Southeast Asia Theater

Burma: prison protests after execution of activists

Inmates at Burma's Insein Prison launched a protest on July 25 in response to the announcement by the ruling junta that four political prisoners who had been held in the Yangon facility were executed. Several people who took part in the uprising were physically assaulted by prison authorities, and some 15 were removed to isolation cells separate from the general population, according to a source within the facility. Among the executed were two of Burma's leading dissidents—Ko Jimmy, 52, a veteran of the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, and Phyo Zayar Thaw, 41, a hip-hop star and former MP with the National League for Democracy (NLD). The two longtime activists were sentenced to death in January for allegedly plotting to carry out attacks on regime targets. Amnesty International said it believes the charges against them were politically motivated.

Indonesian islanders sue corporation over climate change

Four residents of the Indonesian island of Pulau Pari on July 12 filed a lawsuit against Swiss cement giant Holcim over the effects of climate change on the island. Swiss Church Aid (HEKS), the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and the Indonesian Forum for Environment (WALHI) are backing the suit brought in the Swiss courts. The residents claim that climate change has caused rising tides and devastating floods. One plaintiff, Edi, stated: "I find it very unjust that a handful of people are destroying the environment and are doing so for their own person[al] benefit."

War crimes, displacement in Burma's east

Amnesty International released a report May 31 documenting numerous atrocities and potential war crimes committed by Burma's armed forces this year in the eastern states of Kayin and Kayah, where an insurgency has mounted against the military regime that came to power in the coup of February 2021. The report charges that the military has subjected civilians to "collective punishment," including "arbitrary detentions that often result in torture or extrajudicial executions, and the systematic looting and burning of villages." Amnesty finds that military attacks have killed hundreds of civilians, and displaced more than 150,000.

Malaysia: calls to end mass detention of refugees

Rights groups in Malaysia are calling for the release of thousands of detained refugees and asylum-seekers, after a deadly incident in the northern state of Penang April 20. Six Rohingya refugees were reportedly struck by vehicles and killed when hundreds fled a detention center after breaking through barriers and attempted to escape across an adjacent highway.

Burma: Karenni rebels resist 'annihilation'

Several civilians have been killed and more than 10,000 forced to flee their homes in heavy clashes between Burma's military and resistance fighters of the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force (KNDF) for control of Loikaw, capital of Kayah state. "Members of humanitarian organizations for IDPs [internally displaced persons] and civil society groups are carrying out rescue operations to save the trapped civilians," said a KNDF officer. "KNDF soldiers are also helping them." Speaking of the military's new offensive to retake the city, he added: "We can see they are preparing to annihilate us in every possible way."

Burma junta leader accused of crimes against humanity

Burma's military junta leader Gen. Min Aung Hliang was accused of crimes against humanity in a complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC) filed Dec. 10 by the Myanmar Accountability Project (MAP). Article 15 of the Rome Statute empowers the ICC prosecutor to initiate an investigation upon receiving information on crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court. MAP, a human rights advocacy group, has requested that the ICC under Article 15 launch a criminal investigation into "the use of torture as part of the violent crackdown against the protest movement in Myanmar." MAP's submission is accompanied by evidence of the widespread and systematic use of torture in Burma (Myanmar) since the military seized control from the democratically elected government in February.

Burma: resistance escalates as Suu Kyi sentenced

Ousted Burmese state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, 76, was found guilty Dec. 6 of "incitement" and breaking COVID restrictions—but the first of a series of 11 charges that could see her imprisoned for life, with potential combined terms of up to 100 years. For these initial two charges, she was given a four-year sentence; junta chief Min Aung Hlaing ordered it reduced it to two years. Deposed president Win Myint, 69, convicted on the same charges, also had his sentence commuted from four years to two. They will each be able to serve the two years at their undisclosed "current place of detention," where they have been held since the February coup d'etat. (BBC News, Myanmar Now, The Irrawady)

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).

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