CANVAS Weekly Update – May 28th, 2021


May 28, 2021

Dear Friends,

CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers the arrest of activist Roman Protasevich in Belarus, the first anniversary of George Floyd’s murder in the United States, and the ongoing impact of the coup on Myanmar’s economy.

Conflict Update:

After the cease fire between Israel and Hamas, both sides claimed their own victory in the conflict that began 11 days prior. The cease fire began at 2am on Friday May 21st, but clashes broke out in occupied East Jerusalem at al-Aqsa mosque. The clash tested the truce but ultimately did not lead to any breaks in the agreed ceasefire. Israel has opened a temporary crossing into Gaza which will allow food, fuel, and medicine into the territory. The people of Gaza have also begun to go outside for the first time in a fortnight and not fear their lives. The destruction in the area is huge though, with dozens of buildings lying in ruins. This week, the United Nations top human rights body has voted to launch an investigation into the tactics and possible war crimes and abuses that were committed by Israel. It has been a month since the beginning of the protests that have agitated Colombia. The negotiations between the government and demonstrators have made little to no progress and demands from the protesters are continuing to grow. Protests are occurring daily and disruptions have been evident across the country. On Friday, there was another major national strike which then resulted in the death of four people in Cali. Ivan Duque, the Colombian President, has said that he will be sending the military to the city in order to “restore order”. The leader of Mali’s military coup, Colonel Assimi Goita, has been named by the constitutional court as the country’s transitional president. He had already declared himself as the interim president after seizing power in the coup, the second in the last nine months. The two men who had been given the task of bringing the country back to civilian rule were detained by soldiers on Monday and Goita said the men had failed in their duties. They have since resigned from their posts and been released. The court has said that Colonel Goita is expected to take on the responsibilities and lead the transitional process. People of the Deomcratic Republic of Congo are fleeing the city of Goma this week as there are fears of a second volcanic eruption of Mount Nyiragongo. The first eruption occurred five days ago and the lava destroyed homes stopping just short of the international airport. There has been a mass movement of people out of the city once again as scientists cannot rule out a second eruption. 31 people were killed last Saturday and 17 villages were destroyed by this very active volcano. The President of France, Emmanuel Macron, visited the Rwandan capital of Kigali this week. Macron visited in order to declare a new chapter in the countries relations, nearly three decades after Rwanda’s devistating genocide. The visit is a part of the long process of reconciliation between France and Rwanda and there is a shared understanding of the genocide that led to the deaths of 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and France’s role in the genocide. The Rana Plaza disaster in 2013 that killed more than 1,100 workers in Bangladesh led to the Accord on Fire and Building safety. The document was signed by major European retailers, such as H&M and Primark, and labor unions and Bangladeshi factory owners. It led to the inspections of factories as well as safety training and factory improvements, helping the conditions of the garment workers. However, the accord is set to expire and brands are disagreeing in negotiations for a replacement deal. The deal is a critical part in protecting people who work in the garment factories in places such as Bangladesh and a failure to come up with a new deal puts their safety at risk.

Coronavirus Update:

The number of COVID-19 deaths officially recorded by countries are likely two or three times lower than they should be, according to the WHO. India recorded a world record of 4,529 deaths in a single day on Wednesday. Since then, the number of deaths and cases has declined slightly as the number of daily recoveries in the country surpasses the tally of daily cases for the seventh day in a row. The country has stopped the exportation of vaccines until October which could undermine Africa’s vaccination efforts. China has said that it will provide vaccines to nearly 40 African countries for reduced prices or by donation. The United States will also donate a significant number of vaccines this week, which will be distributed through the COVAX initiative. The head of the WTO warned this week that waiving intellectual property rights for vaccines will not be sufficient for decreasing the vaccine disparity between rich and poor countries.  



As violence and civil unrest continues in Myanmar, the country’s economy is in free fall. After Myanmar’s military overthrew the civilian government earlier this year, General Min Aung Hlaing, the commander of the armed forces and now ruler of Myanmar, tried to reassure the public that the coup d’etat would be good for the economy. This has proven to be untrue by nearly every metric. Some experts now believe that Myanmar’s economy could shrink by 20% by the end of 2021. Internet restrictions have made it much more difficult for e-commerce companies to make a profit; Norwegian mobile operator Telenor has written off the full value of its business in the country, at a cost of $782 million USD. Because 90% of investors in Myanmar come from Asian nations, there were some experts who predicted the military coup would have little impact on investors’ prospects for sending more money towards Myanmar; some of the country’s largest investors, such as Thailand, China, and Vietnam are not democracies themselves. However, several large firms are cutting ties with conglomerates with ties to the Myanmar army; Kirin, a Japanese brewer, has said that if it cannot find a partner to buy Myanma Economic Holdings Limited’s stake in its joint venture in the country, Kirin will consider leaving the country. In other news, lengthy prison sentences were handed down to nearly thirty people who set fire to Chinese-owned factories in March, causing around $37 million USD in damage. Pro-democracy groups have alleged on Twitter that the army carried out the factory attacks to justify a crackdown in which dozens of prisoners died. Nineteen of the twenty-eight people convicted are still on the run.


