Weekly Report: 28 September 2018

Newly elected Maldivian president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih celebrates with a victory jump. (@abretis on Twitter)

Syria

This week, reports have come out about a British man named Anwar Miah, who has allegedly been living in Syria for the past four years. Miah is currently detained in a prison in Northern Syria and is being guarded by US special forces. Western Intelligence suspects that he is a member of Daesh. After questioning, Miah admitted that he is a doctor and has been working in general hospitals within Daesh territory and treating the public since his arrival four years ago.

On Monday, Russia made the decision to supply Syria with a modern S-300 system which is an advanced air defense missile. This measure from Putin came after last week’s accident, where the Israeli Army shot down a Russian plane. The Kremlin claim that giving the S-300 is “not directed at any third country,” but rather a safety effort. The US National Security Advisor considers this move as a major mistake and escalation.

Bolivia

On Sunday, President Morales traveled to the United States to take part in the 73rd annual UN General Assembly in New York. Morales and the foreign minister traveled together and stopped in Venezuela on the way. Morales will be involved in several bilateral meetings with countries along with multilateral organizations. At Morales’ meeting with the Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro on Monday, Almagro only spoke highly of the President, claiming that Evo has “political stability and social stability.” Morales seemed to present a good image of himself.

There are a total of nine political parties which have obtained legal status to run in the 2019 general elections. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal has registered: MAS, MNR, FRI, PDC, UCS, UN, Democrats, FPV and PAN-BOL. There are eighteen other political parties which plan to run, but their legal status is still processing.

Evo Morales gave a speech before the international community this week at the UN assembly asking the United Nations for “recognition” of the ruling of the ICJ. He claimed that the dispute is centuries old and that the ruling from the ICJ helps to bring the two countries together after this ongoing dispute. Further, Morales implied that he hopes the controversy is resolved through “peaceful means.”

Nicaragua

On Sunday, there was another political march demanding the release of political prisoners. At the “We are the voice of political prisoners” march, at least 10 people were arrested. Further, one person was killed and five others were injured after Sandinista rioters disrupted the march with bullets. After hearing about the incident, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights showed great concern about the attack.

While the 73rd annual UN Assembly took place on Wednesday, September 26th, Ortega was not there. His name no longer appears on the list of advisors for the assembly. Ortega originally sought to appear at the meeting and speak to the international community, specifically Donald Trump, about the crisis in Nicaragua, but his wishes will not be granted. The US ambassador for the OAS mentioned that President Trump has nothing to talk about with Ortega, so long as he is violating human rights in Nicaragua.

The latest report from the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights (ANPDH) concludes that 512 people have died between April 19th and September 23rd. Further, at least 4,062 people have been injured, and 1,428 people have been kidnapped by police. All of this is because of Ortega’s repression.

On Wednesday, the Bill of Human Rights, which merged Human Rights and the Anti Corruption law of Nicaragua with the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality, was approved by the Committee of Foreign Relations at the US Senate. The new law allows the punishment of officials who have been accused of human rights violations. Further, it incorporates a forceful veto of loans coming from the United States which Nicaragua could use in international financial organizations. Accordingly, the law is just one step away from becoming official.  

North Korea

At the United Nations on Monday, American President Trump expressed hopes that another meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will occur in the near future. This statement comes after Trump met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who delivered a personal message from Kim to Trump. Trump has often stated that he hopes the second summit between North Korea and Kim Jong-Un will take place on American soil – something that could create unprecedented logistical errors if it is to come to pass.

At the United Nations General Assembly this Wednesday, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe said that he is open to meeting with Kim Jong Un, reportedly calling for a fresh start between the two nations. The DPRK and Japan have had incredibly rocky relations in the past, with the DPRK having abducted several Japanese nationals and, most recently, shot rockets over Hokkaido, the northernmost island. Despite this, Japan has also been known to donate aid to North Korea. Also on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with the foreign minister of the DPRK and planned for Pompeo to visit North Korea in October with the aim of facilitating another summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.

Once again, China and Russia have moved to oppose the United States during a UN Security Council meeting, arguing that as a result of the positive developments with the DPRK over the past few months, sanctions on North Korea should be relaxed. Although the United Kingdom supported a more moderate stance, believing that no sanctions should be relaxed until more concrete proof of denuclearization and cooperation comes to pass. China is often considered instrumental in continuing the enforcement of sanctions against the DPRK, meaning that this stance has the potential to greatly impact sanctions – regardless of the US’s disapproval.

Myanmar

Over the weekend, Canada has unequivocally declared the crimes against Rohingya Muslims by the Myanmar military to be a genocide. This declaration represents an important step, according to many human rights organizations worldwide. Myanmar continues to deny any widespread abuses, and the chief of Myanmar’s army went as far as to say that the United Nations has no right to interfere in the sovereignty of his country, including the enacting of any measures suggested in the 444-page long United Nations probe report.

On Monday, the United States followed Canada’s example and accused the Myanmar government of “well-planned and coordinated” atrocities, but stopped just short of describing the crackdown as either genocide or crimes against humanity. This report was simply posted on the State Department’s website and not well-publicized, unlike the United Nations report released earlier last month that accused Myanmar’s military of acting with “genocidal intent.” The United States also pledged on Monday to contribute an additional $185 million in humanitarian aid to both Myanmar and Bangladesh to help displaced Rohingya Muslims. Later this week, American lawmakers urged Pompeo and the American government to declare the events in Myanmar a genocide.

Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina claimed that Myanmar is delaying efforts to return Rohingya refugees across the border to Myanmar, suggesting that her patience with the situation is growing rather thin. Myanmar’s government refused to answer these accusations and has recently ceased answering media questions with the exception of those taking place at a biweekly press conference. The refugee crisis has become a particularly pressing issue for Bangladesh, especially as elections are coming up this December.

On Thursday, the United Nations Human Rights Council voted to create a body to prepare evidence of human rights abuses in Myanmar – including the genocide of Rohingya Muslims – for future prosecution. This was predicated by a joint resolution brought by the European Union and Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The only votes against the creation of this body came from China, the Philippines, and Burundi; there were 7 abstentions, and the rest of the 47-member council voted positively.

USA

As of Sunday, a second woman has come forward about her a sexual assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh. Accordingly, Kavanaugh exposed himself to a former classmate, Deborah Ramirez. Once again, Kavanaugh has denied this conviction and claims that the accusation is a “smear, plain and simple” during an interview. Republicans have agreed to delay Kavanaugh’s confirmation into the Supreme Court until the first allegation from Ford (first accuser of sexual assault) is concluded. This new case may extend the confirmation even further.

After Trump administered $200 billion worth of tariffs on China, which went into effect on Monday, China retaliated with imposing taxes on 5,207 US imports worth nearly $60 billion. Products like liquefied natural gases, coffee, and various edible oils will have a 10 percent levy. Further, we will see a 5 percent tax on frozen vegetables, cocoa powder, and chemical products. President Trump is determined to win the trade war and insists on further tariffs if China retaliates further.

At the United Nations General Assembly this week, President Trump gave a speech that reflected his ‘America first’ attitude. The president claimed that the United States’ economy is the best it ever has been and there are currently more jobs than ever before, all thanks to him. In the midst of his declamation, ambassadors and the international community at the summit reacted with laughter.

Cambodia

The case against Australian filmmaker James Ricketson for espionage in Cambodia has finally drawn to a conclusion after it has been agreed that Ricketson will be deported to Australia after being issued a royal pardon last Friday. Ricketson was previously sentenced to six years in a Cambodian prison, despite little evidence that his filmmaking in Cambodia involved actions that actually constituted espionage. Reportedly, Ricketson is going to seek to return to Cambodia in the near future.

Human Rights Watch called upon Cambodian authorities to rescind the convictions of five Cambodian human rights defenders, which it described as “politically motivated.” All five of the convicted individuals were nominated s finalists for the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights defenders and were convicted of “bribery of a witness” after a one-day trial in early September.  On Thursday, a United Nations official decried the human rights situation in Cambodia, claiming that the government has created a “climate of fear” in the run-up to the July elections with crackdowns on dissenters and the shuttering of various media outlets.

Mexico

Heavy rains from last week in the Sinaloa, Sonora, and Chihuahua areas have since moved into western Michoacán. Rivers and reservoirs within the area overflooded on Monday, causing vehicles to be swept away in the streets. Further, at least 20 homes have been completed flooded. The influx of water has caused five deaths and nine missing persons.

After suspicion that they are working with drug gangs, the Acapulco police force is under investigation. The entire police force has been detained and stripped of their firearms, bullet vests and radios. In the meantime, state police and the military will take control of the city. Reportedly, local police are ‘easy targets’ for drug cartels to infiltrate due to their low salary and lack of training. Further, there have been past reports of gangs offering police money to obey gang leaders.

This week, the president pledged to investigate a four-year-old case of 43 disappeared students. In 2014, a group of students was arrested by corrupt police officials and allegedly handed over to a local organized crime group. Since then, there have been a number of protests to bring awareness to the issue. The new president stated that his government does not fear the truth and will continue with investigations and further punish the people involved in the disappearances.

The Maldives

Over the weekend, the Maldives elections resulted in a surprise victory for the opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in elections with over 90% voter turnout, a result that has been lauded by the European Union and the United States, as well as many other foreign governments. Amnesty International stated on Tuesday that the new Maldives government must use this as an opportunity to differentiate itself from its “repressive past” and build a better future for the Maldives as a whole. Former president Abdulla Yameen, who presided over human rights abuses and widespread corruption, conceded defeat to Solih peacefully, hopefully signaling a positive trend for the future of the Maldives. It’s highly likely that the opposition victory of the Maldivian government was the result of country-wide outrage over mass allegations of corruption and human rights abuses.

Although the ruling party took pains to claim that the election suffered from “irregularities,” Maldives security forces pledged to uphold the results of the presidential election. Although Yameen conceded earlier this week, opposition politicians and organizations such as Transparency Maldives are concerned that the allegations of election “irregularities” mean that Yameen and his party plan to fight the results of the vote through Maldivian courts.

Zimbabwe

Despite recent pledges by financial officers in Zimbabwe’s new government to turn the economy around, a deepening economic crisis has been expedited by food shortages and Harare’s rapidly worsening cholera outbreak. The United Nations has said that more than a million people in Zimbabwe need food aid; prices are also rapidly increasing. Mthuli Ncube, the new finance minister, has been working to ameliorate the situation, but little improvement has yet to be seen. Although the rate of infection has gone down in recent days, the cholera outbreak’s death toll has risen to at least 45 people.

