Weekly Report November 1, 2019

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 the U.S. over the decision, and Thai officials have voiced optimism for upcoming talks. Despite the potentially negative impact of the change in tariffs, Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha expressed that Thailand harbors no ill will towards the United States and emphasized that relations between the two countries will remain positive regardless of the outcomes. 

The Thai political party Future Forward has been dealt a severe blow in membership following the resignation of 120 major members. Future Forward’s leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, has admitted the party has made mistakes following various complaints and court cases. 

Laos

A dam collapse in Laos has caused widespread flooding and the death of at least 19 people. Rescue efforts are underway while thousands of people remain in flooded areas. Over 6,000 people are estimated to have lost their homes due to the collapse. 

A strain of drug-resistant malaria has spread to Laos and surrounding countries, causing concern from the international community. Studies and efforts to create effective medication are ongoing. 

Vietnam

Vietnamese families are mourning the deaths of  39 migrants found dead in a truck after attempting to reach the UK. As more details emerge around the migration path and the backgrounds of the migrants, the reality of Vietnamese trafficking is brought into focus. Though the country has become a leading example for economic development in South East Asia on paper, many still fall victim to extreme poverty and seek escape by any means necessary. According to Britain’s ambassador to Vietnam, Vietnam is a major source of human trafficking victims into Britain, the second-highest after Albania. The New York Times reports that Nghe An and Ha Tinh, two of Vietnam’s poorest provinces, supply much of the trade. Officials in Ha Tinh estimate more than 41,000 people left the province in the first eight months of 2019 alone.

Malaysia 

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad worries Malaysia could be caught in the middle of a US-China trade war and become a target for sanctions. Mahathir shared how “economically [they] are linked to both markets, and physically [they] are also caught in between for geographical reasons.” The US and China are the second and third largest exporters of Malaysian goods, closely following Singapore at the top. In an effort to ease the impact of potential sanctions, Malaysia has started to collaborate more with its regional neighbors.

Mahathir also expressed his anger concerning being bullied by European countries. His complaint was in relation to a European campaign against Malaysian palm oil. Last year, Malaysian palm oil accounted for 4.5 percent of its exports. However, the European Union actively criticizes the agricultural mainstay of palm oil because of deforestation concerns. This year, the EU has passed an act that aims to “phase out palm oil for renewable fuels by 2030.” In response to this act, Mahathir condemned it and commented the act will only “impoverish the poor by preventing them from… earning a living.”

North Korea

This week, KCNA, a North Korean state news agency, warned that the US-North Korean ties are endangered. Diplomatic relationships remain threatened, as the year-long deadline for “close personal relations” is pushed off by Washington. Kim Joung-un shared in a statement on Monday that the US is pressuring North Korea in a “more crafty and vicious way”. The North Korean envoy for nuclear talks between the US and North Korea, Kim Yong-chol, added that “there can be an exchange of fire at any moment.” Kim Yong-chol, in accordance with the North Korean government, believe there to be no permanent friends of North Korea; the United States is no exception. 

Hong Kong

Hong Kong has officially slipped into an economic recession following months of protests. The demonstrations have hit tourism and retail, and many firms are reportedly considering pulling their offices from the city. Hong Kong’s recession is the first in ten years for the region, and has left financial analysts worrying about global repercussions. Protests are ongoing and show no sign of stopping in the near future.  

Libya

This week, Transport Minister Milad Maatoug announced the gradual reopening of Libya’s Mitiga airport. The Mitiga airport is the only functional airport in Tripoli. However, after the attacks of Khalifa Haftar’s forces two months ago, the airport was forced to shut down. Haftar’s forces are angered by Maatoug’s announcement to reopen Mitiga airport, because they believe the airport will be used for military purposes. However, UN special envoy Ghassan Salame assured that the Mitiga airport will not be used for military purposes and “there is no excuse for it to be a military target.” 

Iran

The U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar and four other Gulf States have issued sanctions against 25 individuals, corporations and banks composing a financing network controlled connected to Iran’s military and to  Hezbollah. The sanctions were declared in tandem with an announcement from Israeli Air Force chief Amikam Norkin on Wednesday, who referenced the activation of air defense systems amid a general threat of attack from Iran. The Israel Defense Forces believes Iran is likely to retaliate against targeted airstrikes in the coming weeks, which could take the form of a large-scale attack involving cruise missiles and attack drones, similar to the strike on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco petroleum facility attributed to Iran. 

This week, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameni blamed the United States and its allies for spreading “insecurity and turmoil” in Iraq and Lebanon, urging anti-government protesters in both countries to seek changes in a “lawful way”.

Iraq

Late Wednesday night, rockets were fired into Baghdad’s Green Zone, killing one member of Iraq’s security forces. The Green Zone houses Iraq’s government buildings and foreign embassies, including the United States embassy which was within 100 meters of the blast. Wednesday’s attack followed six consecutive days of anti-government protests that have shaken Baghdad and several key cities across the country. Iraqi security forces have reportedly fired tear gas and live ammunition at protestors trying to penetrate the heavily fortified Green Zone. According to Iraq’s semi-formal human rights commission, approximately 100 people have been killed and more than 5,000 injured since Friday, when protests resumed after a three week lull. Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi is likely to resign in the coming days amid mounting pressure, and call for an early election. 

Syria 

Intense military clashes have erupted between Syrian and Turkish forces when Turkish-backed forces seized villages surrounding the border town Ras Al-Ain. The clashes have spurred thousands more civilians to flee the area. On Thursday, American forces patrolled part of Syria’s border with Turkey, a first such move since Washington withdrew troops from the area earlier this month. Additionally, at least eight people were killed early on Thursday when a car bomb exploded in a busy market in the northwest Syrian city of Afrin, currently under the control of Turkey-backed rebel groups, witnesses said. The blast also wounded at least 30 people. The violence follows separate deals struck between Ankara, Washington and Moscow, which determined that Kurdish forces would be pushed back at least 30 km south of the Syrian-Turkish border. 

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s central bank has announced that a new currency will be released in upcoming weeks as a response to liquidity shortages. The highest amount on the new currency will be five Zimbabwean dollars, in response to hyperinflation in the country. The inflation rate was reported at 350% in September, before the Finance Minister forbid the statistical department from publishing inflation numbers. There has been speculation as to whether the new currency will aid Zimbabwe or if the nation will be unable to maintain the value of the currency moving forward. 

