Southeast Asia Theater
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court in Cambodia charged four environmental activists with conspiracy and insulting the king, a prosecutor confirmed June 21, after three activists were arrested for documenting raw sewage discharge into the Tonlé Sap River. Three of the charged conservationists were sent to pre-trial detention, while the fourth, Mother Nature Cambodia (MNC) co-founder Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, was charged in absentia and has not been arrested. The four activists face a sentence of five to 10 years for the conspiracy charge. The charge for insulting the king carries an additional sentence of one to five years.
Gunfire erupted in the streets of Mandalay, Burma's second largest city, as regime troops raided a building where a cell of the incipient armed resistance movement was sheltering early on June 22. The raid, at Chanmyatharzi township, sparked hours of running street battles. PDF fighters erected barricades of flaming tires to slow the advance of troops. Both the military, known as the Tatmadaw, and the rebel People's Defense Force (PDF) claimed casualties on the opposing side and denied deaths among their own forces. "We've declared war," the Mandalay PDF said in a statement. "The day we've been waiting for is finally here." The PDF has previously targeted Tatmadaw and police patrols in Mandalay. On June 1, a soldier was killed and another injured when the PDF fighters opened fire on military trucks in the city. On June 8, two police officers were shot dead. (Myanmar Now, TRT World, NYT)
Ko Zaw Tun, a Burmese poet who wrote under the pen-name Khet Thi, was tortured to death in military custody, according to family members after his bruised and mutilated body was returned to them. Khet Thi was arrested May 8 at his home in Shwebo, Sagaing region, along with his wife who was later released. They were allegedly detained on suspicion of planning a bomb attack. His family said that internal organs had been removed from his body. Khet Thi was an outspoken opponent of the February coup d'état, in which the military ousted the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi. A line from one of his poems has been taken up as a slogan by the pro-democracy movement: "They shot us in the head; They don’t know the revolution dwells in our hearts." (Myanmar Now, Asia News, The Irrawady)
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.