In an attempt to placate the angered opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced on Tuesday that the constitution would be amended to recognize an “official opposition.” This move comes after MDC leader Nelson Chamisa, who has continually claimed that he is the rightful leader of the Zimbabwe elections, lost his petition to challenge the election in the Constitutional Court.

During President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s first address to the United Nations as the president of Zimbabwe, he pledged to focus on improving Zimbabwe’s economy and focusing on Agenda 2030, through which Zimbabwe hopes to become a middle-income country by 2030. Mnangagwa reiterated his commitment to democracy, called for UN Security Council reform, and also condemned sanctions targeted against politicians in Zimbabwe – calling them “illegal.”

Laos

A statement from prominent environmental NGO Save the Mekong claimed that a significant portion of the impact assessment for the Pak Lay Dam, a controversial project, was plagiarized from the 2015 assessment for the Pak Beng dam. If this claim is true, it shows an alarming lack of government willingness to hold itself (and its projects) accountable for the potential impacts that they may have on civilian life.

Vietnam

An activist in southern Vietnam has been sentenced to 27 months in prison for posting anti-government messages on Facebook, yet another development in the recent trends of Vietnamese suppression of any kind of dissent. As of April this year, at least 97 activists were in jail under similar charges.

After the death of President Tran Dai Quang last week, Vietnam’s first female president has been appointed. The new President, Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh, was previously the vice president under Quang. She will be acting president until the National Assembly chooses a permanent replacement, something that cannot occur until the one-month Parliament session opens on October 22nd.

The Vietnamese government jailed 15 people this Wednesday over their role in explosive protests this past June over a proposed investment law. The people involved were jailed for up to four and a half years for the crime of “causing public disorder.” These protests, over the proposed special economic zones that would give undue advantages to potential investor countries such as China, became violent in the southern Binh Thuan provinces, where demonstrators were accused of destroying government roads and attacking riot police.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

At the United Nations General Assembly in New York, President Joseph Kabila stressed two important things to the international community. His first telling was related to the future elections to be held on December 23rd. He stated that the elections are “irreversible” and any interference from foreign governments will be denounced. While he did not specify any particular nation, Kabila made himself very clear that intrusive interference from outsiders is not welcome in the DRC’s domestic policies. Further, Kabila also called for an effective withdrawal of UN peacekeepers throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Rebels from the Ugandan group, Allied Defense Forces (ADF) staged an attack in the city of Beni this past Sunday. At least 18 people have been killed, while 8 others have been injured. The people who died include mostly civilians along with a few government soldiers. Beni has been under siege by the ADF since 1995, and with the newest Ebola outbreak, foreign humanitarian aid workers are stationed in the area. Humanitarian workers in the area had to pause operations to fight the Ebola outbreak, but continued after two days of suspension because Ebola is spreading closer to the border of Uganda.

Colombia

On Sunday, President Duque called on the international community to help aid him in creating an emergency fund for the Venezuelan crisis. Since the start of the Venezuelan migration crisis, many people have fled into neighboring countries including Colombia. Duque announced that Colombia has received more than one million displaced Venezuelans in the past 18 months, but Colombia lacks the funds and resources to properly help them. Further, the president asked for a “temporary protection status” for neighboring countries who are overwhelmed by the influx of people entering their countries. At the UN General Assembly this week, the international community agreed to help Duque in his efforts to prevent a further humanitarian crisis.

On Monday, Duque called on the ELN to completely end all illegal activity, to which the ELN responded and rejected the president’s demands. The previous president spent years negotiating peace talks with the ELN, and they suggest that the agreements made with Santos are respected. Duque has continuously stated that the new government will not hold talks with the rebel group if they continue to use violence. Meanwhile, the ELN insists that Duque is violating past peace agreements. The international community fears that if negotiations between the two parties do not continue, there could be a reactivation of war and citizens in ELN territory will particularly be in grave danger.

Venezuela

On Tuesday, Trump imposed further sanctioning onto Venezuela. Several of Maduro’s top allies, including his wife, and six inner-circle members became the target. This included a block on a $20 million private jet which belongs to one of Maduro’s “top men.” Washington’s efforts are to stop Maduro as he continues to travel down the rabbit hole of economic inflation and nationwide corruption. In an interview after the sanctioning was put in place, Maduro stated, “Thank you, Donald Trump, for surrounding me with dignity.” While the US continues to sanction the Venezuelan president, they also intend to aid neighboring countries with $48 million in order to confront the growing humanitarian crisis which is destabilizing the area.

Not only are Venezuela’s top officials being sanctioned, but five South American countries along with Canada have asked the ICJ to place Venezuela under investigation. On Wednesday, Canada, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Peru, and Paraguay submitted their request to investigate crimes against humanity that have taken place throughout Venezuela’s corrupt government since 2014.

In early August of this year, president Maduro was attacked by a drone. This week, the president claims that he has evidence that his neighbors Chile, Colombia, and Mexico were behind the attempted assassination. Maduro held up his evidence through a video of a man who publicly announced that he was involved with the attack and had help from the Chilean, Colombian and Mexican embassies. All three countries have strongly denied these accusations. Further, Maduro does not have evidence of the embassies’ alleged role in the event. Government critics believe that Maduro is using this baseless accusation as a way to distract from the ongoing crisis in Venezuela.

Malaysia

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has returned to the United Nations for the first time since his last term of Prime Minister 15 years ago.  Mahathir will speak on Friday and is expected to continue an emphasis on ASEAN policy, as well as reviving past policies such as an emphasis on Africa.

Malaysia is currently in talks to become the first state in Asia to legalize medical marijuana, particularly as the spotlight has recently been on a man sentenced to death for possessing, processing, and distributing medical marijuana oil. The recent sentencing has brought many of the harsh drug laws in Malaysia into question, and even Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has said that the verdict, as well as the law that led to it, should be reviewed. \

For the first time in history, the Malaysian opposition parties (including the formerly-in-power UMNO) have coalesced to form a “shadow cabinet,” a parallel group of opposition officials meant to provide critique and alternative solutions to that of the primary government. Past opposition members of parliament have scoffed at the idea, although many former members of the previous government under Najib Razak now hold positions in the shadow cabinet.

Cuba

The new president of Cuba made his way to the UN Assembly in New York this week. At the meeting, Miguel Díaz-Canel made no mention of the recent attacks on US Embassy members at the Havana office. Instead, President Díaz-Canel focused on arguments that Cuba’s previous presidents have spoken of; mostly denouncing the world’s superpowers, specifically the United States.

Other News:

Russia — The Pussy Riot activist, Pyotr Verzilov, publicly stated that he believes that he was poisoned by Russian secret services in retaliation for his role in investigating the deaths of three Russian journalists in the Central African Republic. (Radio Free Europe)

Hungary — After yet another independent media channel was taken over by pro-Orban oligarchs, observers are growing increasingly concerned regarding the continuation of press freedom in Hungary. (Reuters)

Poland— One day after the EU moved to sue Warsaw, the United States praised Poland for its independence. (Radio Free Europe)

The Philippines — A Philippine opposition senator who is an outspoken critic of Rodrigo Duterte has been arrested on charges of rebellion. (Al Jazeera)

Pakistan —  After a well-respected journalist gave an interview showing a critical opinion of Pakistan’s powerful military, there is a warrant out for his arrest. (BBC)

Tibet: After launching protests this month against Chinese rule in Tibet, three Tibetan monks are being held in detention in China’s Sichuan province. (Radio Free Asia)

China: Amnesty International called on China this week to end its systematic repression of Uighur Muslims, many of whom have been detained in what China is calling “re-education camps,”  where prisoners are reportedly being forced to reject Islamic practices. (Al Jazeera)

Iran — Last Saturday, an attack on a military parade left 25 people dead. This week, thousands of Iranians flooded the streets of Ahvaz to mourn the victims of the attack. (Al Jazeera)

Palestine — After the United States cut humanitarian aid to the UN agency, more than 130,000 Palestinian children and refugees went on strike. (Al Jazeera)

Yemen — Since the outbreak of war in Yemen, the country seems to be hanging on its last thread due to continuous human rights abuses, malnutrition, Cholera, food insecurity, and an economic crisis. (Al Jazeera)

Weekly Report: 21 September 2018

Presidents Moon and Kim hold hands on Mount Paektu, believed by North Koreans to be a sacred site. 

Syria

On Sunday, Syria held its first election since the war broke out in 2011. Because Sunday is a typical working day for the average Syrian, voting hours were extended for another five hours. Only people in government-controlled areas are able to vote, and further, refugees and displaced Syrians are not allowed to cast a vote. For example, a person originally from Aleppo who is now living in Damascus cannot vote as a citizen of Damascus, they must go back to Aleppo if they want to cast a vote. As if this is not challenging enough, some believe that voting will not change anything. A researcher from the London School of Economics conveyed that the Syrian government is using this election for further propaganda. This way it appears as though the country is on its way towards recovery when really the elected officials are typically appointed, not elected.

In an attempt to stop the bombardment of Israeli missile attacks in Syria, the Syrian regime unintentionally shot down a Russian aircraft. The aircraft carried 15 Russian servicemen, who all died in the attack. The Russian Ministry of Defense sees this act as irresponsible of Israel and claims the act was entirely their fault.

On Monday, Russian and Turkish Presidents, Putin and Erdogan reached an agreement to make Idlib a buffer zone. The two presidents will demilitarize the region by October 15th and plan to withdraw all heavy weaponry and “radical fighters.” The goal of the buffer zone is to prevent the impending humanitarian disaster. Further, both Turkey and Russia will carry out patrols in the demilitarized zone.

Bolivia

This week, activists who have been defending the 21F continue in their hunger strike. Their objective for the Supreme Electoral Tribunal to hold true to the law and disempower Evo Morales as a candidate for the 2019 elections. The protests are held in front of the electoral body in Abaroa square. The members of the organization are from Todos Unidos and the Civic Committee of Cochabamba. One person involved states, “I prefer to die of hunger than to live in a dictatorship, I ask you to join for the love of democracy.”

This week, the TSE denied legal status to SOL.bo. Although the political group was denied entry into the 2019 election, they stated that they will use any legal means necessary to gain access back into the election. The head of SOL.bo, Luis Revilla called on citizens to march with him in a protest.

On Thursday, José Alberto Gonzales was elected as the Ambassador of Bolivia to the OAS. In his first speech, he made no mention of the speech given earlier this week by Almagro, who is the head of the OAS and outrightly criticizes the Nicaraguan and Venezuelan regimes. Gonzales backs both of these regimes. In his speech, Gonzales proposed that there should be a working team to begin reconstruction of the OAS in order to best serve the people of the 34 member country coalition.