Cuba

This Friday, the Trump administration banned all flights from the US to Cuban cities, with the exception of Havana. The ban was brought forth in an effort to reverse the normalization of relations made by the Obama administration.  The reasoning behind the ban is to prevent American tourism, which was already banned by law in the US. The Deputy Assistant Director for Cuba and Venezuela shared her that her office “wants to make sure that Cuban-Americans do have a route to their families” and assures that Havana is equipped to take all incoming traffic. However, this ban is likely to affect Cuban-Americans visiting their families more than tourists. Many Cuban-Americans have families far outside Havana, while most tourists, whether American or not, chose to travel to Havana.

Nicaragua 

The Ortega regime has announced that the Ministry of Finance will serve as the sole arm of government purchasing. This consolidation of purchasing power under Ortega exemplifies the continued efforts by the President to gain more control over Nicaragua. In response to his actions, a university group has organized a “March of Mockery” that intends to criticize Ortega through satire. The police have denied permission for the march to take place, leading many to worry that violence will break out should the demonstration happen. Last year’s violent response by police to peaceful protest left 328 civilians dead. 

Russia

This Thursday, Russia successfully tested an intercontinental missile in the White Sea. The missile was fired from the Prince Vladimir submarine and reportedly traveled thousands of kilometers starting in the White Sea and reaching the north-western Arkhangelsk region. This test-firing acts as a powerful reminder that the Russian nuclear defense system is modernized and of large scale. The firing of this missile was just “one of many weapons tests expected to take place in the coming weeks.” Russia has also announced its plan to build 10 more submarines similar to that of the Prince Vladimir submarine by 2027. 

United States

President Trump announced earlier this week that the leader of ISIS Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed by American forces. Trump described Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as “a sick and depraved man” and shared how he “died like a coward”. Observers believe this raid to be largely political, in an effort to obvert unwanted attention gained by Trump’s withdrawal in Northeastern Syria. Trump received bipartisan criticism for his decision to withdraw.  He has been accused of abandoning Kurdish allies, allowing Russia to strengthen its influence in the Middle East and enabling ISIS prisoners with a means to escape. Regardless of political moves, Trump has flaunted this “termination” revealing he insisted on capturing al-Baghdadi and the military complied: “I want al-Baghdadi, get him, and they got him.”

Weekly Report 25 October, 2019

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 Mariyam Shiuna, who is currently investigating a Maldivian state minister following a corruption complaint. Sameer denied the allegations of undue influence, and told media outlets that although he did call the ACC chief, it was a non-threatening call and did not interfere with the investigation. 

Later on Monday, the Maldivian Parliament approved the appointment of veteran journalist Hussain Fiyaz Moosa as the new information commissioner. Moosa was previously the CEO of Raajje TV, and was overwhelmingly elected from among nine individuals nominated by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. In years past, Moosa has faced several criminal charges as a journalist while covering events of significant public interest. Moosa has long been an advocate for freedom of speech and freedom of the press. 

Thailand 

Two small Thai parties have formed a coalition to increase influence; the Thai Forest Conservation Party and the Palang Thong Thin Thai Party have allied and have invited other small parties to join them. Together, the two parties have a combined 5 of 125 seats in the House; though their influence remains limited, the alliance indicates a shift in the dynamics of Thai politics. 

The Thai King has stripped his consort of all her titles and has fired six senior officials in the palace. The King has cited “evil actions” and disloyalty by the officials and consort, though no further details have been released. The royal family of Thailand is fully protected from defamation of any form in Thai media, though the current scandal has gained significant attention from domestic and international news outlets. 

Vietnam

Following several months of tension, a Chinese oil survey vessel named the “Haiyang Dizhi 8” left Vietnamese waters on Thursday morning, accompanied by a Chinese escort. The vessel’s presence in Vietnam’s region of the South China Sea represents China’s widespread attempt to delegitimize its neighbors’ claims to the territory. According to Ha Hoang Hop, a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, it is likely that China will “send an oil rig to drill” in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone in the coming months, in partnership with Russian oil giant Rosneft. 

Malaysia

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir’s public criticism of India’s handling of the Kashmir region has resulted in a so called “trade war” between Malaysia and India. This week, India announced its boycott on Malaysian palm oil. India is Malaysia’s third largest exporter of palm oil and just last year India’s exports in palm oil and palm-based products amounted to 1.63 billion US dollars. In response to the palm oil boycott, Malaysia is seriously “considering raising imports of raw sugar and buffalo meat from India.” Despite the heightened tensions between Malaysia and India, Mahathir has defended his criticism of India’s handling of the Kashmir region, saying “We speak our minds, and we don’t retract or change.”  

North Korea

This week, North Korean leader Kim Jung-un visited the Mount Kumgang tourist zone. The Mount Kumgang tourist zone, which opened in 1998, was initially operated by both North and South Korea. The shared tourist zone was built in an effort to build trust between the two nations. Approximately one million South Koreans visited Mount Kumgang before all tourism halted in 2008. Tourism halted after a South Korean tourist was shot dead by a North Korean soldier because he had entered restricted territory. On his visit, Kim Jung-un called for the destruction of all South Korean built facilities in the tourist zone. He called these facilities “unpleasant looking” and wanted North Korean “modern service facilities” to be built in their place. The North Korean leader’s actions are believed to be retaliation against South Korea’s continued “refusal to break ranks with the United States.” South Korea has responded by voicing their commitment for peace between the North and the South.

Hong Kong

Authorities in Hong Kong have formally withdrawn the extradition bill that sparked city-wide protests in March. The withdrawal is unlikely to alter the course of ongoing demonstrations, as protestors have emphasized that officials must meet all 5 demands to quell discontent. Hong Kongers have come out in support of the Catalonian people, who are fighting for independence from Spain; many Hong Kong protesters see Catalonian demonstrators as fighting for similar ideals. The sentiment was mirrored in Barcelona when 100 Catalonians gathered outside the Chinese consulate to voice support for Hong Kong. 

Libya

This week, survivors of an airstrike on a Tripoli migrant detention center spoke with BBC correspondent Orla Guerin. The survivors of the airstrike, which killed “53 migrants and refugees”, shared that they are still trapped in Tripoli four months after the attack. They believe the United Nations to have failed and abandoned them. The UN has rejected “scores of refugee relocation requests, including women and children previously held in Libyan government-run detention centers where they were allegedly subject to abuse.” Also, the UN has rejected asylum seekers who were originally hosted in a transit center in Tripoli by the UN refugee agency. These rejected asylum seekers were then asked to leave the facility. 

