CANVAS Weekly Update – February 19th, 2021


February 19, 2021

Dear friends,

CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers conflict updates on Myanmar, Former President Trump’s acquittal, and the state of emergency in Sudan.

Conflict Update:

In Myanmar, the military junta has been continuously increasing its presence through the deployment of armoured vehicles and soldiers. The heightened security presence and increasing violence of the military has reduced the number of protestors. On Tuesday, the military junta promised it would hold a fair election but on the same day police filed an additional charge against detained former leader Aung San Suu Kyi.  On Thursday, the busy streets of Yangon were brought to a standstill. Slow-moving and “broken down” cars were parked across the roads to block security forces and prevent civil servants from going to work. Moreover, protestors have also targeted the military online, disrupting the central bank website and military-run propaganda agency True News Information Team. A young woman, Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing, has become the first protester to die in the anti-coup protests in Myanmar as she was shot in the head just two days before her 20th birthday. While the police have denied that they used lethal ammunition, doctors have confirmed that two other protesters were also hit by live rounds.

In the wake of a deadly rocket attack in Iraq, NATO announced it will expand its security training mission in the country. The attack killed one civilian contractor and injured nine others. Also in Iraq, 13 Turkish citizens, including military and police personnel, were kidnapped and executed. Officials say they were killed by Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants. The murders led Turkish police to detain over 700 people, including members of a pro-Kurdish political party. In Somalia, delayed elections have led to heavy gunfire in the capital as opposition leaders defied a ban on public gatherings to protest and clashed with security forces. The president’s term expired last week and the opposition wants him to vacate the office. In Spain on Tuesday, riots broke out over the arrest of a rapper who is accused of glorifying terrorism and insulting royalty in his songs. Police arrested 18 people, 55 were injured, including 25 officers.

Coronavirus Update:

According to the UN health agency, coronavirus infections have dropped 16% in the past week, while deaths have dropped 10%. This week, the following countries began vaccinations: South Africa, Venezuela, Japan, El Salvador, New Zealand and Zimbabwe. The AstraZeneca vaccine has been facing resistance in Europe, with doctors and public health officials reduced to pleading with Germans to get the vaccine after a number of “no shows” left hundreds of vaccines unused. Officials in Italy, Austria, Bulgaria and Sweden have signaled some public resistance to the vaccine after side-effects led hospital staff and other frontline workers to call in sick, while officials in France have televised their vaccinations to increase public support. In other news, Japanese Health authorities have found more than 90 cases of a new variant.



The United States:

Last Saturday, the US Senate voted to acquit ex-President Trump in his second impeachment trial – for inciting the Capitol rioters in January. However, the evidence presented, like the evacuation of ex-Vice President Pence, failed to sway Republican Senators who remain loyal to Trump; only 7 Republicans voted to impeach, raising concerns about his ongoing influence in the party.  Meanwhile, President Biden has declared a state of emergency in Texas due to extreme storms which have left millions without power, as power grids fail, and wind power plants are damaged; others are suffering from lack of heating or access to water and food. Moreover, 21 have reportedly died and several more have been injured, and, according to the National Weather Service, the storms are thought to affect 150 million Americans. Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Republican, is facing backlash for flying to Cancun on holiday amidst the emergency, although he has since returned, he remains under scrutiny. In international news, the Biden government is currently reviewing whether to withdraw NATO troops from Afganistan on the grounds that the Taliban is fulfilling their end of the 2020 peace agreement. Before leaving office, ex-President Trump drafted plans to have troops removed by the Spring, it is unclear if this will go ahead.



The Taiwan Defense Ministry has reported that Chinese fighter aircrafts entered their air defence zone in the South China Sea, by the Pratas Islands, controlled by Taiwan. Meanwhile, the US, an ally of Taiwan, has sailed through the disputed territorial sea for the second time since President Biden took office. It has also come to light that during the military clashes between India and China along the Himalayan border last summer, 4 Chinese Peoples Liberation Army soldiers were killed in the violent “hand-to-hand” battle; the Indian authorities reported 20 fatalities. In other news, a female teacher has come forward reporting extreme abuse in detention centres for Uyghur women in the Xinjiang region; allegations include gang-rape committed by officials and the shackling of detainees. In Canada, politicians are calling to recognise the situation as genocide, although Prime Miniter Trudeau has refrained from openly supporting the motion.