Nicaragua

On Sunday, protests across the nation continued to unfold. Thousands of people marched through the capital and demanded that President Ortega step down from office. During the labeled “Rescuing the Homeland” march, entire families entered the streets, waving their flags and shouting anti-Ortega slogans.

The United States is in the midst of coming up with a plan to sanction Nicaragua. The plan would bring together the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act (Nica) and the Law for Human Rights and the Fight Against Corruption in Nicaragua. By combining these two laws, there will be calamitous effects on Ortega’s dictatorship for its ability to appropriate individual sanctions which include blocking capital and the revocation of visas. Further, there would be limited access to attention from multilateral financial organizations. A draft for this combined law will be announced in the following weeks.

A trip to Geneva, Switzerland was originally scheduled from September 14th but has been postponed until further notice. The Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights (ANPDH) was supposed to meet with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to discuss the ongoing human rights violations taking place in Nicaragua. The trip was canceled due to lacking financial means.

Peaceful protesters from several cities across Nicaragua including,  Managua, Nagarote, Jalapa, Bluefields, Condega, Chichigalpa, Ocotal and Mozonte are using balloons as a form of protest. People are blowing up blue and white balloons, marking them with a variety of anti-Ortega phrases, and covering the streets with them.

North Korea

After the Pyongyang summit this Wednesday between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the DPRK’s Kim Jong Un, the two leaders have announced that they have signed an agreement. Reportedly, the discussions of the two lead to an agreement in which the North Korean leader agreed to shut down one of the North’s main missile testing and launch sites. Although some details are unclear at this point, the declaration definitely allows for independent inspectors to look at the site. According to Kim, the site will only be dismantled if the United States takes reciprocal measures that have yet to be unspecified. In addition, the two countries have announced that they are seeking to co-host the 2032 Summer Olympics.

On the final day of the summit between Moon and Kim, the two rival leaders visited Mount Paektu, a site which is considered sacred by the North Korean regime. The two took a picture together with the volcano and its crater in the background. Moon and Kim have been making strides towards reducing military tensions on the border, such as establishing buffer zones around their borders to prevent potential clashes, withdraw 11 guard posts from the Demilitarized Zone by December, and establish a no-fly zone about the border between the two Koreas.

Myanmar

Over 80 American lawmakers have urged the current administration to step up efforts to gain the release of the two Reuters journalists who have been jailed in Myanmar over their reporting on the Rohingya crisis. The two journalists were sentenced to seven years of imprisonment for “possessing state secrets.” On Sunday, at least 100 demonstrators – including high school students – gathered in Myanmar’s largest city to demonstrate against the imprisonment of the reporters, holding signs with messages such as “revealing the truth is not a crime.”

On Tuesday, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced the beginning of its preliminary investigation into the expulsion of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Bangladesh. This announcement comes only a day after Monday’s accusation by United Nations investigators of committing atrocities against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities, which the UN investigators believe calls for top Myanmar generals to be charged with genocide. Also on Tuesday, the United  Nations Human Rights Council released a 400-page report detailing the findings of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar.

In Myanmar’s Shan state, members of Myanmar’s United Wa State Army (UWSA), an ethnic armed group comprising the military wing of the ruling party of the self-declared Wa state (which has not been recognized by the government), has been targeting Christian clergy members and destroying churches in its self-proclaimed autonomous areas. The Myanmar government is attempting to come to an agreement with the UWSA and other armed groups to end seven decades of civil war.

USA

On Tuesday, the Trump administration decided to cap the already small number of refugees allowed into the United States. The new limit is at 30,000 people, which is a significant decrease from the previous 45,000 allowed into the country. The announcement came in a brief statement by Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. This is the lowest ceiling to come in decades.

Brett Kavanaugh, a Supreme Court nominee who has received tremendous backlash from Democrats in the past few weeks, has now been accused of sexual assault. Next Monday, September 24th, Kavanaugh and his accuser will appear before a Senate hearing to discuss the alleged assault. Although Kavanaugh has denied the sexual assault, if the hearing proves his guilt, his future as a member of the Supreme Court will be at stake.

The Trump Administration has ordered the justice department to bring transparency to Russia-related materials. In a statement, President Trump ordered the justice department to declassify and publicize materials from the supposed Russian interference in the 2016 election. Further, there is an order to publicize text messages between high-level officials in the FBI and the Justice Department. Thousands of pages of material have been handed over, although the department has made it clear that there is a line they are not willing to cross.

The US-China trade war continues as the Trump Administration imposed $200 billion more in Chinese goods. This is Trump’s biggest move yet, and retaliation is expected to unfold. Beginning September 24th, American importers will have to pay another 10 percent tariff for the affected items. This will eventually climb to 25 percent by the end of the year.

Cambodia

According to top Southeast Asia analysts, Cambodia will be unable to regain its standing in the international community unless it reverses its current policy agenda and allows for more opposition voices to be heard within Cambodia’s democratic institutions. The analysts also supported measures for Cambodia such as reducing governmental corruption but stressed the necessity of regaining electoral accountability for future elections. Specifically, scholars cited the Paris Peace Agreement, through which many parties signed on to hold Cambodia accountable in the case of democratic backslides.

Mexico

This week, local residents outside of the Guadalajara area began complaining of a foul stench in their neighborhood. After investigations, there appeared to be a refrigerated trailer containing near 150 corpses. Accordingly, the dead bodies were to be examined and investigated at a later date due to local laws in Mexico stating that a body may not be cremated until there is a full investigation on it. Because local mortuaries were full, a refrigerated trailer seemed to be the next liable option. The top forensic official was fired after the discovery for his lack of ability to be responsible for the bodies.

The Maldives

A recent investigation has uncovered new details about Maldivian government corruptions; this report was published on Tuesday and has discovered that at least 50 of the nation’s tropical island leases were obtained illegally – and at prices that were hugely discounted. It is believed that President Abdulla Yameen, who is hoping to be re-elected this coming Sunday, helped to clear at least 24 of these leases for tourism companies – and was involved personally in at least one of these deals.

According to a recent report by the World Health Organization, the Maldives health insurance scheme must be reviewed urgently.  The report on the health insurance scheme, called Aasandha, found that there was a high level of dependency on overseas medication and confirmation of medical test, despite some successes in increasing life expectancy, improving child and maternal health, and the control of communicable diseases. However, the rate of noncommunicable diseases has skyrocketed, accounting for approximately 80% of all deaths in the past year.

Zimbabwe

During the first state of the nation address of President  Emmerson Mnangagwa’s term since the elections, opposition politicians walked out, continuing to cite the claim that Mnangagwa was not legitimately elected. As a cholera outbreak continues to spread throughout Harare, President Mnangagwa has vowed to give financial assistance to the Harare City Council and advocated that the corporate world also pledge to fund to help cease the outbreak. So far, the outbreak has affected more than 3,000 people and killed 32 people over the past three weeks. A United Nations spokesperson in Zimbabwe said this Tuesday that a UN emergency response fund may be activated if the outbreak continues to spread to other parts of the country.

A week after being chosen as Zimbabwe’s new finance minister, Mthuli Ncube is working to stabilize Zimbabwe’s economy, hoping to be the driver of President Mnangagwa’s plan for Zimbabwe to become a middle-income country by 2030. According to Ncube, the plan to make Vision 2030 achievable will be revealed within the next couple of months. Zimbabwe is also hoping to make a bid to international financial institutions for additional engagement at the next IMF and World Bank meetings, which will take place in Bali, Indonesia.

According to Amnesty International, Zimbabwe authorities have to further support the Commission of Inquiry into the post-election killings in order for the families of victims to have “any hope of obtaining truth, justice, and reparations.” Amnesty International has also called upon the government to provide guarantees that witnesses testifying before the Commission are protected, especially as the political climate in Zimbabwe is known to be repressive.

Laos

Sports games that were previously scheduled to take place in northeastern Laos during November have been postponed due to concerns about corruption in the awarding of construction contracts in the lead up to the event. Laos, which ranked 135 out of 180 countries on corruption in Transparency International’s 2017 list, has faced many challenges with combating corruption in the past couple of years, with the most notable instance being that of similar corruption during the awarding of construction contracts for the 10th National Sports Games in 2014.

After the collapse of a dam built by a South Korean firm left 36 Lao citizens dead, 98 missing, and over 6,000 displaced the Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy has agreed to fund and attempt to develop an entirely energy self-sufficient town in central-eastern Laos. The consulting firm awarded the contract, Kumho E&G, has created a solar-powered microgrid for a village in Myanmar in the past.

Vietnam

This Tuesday, a court in the northern Vietnamese province of Bac Ninh sentenced Do Cong Duong, a land rights activist and citizen journalist, to 48 months in prison for the crime of “disturbing public order.” Duong is only the latest in a rash of rights activists to have been jailed for the regime, with Radio Free Asia counting at least 28 rights activists and bloggers who have been put on trial, convicted, and sentenced to long prison terms in the first months of 2018.

Additionally, a retired teacher who used Facebook as a venue to post writing critical of the Vietnamese government was sentenced to a 14-year prison term for “trying to overthrow the state.” Dao Quang Thuc, the teacher, called for better protections for Vietnam’s environment and against perceived Chinese encroachment into Vietnamese territories in the South China Sea. According to Thuc’s lawyer, all but two witnesses were not allowed to testify and there was “no presumption of innocence.”

Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang died on Friday morning after a protracted period of illness. As Vietnam has no paramount leader and is instead ruled jointly by the president, leader of the Communist party, and Prime Minister. Tran Dai Quang was elected in 2016 and had had a reputation for being tough, no-nonsense, and preferring to stay out of the public eye.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

On Monday, politician Jean-Pierre Bemba was fined 300,000 euros and sentenced 1 year in prison. Bemba was on a trial before the International Criminal Court in the Hague. He was convicted of witness tampering and has been banned from running in the presidential election in December. Although he was sentenced to 1 year in prison, Bemba will not have to serve it given his previous time in prison.

After a riverboat capsized in the DRC, at least 27 people have been confirmed dead. The boat carried 60 people. There was a mix of students and merchants and the boat was overloaded with a variety of merchandise. The roof of the boat caved in, causing the boat to submerge.

Colombia

The ELN has made peace talks between the Colombian government and their organization worse after they kidnapped a 15-year-old girl hostage. While the kidnapping supposedly took place on September 7th, it was not confirmed until this past Saturday. The ELN believed that the girl in hostage is an “army informant.” President Duque sees the kidnapping as insulting to children in Colombia and that the act is cowardice. The UN reminded the guerrilla group that kidnapping breaks the international humanitarian law.