On Thursday, in reaction to the UN’s rejection of refugee relocation requests 40 people came to protest at the UNHCR’s Gathering and Departure Facility. These protesters held signs that read, “Refugees want peace not rejection” and “We need a system of appeal.” Protesters who spoke with Al Jazeera shared that just last week, 87 applications for refugee relocation requests were rejected. The UNHCR has responded to the protest via an emailed statement, which read there are “simply not enough evacuation and resettlement places available.” 

Sudan

Thousands of peaceful protesters have taken to the streets of Khartoum to call for the dissolution of former leader Omar al-Bashir’s political party. The demonstrations additionally called for justice concerning the killings of protesters by the Transitional Military Council (TMC) earlier this year. Many members of the TMC have been integrated into the current transitional government, as part of a deal struck between military leader and activist groups. As the road towards democracy continues for Sudan, many are looking to the United States to remove the country from its terrorist list. Once this is done, there will be heightened prospects for trade between the US and Sudan; though the US has not voiced the intention of removing Sudan from the list in the near future, Sudanese policy-makers remain optimistic due to recent friendly talks with the country.  

Iran

Reports surfaced this week describing the amputation of a man’s fingers on Wednesday by Iranian authorities after he was convicted of 28 counts of theft. Though such reports are rare, they spurred intense responses from human rights activists, criticizing the allowance of amputation under Iran’s penal code. Despite protests from human rights groups, Iranian authorities defended the practice, stating that amputation is the most effective way to deter theft and other crimes. 

Experts predict an imminent escalation of violence between Iran and Israel in the coming weeks, following clashes in August and September. Iran, which attempted to smuggle precision weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon and deploy advanced weapons systems in Syria and Iraq, faced targeted strikes from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). The Iranian government is reportedly not deterred by the strikes, and allegedly plans to respond to every Israeli attack with a “swift military response”.

Iraq

Iraqi protesters were met with live ammunition and tear gas by police this Friday, causing the death of two civilians and injuring over two hundred. The protests come after a three-week hiatus in demonstrations; the Iraqi people started to organize protests in response to high rates of employment, corruption in the government and low quality of life. Past demonstrations have also turned deadly, as police forces have employed the use of live ammunition on multiple occasions.  

Syria

On Thursday, Russian forces deployed in northeastern Syria to help facilitate the removal of Kurdish fighters from the Turkish-Syrian border, with nearly 300 officers still to arrive. The joint goal of Russian and Syrian forces in the operation is to push Kurdish fighters 30 km into Syria, as outlined by a deal  between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Brokered on Tuesday, the deal sealed the return of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces along the northeastern border for the first time in several years. The deal also marked Moscow’s deepening influence in the region, just two weeks following the United States’ withdrawal from northeastern Syria. Over the last two weeks, at least 120 Syrians have died in the clashes, 176,000 people have been displaced, 20 Turkish civilians have died, and at least 100 ISIS fighters have escaped from captivity in Syria. 

Zimbabwe

The power cuts in Zimbabwe have continued to spread and have been increased to up to 18 hours a day without power. The state-owned electricity plant has announced that it will be cutting power to mines, farms and civilians while it attempts to collect payment; the electricity company is reportedly owed $77 million by the people of Zimbabwe, though it appears the state-controlled apparatus will not take into account the 320% increase in electricity tariffs, the crippled economy, lowered wages and severe drought when seeking payment. 

Wildlife activists in Zimbabwe have responded to the deaths of 70 elephants within the national parks. The elephants have been starving to death due to the drought affecting the region. Activists brought 9,000 bales of hay to the elephant habitats in aims of keeping the animals alive. 

Cuba

Last Friday, the US once again imposed new sanctions on Cuba. The sanctions were imposed because of  Cuba’s continued support for Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro. Licenses for aircraft leases have been canceled and future applications will no longer be considered for all Cuban state-owned airlines. Sanctions on foreign goods with US content have also been broadened.  US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross shared that “this action by the Commerce Department sends another clear message to the Cuban regime.” Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canal responded to the increased sanctions on Twitter, commenting that the harshened sanctions were “inhuman, cruel, unfair and genocidal.” 

Venezuela

On Thursday, Venezuela was elected to one of two seats allotted for Latin America on the United Nations Human Rights Council. Despite Venezuela’s lengthy record of human rights abuses, the country was elected to the prestigious council with 105 votes out of the 193 member body. As of 2019, approximately  4.5 million Venezuelans have fled the country due to economic and social collapse, as President Nicolás Maduro has deployed the military to snuff out dissent, opposition activists and  journalists. Human rights defenders are often jailed, while security forces loyal to Maduro commit abuses while enjoying impunity. According to Rodolfo Montes de Oca, a lawyer at Provea, a Venezuelan rights group, the inclusion of Venezuela on the Council “marks a backwards step in the advancement of human rights in the region”.  

Nicaragua 

President Daniel Ortega was recently found to have topped 2019’s global list of deadliest active administrations against social activism; thus far, 328 civilian protestors have died this year in direct relation to crackdowns by the Nicaraguan dictator. Ortega’s actions have pushed organizations like Human Rights Watch to lobby for increased international pressure; the NGO recently appealed to the European Union to reiterate a proposed outline for pressing sanctions against the Ortega regime. The sanctions aim to immobilize key figures and cripple the financial support structure of the administration. In an effort to secure the standing of the regime, Ortega has put a significant portion of national funds towards security of the regime’s elite. Police budgeting shows that roughly 10 million USD will be dedicated to protecting senior political leaders while 1.5 million USD has been given to road safety. 

Russia

This week, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reached an accord concerning the Turkish offensive in Northeastern Syria. The accord stipulates that the Kurds in Northeastern Syria be pushed back 19 miles from the Turkish-Syrian border. It also called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces to be placed alongside the Northeastern Syrian border. This is the first time in many years that Bashar al-Assad’s forces have entered the de facto autonomous Kurdish region in Northeastern Syria. Russia has also deployed troops in the northeastern border town of Kobane, in an effort to “drive out Kurdish fighters”. In all, the accord strengthens Russia’s influence in the Middle East in the wake of US absence.  

