Shan Herald Agency for News, ‘China pushed the Three Brotherhood Alliance to attend talks with the Junta that ended without any agreement,’ 7 June 2023 The talks facilitated by China, between the junta’s National Solidarity and Peacemaking Negotiation Committee and the Brotherhood Alliance, of which the PSLF/TNLA is part, ended without any progress as the groups declined to discuss the junta’s planned election.9Ingyin Naing, ‘Peace Talks in Myanmar Highlight China’s Increasing Influence,’ VOA, 4 June 2023
Pakistan: Increasing demonstrations as parliament dissolved ahead of general elections
Pakistan’s National Assembly was dissolved on 9 August in anticipation of general elections. While elections would usually be held in 90 days, the Election Commission of Pakistan called for the elections to be delayed in order to re-draw constituencies following the recent census.10Munir Ahmed, ‘Pakistan elections could be delayed as election body needs 4 months to draw new constituencies,’ Associated Press, 17 August 2023 Such a delay would push elections into next year. It remains to be seen whether the caretaker government will accept this delay or move forward with elections. August also saw the arrest and sentencing of former Prime Minister and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Imran Khan on corruption charges. While his three-year jail sentence was suspended later in the month, at the time of writing, he remains in custody under a separate charge related to allegations of leaking state secrets.11Al Jazeera, ‘Pakistan ex-PM Imran Khan’s custody extended by two weeks in ‘cypher’ case,’ 30 August 2023 ACLED records around two dozen demonstrations held by the PTI in August in support of Khan, less than the more than 250 held by his party in May following his previous arrest. The decline in demonstrations reflects the crackdown on the PTI leadership and the exodus of many party members following the May events.12Carrie Davies and Aoife Walsh, ‘Imran Khan: Pakistan ex-PM given three-year jail sentence,’ BBC News, 5 August 2023 Meanwhile, as Pakistan prepares for elections, there are increasing demonstrations over rising electricity bills, the price of petrol, and increased inflation.
Papua New Guinea: Tribal violence ongoing in Enga province
Tribal conflicts in Enga province continued in August. In one of the most graphic acts of violence, armed men from the Ambulin tribe dragged the naked corpses of hired gunmen behind a vehicle after they killed the gunmen in Wapenamanda on 18 August. The hired gunmen, who were from the Sikin and Kaekin tribes, were attempting a raid in Ambulin territory. Amid the unrest in Enga province, the government planned to send additional military and police units to the province13Antoinette Poivi, ‘Kumul23 set for Enga,’ The National, 29 August 2023 and police authorized the use of ‘lethal force.’14ABC News, ‘Police directed to use ‘lethal force’ in PNG as graphic video surfaces online in wake of tribal violence,’ 23 August 2023 The unrest in August occurred despite the implementation of a three-month lockdown including curfews and travel restrictions in the province in late July.15The National, ‘Enga on three-month lockdown,’ 27 July 2023 A meeting of the Mine Development Forum concerning the reopening of the Porgera gold mine in Enga, which has long been a source of disorder in the region,16Ian Morse, ‘Gold miner faces global protests as it rekindles a mine with a violent legacy,’ Mongabay, 1 May 2023 was also relocated outside of the province. Tribal violence in the country, which has become more deadly with the increased use of high-powered firearms, is often attributed to the weakened rule of law in the Highlands.17Bethanie Harriman, ‘Papua New Guinea killings: what’s behind the outbreak in tribal fighting?,’ The Guardian, 28 August 2023 Enga is the site of regular outbreaks of violence between multiple tribal groups, with ACLED recording dozens of incidents of intercommunal violence in the last 12 months. However, the number of events is likely underreported, with less-deadly events receiving less coverage and challenges in reporting leading to less comprehensive coverage of tribal conflict. The violence in Papua New Guinea comes against the backdrop of renewed geopolitical interest in the Pacific Island region.18Cherry Hitkari, ‘Great power politics pulling at Pacific unity,’ Asia Times, 30 August 2023
Thailand: Pheu Thai Party forms a government
The Pheu Thai Party (PTP), in coalition with 10 other parties, formed a government in August, with PTP-nominated businessman Srettha Thavisin elected by the parliament as prime minister on 22 August.19Bangkok Post, ‘Pheu Thai primed to form govt,’ 20 July 2023 The PTP-led coalition includes two military-backed parties, Palang Pracharath and the United Thai Nation Party, in defiance of a prior memorandum of understanding jointly drafted with the Move Forward Party (MFP) – the winner of the May 2023 general election – and six other parties.20Al Jazeera, ‘Thailand’s Pheu Thai allies with military rivals to form new government,’ 21 August 2023 The progressive MFP maintained its commitment to amending the lèse-majesté law, which led to its exclusion from the PTP-led coalition.21AP, ‘Thailand’s Pheu Thai party joins with pro-military parties in coalition to form new government,’ 21 August 2023 The political maneuvering following the elections, and the denial of MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat’s bid for the prime ministership, led to a spike in demonstrations in July which tapered off in August. Still, the PTP’s decision to form a coalition with military-backed parties has angered its supporters,22Matichon, ‘Chiang Mai Red Shirts Disrobe and Burn Shirts, Accuse “Senator-Pheu Thai” of Betrayal,’ 5 August 2023; Prachatai, ‘Taxi drivers protest against Pheu Thai – Bhumjaithai coalition,’ 9 August 2023 including the ‘red-shirt’ United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) that staged two protests in August. The PTP’s decision to ally itself with the same military actors who staged a coup against their government in 2014 was also seen as part of a larger bargain. On the same day that the PTP government was formed, former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, the founder of PTP, whose Thai Rak Thai Party government was ousted by an earlier military coup in 2006, returned to Thailand after 15 years in exile23Bangkok Post, ‘Thaksin arrives at Don Mueang, makes brief appearance,’ 22 August 2023 (for more, see ACLED’s Election Watch report on Thailand).
- Methodology and Coding Decisions for Political Violence and Demonstrations in Afghanistan
- Methodology and Coding Decisions for Political Violence and Demonstrations in China
- Methodology and Coding Decisions for Political Violence and Demonstrations in Myanmar
- Methodology and Coding Decisions for Political Violence and Demonstrations in North Korea
- Methodology and Coding Decisions for the Philippines Drug War