President Duque received backlash and criticism after appointing his close friend to the role of Superintendent of Industry and Commerce. Duque received over 80 applications for the position but decided to designate the seat to Andres Barreto. The president has previously experienced judgment for filling jobs out of friendship rather than merit, so this recent job placement has added fuel to the fire.

After the former president left the country’s commission (which monitors the peace process with FARC) without government representation, current president Duque has reactivated it. The tripartite commission previously consisted of the United Nations, FARC, and Representatives of the State, and now there will be new members including Interior Minister Nancy Patricia Gutierrez, Peace Commissioner Miguel Ceballos, and post-conflict advisor Emilio Jose Gutierrez. There are hopes to “renew momentum” to the peace process amid the ongoing violence taking place in former FARC territories.

According to a new UN statistic, Cocaine production in Colombia hit an all-time high in 2017. Accordingly, production rose 31%. The UN is concerned that this amount of production could harm peace processes.

Venezuela

In a recent press conference held in Cucuta, Colombia, the OAS Secretary General gave a speech where he denounced the president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro for the recent migration crisis. The Secretary-General went as far as to say that he is not ruling out a military intervention, which is a statement that US president Donald Trump threatened just last year. Almagro spent three days in Cucuta which borders Venezuela. According to the UN, more than 2.3 million Venezuelans have left their country in the past few years, and many of them have traveled into Colombia.

After the OAS chief gave his speech claiming that military intervention is a possible option against Venezuelan dictator, President Maduro, the Lima group who established themselves in 2017 and work to apply international pressure on Venezuela, disagreed. Of the 14 governments part of the Lima group, 11 of them firmly disagreed with a military intervention. They believe that there are more peaceful means to an end of Maduro’s dictatorship.

After Maduro’s recent visit to China this past weekend to discuss oil exports, it was concluded that Venezuela will increase exports to 1 million barrels per day. China has agreed to invest another $5 billion into Venezuela. There are hopes from China’s end that this will help to boost production.

Malaysia

Fresh pressure has been put on Myanmar by the United Nations and international community regarding the scourge of child marriage this Wednesday after a 15-year-old Malaysian girl was allowed to be married to a 44-year-old man in July after being given the permission of the Islamic courts. This is only the most recent case of such incidents this year that has made headlines, with the last being the marriage of an 11-year-old Thai girl to a 41-year-old Malaysian man in June. The Malaysia representative of UNICEF urged the government to “bring legislative change to ban the practice,” although she also acknowledged that this is difficult, as Islamic courts have sole jurisdiction over marriage between Muslims.

In the latest update in the 1MDB scandal, former Prime Minister Najib Razak has been charged with 25 additional corruption charges linked to the scandal. The new charges, which include four counts of abuse of power and 21 counts of money laundering, have come after Najib’s detainment by Malaysia’s anti-corruption agency this Wednesday. He pleaded not guilty to all charges after they were read out in court. This newest development brings the total number of charges against Najib to 32.

Cuba

In his first interview since taking presidency back in April, Miguel Diaz-Canel openly supports LGBTQ rights. He supports to change the constitution to include marriage between same-sex couples, stating that he’ll “defend there being no kind of discrimination.” Cuba is currently in the process of drafting a new constitution, and the president hopes that the people of Cuba will respect the change.

The Maldives

A recent investigation has uncovered new details about Maldivian government corruptions; this report was published on Tuesday and has discovered that at least 50 of the nation’s tropical island leases were obtained illegally – and at prices that were hugely discounted. It is believed that President Abdulla Yameen, who is hoping to be re-elected this coming Sunday, helped to clear at least 24 of these leases for tourism companies – and was involved personally in at least one of these deals.

According to a recent report by the World Health Organization, the Maldives health insurance scheme must be reviewed urgently.  The report on the health insurance scheme, called Aasandha, found that there was a high level of dependency on overseas medication and confirmation of medical test, despite some successes in increasing life expectancy, improving child and maternal health, and the control of communicable diseases. However, the rate of noncommunicable diseases has skyrocketed, accounting for approximately 80% of all deaths in the past year.

Other News:

Russia — A judge in Chechnya has ordered that Oyub Titiyev, a Chechen human rights activist, must have a closed-door court – something that Titiyev’s lawyer claims violates his rights under the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. (Radio Free Europe)

Hungary — A Hungarian court has upheld the terrorism conviction of a Syrian refugee who threw stones at Hungarian police, despite rights groups calling it an “abuse of terrorism laws.” (Al Jazeera)

Poland— After Polish President Andrzej Duda has made several requests for the US to have a permanent military base in Poland; reportedly, the US is finally considering the offer. (Radio Free Europe)

The Philippines — As many as 800,000 people have been negatively affected by Typhoon Mangkhut, with 74 dead and countless missing in the northeastern provinces of the country. (Asia Times

Thailand — With elections coming up next year, Thai officials have begun to relax rules against participation in political parties.  (Channel News Asia)

Pakistan — Only two months into his 10 year jail sentence, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was released from prison. (BBC)

Weekly Report: 14 September 2018

Protesters call for political prisoners to be released. (Reuters)

Syria

On Friday, Russia and Iran declined coming to a truce about Idlib, even though there are international fears of a humanitarian disaster in the region. Further, the following Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that government helicopters released 19 barrel bombs and Russian warplanes carried out 68 strikes. In just 2 strikes, four civilians were killed in Southern Idlib.  

This weekend, the Russian government accused the United States of dropping white phosphorus bombs on the Syrian region of Deir al-Zor. Further, the alleged air strikes hit a major refuge of ISIS. The United States has firmly denied these accusations, claiming that their military units in that area are not equipped with white phosphorus.

Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, addressed Russia, Iran, and Turkey to avoid a full-scale battle for the sake of avoiding a potential humanitarian disaster. Guterres stated on Tuesday, “I understand that the present situation in Idlib is not sustainable and the presence of terrorist groups cannot be tolerated. But fighting terrorism does not absolve warring parties of their core obligations under international law,” making it very clear that there needs to be a different solution to targeting terrorist groups.

While Assad and the Russian Government claim to only be targeting rebel militant groups in their offenses, civilians are in fact at great risk in Idlib. Since the attacks in the region began last week, more than 30,000 civilians have fled the area with the only option of heading towards villages along the Turkish border.

Beginning Monday, the Syrian Democratic Forces, a militant group backed by the U.S launched an attack on the supposed ‘last pocket’ of ISIS fighters. US military suggests that ISIS has lost 98% of their land since their peak point of power. This last mission takes place in the Hajin area.

Bolivia

This week, opposition party leaders were informed that they may not form alliances after the internal primary elections in October 2019, only beforehand. There must be a request for alliance up to 75 days before the primaries. While this is a set back for opposition leaders, they may still have political agreements prior to the primaries which can be practiced after the elections in 2019.

This week, five candidates who were originally disqualified for running for the Attorney General position were reinstated. Those who may run again are: Juan Lanchipa, William Alave, Jorge Pérez Valenzuela, Silvano Arancibia Colque and Luciano Negrete.

As tensions continue to rise between Chile and Bolivia over their maritime dispute concerning sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean, it has been confirmed that an official verdict will be given on October 1st at 9:00 AM (Bolivian time) from the ICJ. There are three potential outcomes: Chile is obligated to negotiate with Bolivia and grants them full sovereignty, Chile is not obligated to negotiate with Bolivia, or the two countries fail to negotiate and are then suggested to continue resolving their differences in a friendly manner.

Nicaragua

On Friday, opposition leaders carried out a 24-hour strike across the country. Business owners of restaurants, stores, and banks closed down after being called upon my opposition leaders in the Civic Alliance. The purpose of the strike was to demand that student activists be released after being charged with terrorism earlier last week. While most small shops and businesses were closed in the main city, the closeby city of Boaco only had 7% of their businesses open.

On Sunday, the families of activists led a march through the capital city of Managua. According to human rights groups, at least 135 people are still in prison after being wrongly convicted of terrorism and have been illegally arrested. During the march, the organizers had to quickly change their routes due to pro-government supporters gathered at their starting point. Clashes between pro-government civilians and oppositionists of Ortega’s government continue to unfold, leaving hundreds of people dead.

On Wednesday, a Magnitude 5.3 Earthquake hit the western part of Nicaragua. While there is not any damage reported yet, major cities like Leon, Chinandega, and Managua felt the quake.

North Korea

This week, the DPRK celebrated the 70th anniversary of its founding through a military parade this past Sunday, in addition to its infamous Mass Games – a rigorously choreographed spectacle that often brings patriotism to the forefront through its gymnastic and artistic displays.  In a break from the trends of past Mass Games and military parades, anti-Americanism and the DPRK’s nuclear capabilities were not showcased, with the parade instead focusing on the state’s goals with reference to economics, science, and inter-Korean relations.

Despite the lack of vitriolic rhetoric between the United States and DPRK currently, there is steady evidence that the DPRK is continuing to make nuclear weapons – something that has American policymakers concerned that the United States needs to take a more aggressive stance towards Pyongyang. Instead of de-escalating the North Korean nuclear program in the wake of the Singapore Summit with US president Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un has instead opted to focus government resources on better concealment of nuclear infrastructure. According to American intelligence assets, the DPRK could produce five to eight new nuclear weapons in 2018 alone, despite claims that Trump made stating that North Korea is “no longer…a threat.”

Although the United States has at least made efforts to continue undercutting the North Korean economy in order to put pressure on the Kim regime, China continues to steadily ease its restrictions on the DPRK, something that effectively cancels out measures put in place by other countries, as China is the DPRK’s closest ally and trading partner. Resultantly, gasoline prices have been steadily dropping, and the DPRK also appears to be defying UN sanctions from December 2017 that limited its fishing rights to specific waters. On Thursday morning, officials from the DPRK and South Korea met for working-level talks to discuss ways to ease military tension between the two Koreas. These talks are set to last the weekend.

Myanmar

The continued investigation into the role of Facebook posts into the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar has revealed that Facebook definitively had a “determining role” in creating anger against the Rohingya minority. The investigation, conducted by Reuters, Facebook, and other investigative bodies concluded that people who may be affiliated with the military would post content that is dehumanizing, comparing Rohingya to dogs and pigs and using racial slurs against Muslims. Facebook has admitted that it was “too slow to prevent misinformation and hate in Myanmar” and has pledged to keep an eye out in the future. This case is only one example of the way that technology can be misused to facilitate mass human rights violations.