The United States:

On May 25, 2021, the United States marked the first anniversary of George Floyd’s murder. Hundreds of protestors gathered and walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, closing off the Brooklyn bound side of the bridge, while a smaller group gathered for a vigil near the White House in DC. President Biden had originally set the deadline for signing the police reform legislation last Tuesday, on the very anniversary of Floyd’s death. While Biden has continuously issued statements pledging his support of the legislation, nothing has been signed as of today. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, “We have been respecting the space needed for negotiators to have these discussions.” This stalled promise has led Floyd’s sister to boycott their scheduled meeting with Biden last Tuesday. Activists continue to push for stronger police reform and remain hopeful of the cultural shift towards racial justice.




A software engineer has reported to the BBC that they have installed camera systems that have been tested on Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Xinjiang is home to around 12 million Uyghurs, majority of which are muslim. Human rights groups have claimed that this area is also home to the highly controversial re-education centers, also known as the high security detention camps. The software engineer has stated that the Chinese government has been using Uyghurs as test subjects for various experiments just like how a rat would be use in laboratories. The new camera systems in question use AI and facial recognition that is trained to detect and analyze changes in facial expressions and skin pores. Sophie Richardson, the China director of Human Rights Watch, said that “ It’s not just that people are being reduced to a pie chart, it’s people who are in highly coercive circumstances, under enormous pressure, being understandably nervous and that’s taken as an indication of guilt, and I think, that’s deeply problematic.” Another individual has spoken to the BBC, Darren Byler from the University of Colorado said that Uyghurs are routinely asked to provide DNA samples, undergo digital scans, and download government phone apps for surveillance. It is estimated that China is home to half the world’s surveillance cameras. From taxis uploading data to the government to cameras in cafes connected to authorities, AI is slowly being built into the foundations of the urban environment.


Hong Kong:

Hong Kong’s legislature this week passed a new bill that would further amend the city’s election laws, this time further reducing the role of the public in influencing Hong Kong’s future. The Legislative Council, now dominated by pro-Beijing lawmakers after the mass resignation of opposition politicians in protest last year, voted to empower the city’s national security department to check the backgrounds of potential political candidates and to establish a new committee to ensure candidates are “patriotic.” The new bill also increases the number of seats in the Legislative Council from 70 to 90, but the number of directly elected representatives will fall from 35 to 20. In other news, ten pro-democracy activists, including media mogul Jimmy Lai, were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 14 to 18 months on Friday, the latest effort in a push by the pro-Beijing government to stifle dissent in the city. All ten pleaded guilty to organizing a 2019 protest which had been banned by the police on October 1, China’s National Day. Others sentenced on Friday included labor leader Lee Cheuk-yan and activist Leung Kwok-hung. Meanwhile, authorities in Hong Kong sent letters to Jimmy Lai’s bankers, HSBC Holdings Plc and Citigroup Inc., threatening them with as much as seven years in prison if they dealt with any of his accounts in the city.  



Zimbabwe’s Chief Justice, Luke Malaba, has recently been asked to step down and a human rights lawyer has filed a court application this week asking him to be jailed. This comes after he returned to work this week after the justice minister and attorney general appealed the ruling. In other news, a traditional chief has ordered that former president Robert Mugabe be exhumed and reburied. Mugabe was buried in his home instead of a national cemetery due to his wishes, as he feared his political rivals would use his remains for rituals if he was buried at the national cemetery. This new ruling shows that even though he has been gone for two years, Mugabe still has an important place in the minds of Zimbabweans. Authorities have arrested a local reporter, Jeffrey Moyo, who has been a freelance journalist for The New York Times. He is based in Harare and is currently being held on charges of violating the country’s immigration laws; he denies any wrongdoing. His arrest has come amid a crackdown on press freedom in the country and his lawyers efforts to secure his release have been unsuccessful so far.  



