October 2019 — CANVAS

Weekly Report November 1, 2019

Myanmar  This Wednesday, two satirical performers from the group “Peacock Generation” were given one-year prison sentences after they were found to be mocking Myanmar’s military. The performers, who were arrested back in April and May, were performing “thangyat” – a traditional show of poetry and dance that has historically been used to mock the country’s leaders since the 19th century. Live-streamed on Facebook, the performance channeled popular anger about the military’s control over the economy. After being held for months at Yangon’s Insein prison and denied bail, the performers have become a symbol for the dire state of freedom of expression in Myanmar. The remaining performers, who face additional charges of defamation, still await their sentences which will be given next month.  Cambodia  Cambodian officials have continued to prepare for the expected return of exiled political leader Sam Rainsy on November 9th. Though there has been speculation as to whether Rainsy will be able to get into Cambodia, the Interior Minister has nonetheless prepared local policymakers for future arrest efforts; he has asked all governors to be present on the weekend of November 9th in order to ensure that Rainsy does not go undetected.   The friendly relations between China and Cambodia were underlined this week by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s praise for Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni. During the celebration of his 15th coronation anniversary, Jinping congratulated Sihamoni for fostering national unity and development in Cambodia. The leaders have a long history of mutual commendation.   Thailand The United States has decided to suspend Thailand’s exemption from trade tariffs due to labor issues. Thai authorities have 6 months to negotiate with...

Weekly Report 25 October, 2019

Myanmar  Last Friday, Myanmar state counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi stated that, despite recent international attention, the Myanmar people will seek to resolve the Rakhine crisis on its own without foreign intervention. This remark from Myanmar’s de facto leader follows nearly a year of escalated conflict between the Tatmadaw and the predominantly Buddhist Arakan Army, which seeks more autonomy in Rakhine state.  This week, Myanmar fisherman discovered approximately US$20 million of methamphetamine sacks floating off of Myanmar’s coast. One of the world’s largest producers of Crystal Meth, Myanmar’s drug industry is a significant contributor to Southeast Asia’s drug trade, netting more than US$60 billion a year according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Crystal Meth is often smuggled out of Myanmar to more lucrative markets such as Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Japan, South Korea and Australia. The failed large-scale drug operation is the second of this year, with Myanmar authorities seizing over US$26 million in Crystal Meth in March. Cambodia Sam Rainsy, the former leader of the opposition party in Cambodia has recently announced a planned return to the country. The exiled politician’s plans may be in jeopardy, however, as his colleague from the opposition party was barred from entering Thailand this week. Despite the dwindling likelihood of Rainsy being able to return to Cambodia, officials in the country have started to train riot police to combat protests. Cambodian leaders have dubbed Rainsy and his followers traitors and Prime Minister Hun Sen has promised that Rainsy will be arrested should he return.  Maldives This Monday, Maldivian minister Ahmed Sameer was accused of intimidating Anti-Corruption Commission president...

Weekly Report 18 October, 2019

Myanmar In Kachin state, Myanmar’s Arakan army has picked up recruitment efforts in light of ongoing clashes with Myanmar forces and failed cease-fire talks. The Arakan Army has set up multiple training camps in Kachin state, home to fellow Northern Alliance member, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). Currently, the Arakan Army allegedly possesses 7,000 troops. The goal of the Arakan Army is self-autonomy and control over their territory in Northern Myanmar.   Cambodia As the return of famed opposition leader Sam Rainsy nears, Cambodian officials have escalated the repression of his supporters. This year, at least 27 members of the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) have been arrested, facing five to ten years in prison. In the case of civil servants found conspiring against Prime Minister Hun Sen, a life sentence will be given. Social Media and private phone calls have been closely monitored by Cambodian officials, leading to the increase of arrests within the CNRP’s critical ranks.  Maldives Maldivian Chief Justice Ahmed Abdulla Didi stated on Wednesday that the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) lacks the constitutional mandate to investigate Supreme Court justices over the top court’s decisions, despite its intention to launch an independent investigative probe. The JSC planned to examine 17 instances where the Supreme Court allegedly violated the constitution or usurped the powers of state institutions. However, neither the legitimacy nor constitutionality of Supreme Court decisions could be undermined, as it would impede the independence and freedom of the court, according to Chief Justice Didi.  Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih affirmed on Wednesday that criticism of Islam and the use of religion to create discord will...

Weekly Report 11 October, 2019

Myanmar Myanmar Investments International, a London-based firm, has pulled its foreign investments from Myanmar amid instability and conflict in the Rakhine region. One of several investors to withdraw from Myanmar since 2017, MII’s move represents the lack of confidence in the country’s future. In addition to the fallout from the Rakhine conflict, former investors have cited Myanmar’s fragile domestic banking system as grounds for withdrawal. Foreign investment is expected to drop significantly in the coming months and years as Myanmar becomes further enveloped in civil unrest.  This Week, 30 Rohingya Muslims were arrested in Myanmar while trying to travel from Rakhine State to the city of Yangon without official travel documents. According to Human Rights Watch, police arrested the group of Rohingya and sentenced 21 of them to two years in prison, while eight children were sent to a child detention center. The youngest, a five-year-old, is being held in prison with his mother. This incident is an addition to a long list of discriminatory arrests that target Rohingya in Myanmar, inhibiting their freedom of movement.  Cambodia   This Monday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened to deploy the military if opposition leaders from the dissolved CNRP return next month, as he would consider it an attempted coup. Specifically, opposition Sam Rainsy is expected to return to the country following his self-exile. Rainsy has repeatedly called for a revolution due to Hun Sen’s abuse of power and unwillingness to hold free and fair elections. This Monday, the Prime Minister ordered police forced to “Attack wherever [supporters] are seen, there is no need to wait for an arrest warrant or...

Weekly Report 4 October, 2019

Myanmar This Tuesday, the UN’s refugee agency released a report regarding Myanmar’s refugee crisis. Figures provided demonstrated an increase in the ratio of deaths or missing persons of refugees or asylum seekers who embarked on a sea journey: an increase from one in every 81 refugees or asylum seekers in 2013 – 2015 to one in every 69 refugees or asylum seekers. The report also indicated that previously most of these refugees or asylum seekers’ deaths were a result of people smugglers and caused by “beating, gunshot wounds or deprivation of food and water.” However, recently the report showed that most deaths of Myanmar’s refugees and asylum seekers were attributed to sea journeys. Of these maritime movements, approximately 59% of individuals embarking on sea journeys were women or children. This increase in women or children sea voyagers corresponds with the increase in women or children Myanmar refugees or asylum seekers seeking safety in Bangladesh. The report found that four out of five Myanmar refugees or asylum seekers seeking safety in Bangladesh were women or children, a great increase from  2013 – 2015 when most individuals seeking refuge in Bangladesh were men. Cambodia A Cambodian judge ruled on Thursday that the espionage case against journalists Uon Chhin and Yeang Sotearin needed reinvestigation due to a lack of evidence to convict. Chhin and Sotearin were accused two years ago in 2017 for “supplying information to a foreign state” during a government crackdown on political and media opponents. This accusation sprouted from the journalists working for Radio Free Asia, a US funded broadcasting organization. The decision for reinvestigation angered human rights activists who reasoned if there is a lack of evidence to convict the charges should...