On Tuesday, the United Nations human rights office called on Myanmar to end “a political campaign against independent journalism” after the latest in a series of cases through which the Myanmar government has routinely worked to suppress instances of independent journalism, most recently resulting in the jailing of two Reuters journalists last week for a period of seven years due to their reporting on the Rohingya genocide. In a 14 page report, the United Nations urged the Myanmar government to drop cases against reporters who were only carrying out their professional duties. Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the government actions reported on made it clear that Myanmar’s future as a democratic state is in jeopardy.

In response to the above criticism, Myanmar government leader Aung San Suu Kyi stated that the jailing of the Reuters reporters had nothing to do with freedom of expression, claiming that the journalists can feel free to appeal their convictions, but that it has nothing to do with the greater human rights situation in the region.

USA

This week, a major hurricane has been brewing off of the coast of North Carolina. Hurricane Florence is supposed to have a full impact on early Friday, and officials are warning more than 1 million people to flee the region. According to CNN, the storm may last for days, unleashing life-threatening amounts of rainfall and winds. The effects of the hurricane will be felt as far away as Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and Kentucky, given it is a category 4 storm.

On Monday, the Trump administration closed the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) office in D.C. While some U.S. officials see this as a move to force Palestine to come closer to peace negotiations with Israel, others see this step as causing extra tensions. Further, it may create greater distance in the relationship between Palestine and the U.S. A Palestinian official stated after the fact that, “We reiterate that the rights of the Palestinian people are not for sale, that we will not succumb to US threats and bullying…” which certainly echoes their distaste for the Trump administration’s move.

While there is not a set date or time, the United States invited China to further discuss trade talks this week. Before the Trump administration administers $200 billion worth of more tariffs on Chinese goods, they have decided that having proper communication will be in both parties best interest. There are hopes that this talk will conclude the ongoing dispute between the worlds two biggest economies.

Thursday, the Trump administration has done a large reversal on the well known, internationally condemned, family separation measure at the U.S-Mexico border. Accordingly, families separated from their children will, in fact, get a second chance at claiming asylum in the United States. Further, some parents who have already been deported may even get that second chance. The agreement must first be approved by federal judges. While this is a positive moment for separated families, it is only bringing circumstances back to what they would have been, had the government never separated parents and children in the first place.

Cambodia

After many critiques from foreign governments and international bodies alike, the Cambodian government has chosen to release former opposition leader Kem Sokha on bail this Monday. However, he will still be under investigation for treason – and may be convicted for up to thirty years in prison. Sokha is required to stay within a block radius of his home, cannot meet with foreigners or political leaders, and cannot host any rallies or political activities. Although it is clear that the release of Sokha in the first place was the result of international pressure, few international actors are satisfied with this development in the state of Cambodian democracy.

In order to create more administrative efficiency, the Cambodian government has announced that it will be creating two new provinces to better reflect geography and demographics of administrative management, something that the Minister of the Interior has claimed is vital to “local development.” The last time a new province was created in such a manner, it was in a province that was dominated by a then-opposition party, and some analysts believe instead that the move is to create more posts for officials who are loyal to the government.

On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch launched a new webpage called Political Prisoners Cambodia, which profiles 30 current and past political prisoners in Cambodia in an attempt to call attention to the unlawful detention of those who are considered dissidents to the ruling party. Although some political prisoners have been released at the time of the website’s creation, they are still facing other pending charges that may allow the government to imprison them for various amounts of time or pay exorbitant funds. Insulting government officials is illegal under Cambodia’s Criminal Code, and since 2017, the government has passed various new laws that have restricted the rights to freedom of expression and association.

Mexico

This week, authorities announced that they have found a mass grave site with more than 160 human skulls. This report comes after a report from last year when more than 250 human skulls were found in the city of Veracruz. This recent investigation will not release the whereabouts of the gravesite, but officials say that they also found more than 100 ID cards, meaning some of the victims will be identified.

A US $600 million construction project to install 100 wind turbines in Oaxaca has come to a halt this week. The 300-Megawatt project has been put on hold after local organizations called the federal government claiming that the wind farm is on the lands of indigenous people.

One year after the 8.2 magnitude earthquake which devastated Oaxaca, 50,000 people have yet to receive financial compensation which was originally promised to them. The mayor called on the federal government to supply more money so that families can rebuild their homes and finally receive the aid that they deserve.

As December is slowly approaching, meaning the swearing in of the newly elected president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, lawmakers from the new party presented a new bill concerning the salaries of government officials. The new bill will lower the salaries of politicians and public sector workers. The new plan would also cut remuneration by 28%. While the law will not take pesos directly from one’s base salary, it takes away medical and life insurance along with contributions to individuals savings funds. This means that all government officials will use the public social security system for all of their benefits rather than relying on private insurance benefits. After these measures, the legislation aims to produce 409 million pesos within the final 4 months of 2018.

The Maldives

With general elections coming up in a matter of weeks, the Maldives police have warned that people may be planning dangerous acts on election day to call attention to the fact that Maldivian elections are neither “free nor fair.” The police have specifically warned against arson and other, unspecified criminal activities. However, during past political events, it has been known that the police actually incited violence during protests – and the joint opposition claims that the police are simply attempting to create fear amongst voters as the general elections draw closer.

Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen has continued to make development a cornerstone of his campaign, despite the previously reported evidence that many of the infrastructure projects that he takes credit for cannot actually be accredited to the actions of his regime. Local governments have accused Yameen of “abusing state resources” for his own campaign and attempting to buy votes with promises of infrastructure improvements on specific islands. The executive director of Transparency Maldives, Mariyam Shiuna, stated that “the Maldives has a history of vote buying, but this time we have seen an alarming trend of these types of incentives being offered.”

The Maldives election body has also made it clear that any foreign journalists wishing to attend must apply for a visa prior to entry, which includes a lengthy background check and the necessity of a Maldivian sponsor. Despite critics calling out these “restrictive, the government denies blocking entry to foreign journalists. These measures were implemented in the wake of an Al Jazeera expose in 2016 which uncovered the widespread scandal.

Zimbabwe

This week, Zimbabwe’s opposition party (The Movement for Democratic Change, or MDC) will hold a mock inauguration for its leader Nelson Chamisa in an attempt to call attention to its claims of election fraud, which was rejected by the constitutional court last week. MDC spokesperson Nkuleleko Sibanda told the Agence France Press that Chamisa “will be recognized as the legitimate president of Zimbabwe,” and has been denied his proper victory by “cheating.”

Zimbabwean police claim that they are being left out of ongoing investigations into a bombing that took place at a majority-party rally last June, which left two people dead and several others injured. Although the police reportedly have no knowledge of who the culprit is, the president has claimed that the suspects behind the bombing incident are now known. The police spokesperson, Charity Charamba, has claimed herself that the police are being left in the dark.

Public assembly has been banned in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, as part of ongoing efforts to contain a cholera outbreak that has killed 21 people so far. The government has declared this outbreak a state of emergency in Harare, and health officials have identified more than 3,000 suspected cases of cholera, which is spread through contaminated water. Although it can kill within hours if left untreated, it is considered to be “easily treatable” by the World Health Organization. The last outbreak in Zimbabwe, nearly a decade ago, killed a total of 4,000 people.

Laos

The Laos government has decided to continue its strategy of becoming a major producer of hydropower despite the results of a deadly dam collapse last month which killed dozens and displaced innumerable Lao citizens. Although the government has claimed that the death toll from this most recent disaster was at 35, it is suspected by locals that the toll might be much higher. The government claims that all future projects will be subjected to an increased level of scrutiny. One of the Korean firms involved in the project has pledged to help with investigating the cause of the dam break and will be donating $10 million USD in relief aid.

Vietnam

On Monday, five policemen were charged with the death of a detainee in southern Vietnam last year. Human Rights Watch has stated that police brutality is systematic in Vietnam, with this case being one of many that have never come to trial – even members of the Vietnamese government have admitted that at least 226 suspects and inmates have died in government custody between October 2010 and September 2014. Five police officers were last convicted in 2014 of the murder of a criminal suspect and were given sentences ranging from one and a half to five years.

Though Hanoi is hosting the World Economic Forum this week, not all observers are welcome. Leaders from Amnesty International and the International Federation for Human Rights were barred from entry for the meeting, with personnel from both groups being accused of threatening the national security of Vietnam. Although Vietnam is increasingly trying to boost its reputation among the international community, it has increasingly been placing restrictions on free speech over the past year.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

As of this week, the World Health Organization has confirmed 90 deaths and 130 other infections due to the most recent Ebola outbreak. For the first time in the DRC’s history, the outbreak has spread to active conflict zones, making it far more difficult for response teams to keep Ebola from spreading even further.

Colombia

NBC News came out with an article this week discussing the battles of deforestation in Colombia. Since 2016 when civil conflicts came to an end and FARC signed a peace deal with the Colombian government, their jungle bases were disarmed and demobilized. Since, 984,888 acres of forest have been lost, which is nearly 40 soccer fields worth of forest daily. Further, species which thrive in these regions are threatened of going extinct. While deforestation is growing at a rapid rate, scientists and researchers see a chance to restore the forests by 2020 in a plan to reforest just under 50 million acres of land.  

In a recent report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), forced displacement in Colombia has gone up by 112% in the first half of 2018. Violence between illegal groups and the military along with violence against civilians has severely diminished human movement. While the peace agreement between FARC and the Colombian government in 2016 promoted a sense of peace in the country, the upsurge of regional powers and armed illegal groups has unveiled Colombia’s weak state. Seemingly, the state has failed to take full control of previous FARC controlled territories, allowing others to take control and therefore limiting civilian mobilization and allowing violence to unfold.

On Saturday, a former FARC leader by the name of David, who formed his own dissident group named the United Pacific Guerillas (GUP), was killed. Before his death, David was wanted for a variety of crimes including homicide, kidnapping, drug trafficking, and forced displacement. He has control over a major port city and cocaine hub. While control over this region has been a struggle between former FARC groups and Colombia’s state, the port may be taken over by a separate dissident group ‘Guacho,’ which is a rival of GUP.

Venezuela

After violence unfolded in the Brazilian city of Boa Vista against fleeing Venezuelans, hundreds are returning back to Venezuela out of fear. Many migrants have been living without proper sanitation necessities or water in the city. After a fight between a migrant and a group of Brazilian men, the Venezuelan man was beaten to death by the group. Because of the recent outbreak of violence and hostility, migrants are afraid.