Cuban has begun their mass vaccine rollout of their homegrown Covid-19 vaccines. The small island may be starting later than other nations, but its healthcare officials are predicting that a majority of the island will be vaccinated by the end of summer. This is a great development for the country, as they have been severely impacted by the economic hardships that came with the Covid-19 pandemic. There is also hope by many that the vaccine will be able to successfully defend against the highly infectious Brazilian variant of covid. The Cuban vaccines are yet to fully finish their trails and become approved, but the health minister has said that the intervention and rollout of the vaccine has more benefits than risks.  



Iraqi government forces arrested senior militia commander Qasim Muslih under the country’s anti-terrorism law this week. Two security officials with direct knowledge of the arrest Wednesday said Muslih was arrested for involvement in several attacks, including recent assaults on Ain al-Assad airbase and the killings of two Iraqi activists who were shot in the Shiite holy city of Karbala. One of Iraq’s main Iran-backed militias, the Hezbollah Brigades, called the arrest a kidnapping and said it would not be tolerated. Within hours of Muslih’s arrest, militants surrounded Baghdad’s heavily guarded Green Zone, where the United States embassy and multiple Iraqi government offices are located, and took over one of the entrances. On the main highway from Baghdad to Anbar province, the Iraqi army briefly blocked all traffic to the capital in an effort to prevent reinforcements from arriving to support the militants. The militants in the Green Zone withdrew after Mr. Muslih was reportedly handed over by the Iraqi government to the Popular Mobilization Forces, the militia umbrella group known as P.M.F. In other news, the return of dozens of Iraqi families with suspected ties to ISIS from the Kurdish-run Al-Hol refugee camp in northeast Syria to Mosul has sparked fear among residents that the city would return to ISIS control. About 300 people from approximately 90 families left the camp this week under escort by the Iraqi army; it was the first repatriation of Iraqi families from the camp, which is home to more than 60,000 people, including the relatives of former ISIS fighters.  



This week the Georgian parliament endorsed three new MPS, Gela Samkharauli and Khatuna Kvitsiani of the Georgian Dream and Aleksandre Rakviashvili of Girchi. In July of 202, a gender quota was introduced to the election legislation which mandates that a female MP be replaced by another woman. This is why Khatuna Kvitsiani replaced Mariam Kvrivishvili, who just became the Deputy Minister of Economy. As Georgia celebrated its independence this week, they had visitors from various European countries. The Ukrainian Defense Minister, Andrii Taran, visited Tbilisi May 25-27, attending Independence Day celebrations and meetings with the Prime Minister. They discussed their continued support of one another and the security and stability of the two nations which will ensure peace in the region as well as the continued necessity of deepening bilateral relations, especially in the Black Sea. Georgia also welcomed the Polish President, Andrzej Duda, to Tbilisi May 26-27. He met with his Georgian counterpart as well as the Prime Minister and Parliament speaker. In meetings with Salome Zurabishvili, Georgian President, they discussed Georgia’s Russian-occupied territories, the situation on the ground in response to gender solidarity, and the Georgian President appealed for Duda’s support at the upcoming NATO Summit.



The European Union has called on Iran to review the case of Narges Mohammadi, a prominent female human rights activist who was sentenced to 30 months in prison and 80 lashes. Her charges stem from her participation in protests against the killing of protesters during Iran’s 2019 unrest. A spokesperson has urged the country to look into her case and take into account international human rights laws and her deteriorating health condition. In other news, Iran’s presidential election campaigns have officially begun and candidates have started laying out their economic reform plans. The candidates’ plans range from granting a cash subsidy of 450,000 tomans ro 40 million Iranians monthly, a young couples allowance, wealth distribution, to developing a “social economy”.  



Investigation continues for the alleged BPJS data breach, raising concerns on Indonesia’s data protection measures. An account on named Kotz has claimed that they have the personal data of 279 million Indonesians, from full names, ID card numbers, email addresses, phone numbers, to salary details. The information of both alive and deceased allegedly belongs to national health insurance (JKN) policyholders managed by the Health Care and Social Security Agency (BPJS Kesehatan).  