United States 

Despite the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Northeastern Syria two weeks ago, the Pentagon announced on Friday that troops and heavily armored tanks will be deployed to northeastern Syria in order to secure oil fields from ISIS fighters. The planned reinforcement will take place in coordination with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), contrasting the alleged severed alliance between the U.S. and the SDF. Specific details were not provided on how many or what kind of forces would be sent. The policy reversal comes as a shock to the public, seeing as President Trump has adamantly defended his decision to withdraw from Syria, stating on Wednesday that the U.S. should not fight over the “long blood-stained sand” of the Middle East. 

Other News: 

Lebanon

Following a televised address to the public on Thursday, Lebanon’s President Michael Aoun said that he was willing to meet demonstrators calling for Lebanon’s post-civil war leadership to be held accountable for years of corruption and economic mismanagement. However, protesters have rejected both the peace talks and the recently unveiled reform package. Both were found to be unsatisfactory to demonstrators seeing as neither “fulfill the needs of the people”. Despite fears of economic collapse, the protests have crossed sectarian lines and are projected to continue until the government and political elite formally address their role in weak economic growth, high unemployment and gross mismanagement of national funds. 

Ecuador 

On Wednesday, Ecuador’s indigenous movement said that it paused talks with President Lenin Moreno because of the government’s “persecution” of the group’s leaders since a halt to violent anti-austerity protests. The negotiations, which proceeded after President Moreno abandoned an IMF-backed plan to terminate fuel subsidies last week, quickly soured as the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) members felt persecuted. According to Ecuadorian authorities, seven people died, several hundred suffered injuries and more than 1,000 people were arrested during the protests, which began on October 3. The government has expressed concern about a return to violence after the deterioration of the negotiations. 

Chile

This week, protests have broken out in Santiago, Chile centering around raises in the cost of living. The largest chant heard from the protesters and written on protesters’ signs is: “Chile has woken up”. Many protesters also criticize the growing inequality in Chile. One shared, “We need to share a piece of the pie with everyone and have a better Chile.” 

So far, 18 Chileans have died from the protests and a state of emergency has been declared. On Tuesday, Chilean President Pinera publicly apologized on national television and “announced some concessions including higher wages and an increase in pensions, as well as higher taxes for the rich.” In the Global News Podcast by the BBC World Service these concessions were considered to be achievements of “people power”. Despite the reforms, protests have continued and calls for the President’s resignation have been issued. For a state in which military rule ended just 30 years ago, many worry about its possible return in the wake of a state of emergency and increased military presence.

Weekly Report 18 October, 2019

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 continue to be illegal, warranting punishment from the government. 

Thailand

This Thursday, Thai opposition Future Forward Party protested the transfer of two Army units to the command of Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn, citing the move as inconsistent with the laws of the constitutional monarchy. A leader of the Future Forward Party,  Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, stated that the royal decree unjustly used emergency provisions to bypass parliament, despite its confirmation by a majority of lawmakers this Thursday. The disagreement has heightened tensions in Thailand’s struggle between military and democratic rule, in which pro-military and royalist supporters have portrayed their opponents as threats to the monarchy. 

Vietnam

This Tuesday, Vietnamese President and Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong called for restraint in the disputed South China Sea amid a tense stand-off involving Chinese ships. Tensions escalated this summer when Beijing deployed a research ship to conduct an energy survey in waters controlled by Vietnam. Though President Trong assured the public that Vietnam and China maintain good relations, the rising tensions represent challenges to Vietnamese sovereignty and security. The announcement comes after Dreamworks movie ‘Abominable’ was pulled from theaters this week due to its feature of a map that validates China’s claim to the South China Sea, negating Vietnam’s legal claim to the territory. 

Malaysia

In a video documentary by Al Jazeera’s Florence Looi,  Malaysian fish farmers and activists call on the government to improve marine pollution. Malaysia’s marine pollution has been affecting fish farmers in Northern Malaysia, causing them financial losses. In coming years, marine pollution is only expected to worsen, raising concerns among Malaysian fish farmers for further financial losses. 

The creation of artificial islands has also sparked outrage among fish farmers. Proposed artificial islands will cover approximately 18 square kilometers.  The most controversial artificial island is expected to be built in the center of rich fishing grounds, where farmers catch the majority of their fish, prawns and crabs. This construction would likely devastate the fish farmers’ income. 

North Korea

This Tuesday,  North Korea and South Korea met for the first time since 1990 on the football field for the World Cup qualifiers. The match, however, was not your typical match. There were no fans in the stadium and no media to broadcast the game. One of the few attendees was FIFA President Gianni Infantino. In a statement he made after the game he expressed that he was “disappointed to see there were no fans in the audience.” The historic match, which ended in a tie, demonstrates the slow progress in North and South Korean diplomatic relations. These teams accepted competing against each other, however advances must still be made in order to normalize relations. 

Hong Kong

Parliamentary proceedings were disrupted this week as 11 opposition members were removed from the chambers after Carrie Lam’s annual policy address. The ejected lawmakers, holding white flowers in solidarity with those injured in the protests, interrupted and criticized her for not addressing the ongoing political crisis in her policy speech. Lam’s sentiments centered around a commitment to nonviolence and adhering to the rule of law, which proved unsatisfactory. 

This week, leader of the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), Jimmy Sham, was hospitalized after being attacked by a hammer. The violent act against Sham occurred just hours after Carrie Lam suspended her annual policy address after the interruption from opposing lawmakers. From the hospital, Sham reassured the public via social media of his continued commitment to nonviolent resistance. The CHRF is a principal organizer of the ongoing demonstrations across Hong Kong, and one of Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy organizations. 

Libya

The Libyan government has started its first steps of economic reform; this week, the commercial price of kerosene was raised to .85 Libyan dinars ($0.6 USD) per liter, though the domestic prices will remain the same, at .15 dinars per liter. The Libyan government intends on lowering domestic prices following an increase in commercial sales. The Libyan ministry additionally stated that “the aim of this decision is primarily to combat the smuggling of this substance”. It is unclear whether this tactic will be effective, though the measure is surprising due to the Libyan government’s unwillingness to start reforms in the midst of widespread conflict. 

Sudan

Talks between the transitional government and rebel groups started this week in Sudan. The aims of the talks are to foster peace and communication between the two parties. President Abdalla Hamdok has voiced his hope for ending conflict with rebel groups in addition to helping Sudan transition to civilian rule. The peace talks between the groups is the next step in creating a strong foundation for a formal transition to a civilian-run government and signifies forward progress in the way of change.   

