Southeast Asia Theater

Fear in Rohingya camps after slaying of activist

The killing of Mohib Ullah, a prominent Rohingya community leader, has drawn international condemnation and renewed deep-rooted fear in the Bangladesh refugee camps. Mohib Ullah was shot and killed on Sept. 29 outside the office of the civil society group he headed, the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace & Human Rights (ARSPH). A relative reportedly blamed members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, a militant group active in the camps. Mohib Ullah had become one of his community's most prominent voices in the aftermath of the 2017 Burmese military assault that forced more than 700,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh. He led early attempts to document atrocity crimes, stood up for his community before governments and aid agencies, and addressed the UN (and Donald Trump).

Court: Facebook must reveal role in Burma genocide

A US federal judge ordered Facebook on Sept. 22 to produce documents relating to its involvement in violence against the Rohingya people in Burma. The Gambia brought a claim against Facebook, Inc before the International Court of Justice alleging that the social media platform played a key role in the genocide of the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority. The Gambia then filed suit against Facebook in the District of Columbia, under 28 USC § 1782, seeking certain documentation related to the World Court case. Facebook admitted that it failed to respond in a timely manner to concerns about its role in the Rohingya genocide. The Gambia's case contended that it was only in 2018, six years into the genocide, that Facebook began deleting accounts and content used by Burmese government officials to enflame attacks on the Rohingya.

Burma shadow government declares 'resistance war'

The acting president of Burma's shadow National Unity Government (NUG) announced Sept. 7 that the people's "resistance war" against the coup-installed regime has started, and urged the public across the country to revolt against the military junta. In the video statement from an unknown location, Duwa Lashi La also called on the NUG's People’s Defense Force (PDF) and allied ethnic rebel armies to target "every pillar of the junta's ruling mechanism," as well as to protect the lives of Burma's people. He warned local administrators working under the junta's authority to resign immediately. He urged citizens to stock up on food and medical supplies, and to help the PDF and civilian resistance forces by informing them of the military’s activities. "This revolution is a just and fair revolution and is necessary to build a federal union with sustainable peace," Duwa Lashi La said in the speech. (Myanmar Now)

Malaysia: black flag protests challenge government

Hundreds of activists have repeatedly filled the streets of Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur since July 31 to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin over his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Themed #Lawan (Fight), the movement is also demanding the resumption of parliamentary sessions and a moratorium on the repayment of all loans. Protesters accuse the Muhyiddin government of using the pandemic to suspend parliament in order to consolidate power, and relying on harsh emergency regulations to silence and intimidate critics. Protesters chant hidup rakyat (long live the people), and carry black flags and effigies of dead bodies wrapped in white cloth to signify the high daily COVID-19 death tally in the county.

Cambodia: ecologists charged with insulting king

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.

Burma: urban warfare erupts in Mandalay

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)

Burma: poet killed under military interrogation

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)

Burma: ousted leaders form parallel government

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.

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