Hong Kong:

Hong Kong’s government replaced the director of Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), the only independent and publicly funded broadcaster operating on Chinese soil. The move comes after RTHK pulled programming from the BBC in Hong Kong last week following a report concerning human rights violations perpetrated against China’s Uighur minority. Leung Ka-wing, the director of RTHK, will be replaced by Patrick Li, the deputy secretary for home affairs. Li has no media experience. In other news, Jimmy Lai, a democracy advocate and newspaper publisher was denied bail again this week ahead of his trial this spring where he faces charges of colluding with foreign forces. Lai is one of several Hong Kong activists facing charges under the new National Security Law which China imposed on Hong Kong last year following anti-government protests in 2019.



This week, the United Nations Human Rights Office has expressed concern about the Zimbabwean authorities misusing Covid-19 regulations to clamp down on political dissidents. The criticism follows a report by NGO Human Right Watch (HRW) which reported restrictions on the “freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and association”. The report detailed that 23 African governments are using the COVID-19 as a pretext to disrespect human rights. In particular, the HRW report raised concern over Zimbabwe’s Public Health Order Act, due to come into effect in March, whereby individuals face 20 years imprisonment for “fake news on public health matters”. In other news, Zimbabwe has begun rolling out its vaccination program using China’s Sinopharm vaccine. China donated 200,000 doses, meaning Zimbabwe is among the first African states to vaccinate. Vice President Constantino Chiwenga received the vaccine publically, as the country awaits another 600,000 doses to arrive next month.



The Cuban government believes that they are on the brink of the mass production of the Covid-19 vaccine created on the island. Having their own vaccine could not only mean the restoration of tourism to the nation but they could also boost their image in the biotech sector. The Sovereign 2 vaccine is entering its final trial stage right as the country needs it, as they are facing bread shortages, medication shortages, and their economy is declining. The Biden administration is getting pushes from various senators and activist groups to engage in conversations with Cuba. Former President Donald Trump and his administration added Cuba to the US terrorist watch list late in their term and this was a decision many disagreed with. But, with Biden now in power, many Cubans and Americans hope that he will re-engage with the nation.


NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced this week that the Alliance would expand its security training mission in Iraq from the current 500 personnel operating in the country to around 4,000. The increase in the size of the mission will allow NATO to include more Iraqi security institutions and areas beyond Baghdad in training activities. The move comes after a rocket attack claimed by the Shia group Saraya Awliya al-Dam killed one and injured nine others in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil on Monday. The United States has also signaled that it was open to sending more American troops to Iraq to support the NATO mission. In other news, doctors in Iraq are warning of a second wave of Covid-19 infections in the country as many Iraqi citizens have ignored safety precautions such as wearing face coverings and limiting interactions with other people. Iraq is now under a new curfew which runs all day from Friday to Sunday and from 8:00 PM to 5:00 AM during the week.


The Georgian parliament voted to end the parliamentary immunity of Nika Melia, the chairperson of the United National Movement, which means he is now able to be imprisoned. After the decision was made, Tbilisi City Court elected to send Melia to pretrial detention for refusing to post bail. This move led the Prime Minister, Giorgi Gakharia, to resign. Gakharia disagreed with his colleagues’ decision to strip Melia of his immunity as he believes the action will increase destabilization amid the country’s months-long political crisis. After Gakharia’s resignation, the detention of Melia was postponed. The opposition has viewed the imminent detainment of Melia as a “dramatic escalation in political repression,” and they are once again calling for new elections.