Iran

Iran has announced that the country will be limiting nuclear inspectors’ access to the nation’s nuclear plants. The action comes as a continuation of reducing responsibility in accordance with the nuclear deal. The deal, which was signed by major world powers, started to fall apart following U.S. President Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement. The European powers remain vocally committed to the deal and it appears that this measure by Iran serves to put pressure on the European signatories, who had previously promised increased trading between the EU and Iran.  

Pakistan’s foreign minister reported that Iran and Saudi Arabia showed willingness to have talks, following weeks of rising tensions between the two countries. Neither Iran nor Saudi have announced a plan for talks, and the prospect of dialogue at this juncture seems somewhat unlikely on the Saudi side. However, the threat of war between the nations, following an alleged Iranian attack on a Saudi oil facility, appears to be decreasing. 

Iraq 

This Thursday, the Iraqi government has announced their plan to restore 3G services. The services were initially cut off in the first week of October when deadly protests broke out in the capital, killing at least 110 people and wounding 6,000 others. The government aimed to control the sharing of grotesque images, in an effort to stop potential sympathizers. After the protests calmed and the news of the amount of deaths and injuries spread, protesters demanded the government “to produce a report on who in the Iraqi Security Force was responsible for firing at civilians.” Protesters also called for a nationwide protest on October 25th, coinciding with the deadline they put in place on the government to produce the report on responsibility. After the government received notice of the protest, in an effort to calm tensions the government then announced their plan to restore 3G services. 

Syria 

Following a deal brokered by Moscow, Damascus has allied with Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to secure the Syrian-Turkish border. Though the deal resulted in significant territorial losses for the SDF, which had previously established an autonomous territory in Northeastern Syria, the security of Kurdish people is its top priority. President Assad’s forces have viewed this development as strategic both in terms of regaining territory previously lost during the civil war, and also securing access to resources located in the area. 

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean doctors have continued to strike for the sixth consecutive week, ignoring court orders to return to work. Public workers joined the doctor’s this week in a show of support. Doctors started to strike in response to drastically decreased monthly wages; demonstrators were made more enthusiastic following the kidnapping and eventual release of the doctors’ union leader, Dr Magombeyi, by government authorities. The doctor’s strike reflects the worsening economic situation of Zimbabwe; the economic environment has appeared to worsen under President Mnangagwa, whose administration followed the Mugabe regime. 

Cuba

In reaction to strict US sanctions, Cuba is making due with only 62% of the petrol it needs to fully operate. The Cuban government has prioritized petrol use for  “hospitals, schools and food distribution.” All other petrol using substances have been placed on the back burner. Transportation, for example, is facing harsh realities as hundreds of people cram into public busses, while many are left behind on bus curbs. The resilience of the Cuban government and its citizens has been demonstrated during this shortage, however, has left many to question for how long can this continue? 

Venezuela

This week, Guatemala’s president-elect Alejandro Giammattei was denied entry into Venezuela. Here, he planned to hold a meeting with Juan Guaido, the leader of the opposition party in Venezuela. However, once he landed at Simon Bolivar International Airport he was denied entry and immediately placed on a departing flight. This act has been seen as a message from President Maduro demonstrating his intolerance of Guaido supporters. In reaction to his denied entry, Giammattei shared “we are with you,” referring to Guatemala’s strong support for Guaido. 

Russia

Russia’s zone of permafrost has come under threat due to climate change, potentially costing the country $2.3 billion a year. The area of permafrost has started to thaw, following an increase in temperature in the region. The thawing has caused the ground to soften, threatening the infrastructure of the entire area; the permafrost region is home to a significant portion of Russia’s oil facilities and the destruction of said facilities would be very harmful to the Russian economy. 

Russia has accused United States diplomats of attempting to gain access to restricted areas in the country. Russian officials allegedly caught 3 U.S. diplomats in a secure military testing site. This accusation comes as a continuation of consistently heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow. 

United States

The United States has brokered a deal with Turkey that allows for a five day ceasefire in northern Syria. The pause in attacks will hopefully allow Kurdish fighters, a group formerly allied with the United States until President Trump’s sudden withdrawal from the region, to retreat. President Trump has dealt with criticism from both the Republicans and the Democrats on the matter of withdrawal, as was indicated by a House resolution condemning his decision.

KEEP IT CIVIL (AND DISOBEDIENT): the power of non-violent direct action, podcast

The source of the podcast: Podfollow

Episode notes

Hello! Is mobilising 3.5% of the population all it takes to achieve political change? As Extinction Rebellion continue their latest action in London, we’re talking about the ideas behind non-violent civil disobedience. We hear from some of those involved in Extinction Rebellion, before spokesperson Zion Lights talks us through their theory of change. Historian Talat Ahmed explains Gandhi’s approach to civil disobedience and how this has inspired movements since. And Serbian activist Srdja Popovic tells us about the principles of effective non-violent strategy that he teaches to campaigners around the world. 

Weekly Report 11 October, 2019

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 not”. In 2019 alone, over 30 activists have been accused of plotting to overthrow the government, and were subsequently arrested. 

Maldives

Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih criticized a report made by the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN). The NGO published a report on human rights in the Maldives, which was accused of “mocking” Islam. Because of the large criticism the report received, MDN removed the report, apologized and vowed “to revise the report with the help of religious scholars” to ensure religious sensitivity. Responding to the MDN’s report, MP Mohamed Nasheed Abdulla brought forth a motion in parliament, which called for “‘eradication’ of secularist or ‘irreligious’ people, ‘rainbow-colored people’, and advocates of gender equality.” The proposed motion provoked outrage among Maldivian human rights activists who largely criticize the motion.

Thailand

Following the acquittal of 5 Muslim men on murder charges, Yala Province Cheif judge Kanakorn Pianchana delivered an impassioned speech against corruption in the Thai judicial system, and then shot himself in the courtroom. Alleging that he had been pressured to find the men guilty despite lack of credible evidence, Pianchana stated that the Thai court system was neither transparent nor just. Following the suicide attempt, the judicial commission announced this week that an independent inquiry into the case will be launched in the next two weeks.

