Southeast Asia Theater
Ousted Burmese lawmakers and opponents of the military junta hitherto constituting the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH, a reference to the lower house of the suspended parliament) on April 16 officially announced the formation of a National Unity Government. The president of this parallel civilian authority is U Win Myint, the ousted former president. Similarly, its state counselor is Aung San Suu Kyi, who was serving in that capacity before the February coup d'etat. Both U Win Myint and Suu Kyi are being held in detention by the junta, and the first demand of the NUG is for their freedom.
The leadership of Burma's democratic resistance on March 31 issued a statement declaring the country's 2008 constitution void and putting forward an interim replacement charter—a major political challenge to the ruling military junta. From hiding, the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH, a reference to the lower house of Burma's suspended parliament) released the text of the interim Federal Democracy Charter to social media. Significantly, it adopts a federal rather than centralized model of government, which has long been a demand of the ethnic rebel armies that control much of the country's north and east. Recent days have seen renewed fighting between the military and rebel armies in Kayin and Kachin states. (See map) Repression of pro-democracy protesters in Burma's cities has now claimed at least 530 lives. (AP, The Diplomat)
More than 3,000 villagers from Burma's Karen state have fled their homes following a series of air-strikes by the military on territory controlled by the Karen National Union (KNU). Many fled to the Ei Tu Hta camp, which already holds some 2,400 internally displaced persons. Others fled across the Salween River, which separates Burma and Thailand. The air-strikes centered on Kho Kay village in Karen state's Mutraw (Hpapun) district. The strikes came after fighters from the KNU’s Brigade 5 overran the military's Thee Mu Hta base on March 27, capturing at least eight soldiers. (Myanmar Now)
In the wake of the "Bloody Sunday" killings of nine activists in the Philippines, advocates are demanding passage of the Philippine Human Rights Act (PHRA) in the US Congress, which would suspend United States aid to the Manila government until the rights crisis in the archipelago nation is addressed. In a supposed operation against the New People's Army (NPA) guerillas on March 7, national police troops backed up by the army killed nine members of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance, BAYAN) civil organization in the southern Calabarzon region of Luzon island. Among those killed was Emmanuel "Manny" Asuncion, secretary general of BAYAN in Cavite province, and an important mass organizer in Calabarzon region (also known as Southern Tagalog).
Up to 70 were killed across Burma on March 14 as security forces continue to fire on pro-democracy protesters, bringing the death toll since the Feb. 1 coup to well over 100. Most of the killings were in Yangon's outlying townships, where protesters have barricaded off streets in an attempt to secure territory. Martial law was declared in six of these townships, giving the military broad authority over those areas. Protesters have started using the hashtags #WeNeedR2P and #WeNeedR2PForMyanmar. In images seen from the air, protesters have arranged placards or lights from their mobile phones to spell out "WE NEED R2P." This is a reference to the "responsibility to protect" doctrine developed in the 1990s following the disastrous failures to prevent genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda.
Burma's military announced Feb. 1 that it has taken control of the country and imposed a state of emergency. The country's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was detained in an early morning raid along with President U Win Myint and other figures associated with the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD). Although the internet was cut off by the military, Suu Kyi managed to get out a statement to social media calling on Burma's people to "protest against the coup." The military, officially known as the Tatmadaw, said the state of emergency will last for a year, during which time armed forces chief Gen. Min Aung Hlaing will rule and oversee new elections. The Tatmadaw is justifying the move by asserting that there was voter fraud in the November parliamentary elections, in which the military-linked Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP) suffered a crushing defeat to the NLD. No official election observers had made any claims of fraud. (The Irrawady, The Irrawady, The Irrawady, BBC News, BBC News, Burma Campaign)
Authorities in Malaysia have declared a state of emergency that suspends Parliament and puts on hold any new general elections at least through August. The order is ostensibly a measure to contain COVID-19, coming as Kuala Lumpur and other cities are being placed under near-total lockdown, or Movement Control Order. But critics are portraying the declaration as a ploy by embattled Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to remain in power. The accusations prompted Muhyiddin to go on national television after the order was issued Jan. 12 to insist the move is "not a military coup."
Authorities in Bangladesh are surrounding the Rohingya refugee camps with barbed-wire fencing and watchtowers, turning them into what refugees and rights groups liken to a "prison." Southeast Asia-based NGO Fortify Rights says construction on some 28 kilometers of fencing is nearly complete around parts of the camps, which are home to some 900,000 Rohingya pushed out of Myanmar. Humanitarian workers fear the fencing could hamper aid delivery and block access to medical clinics. Bangladeshi officials say the fencing is a response to growing concerns about crime and gang violence; humanitarian groups say any security measures must be proportionate. "The civilian and humanitarian character of the camps must be maintained," the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, warned in December.