Reports this week have suggested that various officials within the Trump administration have met with rebellious members of the Venezuelan military. The discussions have been about a coup to remove the current president of Venezuela, Maduro. When interviewed by the Time, American officials stated that they never agreed to help overthrow Maduro, and the White House has yet to confirm or deny this report. When the Venezuelan government found out about the secret meetings, they labeled them “unacceptable” and “unjustifiable,” claiming that Venezuelan democracy is being threatened by U.S. interference.

While Venezuela is continuously struggling under a hyperinflationary economy, the country recently agreed to give over at least 7 oil fields to small, inexperienced companies. Maduro stated that the new plan is a joint service agreement with PDVSA and the small companies. While details about their agreement are currently unknown, the main point of the deal includes PDVSA putting these small companies in charge of oil fields for six years in order to promote oil production. For it to work, $430 million in investment is necessary. Further, five of the firms are in fact Venezuelan, but it appears that they have little experience operating oil fields. In Reuters report, they called this plan between PDVSA and the 7 companies ‘disguised privatization.’Between Thursday to Saturday of this week, President Maduro will make a visit to China upon invitation from their ally, President Xi Jinping. Maduro plans to exchange future plans about economic agreements and hopes that China will “disburse fresh loans.”

Malaysia

In the most recent development of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s 1MDB scandal, the lawyer representing Razak has been charged with money laundering and false income tax declaration in relation to the previous scandal. Allegedly, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah – the lawyer in question – received the equivalent of $2.3 million USD from Najib during the scandal. The government is more than halfway done with the investigation and is attempting to recoup at least half of the funds lost to Najib’s alleged corruption.

Cuba

Although there are not any official reports or ‘pointed fingers’ on the alleged sonic attacks of U.S. officials in the Embassy in Havana, Russia has become the most recent suspect. Investigators of the brain-damage-causing incidents have intercepted communication which apparently reveals Russian responsibility for the attacks. If this investigation is confirmed, the Trump administration would likely take actions against Cuba and Russia.

Other News:

Russia — An activist with the Russian group, Pussy Riot, has reportedly been poisoned. Staff at the Moscow hospital say that he is under intensive care. (BBC)

Hungary — European Union legislators have overwhelmingly voted to launch punitive action against the Hungarian government for ignoring democratic rules and growing authoritarianism, which has been particularly pronounced in regards to refugee policy. (Al Jazeera)

Poland — After European Parliament voted to sanction Hungary for neglecting Democracy norms, Poland stated that they will block any sanctions imposed by the EU. (Reuters)

The Philippines — 10 million people are reportedly in the path of “super typhoon” Mangkhut, set to make land in the Northeast of the Philippines on Saturday. (New York Times)

Thailand — The deadline for the first Thai elections to be held since the military takeover in 2014 has been set for May 2019 by the current government. (Al Jazeera)

Pakistan — This week, the new government of Pakistan removed one member of the countries EAC after a right-winged religious group forced the government to do so. The reason for his removal is because of his Ahmadi faith. (The Diplomat).

Weekly Report: 7 September 2018

In Malaysia, two women cover their faces following their caning for the ‘crime’ of homosexual activity. (AFP)

Syria

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Monday that an airstrike near a US base killed 8 pro-regime fighters. The fighters include four Syrians, one Iranian National, and three other non-Syrian casualties. There is no confirmation on who led the attack.

Under a new decree established by the Assad Government, Syrian students must finish their degree in a time allotted by the government. This means that students must finish their bachelor’s degree within 3 years, and a student cannot stay in a university past the age of 25. Further, students who have put off their degree and who have not finished courses in the appointed amount of time must be deployed in the army. Because of the new decree, there have been protests from students who wish to retain the right to postpone their military service. By law, every Syrian male must serve in the army when he turns 18, but the service only lasted between 18 months and two years prior to the Syrian war. Once the war began, there was not an end date for service, and some men have been serving for 7 years.

On Tuesday, Israeli air strikes were carried out against Iranian forces in Syria. Over the past year and a half, the Israeli Defense Force has struck more than 200 targets with the end goal of finding Iranian weapons convoys in Syria.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Russian and Syrian warplanes struck a region right outside of the northwestern part of Idlib. The attack killed 13 civilians and no rebel fighters. This came just days before Iran, Russia, and Turkey were to hold talks about the potential humanitarian disaster to occur in Idlib if the Assad regime strikes the region. The Trump administration has strongly warned that if Assad carries out a chemical weapon attack on Idlib, Washington will interfere militarily. While there is evidence of the preparation of chemical weapons, the final outcome of the future attack lays in the fate of a meeting on Friday between Assad’s allies and the rebels’ ally.

Bolivia

This weekend, collectives in opposition of Morales 2016 re-election held an eight-hour debate in order to call for a power alternative in the upcoming elections. The debate concluded with the group calling for a nationwide march as to reject Morales in the 2019 general elections. On October 25th, they will march in unity. Further, there is a call to march on October 10th to reject the Law on Political Organizations. In mobilization, they seek to have respect for the Political Constitution of the State. This was all sparked due to the MAS persistence to nominate Evo Morales again in 2019. While Morales blames the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) for the change of elections, the TSE deny being in charge of the change from 2024 elections to 2019 elections.

In response to Evo Morales’s statement, alluding that the National Association of the Press (ANP) should justify their reasoning for rejecting the bill against lying, the ANP claims that freedom of expression, press, and opinion are human rights. They claim that their crucial and elementary rights to think and express would be restricted if the bill were to pass. In the coming weeks, the Hague will make a final decision on the maritime demands between Chile and Bolivia. This week, tensions rose between the two countries after Morales accused La Moneda of canceling a meeting with the Border Committee which was supposed to be held on the 5th and 6th of this month. La Moneda stated that he stopped the meeting because he did not see it as a productive use of time.

Nicaragua

As protests continue to unfold throughout Nicaragua, Ortega’s government claims that life has begun to normalize. While President Ortega and his Vice President are making a case of a normalized society again, interviews with locals from CNN tell a different story. Reportedly, many locals still feel fearful and avoid leaving their homes at night. Further, protesters are still being treated poorly by the police. In only four months, at least 322 people have been killed due to the violent protests. 21 of the deaths have been police officers, and 23 were teenagers or children.

This Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley seeks to impose sanctions on Nicaragua due to the recent crackdown on citizens and political opponents from Ortega’s government. Haley argued before the UN Security Council that the body should involve itself in the crisis before there is further economic, security, and humanitarian disaster. So far, the governments of Russia, Bolivia, and China have blocked the Trump administration’s move.

North Korea

This Tuesday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and United States President Donald Trump confirmed their plans to discuss the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea during this month’s UN General Assembly meeting. As Moon and Trump have had vastly different reactions to the DPRK since the shift in both presidencies over 2016 and 2017, with Moon taking a more conciliatory stance and Trump taking an overwhelmingly more hostile one. It remains to be seen if the two leaders will be able to compromise strategically on their viewpoints towards North Korea.

South Korean and North Korean leadership have agreed to hold a summit on September 18th through 20th in Pyongyang, where both sides will discuss measures towards denuclearization in addition to other issues affecting the Korean peninsula. They will be reviewing the implementation of the Panmunjom Declaration and discussing its practicality, as well as methods of ensuring “joint prosperity on the Korean Peninsula,” according to South Korean official Chung Eui-yong, who lead a day-trip to Pyongyang to hold discussions regarding the summit on Wednesday.

Myanmar

The wives of two Reuters journalists, previously sentenced to prison for their role in reporting on the Rohingya genocide, appealed on Wednesday for the release of their husbands.  The two men were sentenced this past Monday to seven years of hard labor for breaking the Official Secrets Act. The women appealed directly to Aung San Suu Kyi, the Myanmar head of state, a Nobel laureate who has been lauded for her role as a human rights figure in the past. The journalists’ lawyer has stated that they are planning an appeal within the next sixty days.

In a statement to Radio Free Asia, several armed groups along with government peace commission will be meeting in southwest China to discuss potential ends to the decades of civil war that have been plaguing Malaysia. Despite these attempts, there are still ongoing ethnic clashes in the Shan and Kachin states, which has led to delays in scheduling meetings for comprehensive peace talks.

USA

As midterm elections are coming up on November 6th, President Trump accused Attorney General Jeff Sessions, along with the justice department of jeopardizing the chances of two Republican representatives. The justice department accused one of inside trading and the other of campaign violations. These accusations are seen as damaging, given there is a wrestle for control over the House of Representatives between Democrats and Republicans.

This week, the Trump administration proposed a new law which would allow US authorities to keep immigrant children detained for longer than the current 20-day limit. This comes after Trump implemented a “zero-tolerance policy” when prosecuting anybody crossing the border into the United States. Since then, more than 2,900 children have been separated from their families. The new regulations would stop the Flores settlement, enacted in 1997 which limits the amount of time that minors can be detained.

Cambodia

This Wednesday, Cambodia held its first parliamentary session since its July’s virtually uncontested general elections last month. Thanks to the dissolution of the major opposition party, the major Cambodian People’s Party holds all of the 125 parliamentary seats that were up for election in July. Representatives of democratically elected states such as Australia, the European Union, and the United States refused to attend, something that the deputy president of the forcibly dissolved CNRP opposition party Mu Sochua referred to as “significant and alarming.”

The daughter of James Ricketson, an Australian filmmaker sentenced to six years in jail for espionage in a trial that was internationally decried for showing no actual evidence of his crimes, has created a petition to call upon the Australian government to advocate for his release. Roxanne Holmes, Ricketson’s adopted daughter, is reportedly concerned for her father’s health – he is almost 70 years old and is sharing a small cell with over a hundred other people. According to Holmes, the new foreign affairs minister of Australia Marise Payne has yet to make up her mind about the handling of the case. It is expected that Ricketson’s lawyer will be lodging an appeal over the next thirty days before his window is up.

Youk Chhang, the executive director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam)  – the country’s only genocide research center – spoke with Time Magazine this week after receiving the Ramon Magsaysay award, known as Asia’s “Nobel Prize,” for his work “preserving the memory” of genocide last Friday. Chhang discussed the challenges of running DC-Cam his dreams of creating an affiliated institute to further education about genocide and his desire to seek justice, even in a country where discourse is often focused on reconciliation.

Mexico

On Tuesday, the former president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, pressed Canada to join Mexico in the new NAFTA deal with the United States. In his statement, he spoke of the two countries working together in order to confront President Trump.

On the 50th anniversary of the massacre of students during a pro-democracy movement, students at Mexico’s largest university went on strike for a separate reason. On Wednesday, two students were seriously injured after marching to end violence on campus from groups of “thugs” who are often registered on campus but do not attend classes. Further, the Monday before the march, protesters from a university-affiliated high school who were campaigning for free speech were attacked.