Vietnam

 Vietnamese activist Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong was arrested in late September for criticizing the Communist government on social media. This week, Human Rights Watch reported that Vuong is being held under conditions “conducive to mistreatment or torture”. Police arrested Vuong on charges of “making, storing, disseminating or propagandizing information, materials and products that aim to oppose the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” under article 117 of the country’s penal code. Vuong’s arrest represents challenges to freedom of expression in Vietnam as well as the Vietnamese government’s extreme efforts to censor online material. According to Human Rights Watch, Vuong’s arrest is part of a crackdown against critics and pro-democracy campaigners. During the first nine months of 2019, the Vietnamese authorities convicted at least 11 people for criticizing the government.

North Korea

Following nuclear talks between the U.S. and North Korea earlier this week in Stockholm, North Korean officials have cast doubt on peace relations, stating that the “negotiations have not fulfilled out expectations”. This Thursday, a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson further  noted that the Communist state might reverse steps to build trust with the United States, following an inflammatory appeal from the UN Security Council. On Tuesday, the Council called for North Korea to “take concrete steps” to cease its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles development in a meaningful, measurable and irreversible way. The spokesperson noted that the Council appeal, largely representative of U.S. interests, undermines the peace-building process between the two countries and unjustly questions North Korea’s right to self-defense. 

Hong Kong

This weekend, protests in Hong Kong saw a sharp increase in violence, which led Hong Kong leader, Karrie Lam, to announce that “the protests were no longer ‘a peaceful movement for democracy.’” The announcement comes after thousands of protesters violated Hong Kong’s latest ban on wearing face masks. Lam argued that if the violence continues, she will have no choice but to ask China to step in. China desperately wants to stop the Hong Kong protests, because of the political threat they pose to Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

Libya

This Sunday, a boat leaving from Libya capsized carrying approximately 50 people attempting to reach Italy and seek asylum. 22 of the 50 migrants were rescued by Italian authorities, while 13 women died and 8 children went missing during the incident. These numbers contribute to the growing number of migrants and refugees attempting to reach Italy from North Africa by sea and highlights the dangers of doing so. Last month alone, approximately 2,500 migrants and refugees coming from North Africa arrived in Italy: a figure that does not account for the individuals who have died when attempting the perilous journey. Since 2013, 20,000 migrants and refugees have died in their attempt to reach Europe. 

Sudan

Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan released a short video documentary on daily life for residents in Nyala, Sudan. In the documentary a Nyala student accounts a protests two weeks ago led by school children. This protest sparked after the school released its students early because of a shortage in bread. During the protest, soldiers fired tear gas and live ammunition at the students. One of the bullets struck the interviewees’ foot and at least six other people were injured during the two-day protest. 

The protest may have been sparked because of bread shortages, however this was not the only matter being protested. Many residents in Nyala have yet to see changes after the transitional power-sharing deal implemented more than six weeks ago. For example, state governors appointed by the previous president, Omar al-Bashir, have yet to be dismissed and replaced. Some argue the notion that these state governors have not been dismissed symbolizes how the old regime has yet to be overturned. 

Iran

Iranian women for the first time were allowed to attend the World Cup qualifier match against Cambodia on Thursday, October 10th. The lift on Iran’s ban on women attending football matches came after a 29-year-old woman, Sahar Khodayari, set herself on fire outside a Tehran court in protest of the ban. Khodayari died from her injuries, which sparked domestic and international pressure on Iran to lift the ban. Although Thursday’s game only allocated 5% of the stadium to female fans, activists regarded the partial lift as the “first official step forward.” Concerns regarding the women attendees safety during the match were raised, but failed to discourage female fans from attending. For female football fans, the excitement of attending Thursday’s match overweighed fears of potential safety.  In fact, the first 850 tickets released to women were sold out in minutes.  

Iraq 

This Thursday, Iraq’s Prime Minister has announced three days of mourning in tribute to demonstrators killed in recent anti-government and anti-corruption protests. 110 deaths and thousands of injuries have been confirmed in Baghdad as well as other cities across the country. Curfews and internet blackouts are still in effect across Iraq as the government attempts to quell the protests. Multiple reports have emerged that news stations and journalists have been targeted by Iraqi security forces, which activists view as a broad effort to suppress the media. So far, Iraq’s army has admitted to the use of “excessive force” against protesters in al-Sadr district, according to a statement posted to the Iraqi state security Facebook page on Monday.

Zimbabwe

This Wednesday, electricity prices increased for the second time within three months; tariffs on electricity have raised by 320%. Rises in the price of electricity coincides with last week’s steep price increases in fuel and basic goods. The government, in an effort to reinvigorate the Zimdollar, banned “the use of foreign currencies in local transactions”. However, this effort largely failed. Initial hopes that Mnangagwa would rebound Zimbabwe’s economy after Robert Mugabe have dwindled. In response to critics, Mnangagwa called on Zimbabweans to allow time and patience for Zimbabwe’s economy to rebound. 

Cuba

The Trump administration’s tough sanctions on Cuba are deterring Western firms from operating and investing in the country. After sanctioning almost “200 Cuban military-run companies and hotels as well as any company or vessel involved with shipping Venezuelan oil to Cuba,” Western firms worry their investment may lead to reactionary US sanctions. They reason that investing in Cuba is not worth its costs. President of the US-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, John Kavulich, equated US financial sanctions to weapons of mass destruction, while Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez, called the sanctions “genocidal” . Cuba is now facing trouble in financing their sugar harvest, venture projects are finding it almost “impossible to obtain private credit,” and Cuban embassies abroad are hindered in their ability to open accounts. 

Venezuela

Venezuela is projected to lose ownership of Citgo this month, unless the U.S. Treasury Department intervenes. The Venezuelan government is expected to default on a $913 million bond issue payment due on October 27th, meaning that bondholders could seize the 50.1% of Citgo shares that President Nicolas Maduro formerly placed as collateral for the bond issue. However, such recourse in the case of payment default is only possible with a special license from the U.S. Treasury Department, which was granted to Interim President Juan Guaido earlier this year.  With the revocation of the special license, Guaido could maintain ownership of Citgo. 

Crude oil suspected to be from a Venezuelan spill has contaminated hundreds of miles of Brazilian beaches, a crisis that is likely to further strain relations between the two countries. Though the original spill occurred over a month ago, Brazil’s Environment Minister Ricardo Salles asserted on Wednesday that the oil is “very likely from Venezuela”, which will almost certainly escalate tensions in the coming days.  