Iran has been firm in urging the United States of America to lift the sanctions placed by Former President Trump during his administration. President Joe Biden has expressed his interest in re-engaging with Iran over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Tehran officials, however, firmly stated that they will only respond to the invitations of the United States once the sanctions have been lifted, and only then will they fully comply with the deal.



Nearly 4,000 firms in Indonesia have signed up for a proposed plan of action that essentially allows the private sector to purchase COVID-19 vaccines obtained by the government. The main argument of the proponent, the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, for this is to lessen the burden on the government since companies would bear the costs of vaccine distribution among their employers. However, health experts are deeply concerned about the inequity in terms of vulnerable sectors being ignored. Indonesia has reported 1.23 million cases and over 33,000 deaths thus far, and individuals are hopeful for the partnership of the public and private sectors.


Hundreds of protestors gathered outside the Parliament on Friday, February 19, as the no-confidence debate against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and other nine members of his administration has begun. Protestors gathered outside to show their support for the no-confidence vote, and even plan to have a larger protest this weekend. It is said 12,000 officers are going to be deployed for the weekend protest as members of the parliament vote in a no-confidence motion. In other news, protests led by Burmese people living in Thailand continue. On February 18, they gathered outside the US Embassy in Bangkok, calling on the US government to take immediate action against the military. There has been no formal response to the protest as of today. Arrests of activists continue in the country. Noraseth Nanongtoom from the Centre for Human Rights Lawyers said that 18 political activists may face prosecution for charges related to the protests last September 2020 at Thammasat University and Sanam Luang in Bangkok. Protest leaders and protesters are charged with various offences including violation of lèse majesté law. Three of the protest leaders fall into the same category as another four detained activists who had their bail requests denied last week.


Amnesty International published a damning report this week regarding the erosion of human rights since 2018. An Amnesty International Director, Erika Guevara-Rosas went as far as to claim “For almost three years, Daniel Ortega’s government has shown time and again that it is willing to do anything to prevent human rights from becoming a reality in Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan authorities must stop continuously trampling on the dignity of thousands of victims of repression,”. The report criticises prolonged arbitrary detention in dire conditions for peaceful activists and claims that activists families and released prisoners experience harassment. In other news, concerns are being raised regarding the continued funding offered by the IDB and World Bank despite a lack of transparency reports from the government, and a failure to offer accurate reports on the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and human rights crisis. On a more positive note, 10 exiled professionals teamed up establishing the  “Lend your brother a hand.” initiative to offer food and support to those suffering due to the economic challenges with the Covid-19 pandemic.


A court in Belarus sentenced two young journalists, Catarina Andreeva and Darja Chulcova, to two years in prison for “organizing actions rudely violating public order,” after the two livestreamed a protest rally. The journalists, who work for the Polish-based outlet Belsat, were arrested in November after police broke down the door to their Minsk apartment where they were doing a livestream of protests in the capital. In other news, the United States imposed travel restrictions on forty-three Belarusian nationals identified as taking part in Alexander Lukashenko’s crackdown on journalists and activists. The actions were announced by American Secretary of State Antony Blinken following the sentencing of the two Belsat journalists.


Following violent protests, multiple regions of Sudan have declared a state of emergency and imposed curfews. The protests are occurring because of the rising food prices, experts believe that some parts of the country could reach famine levels in the coming months. Many are blaming the government for not providing enough subsidized food as they are struggling to pay for their food each day. In other news, thousands of refugees continue to flee the Tigray region of Ethiopia and enter Sudan to find refuge. In November, the Ethiopian government ordered a military offensive against leaders of the Tigray region and over 60,000 refugees have entered Sudan since.


Doctors in Bolivia are continuing their strike as Covid-19 cases in the country continue to rise. The National Health Council has declared a stoppage of activities from Friday, February 19-28th, they are calling for the repeal of the Sanitary Emergency Law. Health ministers in the nation are calling for the doctors to return to work sooner as the nation is entering its second-wave of cases. Health professionals are hopeful that the stoppage of activities will call for more dialogue and allow doctors to be more involved in the decisions made.