The Maldives

On Monday, Cambodia’s main opposition party, the Maldivian Democratic Party, released a report alleging that a company owned by a former Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) was conducting illegal fuel sales to the North Korean regime, which is currently under a series of US-led sanctions. In this dossier, the MDP also released a report that had been leaked by the MNDF, which connected the oil smuggling as high up as Maldivian President Yameen.

After the Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen claimed last month that every island making up the archipelago nation has a development project, a Maldives Independent investigation found that out of 107 island councils contacted, various projects were host to a variety of problems – including 20 projects that were discovered to be completely nonexistent. Other projects have had work stop on them entirely, and over half of the projects that did exist are currently experiencing massive delays. It was discovered that Yameen’s government is also taking responsibility for projects that were completed before he entered office, in many cases by the island’s local council.

Early on Wednesday morning, the MDP meeting hall was burnt down in a suspected arson attack barely a week after it was first built. A council member told a local media outlet that gasoline appears to have been thrown at the building from the outside, although these reports have been unconfirmed as of yet by the police investigation. This is only the latest in a series of vandalism of campaign halls and offices belonging to the opposition over the past few weeks.

Zimbabwe

This Wednesday, Zimbabwe’s new parliament was sworn in after the controversial July elections. The Zanu-PF ruling party won 145 out of 210 seats in the lower house national assembly, which is more than the two-thirds majority amount required to amend the constitution. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, took 63 seats, and just 2 seats went to independents. This comes as Zimbabwe is in the midst of a worsening economic crisis with rising unemployment and prices for basic goods.

Despite the fact that many fuel stations in Zimbabwe were found to be completely without fuel on Thursday, Zimbabwe’s reserve bank governor claimed that there is  “no fuel crisis” in Zimbabwe. The government increased fuel funds this last May to prevent another shortage, the latest of which has driven black market prices up exponentially. The increasing crisis appears to be another symptom of the current state of a faltering economy, spelling economic uncertainty for the beginning of the new presidential term. On Wednesday, it was also reported by groups such as the Grain Millers’ Association of Zimbabwe that Zimbabwe is facing an impending grain crisis, with its stock having fallen to less than a month’s supply of the usual standard of three months’ worth of grain, which analysts fear may be a beginning sign of an incoming food crisis.

Laos

Despite flooding as a result of poor dam construction last month, many of the hydroelectric dam projects in Laos have continued, particularly as hydropower has become Laos’ major national industry. Unfortunately, the construction of the dams has left many fishing villages without a sustainable source of income, as the construction of various dam projects has been notably causing the fish stock to dwindle since 2016. Laotian NGOs, such as Mekong Watch, have also warned that the hydroelectric dams are negatively impacting the flora and fauna of Laos, citing examples such as the Irrawaddy dolphin, which is endangered.

Vietnam

Due to large demonstrations, the Vietnamese government’s plans to open one of three special economic zones have been stalled until 2019. Protests against the special economic zones (SEZs) have been widespread since early June, and over 1,000 people have been arrested in cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city. The public is concerned that the SEZs represent growing Chinese influence in Vietnam; although the  SEZs do not deliberately favor Chinese investment, foreign direct investment from China has been quite widespread in recent years, and Chinese buyers have already begun to buy property and begin Chinatowns in several areas of Vietnam.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

This week, the government has a plan to end the ban on industrial logging concessions. The allowance of industrial logging would risk the safety of the world’s second largest rainforest which is the size of France.

Near the epicenter of the most recent outbreak of Ebola, two U.N. peacekeepers were wounded after being attacked in a rebel ambush. The U.N. faces challenges in containing the outbreak of Ebola, but since the disease has spread to rebel-held areas, they are finding it difficult to keep the situation under control. It is reported that 81 people have died from Ebola since July, and another 40 have been infected. 19 of these cases come from the area of Beni which is an active conflict zone and is also a border of Uganda.

Colombia

After two more social leaders were reported murdered this week, the death toll of Colombian activists and leaders has reached 158 people. The most recent victims were Oliver Herrera Camacho and Alirio Antonio Arenas Gómez, who were both presidents of their local action boards. Because murders against social leaders are continuing, the Patriotic Union Party has requested an emergency meeting with President Duque in order to confront the issue at hand.

After nearly one month of being held hostage by the National Liberation Army which follows a Marxist ideology, three soldiers have been released. The rebel group is supposedly keeping 6 other members of the security force, along with 10 civilians. Duque stated that in order to continue dialogue with the rebel group about suspending military activity in the region of Choco, as requested by ELN, they must release 19 hostages.

Venezuela

This week, President Maduro stated that he intends to increase oil prices by October. Even with the crisis in Venezuela, fuel prices are incredibly low at $1 for 400,000 gallons of fuel. This allows for an advantageous smuggling trade. Maduro says that in the meantime, he will implement a new payment system at state borders which uses state-backed identification cards when crossing into border states. This is intended to limit the smuggling. The increase in fuel prices will be the first time in 20 years that Venezuela will substantially hike prices.

ConocoPhillips, a U.S. oil producer is still waiting for Venezuela to pay the $2 billion settlement which was reached last month. CEO of Conoco, Ryan Lance suspects that Venezuela will follow through with the payment, given they have 2 further arbitration decisions with the country. This deal comes from Conoco’s deal last month to suspend legal attachments, which in turn cut Venezuela’s oil exports.

According to Business Insider, the new cryptocurrency, which President Maduro recently created has shown to be nearly worthless. The currency is supposedly backed by Venezuelan oil reserves in the Atapirire area, yet the region seems to be lacking any effort in developing said oil. There is also very little to show for a flourishing Petro trade. This evidence shows that Maduros plan to save Venezuela’s economy is failing.

Malaysia

On Monday, the two Malaysian women accused and convicted of “sexual relations between women” were caned at the Shariah High Court, despite widespread outcry from various international human rights groups – such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Within Malaysia, opinions were split – some groups claimed that under Shariah law, caning does not constitute a particularly severe punishment; the Malaysian Bar, on the other hand, claimed that caning is a “harsh and barbaric” practice. Charles Santiago, a governing-coalition lawmaker, called the punishment “outrageous,” and stated that Malaysians “need to stop targeting the LGBT community.” He would go on to call upon the Malaysian government to repeal all forms of institutional discrimination against LGBT people.

In a stark contrast to the actions of the previous regime, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has pushed back against Chinese influences and investment within Malaysia. Mahathir has been notably critical of the infrastructure projects of his predecessor, Najib Razak, who is currently awaiting trial for his involvement in the 1MDB scandal. Mahathir is reportedly considering Chinese infrastructure investments worth close to forty billion USD over the fear that these deals, conducted under Najib’s leadership, are also suspect. Mahathir is now seen as someone who is turning to the West and Japan for potential allies, something that is a stark turnabout from his first stint as Prime Minister from 1981-2003.

After a series of talks between Singapore and Malaysia, the plan to build a high-speed rail link has been delayed by two years after Prime Minister Mahathir threatened to scrap the railway completely earlier in May. It has been confirmed that Malaysia will not pay any compensation to Singapore, but instead that the two states have amicably agreed to postpone the project.

Cuba

There has been an ongoing investigation into the 26 Americans working at the U.S. Embassy in Havana. It has now been medically confirmed that each American has symptoms consistent with mild traumatic brain injury. Symptoms include cognitive difficulties such as memory loss or lack of concentration, headaches, tinnitus, and trouble sleeping. While there is not a definite answer in the cause of these symptoms, but researchers and scientists are arguing that it may be from microwave radiation. Because of the health risks, there has been a decrease in employment at the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

Other News:

Brazil — This Friday, the frontrunner for Brazil’s presidential election, Jair Bolsonaro, was stabbed during a campaign rally in Juiz de Fora. (BBC)

The Philippines — Families of eight of the victims of President Duterte’s war on drugs have filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court accusing the government of crimes against humanity and murder. (Al Jazeera)

Thailand — Thai officials arrested 12 Facebook users for sharing information related to the alleged rape of a British tourist last June. (Human Rights Watch)

Pakistan — On Wednesday, U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo visited Pakistan with a goal to “reset” relations with the former ally. (Times of India)

India — This week, India’s supreme court decriminalized gay sex. The 160-year-old ban was finally lifted; a huge upturn for the LGBTQ community. (The Guardian)

Weekly Report: 31 August 2018

Nicaraguan Refugees sleep in a San Jose church in Costa Rica. (Reuters)

Syria

This weekend, Iran and Syria signed a deal for Iran to continue military action within Syria in support of Assad’s government. Although the U.S government strongly advised Iran to withdraw last week, Iranian officials say that they do not have any future plans to disengage.

Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, it is estimated that just under 100,000 Syrians have been disappeared. According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, Assad’s Regime is responsible for just under 90 percent of those disappeared while the other 10 percent of people have gone missing due to rebel and Kurdish militants. This has left many families in distress as they are unaware of the whereabouts of their loved ones. Although, starting this past April, families have been requesting records from register offices and rights groups in hopes of receiving news about their family.

Bolivia

Over the weekend, the applicant registrations for Attorney General closed. Among the applicants, there are a total of forty-seven men and six women including former government minister Jorge Perez Valenzuela, and ex-judge Cusi. Cusi was formally dismissed from his position as a judge at the Constitutional Court due to being guilty of crimes contrary to the constitution.


On Sunday, President Evo Morales gave a speech in Cochabamba where he suggested a plan to advocate for maritime disputes at the Hague sometime between October and December. Morales has issues with the violation of Bolivia’s sovereignty, given the ongoing dispute between Bolivia and Chile. The conflict stems from Chile’s lack of recognition that Bolivia has an outlet into the Pacific Ocean. In his speech, Morales recalled that more than one Constitution of Bolivia’s neighboring states recognizes their right to the Pacific Ocean. Rodríguez Veltzé, former Bolivian president and head of the maritime conference, hopes the decision will be heard by December in front of the International Court of Justice.

Nicaragua

Since anti-Ortega protests have erupted across the country beginning in mid-April and the government began cracking down on them, more than 23,000 people have fled the country, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. An estimated 200 Nicaraguans are trying to seek asylum daily in Costa Rica. Further, there is a camp nearly a mile outside of the Costa Rican town of La Cruz where up to 2,000 people are able to stay.

This week, the UN Human Rights office in Central America received a letter from Nicaragua’s foreign ministry asking the UN to conclude its support in Nicaragua. The expulsion of UN human rights aid came after they published a report with details on the abuses and repression towards protesters from the government and from president Ortega. The UN security council plans to discuss this situation further in early September.