Nicaragua

After more than a year in exile, university student leader Lesther Aleman returned to Nicaragua on Monday from the United States despite running a “very high risk” by returning. Aleman rose to prominence as a student activist when he interrupted a speech by Daniel Ortega at the beginning of the first national dialogue in May of 2018, and demanded that he order the cessation of repression. At the time, more than 50 people had been killed in anti-corruption protests, many of them being students. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reports today that 328 people were ultimately killed, hundreds arrested and at least 70,000 fled into exile. 

This week, one of Nicaragua’s oldest newspapers, “Nuevo Diario,” shut down this week due to extreme economic strain and the challenging environment for journalists in the Central American country. This announcement follows a decision made this week by the Nicaraguan government to not return “Noticias TV”, a private station seized last December, to its owners. The Nicaraguan government alleged that the station incited anti-government violence, orchestrated by the station’s director Miguel Mora and news director Lucía Pineda. Both Mora and Pineda were arrested for 6 months and investigated for involvement in a “failed coup attempt. 

Russia

This Wednesday, Russia labeled Mr. Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) a “foreign agent”, implying that the foundation is accepting international funds and spies for foreign governments. Navalny responded to the labeling by stating that the group is funded “exclusively by Russian citizens.” He urged the government to “publicly prove” that his organization is accepting international funds before placing a label on them. FBK spokeswomen Kira Yarmysh shared that the government’s decision for labeling FBK was meant to “put pressure on [them] and attempt to stop [their] activity.” FBK has become Putin’s primary critic and a threat to the Kremlin. Just as Navalny was barred from the 2018 presidential elections, labeling FBK a foreign agent is just “another attempt to suffocate” FBK and block criticism of the Kremlin. 

United States

On Monday, President Trump called for the withdrawal of American troops from Syria’s border with Turkey, despite appeals from Republicans Congress members, the State Department, and the international community. The withdrawal allowed for Turkish forces to invade Northeastern Syria this week in an attempt to eliminate Kurdish strongholds along the Turkish-Syrian border, and establish a safe-zone for the return of Syrian refugees currently residing in Turkey. The move is projected to be disastrous for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic forces, who are both allies to the U.S. and instrumental in containing IS fighters in Northeastern Syria. Though President Trump threatened to devastate the Turkish economy in case of an escalated attack against the Kurds, he implied in a tweet that mediation was his preferred solution.

A Trump Administration spokesperson announced this week that the White House will not cooperate with the impending impeachment investigation into President Trump’s interactions with Ukrainian officials. 

Other News: Turkish Offensive in Syria

At least 11 people have been killed in Northeastern Syria as the Turkish offensive against the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led resistance force, enters its third day. Tens of thousands of civilians have fled their homes as attacks have escalated, prompting widespread criticism from the international community. The fighting between the SDF and Turkish forces is concentrated around the two border towns of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad. The SDF has responded to the attacks by shelling nearby Turkish border towns, resulting in at least five casualties.

Weekly Report 4 October, 2019

Coronavirus

Latin America remains the epicenter of the virus while the United States sees a new spike in cases that has resulted in a return to stricter measures.

United States

The country’s coronavirus count takes a turn as it sets a new daily record of infections on Thursday. The spike in cases has led many states to pause reopening and reimpose restrictions in an attempt to curb infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now projects thousands more deaths this month.

China

China has warned of strong countermeasures against the U.S., Australia, and the U.K. should they pursue retaliatory actions against their national security law in Hong Kong. Senior officials have said that the U.K. has no right to grant residency to Hong Kongers, and that it would “bear all consequences” for breaching international law. In the latest standoff between China and India that began with a violent border clash, India has banned 59 apps developed by Chinese firms over concerns that these apps were engaging in activities that threatened India’s national security. Among the apps banned are TikTok, WeChat, QQ, and Xiaomi which count India as one of their biggest overseas markets. Disturbing new evidence from leaked Chinese government documents have also revealed a systematic state campaign to suppress minority births in Xinjiang with potentially genocidal sterilization plans. This campaign’s explicit aim is to reduce 2020 birth and population growth rates in Xinjiang’s southern Uighur regions by “at least” 0.4 percentage points below the 2016 level. Last but not least, researchers in China have discovered a new type of swine flu with purported pandemic potential. Named G4, the virus is genetically descended from the H1N1 strain that caused a pandemic in 2009. The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that it would study the virus carefully.

Hong Kong 

Forty days after China announced it would pass a national security law for Hong Kong, that legislation is now in full force. The law was drafted almost entirely in secret in closed-door meetings that even Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, was not part of. Promulgated on Tuesday night through China’s National People’s Congress, the law now criminalizes “acts of secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities, and collusion with foreign or external forces to endanger national security.” The maximum sentence given for each of these four crimes is life imprisonment. The national security law now trumps any existing Hong Kong laws in the case of conflict and grants Beijing broad powers to prosecute Hong Kongers deemed to have committed especially egregious crimes. Just this week, Hong Kong Police have reportedly made more than 300 arrests for illegal assembly and other offences, with nine involving violations of the new law.

In response, the United States and its allies have taken steps to punish China. The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill to sanction Chinese officials involved in the national security law’s implementation and the House of Representatives passed legislation to sanction banks that conduct business with these officials. The United Kingdom, meanwhile, has laid down plans to allow 3 million Hong Kongers to seek refuge and apply for citizenship. Australia is considering offering safe haven, and Taiwan has also opened a new office to help fleeing Hong Kong residents.

Myanmar 

In a rare move, three Myanmar military officers have been found guilty by a military court-martial for atrocities committed against the Rohingya people in the Rakhine state. Myanmar is currently facing charges of genocide before the United Nations. A recent landslide in a Myanmar jade mine has killed at least 162 people, and many others are still missing. The disaster was reportedly triggered by heavy rain in the area, which set off waves of rock and mud. Myanmar officials appear to be calling out China for arming terrorist groups to allegedly use them as a bargaining chip for smooth implementation of Belt and Road Initiative projects. Many weapons seized by the military from ethnic armed groups have been found to be Chinese-made. The country has also set its general election day for November 8, in a vote widely seen as a test for the country’s fledgling democratic government led by the National League for Democracy.

Zimbabwe 

This week the Zimbabwe government shut down the stock exchange in an attempt to stabilise the local currency as it continues to lose value with hyperinflation at more than 785%. Shop owners and traders are reportedly refusing to accept payment in local banknotes, sparking a police crackdown earlier this week in which 102 people have already been arrested. They are being charged with breaching a section of the Bank Use Promotion Act for their opposition to the use of local currency.