Last May 22, 2021 marked the 7th anniversary of the coup in which the National Council for peace and order took control of Thailand. It was seven years ago when the then chief of the Thai Army, Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha rose to power. While many had hoped that the coup would bring transparency to the Thai government, many have felt disillusioned by the government thus far. One of the biggest criticisms is on the reigning power of the Royal Family, which has led to laws that have undermined the right to free speech. Opposition protests continue to be powerful, emphasizing the democratic liberties that have been lost in the coup. More recently, the government has been criticized for its Covid-19 policies as infections continue to be at a staggering number. Just this Saturday, the public health department has announced 4,803 new infections in the past 24 hours. In other news, the proposed amendment to the Official Information Act has been met with broad opposition for its potential to harm government transparency. The proposed amendment gives exception to disclosure of information considered to have the potential to harm the monarchy, military affairs and national security. One of the organizations opposing this is the Move Forward Party, which calls this amendment a step backwards for the country. According to other critics, this act may create further barriers for people who request information as it allows for a broad interpretation of the law.



Many people across the country have been living without access to water throughout the Covid-19 crisis. The NGO, Water For People, has launched a campaign to bring water to the municipalities of San Rafael del Norte and La Concordia, which they call “With Agua Das”. This program will bring hope to those in the rural areas of the country who face a lack of access to basic drinking water, the objective being to fundraise for bringing drinking water to these families. In other news, the Ortega Murillo regime has celebrated the triumph of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria who has been elected the president of Syria for a fourth time. They have sent their congratulations to Al-Assad.  



A Belarusian fighter jet intercepted a commercial Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius this week, forcing the plane to land in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, where prominent journalist and activist Roman Protasevich was arrested, along with his girlfriend. The plane was over Belarus when Belarusian air traffic control notified the pilots “of a potential security threat on board.” Belarus says it diverted the plane because of a suspected bomb on board, but the proof provided by Belarusian authorities of a real threat to the airliner has not been strong. The government published an email it said it had received from Hamas, the militant group that rules the Gaza Strip, warning of a bomb aboard the aircraft, but Hamas has denied any involvement. The Belarusian government has also said they received a warning from Switzerland about a bomb on board the plane, but Switzerland has said it had no knowledge of such a threat and was never in communication with Belarusian authorities. The European Union and the United States have called Belarus’s actions a brazen case of interference with civilian aviation. Later in the week, on Thursday, foreign ministers of the Group of Seven industrialized nations and the European Union’s foreign policy chief called the diversion “a serious attack on the rules governing civil aviation,” and called on the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization (I.C.A.O.) to investigate the incident. I.C.A.O Council President Salvatore Sciacchitanto said the event “posed serious and apparent threats to the legal framework” governing civil aviation. In response, the European Union has urged airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace. The E.U. has also already applied a ban on Belarusian carriers flying into the European Union. However, at least two European airlines have been refused permission to fly to Moscow by Russian authorities after requesting to fly an alternative route which bypassed Belarus.  



Sudan and Egypt have begun their joint military drills this past week after reports that Ethiopia has or will be beginning a second filling of the controversial GERD dam. The filling of the dam has been long debated, however negotiations about it have been at a standstill for a few weeks now. Egyptian ground, naval, and air forces have arrived at Sudans Khartoum Air Base and the trainings are expected to run through the weekend. This is a continued effort by the two countries, who previously carried training exercises in April, and they hope the training will better prepare the two countries for flooding or events that may follow the filling of the dam.  



Bolivia’s former president, Jeanine Anez, Minister of the Interior, Arturo Murillo, has been arrested in Miami. Murillo has been charged with corruption and money laundering along with his chief of staff and three US businessmen. The US justice department says that the Bolivian officials took bribes from the businessmen, they could face up to 20 years in prison if they are convicted. The bribes were paid by a US company and the businessmen to secure Bolivian government contracts, taking place between November 2019 and April 2020.



Uganda has seen a sharp rise in the number of Covid-19 cases, with the East African country now reporting more than 1,000 new cases each day. Diana Atwine, Uganda’s permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, said Wednesday that President Yoweri Museveni ordered the formation of a temporary national task force to handle the resurgence of cases. According to the Ministry of Health, this second wave of Covid-19 infections have affected young people much more than during the first wave. The Ministry of Health also reported that most new cases are in the capital, Kampala, and that isolation facilities and intensive care units were also beginning to fill up. Uganda received nearly 100,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in March through the COVAX initiative, but more doses, which were expected to arrive this month, have been delayed due to the Covid-19 outbreak in India. In other news, a Ugandan court this week heard a case brought by citizens against the federal government which alleges that the government failed to uphold its human rights obligations to protect threatened communities from the effects of climate change. Forty-eight survivors of a deadly landslide assert that the Ugandan government violated their “rights to life, property, and the right to a clean and healthy environment,” in its failure to act on the known landslide risk.