North Korea

This morning, the DPRK chose to release a previously detained Japanese tourist, Tomoyuki Sugimoto, who had been detained for an unspecified crime earlier this month. The Japanese government has made it clear that this would be an issue moving forward, particularly as it brings to mind past situations in which Japanese citizens have been kidnapped by the DPRK government and have yet to resurface.

According to an expert in discussion with CNBC, the United States is in a weaker place in its negotiations with the DPRK than it had been prior to the historic meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore at the beginning of the summer. Resulting from the agreements set in place, joint military exercises between the American and South Korean governments have stopped, and states have begun to exude less pressure on the DPRK.

Despite high tensions continuing between the DPRK and United States, South Korea has continued to make conciliatory gestures towards its northern counterpart. Recently, the American government stated that it would condemn attempts by South Korea to send a joint train across the border to the DPRK as part of an exploratory mission, and explicitly forbade its ally from doing so.

Myanmar

United Nations officials stated last Monday that Myanmar military leaders must face investigation for the genocide against the Rohingya in the northern Rakhine state. The United Nations report released names six different officials who it claims should be prosecuted specifically, all of whom are senior military officials. The United Nations has called upon the International Criminal Court to refer to this case, claiming that the Myanmar government’s actions in no way could ever constitute military necessity, as has been claimed by government officials. This will make it considerably more difficult for the Myanmar government to ignore the international allegations of genocide, as it has been doing for the last year.

An investigation by Facebook has revealed a covert Myanmar military propaganda campaign hosted on the social media platform, aimed at spreading information that targeted the ethnic Rohingya Muslim minority. A Facebook representative confirmed that pro-military propaganda was spread alongside false and sometimes intentionally angering content regarding the Rohingya. Facebook is currently in the process of banning the accounts, which have been definitively linked to the government.

USA

On Monday, the U.S and Mexico reached a trade deal on NAFTA. While the deal does not include the Sunset clause, which president Trump was aiming for, the negotiations ended favorably for Trump with a breakthrough allowing a raise in North American content requirement from 62.5 percent to 75 percent. While the U.S and Mexico have come to an agreement, Canada has yet to reach a deal and will not sign a new NAFTA unless it is good for Canada and its middle class.

On Friday, The Trump Administration announced that it will end all funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). Previously, the US has given about one-third of the annual budget, providing more than $350 million. UNRWA has allocated these fundings into a variety of resources which run schools and clinics for Palestinian refugees in occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza, and in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.

Cambodia

An outspoken opposition lawmaker was pardoned by royal decree over the last weekend, the first member of the now-dissolved opposition party to be freed nearly a month after premier Hun Sen won a virtually uncontested election. The opposition lawmaker, Um Sam An, is a dual Cambodian-American national, who had been charged with “inciting crime and racism” as a result of his political opinions. Despite his early release, fourteen politicians remain behind bars, and many more former opposition lawmakers have fled the country for fear of imprisonment.

This week, Cambodian officials met with the Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to discuss bilateral, multilateral, and key international issues at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Phnom Penh. Recently, India has been seeking to improve relations with Southeast Asian nations in an attempt to counter the rising regional influence of China.

Australian filmmaker James Ricketson has been sentenced to six years in jail for espionage in Cambodia, despite the fact that the prosecution did not even identify the country for which he was allegedly spying. In a pre-election video, the Cambodian government claimed that Ricketson was part of a vast international conspiracy, backed by Americans, to overthrow the government led by Prime Minister Hun Sen. Human Rights Watch has condemned the sentencing, and Ricketson’s lawyer has stated that he will be appealing the decision.

Mexico

Mexico’s Congress has opened up their first session under the new president-elect, Andres Manuel Lopez. The new Congress plans to make some changes, including tackling new policies against corruption and creating policies towards energy reform. The new Congress is different than its predecessors given its left-wing majority and an equal number of men and women. This is the first time in Mexico’s history where there is the same number of men and women in Congress.

This week, Mexico and the U.S came to a conclusion on their NAFTA deal. While the U.S and Canada continue to discuss bilateral agreements, Mexico will wait to participate in any necessary trilateral deals.

The Maldives

After floats seeming to depict the 9/11 attacks in New York City in a tongue-in-cheek manner were displayed during Eid festivities, an event organizer claimed that the display was predominantly “educational.” This is another concerning event given the trend of radicalization in the Maldives, which has been on an upward trend in recent years and caused concern among members of the international community. One US-based security and risk management firm claims that there are at least 200-250 radicals from the Maldives are known to be fighting in Syria and Iraq at this time.

The opposition presidential candidate in the upcoming elections has raised concerns regarding corruption and embezzlement in relation to infrastructure championed by the current government regime. Opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said that the government is refusing to look at the “dark” side of the projects, specifically as it appears that firms are bidding far more than the actual market value of the construction itself – and the proposals were in many cases given to the most expensive bids on the construction contracts.

Zimbabwe

This Monday, Emmerson Mnangagwa was officially sworn in as the President of Zimbabwe, claiming that he hoped to act as a servant to the citizens of the state. Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa has been protesting the results of the election, claiming with his supporters that the results had been doctored. After the Constitutional Court threw out Chamisa’s challenge, however, protests calmed, with many Zimbabwean citizens fearing a return of violence and instead hoping to move on with their lives.

Despite having been sworn in without much incident, Mnangagwa is facing his first challenge as president as he is under pressure to select a new cabinet. Party officials are reportedly trying to gain the president’s favor in hopes of being appointed, and others are attempting to pressure the president to take on people who provide skills that the new regime desperately needs. One of the election promises made by Mnangagwa was to ax underperforming ministers, something that he has yet to follow through on.   

Laos

In the Luang Prabang province of Laos, flooding has killed at least 6 people after heavy rainfall over the past weekend. Other northern provinces have been faced with torrential rains, and many worry that residents of these provinces will soon be running out of food and potable water if the situation is to continue. Sources claim that many primary and secondary schools across the country have also been flooded, and will be unable to open for the start of the school year.

Vietnam

Amid a crackdown on political prisoners and free speech, Human Rights Watch has called upon the Australian government to press Vietnamese officials to cease the systematic abuses of the public as the 15th Australia-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue approached. Over the past few months, Vietnamese officials have arrested and sentenced dissidents, religious activists, and protesters over perceived opposition to the government.

Despite the fact that freedom of assembly is completely legal in Vietnam, little dissent is tolerated; Vietnam has begun to prepare for the upcoming National Day by sending police and military forces to the capital, in an effort to prevent big gatherings and protests during the holiday next week. Vietnam also demanded this week that Monsanto pay compensation to victims of Agent Orange, which was used by the United States military during the Vietnam War.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

This weekend, former vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba was banned from entering the presidential election. Bemba submitted his application in early August. Prior, he had spent 11 years in exile after being guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the early 2000’s. Now, Bemba has been formally banned for upcoming elections due to his conviction of bribing witnesses at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. According to Congolese law, people declared guilty of corruption are not able to run for office.

On Tuesday, a former Congolese militant leader was put on trial in the Hague. Named “the Terminator”, Bosco Ntaganda faced 18 charges of crimes against humanity including murder, rape, sexual slavery, and conscripting child soldiers, all during his time with the Union of Congolese Patriots  (UPC) in 2002-2003. Given the amount of case material, there is not yet a date set for Ntagandas final verdict.

Colombia

On Sunday, August 26th, an electoral vote campaigning for anti-corruption within the Colombian government came up just shy of one-third of all voters. In order for the seven proposals for referendums to pass, the vote cast nationwide needed 12.1 million votes, but only 11.7 million ballots were in favor of the change. Changes would include more transparency within the government and penalties committed by white-collar criminals. While the votes were not enough, it came incredibly close. This showed to be a positive step forward, showing a clear and popular message that citizens want to see laws promoting anti-corruption. In response, president Duque urged lawmakers to move forward with reforms.

This week, Colombian President Duque has followed up with a decision made by Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Paraguay in April to temporarily suspend their involvement in the pan-South American UNASUR bloc. In 2008, the 12 member group was created in order to promote political and economic union, but since Venezuela is a member of the bloc, Duque is attempting to use this diplomatic approach by exiting in order to isolate the Venezuela regime. The ballooning influx of Venezuelans in Colombia is stretching social services and creating fears of unrest. Duque states that “if the dictatorship does not end, the migration will not stop.”

Venezuela

The UN reports that the Venezuelan migration crisis is beginning to look similar to the Mediterranean crisis situation seen in 2015. Due to its neighboring countries creating stricter border regulations in an effort to stop the fleeing migration, there are fears that this situation could become further catastrophic. More than 2 million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2014, with thousands trying to cross borders every single day.

Malaysia

On Monday, Malaysia made the decision to disallow foreigners from buying residential units in the costly Forest City infrastructure project, which was revived after the shock victory of Mahathir Mohamad in presidential elections this past May. Under the previous corrupt regime, the building had been hugely attractive to Chinese investors; however, it has been made clear that this infrastructure project is now for Malaysians themselves.

On Wednesday, a former spy chief was taken into custody over the alleged theft of funds that had meant to be used for May’s general elections. The man in question, Hashanah Abdul Hamid, was an ally of the former president who is now under suspicion for corruption. He is under investigation for misuse of power.

Cuba

This weekend, Cuban artists held a protest against a new law that allows censorship. As seen in Decree 349 in the Official Gazette, the Culture Ministry tries to regulate art that is not sponsored by the government. This bars independent artists from displaying their work in private and public areas and stops them from being paid for their work. Further, the Decree allows artists to be fined for displaying their art if they do not have government permission. The law will come into effect in December, although the Culture Ministry has not given an explanation for their new sanction. The artists who protested this weekend were arrested, meanwhile others are signing online petitions and creating open letters in order to advocate against Decree 349.

Other News:

Poland — Polish President Duda stated this week that the countries Supreme Court needs a new president, even though her term is not yet over. President Duda is searching for someone to replace 65-year-old Gersdorf. (FoxNews)

The Philippines — Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte came under fire once again for his offensive statements about sexual assault this Thursday, stating that “As long as there are many beautiful women, there will be more rape cases.” (Independent)

Thailand — Human Rights Watch called upon Thai authorities to release recently arrested refugees and asylum speakers, many of whom have officially recognized UN refugee status. (Human Rights Watch)

Pakistan — This weekend, the US ended $300 million worth of funding towards Pakistan. Washington claims that Pakistan has failed to hold militant groups accountable for their actions. (The Guardian)

Bangladesh — On Tuesday, the leader of the UN along with diplomats from major Western countries called for action against generals in Myanmar for genocide charges. (New York Times)