Chile

The country is reporting the highest per capita infection rate of the coronavirus of any major country, with 13,000 cases for every 1 million people. Reporters point to widespread social inequity in the country as the main reason for the devastating impact of the pandemic. Additionally, as borders remain closed to curb infection, thousands of foreign workers are left stranded within Chile.

Iraq

Iraqi officials discovered a new mass grave this week in the North of Iraq – a remnant of the brutal rule of the Islamic State (IS) group. The mass grave, located in the village of Humeydat, stretches several hundred meters with dozens of bodies excavated. Although awaiting investigation, it is believed that the bodies are Shiite convicts taken from the local Badoush prison by IS shortly after IS seized Mosul in June 2014. According to an investigation by the Human Rights Watch, 1,500 inmates were kidnapped and taken to this stretch in the desert. Meanwhile on the 2nd of July, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a plea by almost 1,400 Iraqis who have been convicted of crimes in the U.S. requesting to delay immediate deportation to Iraq where they will likely face persecution and torture. The group hoped to reopen their case before immigration judges and present new evidence.

Libya

On Wednesday, U.S. officials encouraged Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) to disband in a virtual meeting. Libya’s conflict is a “rapidly escalating proxy war” between regional powers, contrary to both American and Libyan interests the officials claimed. Today, Russia announced that it will reopen its embassy in the country, though it will be temporarily based in Tunisia. Russian diplomats were last evacuated from Libya in October 2013 after the embassy in Tripoli was attacked.

Syria  

On Tuesday, the European Union led a virtual conference of over 60 governments and Non-governmental organizations as the UN called for $10 billion worth of aid for Syria. The aid, $3.8 billion for aid inside Syria and $6.04 billion for countries hosting refugees, will be used to support refugees as Syria enters its ninth year of armed conflict and the coronavirus still remains prevalent. International donors have pledged $7.7 billion in humanitarian aid; however, aid group Oxfam said the sum is “simply not enough.” However, in the meantime, there have been reports that numerous tents in war-torn Idlib province are being replaced with new brick houses, with more than 2,000 families now living in brick houses and a limited set of household necessities.

Lebanon 

Arab Tawhid Party leader e-minister Wiam Wahhab called on Prime Minister Hassan Diab to resign when he posted a tweet stating “I call on PM Diab to resign before they oust him through street action, because there are negotiations behind the scenes on forming a government and the disagreement is only over some details.” Meanwhile, a number of Lebanese media outlets broadcast interviews with US Ambassador Dorthy Shea, ignoring a judge’s ruling that banned local and foreign media from featuring her statements after she criticized Iran-backed Hezbollah in an interview last week.

Palestine 

As the Israeli self-created deadline of the 1st of July for the finalization of their annexation plans of the West Bank passed, Palestinian offcials state that the mounting pressure of their diplomatic campaign over the past few months forced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “backpedal” on the finalization of the annexation plans. Cabinet minister Ofir Akunis however suggested that the annexation will take place later in July. Meanwhile, protesters in DC linked the Palestinian cause with the Black Lives Matter movement, shouting anti-Israel slogans such as “Israel, we know you, you murder children too.

Palestinian civil society organizations have formed a national campaign that rejects the European Union’s conditional funding that includes an “anti-terror clause.” This clause, included in the EU’s grant proposals late last year, identifies at least seven Palestinian political parties as “terrorist groups” and calls for civil society organizations to conduct background checks on all members ensuring they are not affiliated with any of the seven identifies parties. Civil society organizations have described this clause as “criminalizing the Plaestinian national struggle against the Israeli occupation.”

Russia 

In a constitutional referendum, Russians have overwhelmingly voted in favor of changes that enable President Vladimir Putin to potentially stay in power up to 2036. The state electoral commission reported that the final vote was 77.9% in favor and 21.2% against with a 65% turnout rate, though critics question the legitimacy of the outcome based on voting irregularities. The New York Times recently broke an explosive story about how a unit of Russia’s military intelligence, Unit 29155 of the GRU, allegedly offered bounties to militants in Afghanistan to kill U.S. troops. A recent nuclear leak detected by the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) may be related to new nuclear-powered strategic weapons Russia is developing, though Russia denies radiation originated from its nuclear power stations.

North Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced that the country had thoroughly prevented COVID-19 from making inroads at a meeting of the politburo, according to state media. Defections from North Korea have reportedly reached a record low as authorities have exploited the COVID-19 pandemic to strengthen technological surveillance. South Korea recently called for a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un before the U.S. presidential election in November in order to resume stalled nuclear negotiations. 62 countries also allegedly violated United Nations Security Council sanctions against North Korea from February 2019 to February 2020, according to a report from D.C.-based think tank Institute for Science and International Security. China led the list with more than 60 alleged violations, while Hong Kong followed with 20. 

Iran

On the 29th of June, Iran issued an Interpol arrest warrant for US president Donald Trump and 35 other government officials for their role in the assassination of Iranian military general Qassem Soleimani on the 3rd of January this year. President Trump has insisted that he was not briefed by intelligence officials over an alleged Russian plot to pay out bounties to Taliban-linked militia in exchange for targeting American and British soldiers in Afghanistan. 

Iran has also issued a death sentence for opposition journalist Ruhollah Zam for his active involvement in the widespread Iranian protests in 2017 and 2018. Zam was found guilty by a court in Tehran of “corruption on earth.”

Nicaragua 

On Thursday, Nicaragua bishops criticise Ortega’s handling of the coronavirus, which has devastated the country despite the government’s claim to the contrary.

Sudan

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets on Tuesday in largely peaceful demonstrations demanding faster reform and greater civilian oversight in the country’s transition towards democracy. A government spokesperson reported that one person has been killed and several others injured during the demonstrations. The protestors are also asking for justice for the killing of demonstrators since December 2018.

Venezuela

Venezuela has announced that it will hold parliamentary elections in December for an expanded number of seats in the new National Assembly. While President Maduro supported the decision, internationally-recognised interim President Juan Guaido accused the government of failing to meet “the minimum conditions of transparency,” announcing a boycott of the polls. 

Bolivia

After months of strictly enforced quarantine, Bolivian streets have seen a return of protestors reflecting the country’s ongoing political crisis. Elections remain scheduled for September increasing the political stakes as the coronavirus continues to overwhelm the medical system.